a different kind of coffee break with Gerry and Ray Coffey

Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition


Leaving a Legacy of Dental Decay, Obesity, and Dysfunctional Immune Systems for our Children

by Michael Dye

As we pass through the supermarket aisles perpetuating another generation of dental decay, obesity, weakened bones, diabetes, hyperactivity, emotional imbalance and dysfunctional immune systems, we must ask ourselves the compelling question of why we consume sugar, and especially, why we give sugar to children.

By any reasonable definition of terms, refined sugar could be categorized as a poison and an addictive drug rather than a food. That is, of course, assuming your definition of food requires it to provide some form of nutrition.

Taking a quick look at the facts about refined sugar (sucrose or C12H22O11), we see:

Because sugar is added to the vast majority of all processed foods, this becomes a health problem for people of all ages, but children are the one group with the reputation for being addicted and affected by it most severely. Dental decay, obesity, hyperactivity and diminished immune systems that lead to frequent colds, flu symptoms, earaches and infections, sore throats and worse, are the modern-day plagues of children who eat lots of sugary processed foods.

The average American consumes a third of a pound of sugar per day, according to Frances Moore Lapp� in Diet for a Small Planet. The main reason American sugar consumption continues to increase over the decades is that we are eating more processed foods with sugar added. Many breakfast cereals are about half sugar. Colas have up to 11 teaspoons of sugar and about 25 percent of America's total sugar consumption comes in the form of colas.

Lapp� writes: "Since the early 1900s the per capita consumption of sugar in processed fruits and vegetables has tripled. So much sugar is added to processed fruits and vegetables that Americans eat almost as much sugar in these foods as they do in cake and candy. Since the early 1900s, the per capita use of sugar in beverages, mainly soft drinks, has increased almost seven-fold." She notes by 1976 the average American was consuming the equivalent of 382 12-ounce cans of cola per year, and Lapp� warns, "The next time you reach for a Coke, remember that you're about to drink the sugar equivalent of a piece of chocolate cake, including the icing"

In Fit For Life, Harvey and Marilyn Diamond quote Dr. Clive McCay of Cornell University as showing "that soft drinks can completely erode tooth enamel and make teeth as soft as mush within two days (as described in The Poisoned Needle by Eleanor McBean). The ingredient that is the culprit here is a horrific concoction called phosphoric acid."

Because bad teeth are so apparent, it has become common knowledge that sugar causes dental decay. Practically everybody knows that sugar rots teeth. What becomes apparent later is that sugar rots the rest of the body too. In Sugar Blues, William Dufty notes, "Dental researchers have proven that the teeth are subject to the same metabolic processes that affect other organs of the body."

Sugar Blues also cites a 1958 report by Time magazine "that a Harvard biochemist and his assistants had worked with myriads of mice for more than ten years, bankrolled by the Sugar Research Foundation, Inc., to the tune of $57,000, to find out how sugar causes dental cavities and how to prevent this. It took them ten years to discover that there was no way to prevent sugar causing dental decay. When the researchers reported their findings in Dental Association Journal, their source of money dried up. The Sugar Research Foundation withdrew its support."

The sugar industry maintains control over many scientific and medical opinions by spending large sums of money on research at institutions such as the Harvard Department of Nutrition. This funding is not always apparent. For example, a book titled A History of Nutrition by Professor E.V. McCollum of Johns Hopkins University notes that "the author and publishers are indebted to The Nutrition Foundation, Inc. for a grant …" That sounds innocent enough, but what the book doesn't tell you is that The Nutrition Foundation is made up of about 45 companies such as the American Sugar Refining Co., Coca-Cola, Peps-Cola, Curtis Candy Co. and General Mills. In the early 1970s, the sugar industry claimed in its advertising that sugar was a nutrient. In 1973, the National Advertising Review Board found that claim was without merit, and it was ceased.

Merchants marketing sugar have targeted children as their most lucrative customer base. Sugary products dominate the commercials on Saturday morning cartoons. In Living Health, the Diamonds cite a Los Angeles Times article reporting that in one nine-month period it was possible for a child watching television just during the daytime on weekends to see "more than 5,500 commercials for cereals, candy, and other sugared items, and just one for vegetables!"

To cash in on this lucrative advertising, check-out counters are designed to maximize sales. So in supermarkets and convenience stores we find a vast selection of candies on display in easy reach and at eye level for every kid in America, from toddlers to adolescents.

