Chapter 4-3 of Healing Foods by Walter Last
In some form sweet foods can be beneficial but as commonly used, they tend to create a lot of problems for our health
The main problem with sweet foods is that sugars are absorbed too quickly. The body tries to maintain a fairly constant blood-sugar level close to 100 mg of glucose per 100 ml of blood, and this becomes rather difficult with the habitual consumption of sweet foods.
When we have a starch meal, it takes several hours until all the starch is converted into glucose. The absorption through the intestinal wall is gradual and the liver can easily regulate the blood-glucose level by forming glycogen or fat from surplus glucose. It is equally safe to eat raw cabbage or raw carrots that may contain equal amounts of sugar to a spoonful of honey. Again, it takes hours for the glucose from raw vegetables to enter the bloodstream while from honey or fruit juices it may take less than 30 minutes.
However, when sweet food is eaten during or after a protein meal, the sugar is absorbed considerably more slowly. The same applies when sweet food is combined with fat. Sweetened starches, on the other hand, cause digestive and metabolic problems and are not recommended for habitual use.
In former centuries only limited amounts of sweet foods were commonly
available in middle and northern
Minerals required for metabolizing sugars are zinc as a component of insulin and of several enzymes, chromium as part of the glucose tolerance factor that allows glucose to enter the cells and manganese, as an important enzyme factor. In addition to these trace minerals, we need sufficient potassium and magnesium for producing energy from sugar. The vitamins most important for producing this energy from glucose are B1, B2, nicotinamide and pantothenic acid.
In contrast to former centuries, most people now suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies that make good blood-sugar regulation nearly impossible and severely weaken the energy metabolism. On top of this, large amounts of sweet food are consumed almost daily, and all the work that many modern people do after a sweet snack is raising a cup or staring at the television screen.
The combined effect of all these negative factors is a rather erratic blood-sugar level. It rises higher and higher after the ingestion of sweet food and falls steeper and lower shortly afterwards. Depending on our metabolic constitution, this has different effects on different people.
If you look at the table below you will be surprised at the variety of symptoms that may occur and the number of chronic diseases to which a weak sugar metabolism contributes. The reason that sugar can cause such a very wide range of problems is that glucose has a central position in producing our daily energy requirement. If our cells cannot efficiently produce energy, basically all organs and body functions are affected.
The disease most widely associated with a breakdown of blood-sugar regulation is diabetes. When diabetes develops during childhood or in young adults, the main problem is usually a deficiency of the hormone insulin that is produced in the pancreas. Insulin is required to channel the blood glucose into the cells. Therefore a deficiency of insulin leads to a rise in the blood-glucose level.
Currently accepted medical opinion does not see a connection between the over-consumption of sweet food and the development of diabetes. However, experiments have shown that the insulin response decreases with frequent use of sweet food. Starting with a raw-food diet that excluded all sweet food as well as other problem foods, I have been able to help diabetics of both types to improve their blood-sugar regulation so that insulin injections or drugs were no longer needed.
In so-called maturity-onset diabetes there is usually sufficient insulin available but its effectiveness is greatly reduced. The main reasons for this are the 'disaccharide effect' as explained below and a deficiency in chromium, which is part of the glucose tolerance factor. Insulin and the glucose tolerance factor work together like key and keyhole to let glucose into the cells. A deficiency of chromium prevents glucose from entering the cells.
There are two main reasons for chromium deficiency: the habitual consumption of, first, refined food and, second, sweet food. Refined food is deficient in chromium, while eating sweet food raises not only the blood-sugar level but also the blood-chromium level; this causes more chromium to be excreted with the urine. The foods highest in chromium are brewer's yeast and liver.
Another effect of chromium deficiency in diabetics and others is the excessive formation of cholesterol after eating sweet food and the subsequent development of arteriosclerosis. Furthermore, the same factors also lead to the formation of cataracts. A diet high in fructose is especially implicated in causing eye diseases in diabetics. Fructose and glucose are the two components of sucrose - the normal household sugar - and also of honey. Fructose (best from fruits only) can enter the cells without requiring insulin and thereby can help to normalize the diabetic metabolism, but this is risky if mineral deficiencies are not corrected at the same time, especially deficiencies in magnesium, zinc and chromium.
