Did you know that a 330ml can of regular Coca Cola has 35g of sugar? This is the equivalent of around 10 teaspoons of sugar and 139 calories. Despite this clearly being a high volume of sugar, you would be forgiven for not being entirely ‘privy’ to the exact health implications of this; short term and long term.
This is largely down to the fact that the vast majority of corporate food and beverage companies have similar statistics in terms of sugar content – but they aren’t keen on the health implications of consuming this level of sugar being disclosed to you – the customer.
Indeed, it was only reported in national newspapers last week that ‘Coca Cola’ have commissioned ‘millions’ of pounds for researchers to counter claims that their fizzy drinks can cause obesity.
So what are the health implications of consuming too much sugar? Our article this week is provided by Lesley Una-Pierce, Director of the Nutritional Healing Foundation, who looks in depth at the concerns surrounding our ever increasing intake of sugar; why it is so addictive to many and the impact that its consumption has on our bodies.
I have just watched Jamie Oliver’s programme ‘Sugar Rush’ and I hugely applaud him for actively working towards not only bringing about more awareness of the sugar problem in this country, but also for endeavouring to do something about it.
If you haven’t already, then I encourage you to see it. He is not on his own in what he is trying to do, but how wonderful that he is in a position to be able to make an impact on a large scale.
There is also ‘That Sugar Film’ by Damon Gameau, which is currently being screened around the UK which is also successfully highlighting the sugar problem.
The book ‘Sugar Blues’ by William Dufty, released in 1975 and still available, sold around 1.6 million copies. It boasted John Lennon amongst its followers. John did not want his son Sean to become a “sugar junkie”, like so many other American kids who grew up to be overweight, pimply teenagers.
Search any large bookshops for reading material on sugar and you will be overwhelmed.
So there is a huge amount of information ‘out there’ about the problem; for example, we only need to type the question into our search engine to find out that it takes three feet of sugar cane to produce one teaspoonful of sugar.
This is a fantastic example of the difference between a wholefood and a refined food! Apparently, there are up to fourteen teaspoons of sugar in some well-known cans of fizzy drinks, so we would need to gnaw our way through rather a lot of sugar cane to consume that amount of sugar…42 feet of it! Whole sugar cane in fact contains plenty of nutrients and fibre. It was around 6,000 BC when people in New Guinea began to grow sugarcane, chewing and sucking on the stalks to drink the sweet juice within.
The problem with Sugar
Sugar is a stimulant, often jokingly referred to as ‘legalised cocaine’ as it shares similar receptor sites in the body for its absorption, but it’s far from a joking matter. Sugar may seem far more innocent than cocaine, but as Jamie’s programme showed, the 130 foot and leg amputations per week in the UK (seven thousand annually) due to Diabetes, or the tooth decay resulting in young children needing full sets of dentures, is more than horrendous.
He also showed the problem with the incredibly powerful advertising and marketing of products brimmed full of sugar, which I am sure we are all aware of. It is directed at all of us!
We would need to be totally oblivious to our surroundings not to notice and be affected by the billboards, the adverts on TV and at the cinema and much, much more, so sugar is far from an innocent substance. It is highly addictive, exceedingly detrimental to our health, persuasively delicious to most and being pushed onto us at every turn!
As there is already a lot of information available about the problem, then possibly many of us already know what we should be doing. If the solution to the sugar problem is to cut our intake down, with a view to cutting it out, then wouldn’t we all be doing so if it were that easy?
Perhaps moving away from sugar is not quite as straightforward as that, given its addictive qualities.
The absorption of Sugar
Sugar has a very high GI (Glycaemic Index.) GI refers to how quickly and how much a food, when eaten on its own, raises our blood sugar levels. When we ingest refined sugar, it is quickly absorbed into our bloodstream and raises our blood sugar which gives us that ‘boost’ which is generally a good feeling.
Then our body responds efficiently and produces the hormone insulin in order to pack it away as saturated fat into our liver, muscles and fat cells as quickly as possible. How clever! This causes our blood sugar level to drop rapidly, which can be associated with an unpleasant feeling, with symptoms ranging from lethargy, irritability, an inability to concentrate to feeling downright murderous! Hence we reach for another sugary snack and yo-yo our way through the day with blood sugar levels all over the place. Does this sound familiar?
For any of us experiencing this on a daily basis, the solution is sadly not as simple as to say, ‘We need to cut sugar out.’ We could probably manage on willpower for a day or two or even a week or two, but when our body craves something it is not easy to ignore it permanently. To be successful, this needs to be easy. We need to no longer crave it!
Is there a solution?
One of the most crucial aspects of the solution is hydration, which is a whole, wonderfully positive story in itself. Without hydration being involved, then it is unlikely for any of us to be able to regulate our blood sugar levels satisfactorily. We often mistake our thirst signals for hunger and consequently reach for food instead of water. Many of us regularly reach for sugary drinks instead of water.
