When a vessel carrying a cargo of sugar was shipwrecked in 1793, the five surviving sailors were finally rescued after being marooned for nine days. They were in a wasted condition due to starvation, having consumed nothing but sugar and rum.
The eminent French physiologist F. Magendie was inspired by that incident to conduct a series of experiments with animals, the results of which he published in 1816. In the experiments, he fed dogs a diet of sugar or olive oil and water. All the dogs wasted and died.3
The shipwrecked sailors and the French physiologist’s experimental dogs proved the same point. As a steady diet, sugar is worse than nothing. Plain water can keep you alive for quite some time. Sugar and water can kill you. Humans [and animals] are “unable to subsist on a diet of sugar“.4
The dead dogs in Professor Magendie’s laboratory alerted the sugar industry to the hazards of free scientific inquiry. From that day to this, the sugar industry has invested millions of dollars in behind-the-scenes, subsidized science. The best scientific names that money could buy have been hired, in the hope that they could one day come up with something at least pseudoscientific in the way of glad tidings about sugar.
It has been proved, however, that (1) sugar is a major factor in dental decay; (2) sugar in a person’s diet does cause overweight; (3) removal of sugar from diets has cured symptoms of crippling, worldwide diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart illnesses.
Sir Frederick Banting, the codiscoverer of insulin, noticed in 1929 in Panama that, among sugar plantation owners who ate large amounts of their refined stuff, diabetes was common. Among native cane-cutters, who only got to chew the raw cane, he saw no diabetes.
However, the story of the public relations attempts on the part of the sugar manufacturers began in Britain in 1808 when the Committee of West India reported to the House of Commons that a prize of twenty-five guineas had been offered to anyone who could come up with the most “satisfactory” experiments to prove that unrefined sugar was good for feeding and fattening oxen, cows, hogs and sheep.5 Food for animals is often seasonal, always expensive. Sugar, by then, was dirt cheap. People weren’t eating it fast enough.
Naturally, the attempt to feed livestock with sugar and molasses in England in 1808 was a disaster. When the Committee on West India made its fourth report to the House of Commons, one Member of Parliament, John Curwin, reported that he had tried to feed sugar and molasses to calves without success. He suggested that perhaps someone should try again by sneaking sugar and molasses into skimmed milk. Had anything come of that, you can be sure the West Indian sugar merchants would have spread the news around the world. After this singular lack of success in pushing sugar in cow pastures, the West Indian sugar merchants gave up.
With undaunted zeal for increasing the market demand for the most important agricultural product of the West Indies, the Committee of West India was reduced to a tactic that has served the sugar pushers for almost 200 years: irrelevant and transparently silly testimonials from faraway, inaccessible people with some kind of “scientific” credentials. One early commentator called them “hired consciences”.
The House of Commons committee was so hard-up for local cheerleaders on the sugar question, it was reduced to quoting a doctor from faraway Philadelphia, a leader of the recent American colonial rebellion: “The great Dr Rush of Philadelphia is reported to have said that ‘sugar contains more nutrients in the same bulk than any other known substance‘.” (Emphasis added.) At the same time, the same Dr Rush was preaching that masturbation was the cause of insanity! If a weasel-worded statement like that was quoted, one can be sure no animal doctor could be found in Britain who would recommend sugar for the care and feeding of cows, pigs or sheep.
While preparing his epochal volume, A History of Nutrition, published in 1957, Professor E. V. McCollum (Johns Hopkins University), sometimes called America’s foremost nutritionist and certainly a pioneer in the field, reviewed approximately 200,000 published scientific papers, recording experiments with food, their properties, their utilization and their effects on animals and men. The material covered the period from the mid-18th century to 1940. From this great repository of scientific inquiry, McCollum selected those experiments which he regarded as significant “to relate the story of progress in discovering human error in this segment of science [of nutrition]”. Professor McCollum failed to record a single controlled scientific experiment with sugar between 1816 and 1940.
Unhappily, we must remind ourselves that scientists today, and always, accomplish little without a sponsor. The protocols of modern science have compounded the costs of scientific inquiry.
We have no right to be surprised when we read the introduction to McCollum’s A History of Nutrition and find that “The author and publishers are indebted to The Nutrition Foundation, Inc., for a grant provided to meet a portion of the cost of publication of this book”. What, you might ask, is The Nutrition Foundation, Inc.? The author and the publishers don’t tell you. It happens to be a front organization for the leading sugar-pushing conglomerates in the food business, including the American Sugar Refining Company, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Curtis Candy Co., General Foods, General Mills, Nestlé Co., Pet Milk Co. and Sunshine Biscuits-about 45 such companies in all.