However, the main cause of decreased insulin production in insulin-dependent diabetes is a chronic inflammation of the pancreas caused by a hidden food allergy, in particular to cows' milk combined with an overgrowth of the intestines with unfriendly microbes as explained in the section on Cows' Milk & Lactose. In addition, a more recent epidemic increase in the number of children diagnosed with this condition has been linked to vaccinations. It has been concluded that this increase in the different age groups correlated with the number of vaccines given in various countries.
While sugar may not directly cause insulin-dependent diabetes, it
greatly aggravates the seriousness of the condition. In animal experiments an
excessive intake of sugar resulted in greatly enlarged pancreas and pituitary
glands, both of which are involved in blood-sugar regulation. A group of
Aboriginal diabetics who lived for several weeks on bush food all quickly
returned to a normal blood-sugar regulation. Indians living in
HYPERACTIVITY AND ADD
Much more widespread than diabetes or hyperglycemia is the opposite condition - low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. The most common milder form is reactive hypoglycemia in which the blood-sugar response after eating non-sweet foods is normal. However, when sweet food is eaten, including sweet fruits, too much insulin is released and glucose floods the cells.
Glucose cannot be stored in cells and has to be metabolized. Which way this happens depends on the condition of the metabolism. The first stages are easy and result in the glucose molecule being split in half. This process is anaerobic: it does not require oxygen. However, oxidizing enzymes are necessary for the next stage and these are usually deficient in adults with this condition. Children, on the other hand, often still have a reasonable supply and are able to convert most of the glucose to energy.
This creates an energy burst that just has to be used, whether it is needed or not. The result is extreme restlessness: the muscles must move to use the surplus energy, and the brain is racing as well. When the straw fire of excess energy is used up, not enough glucose is left to sustain normal activity and attention. Mental and physical exhaustion follows until a sweet snack lights another straw fire of hyperactivity.
This temporary speeding-up of the energy cycle is exaggerated, and in other cases triggered off, by various factors that cause stress on the nervous and hormonal systems. The most frequent cause of such stress is a hidden allergy to food additives and to common foods such as wheat and cow's milk products. Usually children's favorite foods are also to blame. Additional triggers may be fluorescent lighting, television viewing, strong electromagnetic radiation, petrochemical fumes, tobacco smoke and emotional stress.
In adolescents and adults such energy bursts, especially when combined with dietary allergens or stimulants, lead to periods of uncontrolled violence. Many studies, involving thousands of institutionalized male juvenile delinquents, have shown a large drop in the incidence of antisocial behavior in those on diets low in sugar and allergens. While the average improvement rate was almost 50%, repeat offenders improved by more than 80% and the suicide rate fell 100%.
Females, because of their lower adrenaline levels, tend less towards violent behavior. Instead, the effects of the strong blood-sugar fluctuations after ingesting sweet food are more internalized. In sensitive individuals, emotions closely follow the blood-sugar levels, often up and down in quick succession, alternating between elation and depression.
PROBLEMS OF HYPOGLYCEMICS
The speedy metabolism that results in hyperactivity and violent behavior explains why the name 'fast oxidizer' has been coined for those who burn sugar too quickly. 'Fast oxidizer' and 'hypoglycemic' mean basically the same thing: someone with a speeded-up glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose inside the cells), which ultimately results in a lower than normal blood-sugar level.
Contrary to hyperactive children, most adult hypoglycemics have a shortage of oxidizing enzymes and this interrupts the normal energy that is produced at the end of glycolysis. Instead of energy, lactic acid is produced in a final anaerobic stage. Thus only 20% of the total energy is produced that would be available if glucose was completely oxidized to carbon dioxide and water.
This results in overacidity and chronic lack of energy, which is typical of hypoglycemics who are on sweet diets. Additional energy is required to remove the lactic acid via the kidneys. Lactic acid must be partly neutralized and this depletes the body of positive ions, especially calcium. A further result of overacidity is a high histamine level, which makes us susceptible to strong allergic reactions and frequent inflammations, while the skin becomes oversensitive to stings and all forms of irritation.
High histamine levels together with a calcium deficiency cause low blood pressure, which contributes further to a lack of energy and poor circulation, with cold hands and feet. Calcium is withdrawn from the blood vessels, resulting in varicose veins. Calcium deficiency also creates menstrual problems and weakens the eyes, making us shortsighted.