All stimulants such as sugar cause internal stress to the body, which in turn is very dehydrating and so becomes a vicious circle. By working on our hydration using clean, still, plain water, water rich fruits and vegetables, swollen foods such as well-cooked grains, we can get to the point where we are able regulate our blood sugar by drinking a pint of good quality, blood temperature water rather than reaching for that tempting sugary snack. We are all unique and therefore warrant an evolving, unique treatment plan to help us to achieve this.
It is no wonder that people who are chronically exhausted begin to rely on sugar boosts to help them through their day. Ladies sometimes crave sugar around the time of their menstrual period or around the menopause and anyone with candida overgrowth is likely to be craving it too.
Many of us know some healthier alternatives to sugar, such as good quality maple syrup, agarve syrup, coconut sugar, xylitol, stevia etc. However none of these are wholefoods and therefore have their own consequences when eaten in excess. Dried fruits, especially when soaked in clean water for several hours will provide us with the sweet taste and are of course wholefoods. So moving to healthier options is part thesoluion, but there’s more to it than that! Some of us will have tried the cold turkey approach without a proper nutritional plan, without much understanding or support and found success elusive. We need some help.
On our courses at The Nutritional Healing Foundation, we teach that “We are our own pharmacy!” This means that we have the ability to make everything that we need. Potentially, we can replace, rejuvenate and repair our cells. We can produce abundant energy and enthusiasm. We can manufacture our own pain killers and our own happiness! In order to make all these things, we need to have the necessary raw ingredients to hand. In college we talk about needing apples and pastry to make an apple pie, otherwise we would have to go down to the local pie shop to buy an apple pie and it’s never as good as the ones we make ourselves!
It’s the same situation with our bodies; if we haven’t got the raw ingredients available and consequently are unable to produce the things we want, then we will crave things from outside ourselves rather like going to the pie shop!
One category of ‘informational substances’ we manufacture is called prostaglandins. These are tissue hormones which serve and support our endocrine system and are responsible for many wonderful processes in the body, including our feel good factor. Sugar is not the only substance for which we reach outside of ourselves to feel a different way; it could be caffeine or alcohol or a mixture of many, but we have certainly become a nation of sugar addicts possibly because of its introduction at a very young age and its easy availability and enjoyment.
The raw ingredients needed to make our prostaglandins are:
Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the ratio 1:4 (although this ratio only holds good from a place of balance…most of us need to build up our Omega 3 reserves first!) Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamins B3, B6, C & E.
Another part of the solution now starts to reveal itself, clearly it is necessary to address our essential fatty acid profile, those three minerals and four vitamins, particularly the water soluble ones and often easier to begin by putting these into the body before we can start to let go of stimulants like sugar.
This is not straightforward either, because if we have been consuming large amounts of sugar, then we are likely to have some degree of liver congestion, often referred to as a ‘fatty’ liver, which may not easily be able to deal with an increased intake of essential fats. It will need some decongesting and TLC first!
We are beginning to see that there is more to the ‘sugar problem’ than meets the eye!
We know that the problem exists and many of us know what we should do. How to do it and actually doing it is a different matter. There is no magic bullet. We need to look at the whole picture and adopt a multi faceted approach. I believe that this needs to be taught through education. Jamie Oliver has asked the CEO’s, directors and owners of many companies, organisations and restaurants to join him in putting a 20% sugar tax on all the sugar-laden drinks they sell. His intention is to be able to use that revenue to educate children from a young age in how to grow, cook and enjoy natural, healthy food. Hats off to him…this will be wonderful!
Just as Jamie Oliver is aiming to educate children in schools in a way that is appropriate for their ages, here at The Nutritional Healing Foundation, we are passionate about educating and supporting our students in the Naturopathic Philosophy and in Nutritional Healing both for themselves and also so they can go on to educate and support their future patients/clients.
I hope that you will agree that successful, permanent changes are more likely to come about through awareness and empowerment; through knowledge and understanding; through motivation, inspiration and support; through choice and enjoyment. Being told, watching or reading what to do is less likely to be successful long term without also being shown and supported in how to do it.
Here’s to a healthier and happier refined sugar free world! Together we can achieve a great deal.
‘The Life-Saver’s Guide to Water – The Elixir of Life’ is the first book of the forthcoming series by Lesley Una Pierce and available from www.lesleyunapierce.com with 50p from every book sale going to WaterAid. Lesley Una Pierce is an author, Naturopath and partner of The Nutritional Healing Foundation.
Lesley Una Pierce, Director of The Nutritional Healing Foundation
With many thanks to Lesley for this article on a health topic that is essential yet frequently overlooked. If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
firstname.lastname@example.org, 01684 310099
Amanda Williams and the Cytoplan Editorial Team: Simon Holdcroft, Joseph Forsyth and Clare Daley