Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Culprit: Sugar

Book Review – The New Sugar Busters!: Cut Sugar to Trim Fat by H. Leighton Steward, Sam Andrews (M.D.), Morrison Bethea (M.D.), and Luis Balart (M.D.)

This book unveils a truth that our modern society desperately needs to hear--sugar and refined grains are the culprits to many of our modern health dilemmas. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying sugar/refined grains are the only problem, but a big piece of the puzzle)

The fact is that health and medicine in the 21st century deals with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as well as cancer (and how many cancers are linked to obesity?!) These chronic diseases have skyrocketed just as our sugar intake has skyrocketed. Some interesting statistics from the U.S. department of agriculture reveal that in 1997 the average consumption of refined sugar was 154 pounds per person per year! (that’s just under ½ pound per day). To put that into perspective, in the early 1900’s the average refined sugar consumption was less than 20 pounds person per year.

This book takes a look at how eating sugar and refined grains causes one’s blood sugar to spike and then plummet and explains the role of insulin in an easy-to-understand way. To summarize, insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar. So, when you eat a meal that causes your blood sugar to rise significantly, insulin kicks in and stores the glucose (sugar) into a chain called glycogen. Insulin also prevents the breakdown of fats. The problem arises when we are constantly refined foods, our blood sugar and insulin levels are elevated thus storing fat and not allowing the breakdown of fat in the body. This can also lead to insulin resistance or diabetes.

The Sugar Busters book uses the glycemic index (GI) which gives a numeric value to foods to indicate how they will affect one’s blood sugar. The Sugar Busters lifestyle advocates a diet composed of low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as high fibre vegetables and whole grains along with fat and protein. They suggest avoiding any refined sugar (includes many processed items), and white starches such as rice, bread, potatoes, flour, pasta and corn products. The idea is to keep your insulin levels on an even keel so you body can use up its stored fat.

One word of caution with this book is that it does not provide a thorough look at fats and oils to include in your diet. In fact, I believe it is misleading to some degree as they advise the use of canola oil (a genetically engineered oil). Canola oil has been marketed at a heart-healthy oil, but buyer-beware—it is far from that. As well they also do not give a thorough look at saturated fats, which are not the “bad fat” they are often made out to be. So all in all, look to another resource for advice on fats and oils (see my recommended book list).

Overall, the book is a good read for learning about the harmful effects of sugar and refined grains and will help you know how to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It also contains recipes at the back for you to get started on your low-glycemic diet, not to be confused with a low-carb diet.


Jane G said...

This is very intriguing.I was not aware how much blood sugar level can affect the body. Does the limiting of refined sugar also extend to sweetners? I only ask because I do not buy or use white sugar but I do use sweetner in coffe, tea and on cereal.

Karen Kelly said...

That is a great question! Many people have turned to (non-caloric) sweeteners in replace of sugar. These sweeteners, such as aspartame (found in Nutri-Sweet and Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) are also added to many processed foods such as yogurt, desserts, gum/breath mints, and beverages of all sorts.
There is a lot of controversy about whether these sweeteners are a healthy or acceptable alternative. You can find arguments for both sides. I believe that alternative sweeteners are dangerous. The most popular sweetener is aspartame, which “is a neurotoxic substance that has been associated with numerous health problems including dizziness, visual impairment, severe muscle aches, numbing of extremities, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, retinal hemorrhaging, seizures and depression. It is suspected of causing birth deffects and chemical disruptions in the brain” (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg. 51). While doing some research online in response to this question, I came across a website by Dr. Janet Hull (holds a Doctorate in Nutrition, among other things) about the dangers of Aspartame. She states that there are 92 known side effects of aspartame. Check them out.
Many advocates of natural nutrition suggest Stevia, an herbal sweetener as an alternative to sugar. I personally have not tried using this product. I believe that a large portion of our society (including myself) has a sugar addiction and the best solution is to detox our bodies from sugar and break the addiction. Once we’ve done this we can truly appreciate natural occurring sugars without having to load on extra sweeteners.

Jane G said...

Thanks Karen that was very helpful

lorna vanderhaeghe products said...

Sugar is one of the main cause of heart problems and hyper tension. We should always limit our intake of it.