Diet & Nutrition

Sugar: Pleasure Or Poison

In 1816, the average sugar consumption per person was 15 pounds per year. In 1955, the average sugar consumption was 120 pounds per year. Now in 1990 it is about 180 pounds per person per year. This is equivalent to half a pound per day per person. Sugar constitutes about 25 to 35 per cent of the diet and this is a problem because sugar weakens the enzymes of essential fatty acid metabolism. Sugar has no vitamins or minerals to offer in its digestion. It takes up space in our diet that should be filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Sugar hides in many places. Some brands of ketchup have more sugar per ounce than ice cream.

Many salad dressings have three times the sugar content of cola drinks. Some non-dairy creamers have more sugar than a chocolate bar. There are nine teaspoons of sugar in a 12-ounce can of pop, 20 teaspoons in a milk shake and about eight teaspoons in most desserts. The labelling is also important, and it is often misleading. Manufacturers avoid listing sugar as the first ingredient by dividing it into different terminologies like dextrose, corn syrup solids, malt powder, etc. If you add these ingredients together, they would become the first ingredient on the product list.

We have been deluded into thinking that we can eat as much sugar as we want and not reap the consequences. The consequences come about when we finally find we have diabetes, hypoglycemia, heart disease, hyperactivity or even allergy to sugar. Dr. Ross Hume Hall says that “nutrition is a stagnating science since its marriage of convenience with the food industry – a lot of our nutrition departments are being funded by the food industry to promote the advantages of food refining”.

Research On Sugar In The Diet

About a year ago, clinical studies were conducted on school children which showed that sugar is okay for children. When I read the studies, I found they used a relatively small amount of sugar in the trial, 9 or 10 teaspoons of sugar daily. This represents only one quarter of children’s usual daily sugar intake. If children have a sugar-coated cereal in the morning, a treat at recess, and sugar and ice cream at lunch, they can get up to 100 teaspoons of sugar a day. Testing them on merely 10 or 12 teaspoons of sugar in the morning and saying that this doesn’t cause hyperactivity, that sugar is fine, is really a false premise. Additionally, they used a very small number of children, about 20 children, and studied them for only about five hours, from one to three days. Furthermore, they didn’t have a control group of children, a normal comparison group who had been given a normal breakfast.

In the comparison group they used, children were given artificial sweeteners rather than no sweeteners at all. We have found that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame have adverse neurological and behavioural side effects. Children eating sugar may be expected to be hyperactive and children taking aspartame may have neurological side effects, so you don’t have an experiment at all. You are just comparing two similar things. In addition, artificial colourings and flavourings were also used in the drinks and it has been shown that they have allergic effects. So all these things make it very difficult to understand how this research proves sugar is all right for children.

A proper clinical trial would withhold sugar for at least seven days, then reintroduce it and see how the children react. This is what I used to do in my practice, so that the sugar could be eliminated from their systems and the effect of the sugar could be observed when it is reintroduced. Most children react very negatively when they feel the irritation and tension in their bodies and they cut back on the amount of sugar they eat and automatically limit themselves.

In a well designed study by Schoenthaler and Schauss, sugar was withheld from children for a long period of time and it was found that positive behaviour was greatly enhanced . Subsequently, Schoenthaler was hired to study one million school children from 800 New York schools over a seven year period. They found a 15.7 per cent increase in learning ability compared with other schools. Of 124,000 children who were unable to learn grammar and math, 75,000 could perform these skills after dietary changes alone were introduced. In another study, 68 juvenile criminals’ anti-social acts diminished by 80 per cent within seven months.

In a follow-up study with 276 children, one group stayed on the junk food diet while the other group received healthy foods. And the difference in anti-social acts between the two groups was almost 50 per cent. Schoenthaler then worked with the Los Angeles probation department diet behaviour program. Over 1,000 juvenile delinquents showed a 44 per cent drop in anti-social behaviour on a low sugar diet. What was the result of all these studies? The California Council against Health Fraud issued a statement that a low additive low sugar diet was “ineffective, dangerous and costly”. This was published in the American Council of Science and Health newsletter and Schoenthaler was allowed no rebuttal. Anyone can see that the first study I described, a study of 20 children for a day, does not compare with a study of a million children over seven years.

