Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sugar is killing us

If every American would stop eating products with sugar added, I suspect our health bills would fall by about 75 percent in the United States.

After experiencing some symptoms which are associated with diabetes--dry mouth, numb feet and toes, tingling hands and erratic vision--I stopped consuming all products with sugar in them about six weeks ago. I have never felt better. In three weeks, all my symptoms disappeared.

I had been suffering from severe dry mouth problems for 18 months. And then after 10 days without eating any sugar, the problem disappeared. Even with bifocals, I could no longer see clearly up close or far away. After three weeks without sugar, my vision returned to normal. For a few weeks, my extremities were tingling and numb. My toes felt like they were getting no blood. My hands ached. After 2 weeks without sugar, my hands and feet and toes are all back to normal.

It's regularly reported how fat Americans are. A small part of the reason for that is eating too many fatty foods. A much bigger reason is eating too much sugar. According to a recent 60 Minutes report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, "sugar - more than any other substance - is linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease."

CBS News has a story online which addresses the toxic nature of excess sugar consumption and the fact that at no time in the history of humanity have more people been consuming more sugar.

The amount of sugar consumed by Americans today is unprecedented, and is contributing to heart disease and high blood pressure, a dietitian said on "CBS This Morning."

Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and registered dietitian, was on the broadcast to discuss a "60 Minutes" report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta which explored studies indicating that sugar - more than any other substance - is linked to obesity, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Sass explained that the average American today consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. "In a year's time it's about 17 four-lb. bags of sugar per person per year," she told Charlie Rose. "We need to change our habits."

Scientists now believe that sugar is a toxic substance.

When asked why sugar may be considered toxic, Sass compared one's blood to a glass of water: "Now think about pouring sugar into that water. The more sugar that's there, the thicker and more syrupy that water gets.

"When that's happening in your body - in your blood - your heart has to work harder to pump that thicker fluid through your system," Sass said. "It puts stress on the heart. It puts stress on the arteries. It Increases blood pressure. It attacks the kidneys, the liver. So it's really the amount that we have that's really causing these problems."

Although sweet fruits have sugar (fructose), they are not unhealthy to eat. What scientists are talking about when calling sugar toxic, is added sugar, added honey, added high fructose corn syrup which don't naturally exist in foods.

Sass said the source of sugar is also an important consideration. "The sugar that's healthy is the kind that comes from Mother Nature - the sugar that's in fruit, that's in yogurt, that's naturally occurring," she said. "So when you think about blueberries, a cup of blueberries, that has about 7 grams of fructose, but it's bundled with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber."

A can of soda, by comparison, has about 25 grams of fructose - about three times more - with no nutrients.

A public policy question worth asking is this: What, if anything, should be done about America's massive overconsumption of sugary foods?

I think we need to do something. I would start with these three ideas:

1. Place a 1 cent per gram tax on added sugar. That can of soda with 25 grams of added sugar would be taxed at 25 cents. A box of Kellogg's Honey Smacks, which has 15 grams of added sugar per serving and 9 servings per box, would be taxed at $1.35 (9 x 15). A 2,270 gram bag of sugar (5 pounds) would be taxed at $22.70. Foods with naturally occurring sugars, such as fruit, would not be taxed;

2. Educate the public on the toxicity of sugar. Take most of the money raised from the sugar tax and use it to let people realize what sugar does to their health. Any leftover money should be spent buying nutritious foods for school children; and

3. Require a prominent warning label. All processed foods with more than 5 grams of added sugar per serving need to say in large script: "The sugar in this product is toxic to your health."

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