In Beating the Food Giants, Paul Stitt writes, "The truth is that most of the garbage sold in supermarkets isn't really food at all. Some of it is really candy, most of it is really poison. But it's not food... These products should be revealed for what they are, so that people can decide for themselves. For instance, Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, a product that's more than 50% sugar, should not be called a cereal. The word 'cereal' denotes a food made from grain, but Sugar Smacks isn't a food and what little grain is left in it has been robbed of its nourishment. Sugar Smacks is a candy and that's what it should be called. When mothers across the nation find out they've been giving their kids candy for breakfast, Kellogg's -- and all the other presweetened breakfast producers -- will soon be out of business."

In Sugar Blues, the classic documentary on sugar, Dufty explains how our emotional state is affected by sugar intake: "The brain is probably the most sensitive organ in the body. The difference between feeling up or down, sane or insane, calm or freaked out, inspired or depressed, depends in large measure upon what we put into our mouth. For maximum efficiency of the whole body -- of which the brain is merely a part -- the amount of glucose in the blood must balance with the amount of blood oxygen." He then quotes Dr. E.M. Abrahamson and A.W. Pezet from Body, Mind and Sugar as further explaining, "… When we take in refined sugar (sucrose), it is the next thing to being glucose in our bodies. The sucrose passes directly to the intestines, where it becomes 'predigested' glucose. This in turn is absorbed into the blood where the glucose level has already been established in precise balance with oxygen. The glucose level in the blood is thus drastically increased. Balance is destroyed. The body is in crisis."

Sugar consumption causes a series of emergency reactions by the body in an attempt to maintain this balance. First, Dufty explains, the brain registers an imbalance and sends a message for the adrenal glands to secrete hormones to keep the blood glucose level up, then insulin from the pancreas begins working against the adrenal hormones to keep the glucose level down. Dufty adds, "All this is reflected in how we feel. While the glucose is being absorbed into the blood, we feel 'up.' A quick pick-up. However, this surge of mortgaged energy is succeeded by the downs, when the bottom drops out of the blood glucose level. We are listless, tired; it requires effort to move or even think until the blood glucose level is brought up again. Our poor brain is vulnerable to suspicion, hallucinations. We can be irritable, all nerves, jumpy. The severity of the crisis on top of crisis depends on the glucose overload. If we continue taking sugar, a new double crisis is always beginning before the old one ends. The accumulative crisis at the end of the day can be a lulu."

Dufty adds that for someone who has gone very long without eating sugar, the physical signs become very apparent when you have eaten a restaurant meal containing sugar: "… taste is not always infallible. However, if you get sleepy after such a meal, you can be sure something had sugar or honey in it."

He also explains the difference between refined sugar (sucrose) and glucose. Glucose, found in fruits and vegetables, is always present in our bloodstream and plays a vital role in the metabolism of all plants and animals. Many foods are converted into glucose in our bodies. There is a major difference in the way our bodies react to glucose versus sucrose, and there is a difference in the way our bodies react to starches and proteins when they are combined with sugar. Dufty explains: "When starches and complex sugars (like those in honey and fruits) are digested, they are broken down into simple sugars called monosaccharides, which are usable substances -- nutrients. When starches and sugars are taken together and undergo fermentation, they are broken down into carbon dioxide, acetic acid, alcohol, and water. With the exception of the water, all these are unusable substances -- poisons. When proteins are digested they are broken down into amino acids, which are usable substances -- nutrients. When proteins are taken with sugar, they putrefy, they are broken down into a variety of ptomaines and leucomaines, which are nonusable substances -- poisons."

Dufty also cites the work of Dr. William Coda Martin in the 1950s, which was intended to make the distinction between what is food and what is poison. Coda's working medical definition of poison was very simple: "Any substance applied to the body, ingested, or developed within the body, which causes or may cause disease." The dictionary definition of poison is "To exert a harmful influence on, or to pervert." Dufty adds, "Dr. Martin classified refined sugar as a poison because it has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins, and minerals."

So, when a substance is classified as a poison, has no nutritional value, is known to rot teeth, cause numerous physical and emotional problems, and is addictive, indeed it becomes compelling to ask how it came to be that we feed this harmful, toxic substance to children.

Sugar Blues contains a fascinating history of sugar, from the early days when sugar trade was dependent on slave labor to modern times when it is still an unholy alliance of merchants, government and medical authorities that profit from the use of this unhealthy product.

Dufty notes that Arabs were "probably the first conquerors in history to have produced enough sugar to furnish both courts and troops with candy and sugared drinks. An early European observer credits the widespread use of sugar by Arab desert fighters as the reason for their loss of cutting edge." He quotes a 1573 journal of German botanist Leonhard Rauwolf, who made voyages through Libya and Tripoli, as stating: "The Turks and Moors cut off one piece (of sugar) after another and so chew and eat them openly everywhere in the street without shame... in this way (they) accustom themselves to gluttony and are no longer the intrepid fighters they had formerly been."

