Sugar: Sweet Nothing
By Warren King L.Ac.
The following is a letter I wrote to my children’s school when they were considering a no sugar policy. A a result children are encouraged not to eat sugar at school. Even birthday parties are celebrated with skewered fruit, which the children enjoy more than the old birthday cakes.
I was very excited to read your letter asking for a discussion of sugar, a topic very important to me, the children at school, and truly to this entire society and future. As a practitioner of natural medicine I treat children practically every day and I have hardly found one that can tolerate that white purified chemical we sweetly call sugar.
Maria Montessori developed a wonderful system that enables us to bring out the fullest potential of children, which is nothing less than genius. But that genius absorbent mind must work through a physical brain and body. I would think that parents who would place their children into a specially prepared environment with specially trained teachers, instead of regular nursery or public schools, are expecting their children to become something more than ordinary. So it makes sense that we would want our children at the peak of health, mental acuity, and emotional stability so that can maximize their growth and learning. Sugar is one of the key factors that prevents just these things. Can you imagine investing in a very expensive thoroughbred stallion and put coke, and cakes and candy in it’s feed bag, instead of the oats that it was made to thrive on.
Simple sugar, which we think of as white table sugar has many forms: corn syrup, corn sweetener, lactose, fructose, dextrose, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, organic cane juice, honey, and molasses. Simple sugar is absorbed very quickly into the blood stream, giving a precipitous rise in blood sugar, resulting in the feel of a surge of energy. This signals the pancreas to pour out insulin, making the level plunge again. In turn the adrenals respond by releasing epinephrine as a signal to the liver to break down it’s stored starch, glycogen, and pump out more sugar, raising the blood sugar again.
These sudden drops in blood sugar evoke the condition known as hypoglycemia, in which messages from the brain controlling mood, motivation and learning are perpetually disrupted. The result may be a sudden burst of temper, aggression, antisocial behavior, as well as depression, changes of mood, confusion, fatigue and irritability. As an attempt to balance this chronic body and brain chemistry imbalance the person will resort to caffeine, alcohol (fermented sugar), cigarettes (approximately 30-50% sugar), or legal (prozac, ritalin) or illegal drugs (usually starting with marijuana).
Sugars require various vitamins and minerals for their digestion. These refined sugars, being stripped of other complementary nutrients found in naturally occurring foods, must borrow from other parts of the body to aid in digestion. Therefore the simple sugars contribute to the depletion of calcium, magnesium, manganese, chromium, and zinc, as well as the B- complex vitamins. Over time this can result in osteoporosis, irritability and stress, heart rhythm problems, elevated cholesterol and obesity. Hypoglycemia can proceed into diabetes if the pancreas gets overworked enough. Sugar paralyzes white blood cells for many hours after ingested.
Eliminating it from the diet may prevent colds, flus, ear infections, etc….
From birth to age 20 the average American child consumes between 2 and 2 and 1/2 tons of refined white sugar and numerous tons of junk food. The average soda contributes 7 to 8 tsp. of sugar to a person’s diet. Can you imagine putting 7 teaspoons or more of sugar into a glass of water and drinking it. Not to mention the caffeine in sodas to counteract the down the drinker would receive in 20 minutes without it. Many of our teens are now coffee addicts which will have devastating effects in the years to come as we see an entire generation of chronic fatigue syndrome cases.
The brain consumes 25 percent of the body’s glucose, it’s only food, but it requires it delivered in a calm and steady supply. This is ensured by consuming a diet high in complex carbohydrates, amply supplied in whole grains like brown rice, oats, rye, barley, millet, etc., sweet vegetables like carrots, winter squash, and onions, beans and fruits, especially the non-tropical fruits like apples and berries. Too much juice can also be a source of sugar, and children should get used to drinking pure water as the main source of liquid.
Children are often raised to associate pain, pleasure, reward and behavior modification with sugar and treats. Adults often use treats to pacify, discipline, or bribe children. Chocolate is especially pernicious due to it’s unique drug content, caffeine with theobromine (meaning ‘food of the gods’). The brain produces theobromine when we are in love or being loved. Can a box of chocolates on Valentine’s day substitute for the real thing? When I help adults lose weight and regain their health, it is very hard to work against a lifetime of these addictions, especially due to the association of sugar and chocolate with love. What a cheap substitute, the exact opposite of love…disease and fatigue.
Of course children need the sweet taste. Most healthy food, especially if grain and vegetable based is sweet. I have hundreds of recipes for any kind a dessert using wholesome natural ingredients. Cookies, cakes, pies and puddings can all be made with whole grain flour, and fruit, fruit juices, rice syrup, barley malt or maple syrup which enter the blood stream at a more even rate than regular sugar.
These children deserve a clear brain and body. Let us start this next generation off right. Let them know they are loved by not giving substitutes, but giving real love, and the food that God has made to feed his children, of whom we are caretakers that this earth might head in a new direction of wholeness.