Shortsightedness or myopia actually results from a deficiency of two minerals, and both are induced mainly by a high consumption of sugar. Chromium deficiency arises from eating much refined food that lacks this mineral, and also from increased excretion of chromium in the urine, which occurs after eating sweet food when the blood levels are raised in response to high levels of insulin.
The ciliary muscles in the eyes need chromium to accommodate the lens for near-vision focus. If the ciliary muscles become fatigued from a combination of chromium deficiency and prolonged close-focus activity, then the eye relieves this muscle strain by increasing the intra-ocular pressure; this pressure in turn leads to an elongation of the eyeball and thus to myopia.
Increased intra-ocular pressure, however, leads to an elongation of the eyeball only in those of younger years when the body has a high requirement for calcium and a relatively soft tissue structure. With increasing age, the tissues become more and more calcified and rigid. In this situation the eyeball cannot expand with increased intra-ocular pressure and may glaucoma result.
Scientific studies have shown that the excretion of calcium in urine increases up to fourfold in those with a strong insulin response when given large amounts of sugar; this is because plasma-calcium levels are increased after eating sugar. The most common sources of the calcium excreted are the bones and teeth; this contributes to osteoporosis and caries. In elderly individuals high plasma-calcium levels also accelerate irreversible bonding with collagen and elastic protein structures, leading to increased rigidity and bone deformations as in arteriosclerosis and arthritis.
A high calcium concentration in the urine leads to an increased risk of kidney stones as well as kidney damage from the calcification of the filtration mechanism. A scientific study revealed that young men had increased levels of female sex hormones on a high sugar intake.
Lactic-acid formation that occurs after eating sugar contributes to strong inflammations such as in rheumatoid arthritis and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Normally the saliva is nearly neutral, which is less favorable for the growth of plaque bacteria than the acid saliva of hypoglycemics. Sugars are the only energy source of these bacteria. When we are strictly on non-sweet diets, plaque bacteria are denied energy and they cannot multiply. This effectively prevents caries.
Giving up sweet food, however, is extremely difficult for our children and for many adults, because they are thoroughly addicted to it. This addiction is in principle the same as later addictions to stimulants and drugs. A main feature of addictions is a weakening of the adrenal glands.
Another effect of general overacidity is an inability to alkalize the gastric content when it enters the duodenum. This makes the pancreas enzymes inefficient, which require an alkaline medium, and in time may lead to deficiencies and digestive problems.
SYMPTOMS OF ALLERGY AND BLOOD-SUGAR PROBLEMS
Allergies and blood-sugar problems reinforce each other, and can cause the same symptoms, or contribute to the same chronic diseases
cold hands and feet
gall bladder pain
low blood pressure
FRUCTOSE AND THE DISACCHARIDE EFFECT
It has been estimated that about half of all ingested carbohydrates in
Fructose is metabolized more slowly than glucose and also induces a much stronger insulin response, especially in the presence of glucose. This means that reactive hypoglycemia occurs mainly when fructose is part of a meal.
Another effect of habitually high insulin levels is a gradual decrease in the sensitivity of blood-glucose levels to insulin. Higher insulin levels also cause an increased loss of chromium in the urine. The result is the gradual onset of maturity-related diabetes.
The higher the insulin levels, the more are sugars converted into fat and cholesterol. Biopsy samples of the human liver showed that fructose was converted into fatty acids at rates 3 to 24 times faster than glucose. Fat levels after fructose consumption rise especially high in those who have a tendency towards atherosclerosis; this can lead to diabetic complications and cardiovascular diseases.
These negative effects of a high fructose intake also occur after eating sucrose. Other health problems arising from the fructose component in sucrose are raised blood pressure, caries, elevated uric-acid levels and obesity.
Controlled experiments with various species of animals as well as with human volunteers revealed significant rises in blood pressure not only after long-term ingestion of sugar but even after a single dose. If taken on an empty stomach the blood pressure rose 9-10 mm Hg for one to two hours.
After sucrose ingestion there is also an increase in uric-acid levels. Uric acid is produced in the liver from breakdown products of fructose. A raised uric-acid level in the blood is a feature of gout, some forms of arthritis and also of heart disease. Men generally produce more uric acid after eating than women.