On his second journey to the New World in 1493, Christopher Columbus found sugar cane growing in the islands of Hispaniola. By 1510, Spain was transporting African slaves to grow sugar in these islands, while Portugal was using the slave labor of its criminals to produce sugar in Brazil, and the Dutch had established a refinery in Antwerp. "By 1560, Charles V of Spain had built the magnificent palaces in Madrid and Toledo out of taxes on the sugar trade. No other product has so profoundly influenced the political history of the Western world as has sugar," Dufty writes. "Sugar pushing had become so profitable by 1660 that the British were ready to go to war to maintain their control." He notes the object of the British Navigation Acts of 1660 was to prevent the transport of sugar, tobacco and other products from the American Colonies to any port other than Britain and British territory.

By the late 1600s, sugar consumption had sky-rocketed in Europe, including more than two million pounds per year in Britain. About this time, large numbers of people throughout Europe began exhibiting major emotional disturbances, especially in the large cities where sugar intake was highest, and mental hospitals were constructed to institutionalize these people. One historian referred to this period as "The great confinement of the insane."

"Today, pioneers of orthomolecular psychiatry... have confirmed that mental illness is a myth and that emotional disturbances can be merely the first symptom of the obvious inability of the human system to handle the stress of sugar dependency," Dufty writes.

In addition to unprecedented numbers of mental patients, other medical problems began to appear in increasing numbers as sugar consumption began to rise. In countries where accurate records were kept on national sugar consumption and death from specific diseases, Dufty notes "the point is inescapable: As sugar consumption escalates wildly, fatal diseases increase remorselessly."

But never mind the health factor. There was profit to be made by merchants, doctors and government taxes. Governments became a major partner in the sugar business. From 1840 to 1890, the U.S. Government took in two cents in federal taxes from every five-cent pound of sugar. And Dufty shows that time after time, doctors have been ignored when they discover that terrible diseases are caused by bad diets, while other doctors have become famous for inventing drugs or treatments from which profit can be made.

For example, in the 19th Century, medical history records a dramatic increase in fatalities caused by diabetes. But rather than blame diabetes on the increased sugar consumption of that period, doctors determined the cause of diabetes was failure of the pancreas to secrete sufficient amounts of insulin. In 1923, Canadian physician Frederick Banting received a Nobel prize for discovering how to provide diabetes patients with insulin and use it to control their glucose level. This invention has generated huge profits for the medical and pharmaceutical professions as millions of people became dependent on insulin for the rest of their lives.

Then, in 1924 Dr. Seale Harris, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, discovered hyperinsulinism (also called low blood glucose or hypoglycemia), which is characterized by the overproduction of insulin. Dr. Harris developed the glucose tolerance test still used today to diagnose this problem, but there was no Nobel prize for Dr. Harris. Unlike Dr. Banting's findings of the previous year, the shortcoming of Dr. Harris' discovery was that he did not find any miracle drug or treatment for this disease that could make anyone a profit. The only cure for a person with hypoglycemia, Dr. Harris found, is for that person to eliminate refined sugar from their diet. And as Dufty shows in his book, the A.M.A. and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare do not even acknowledge that hypoglycemia is a widespread disease, even though 49.2 percent of 134,000 responses in an H.E.W. survey volunteered that they suffered from hypoglycemia under the category of "Do you have any other condition?"

Sugar Blues ties together an incredible number of diseases and plagues that can be traced to diets that have been dominated by sugar and starch while excluding fresh fruits and vegetables. Scurvy became a well-known plague of sailors as early as 1516 when hundreds were dying from this dreaded disease on ships. Armies and navies from all around the world became afflicted and died in large numbers from scurvy for more than 400 years before 20th Century medical science discovered this was a disease caused by bad diet. It wasn't just the lack of nutritious foods that caused scurvy. It was the combination of the lack of nutritious foods plus sugar, which robbed nutrition from the body. For example, Dufty's historical research finds that rations of the 18th Century Royal Navy, plagued by scurvy, included items such as "Water gruel sweetened with sugar in the morning... puddings, boiled biscuits with sugar." Likewise, outbreaks of beriberi became prevalent when cultures living off of brown rice had their diets changed to white rice and sugar.

Today's commercial food processing and marketing giants still find it more profitable to stock and promote sugary and starchy foods with a long shelf life rather than perishable fresh foods that provide the nutrition we need. This can leave a child who is strongly influenced by TV food commercials with a diet that, despite the addition of modern synthetic vitamins, has many of the same deficiencies as the disease-causing food eaten by sailors several centuries ago.

Note: Gerry and Ray Coffey are Hallelujah Diet Health Ministers. For more info: [email protected]  or call: 256/350-2823

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