In 1976, the U.S. Select Committee on GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substances gave their findings on the health aspects of sugar as a food ingredient. The report states that except for dental caries, there is no clear association between sugar and health problems such as vascular disease, degenerative disease or diabetes in this country. A rebuttal was finally printed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Sheldon Reiser of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He stated that the incubation time for people from primitive countries for developing degenerative conditions is 20 years. You cannot do a one year research project and find the answer.

The incidence of diabetes becomes very high in certain cultures when the intake of sugar is introduced. Sucrose alone may be a very important etiological factor in heart disease and diabetes. So Reiser recommended that sugar be decreased by 60 per cent and replaced by complex carbohydrates from vegetables and cereals.

Research is very important in the area of alternative medicine even though only 20 per cent of orthodox medicine is scientifically proven to date. I remember being told in medical school that bottled milk was just as good as breast milk until the benefits of breast milk were scientifically proven! We who practice alternative medicine are told that we haven’t proved that our treatments are effective scientifically. That means people can put us aside and hope we will go away.

Do Our Pet Animals Eat More Nutritiously Than We Do?

Where are our priorities? I have a question that I ask my young patients: “Do you like sugar?” Of course they do. Then I ask them if they have animals, a puppy dog or pussy cat and if they would feed their puppy or cat sugar. No, of course they wouldn’t. Many studies have been done on the effects of sugar on animals. Dr. Cheraskin studied a group of rats who ate sugar-coated cereal and another group who ate the box the cereal came in, and you guessed it, the rats who ate the box lived longer than the rats who ate the cereal.

The Pottinger cat studies are a favourite topic of mine. In the 1940’s, 900 cats were studied by a group of anthropologist dentists. One group of cats were fed mainly raw meat and milk and they lived happily ever after, generation after generation. Another group were fed cooked and processed food. The second and third generation had arthritis, diabetes, dermatitis, cancer, skin disease, all the chronic degenerative diseases that we are seeing now in our human population. By the third generation, this group had no more live births; in other words there was no fourth generation. We’ve got to see some similarities between ourselves and these cats. We are not cats, but we are getting to the third generation of people growing up on refined foods and it has got to have some impact.


People addicted to substances like alcohol are also addicted to sugar. Many addicted people have strong withdrawal effects when they remove sugar from their diet. Researchers have found that there is a strong correlation between alcohol or other addictive drugs and a strong craving for sugar. Heroin addicts consumed staggering amounts of sugar while they were undergoing treatment and in fact the sugar seemed to diminish the withdrawal effects of heroin.


It is absent in primitive communities. After 20 years of eating sugar, North American Indians, Eskimos, and populations in India and Africa develop diabetes. You do not suddenly become diabetic. It is a gradual build up over many years.

Sugar And The Colon

If you are eating sugar without the fibre from cane or beet, you are creating constipation which can lead to diverticular disease, appendicitis, colitis, gallstones, peptic ulcers, all these problems. Incubation time for this condition is 40 years. There is continued evidence that there is a high incidence of gallstones with excess sugar intake.


Studies show that sugar intake is related to a decrease in lymphocytes. It was demonstrated that 19 teaspoons of sugar increased insulin, which then competed for binding sites on lymphocytes and inactivated them. It jams up the lymphocytes and kind of paralyzes them. Other studies showed that sugar intake decreased antibody production and decreased macrophages which destroy foreign bodies and cancer cells. With rises in sugar intake, the antibody production decreases correspondingly.

Coronary Artery Disease

In 1990, a study in the Lancet showed that a vegetarian diet, relaxation exercises, and giving up smoking actually reversed coronary artery lesions. This is definite proven research that should make every cardiologist say, “Here is the evidence we need. Now we can implement these methods to treat coronary artery disease.” Studies showed over and over again that increased sugar intake causes elevated triglycerides, elevated total cholesterol, elevated insulin and elevated uric acid.

References for the research studies mentioned in Dr. Dean’s article is listed in her book: Sugar: Pleasure or Poison.

Dr. Carolyn Dean

Dr. Dean graduated from Dalhousie Medical School and interned at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. During her medical training she studied acupuncture and nutrition at the U.C.L.A. Pain Control Clinic and the U.C.L.A. School of Public Health. She has appeared as a guest on more than 100 seminars, radio and television programs. She has written articles for medical journals and published a popular book, When you Can't Reach the Doctor. Another book is in press, her controversial sugar book, Sugar: Pleasure or Poison. At present Dr. Dean is conducting research in the United States using non-toxic medicines in the treatment of AIDS patients. She believes that scientific research is the only way to persuade the establishment about the validity of non-drug forms of therapy.

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