The increased consumption of sugar in the US parallels the overall decline in the health of its citizens. In 1900, the average person consumed approximately 15 lbs. of sugar per year. Today, it is estimated that the average person consumes 150 lbs. of sugar per year. It is also estimated that 20% of all adult calories are derived from sugar. Sugar consumption has been linked to a variety of health problems such as colitis, mood swings, heart disease, hyperactivity, obesity and dental cavities. The manufacturing or refining process of sugar is believed to contribute to the negative effects of sugar on our bodies. Because natural sugar cane contains materials that can spoil, sugar cane juice is purified, filtered, concentrated and boiled down until the sugar crystallizes out of the syrup. Brown sugar is as devoid of nutrients as white sugar: It simply has a little molasses added back in for color. As a purified sugar, the refined white sugar becomes a "naked carbohydrate" because it has been separated from all its natural co-factors such as water, minerals, proteins, vitamins and fiber. When we ingest sugar in this form (also refined white flour), our bodies must use their own resources of these materials to utilize the sugar and maintain a homeostatic balance. We may lose B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and iron from our reserves with continued exposure to sugar. These minerals can be pulled from our teeth, which would weaken them and increase the likelihood of dental caries. It is a well accepted fact that sugar can be addictive. Even small amounts on a daily basis can lead to withdrawal symptoms if discontinued. An excellent book on the subject of sugar is Sugar Blues by William Duffy.
Soft drinks are a major source of sugar. Each soda contains an average of seven teaspoons of sugar. Experts are now saying that children and adolescents who drink sodas are at higher risk for bone fractures and obesity. How many soft drinks do Americans consume?
- In 1942, the annual production of carbonated soft drinks in the United States was about 60 12-oz. servings per person.
- In 1997, it was 576 12-oz. servings per year for every man, woman, and child. That's equivalent to 14 billion gallons.
- In 1997, Americans spent over 54 billion dollars to buy those 14 billion gallons of soft drinks. This amount is twice what it was in 1974.
Another issue linked to soft drinks is caffeine. Caffeine is added to 70% of soft drinks sold in the United States. In 1981, a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration to delete caffeine from cola type beverages was rebuffed by a claim by soft drink manufacturers that caffeine is added as a flavoring agent. One study showed that only 8% of the participants were able to detect the caffeine in the beverages tested. In fact, in studies where increased amounts of caffeine were tested, participants reported a bitter aftertaste. This casts some doubt on the manufacturers' motives for adding caffeine. No doubt children and adults can become physiologically and psychologically addicted to the effects of sugar and caffeine, and suffer withdrawal symptoms if its use is terminated. Perhaps if the mood altering, addictive, and nervous-system stimulating effects of sugar and caffeine were discussed more publicly, things would change. In the late 1970's the Department of Agriculture tried to impose restrictions prohibiting the sale of soft drinks and other foods with "minimal nutritional value" throughout schools from the beginning of the day until 30 minutes after the end of the last lunch period. The National Soft Drink Association challenged the regulation, and in 1983 the US Court of Appeals struck down the USDA prohibition. As it stands now, school districts are raising money by selling soda machine rights to the likes of Coca Cola and Pepsi. With all the facts just discussed, is it any coincidence that in the last two decades Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder is becoming increasingly apparent? For further information, I recommend Center for Science in the Public Interest at www.cspinet.org.
It is estimated that ¼ of the 45,000 items in the average supermarket contains corn in the form of high fructose corn syrup. The shift from sugar to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) started in the 1970's by companies looking to substitute cane sugar or sucrose from beets with another sweetening agent. This cheaper (and sweeter) form of sweetener has increased profits for big business but has devastated the average unsuspecting American's health. The increased use of high fructose corn syrup has been linked by many researchers to the rise in type II diabetes in this country in the past 40 years. Additionally it is linked to increased LDL cholesterol, elevated Triglyceride levels, Insulin Resistance (a prediabetic syndrome), along with Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Cancer and other health problems. A newer more potent form of HCFS, called Crystalline Fructose, is now seen in food products such as soft drinks and products like Vitamin Water. Reports show that HFCS also contains heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Chemically fructose is metabolized differently than sucrose from cane sugar. Fructose must be converted in the liver to glycogen and either used later for sugar or converted to fat. Not surprisingly the food industry uses this information to claim that because of its slower breakdown it is less likely to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and is less aggravating to diabetics. However this point no longer holds water when we consume fructose in the amounts we are seeing today. According to Nancy Appletown Ph.D. the consumption of fructose has risen from 39 pounds of fructose and 84 pounds of sucrose in1980 to an average of 66 pounds of fructose and 83 pounds of sucrose by 1994. This 149 pounds represents 19% of the calories eaten in the average persons diet. These statistics are alarming.
A recent documentary by the name of King Corn details the political turn of events that gave birth to the situation we find ourselves in now, and our agricultural dependence on corn.
Also known as Nutrisweet, Equal, Crystal Light, is an artificial sweetener that is believed to cause many unhealthy symptoms that researchers are beginning to identify as causally related to this product. One reaction to Aspertame is that by consuming it with carbohydrates, it will interfere with Tryptophan (an amino acid) absorption in the body. Tryptophan is a precursor for a neurotransmitter called Serotonin. Healthy levels of Serotonin are necessary for maintaining feelings of happiness. Aspertame consists of 50 percent Phenylalanine (an amino acid), 40 percent Apartic Acid (another amino acid) and 10 percent methyl ester which after it is ingested becomes methanol, methyl alcohol, or wood alcohol which is a poison. A small percentage of wood alcohol is metabolized into Formaldehyde, which we know is a poison as well. In fact, formaldehyde is probably on the order of 5000 times more poisonous than methyl alcohol and we store it because we lack the enzymes to break it down. The business concerns that regard Aspartame as "GRAS" (generally regarded as safe) point out that the amino acids aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methyl esters appear in our food when we eat nuts, fish, or fruit. This is true. However, it is impossible to find a food in nature that has only two amino acids in the concentrations that our population is consuming when we drink diet sodas, and other products with Aspartame. In addition, methyl esters in fruit are bound up by pectin and our bodies are incapable of splitting the methyl esters from the pectin. Fruit also contains ethanol, and ethyl alcohol which helps counteract methyl alcohol so the danger from exposure to methyl esters in fruit is essentially nil.
Aspartame is considered an excitotoxin. This is a term that has been coined to describe a chemical that makes neurons overexcited. Aspartic acid is an excitatory neurotransmitter, but in excess can cause an over excitability to our nervous systems. Another chemical food additive that is considered an excitotoxin is MSG or Monosodium Glutamate.