July 23, 2013

If you’re not interested in dealing with the issue of sugar addiction, the new August issue of National Geographic might change your mind. The cover story on the evils of sugar uses gorgeous photos, historical facts and trending data to show why we’re in big trouble.

(Note to readers: This story is behind a paywall for subscribers only. But I give you the highlights below….)

Refined sugar is amazingly delicious but offers absolutely zero health benefits. In fact, it creates many, many hazards, ranging from obesity, hypertension to diabetes. Note here to men and to anyone who loves them: The medications for treating these conditions can lead to longterm issues of their own, such as impotence and erectile dysfunction.

Personally, I swore off sugar back in the early ’90s when I went holistic. It was hell because I truly love me some cake, cookies, potato chips and junk food. But the benefits of quitting sugar have been tremendous. My skin cleared up. I have more energy. Weight management is possible too. There’s just no downside. These days, I still indulge in the occasional sweet treat and it’s more fun now because there’s no guilt.

I knew I had to quit sugar because diabetes is a cruel and ugly disease that runs in my family. It’s a huge problem that has been well-documented in the Asian, Latino and African-American communities.

My chocoholic mom had Type 2, the most common form of diabetes. Sugar killed her slowly and painfully by destroying her blood circulation. Her eyes failed and she could barely walk. She was also prone to mini-strokes. By the time she died at 92, she was nearly blind, bedridden and couldn’t feed herself. This is no way to live or die.

Given that personal connection, I read the magazine article with tremendous interest. Really great how the piece approaches sugar from such a variety of angles. The lush photography does wonders in making a tough topic palatable by putting things, literally, in perspective.

The story lays out the facts very clearly…Fructose, a natural form of sugar, is found in limited quantities in fruits and vegetables. The human body is built to need very little fructose.

But, horror of horrors, the average American is eating 22.7 teaspoons of sugar a day. Most of it is entering our systems as a hidden ingredient in processed foods. All those packaged snacks, canned items and beverages contain sugar, often in the form of cheap fillers like high-fructose corn syrup. This is also true for savory products, which go heavy on the salt and sugar.

No wonder diabetes is epidemic. Back in 1973, 2 percent or 4.2 million Americans had Type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes. By 2010, 7 percent or 21.1 million cases were reported. These sobering facts and more are presented in a two-page spread in the story:

So here are 4 reasons to avoid sugar that were reinforced for me by the National Geographic story:

Reason #1: Many illnesses can be traced back to sugar. The numbers are exploding. In 1900, only 5 percent of adults on this earth had high blood pressure. Today, ONE THIRD of adults worldwide suffer from this condition.

Reason #2: Sugar, which built the slave trade, had bad energy from the start. Sugar was around in the Eastern world for centuries, with poor laborers and prisoners of war doing most of the backbreaking work of harvesting and refining sugar cane. The Europeans turned it into big business as they conquered the Caribbean and set up island sugar plantations filled with slaves.

Reason #3: Sugar is a cheap trick for enhancing flavor. Read the label on any packaged food item and chances are it contains some form of sugar to make it tasty. High-fructose corn syrup is appearing in more and more products. And the recent craze for low-fat food doesn’t mean you’re eating healthier; manufacturers are often substituting more sugar to make up for the reduction in fat.

Reason #4: Sugar makes you tired. After giving us an initial rush, sugar depletes the body of energy. Americans eat too much and don’t exercise enough because sugar addiction creates exhaustion.


This is a good time to talk about sugar because it’s summer and frosty sweets are everywhere. Ice cream, sorbet, gelato, smoothies, iced drinks, frozen cocktails…

And if you’re interested in a holistic, sugar-free regimen, I have a blog post about Chinese medicine master Jeffrey Yuen. It includes a link to a food list that he recommends, which forms the foundation for my meals. Click here to read it.

I’d like to suggest that the effort to take better care of ourselves will lead to a summer that is truly sweet. So I hope you’ll share this post.   :)