Experimental studies on animals and humans have shown that sucrose is possibly the most caries-producing substance in our diet. Plaque bacteria convert sucrose to polymers that stick to the teeth. Some individuals have inherited fructose intolerance and must avoid all fructose and sucrose; they have been found to have substantially less tooth decay than the general population.
Various animal and human studies have also shown that a diet high in sucrose can lead to a greater accumulation of fat deposits in susceptible individuals - generally those with a strong insulin response. Monkeys fed a diet high in sucrose had produced three times as much deposited fat than those fed an equal amount of glucose.
Surprisingly, eating a certain amount of sucrose produces a stronger insulin response than eating the same amount of mixed fructose and glucose. The same is true for maltose, which consists of two molecules of glucose and other disaccharides. Disaccharides are composed of two simple sugars. The increased insulin effect of disaccharides compared to that of their component simple sugars is called the disaccharide effect. The reason for this effect seems to be that disaccharides liberate about twice the amount of a gastric hormone called GIP (gastric inhibitory polypeptide) than that of simple sugars.
In practical terms this means that it is harmful for most of us to have fructose and glucose at the same meal. Examples are: having honey, dried fruit or fresh fruit for sweetening cereals or starches; as dessert; as muesli; or as sweetened coffee or tea after meals. Most harmful are the sweetened starches, such as cakes, sweet biscuits and sweetened breakfast cereals. Beware especially of mixing fructose with starches if you want to lose weight.
NATURAL SWEET FOODS
Unfortunately natural sweet foods such as honey, dried fruits or fruit juices are no better for diabetics or hypoglycemics than food sweetened with white sugar. It only seems to matter how much sweet food is used and how quickly it can enter the bloodstream. Fruits that are acid as well as sweet may be even worse, especially for hypoglycemics, than plain sugar because the fruit acids reinforce the existing overacidity. However, eating the whole fruit is better than drinking the fruit juice only. Also, raw honey has a high concentration of the beneficial starch-digesting enzyme amylase, which is lacking in heated commercial honey. Likewise, sun-dried fruit are healthier than heated commercial dried fruit.
While fructose from fruits can be helpful for diabetics, with hypoglycemics it only increases the lactic-acid overload. Lactic-acid overproduction from the combined effect of strong muscle activity and sweet food is also responsible for reported cases of allergic reactions after jogging. The resulting overacidity simply brings already existing hidden allergies into the open. Cancer cells have lost the ability to use oxidizing enzymes. They produce their whole energy simply by converting glucose anaerobically into lactic acid. Apart from the loss of calcium, another side effect of lactic-acid build-up is a tendency to anxiety neuroses, phobias and even panic attacks.
It is preferable to have sweet food only occasionally and with a protein snack or meal. Removing the sweet taste from the tongue as quickly as possible helps minimize the insulin over-reaction. Alternative sweeteners such as the sugar alcohols manitol, sorbitol and xylitol are not recommended either. In larger amounts they may cause diarrhea or, if absorbed, may contribute to the development of cataracts or simply fuel the glycolysis. Also, they keep the craving for sweetness alive and will in time lead to another binge on sweet food.
This is also a problem with the herbal sweetener Stevia. Its leaves are 15 to 30 times as sweet as sugar and an extract can be 300 times as sweet. It is not known if large amounts over long periods cause unacceptable side effects, nevertheless, I regard it as for safer than aspartame or other artificial sweeteners. It should be all right to use occasionally in small amounts but not to use it in an addictive way instead of sugar.
Other sweeteners such as saccharine and aspartame or nutrasweet may cause allergies or worse. Theoretically, sweeteners based on sweet amino acids should be harmless, but often they are not. Fructose is the sweetest sugar, followed by sucrose. Glucose and maltose are less sweet but somewhat safer for most people, especially combined with starches. Maltose is available as barley sugar. Preferably use maltose instead of sucrose for sweetening starches.
Those who have a low fasting blood-sugar level - possibly feeling weak or dizzy on an empty stomach - must be more strict than reactive hypoglycemics and are advised to avoid all sweet food for several years so that the sugar metabolism has time to recover.
As a general rule, for most individuals it is best to reserve sweet food as a rare treat for special occasions rather than use it as an everyday food. However, if you do not have a craving for sweet food, then it is not likely to be a problem for you.