Perhaps the most significant thing about McCollum’s 1957 history was what he left out: a monumental earlier work described by an eminent Harvard professor as “one of those epochal pieces of research which makes every other investigator desirous of kicking himself because he never thought of doing the same thing”. In the 1930s, a research dentist from Cleveland, Ohio, Dr Weston A. Price, traveled all over the world – from the lands of the Eskimos to the South Sea Islands, from Africa to New Zealand. His Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects,6 which is illustrated with hundreds of photographs, was first published in 1939.
Dr Price took the whole world as his laboratory. His devastating conclusion, recorded in horrifying detail in area after area, was simple. People who live under so-called backward primitive conditions had excellent teeth and wonderful general health. They ate natural, unrefined food from their own locale. As soon as refined, sugared foods were imported as a result of contact with “civilization”, physical degeneration began in a way that was definitely observable within a single generation.
Any credibility the sugar pushers have is based on our ignorance of works like that of Dr Price. Sugar manufacturers keep trying, hoping and contributing generous research grants to colleges and universities; but the research laboratories never come up with anything solid the manufacturers can use. Invariably, the research results are bad news.
“Let us go to the ignorant savage, consider his way of eating and be wise,” Harvard professor Ernest Hooten said inApes, Men, and Morons.7 “Let us cease pretending that toothbrushes and toothpaste are any more important than shoe brushes and shoe polish. It is store food that has given us store teeth.”
When the researchers bite the hands that feed them, and the news gets out, it’s embarrassing all around. In 1958, Time Magazine reported that a Harvard biochemist and his assistants had worked with myriads of mice for more than ten years, bankrolled by the Sugar Research Foundation, Inc. to the tune of $57,000, to find out how sugar causes dental cavities and how to prevent this. It took them ten years to discover that there was no way to prevent sugar causing dental decay. When the researchers reported their findings in the Dental Association Journal, their source of money dried up. The Sugar Research Foundation withdrew its support.
The more that the scientists disappointed them, the more the sugar pushers had to rely on the ad men.
SUCROSE: “PURE” ENERGY AT A PRICE
When calories became the big thing in the 1920s, and everybody was learning to count them, the sugar pushers turned up with a new pitch. They boasted there were 2,500 calories in a pound of sugar. A little over a quarter-pound of sugar would produce 20 per cent of the total daily quota.
“If you could buy all your food energy as cheaply as you buy calories in sugar,” they told us, “your board bill for the year would be very low. If sugar were seven cents a pound, it would cost less than $35 for a whole year.”
A very inexpensive way to kill yourself.
“Of course, we don’t live on any such unbalanced diet,” they admitted later. “But that figure serves to point out how inexpensive sugar is as an energy-building food. What was once a luxury only a privileged few could enjoy is now a food for the poorest of people.”
Later, the sugar pushers advertised that sugar was chemically pure, topping Ivory soap in that department, being 99.9 per cent pure against Ivory’s vaunted 99.44 per cent. “No food of our everyday diet is purer,” we were assured.
What was meant by purity, besides the unarguable fact that all vitamins, minerals, salts, fibres and proteins had been removed in the refining process? Well, the sugar pushers came up with a new slant on purity.
“You don’t have to sort it like beans, wash it like rice. Every grain is like every other. No waste attends its use. No useless bones like in meat, no grounds like coffee.”
“Pure” is a favorite adjective of the sugar pushers because it means one thing to the chemists and another thing to the ordinary mortals. When honey is labeled pure, this means that it is in its natural state (stolen directly from the bees who made it), with no adulteration with sucrose to stretch it and no harmful chemical residues which may have been sprayed on the flowers. It does not mean that the honey is free from minerals like iodine, iron, calcium, phosphorus or multiple vitamins. So effective is the purification process which sugar cane and beets undergo in the refineries that sugar ends up as chemically pure as the morphine or the heroin a chemist has on the laboratory shelves. What nutritional virtue this abstract chemical purity represents, the sugar pushers never tell us.
Beginning with World War I, the sugar pushers coated their propaganda with a preparedness pitch. “Dietitians have known the high food value of sugar for a long time,” said an industry tract of the 1920s. “But it took World War I to bring this home. The energy-building power of sugar reaches the muscles in minutes and it was of value to soldiers as a ration given them just before an attack was launched.” The sugar pushers have been harping on the energy-building power of sucrose for years because it contains nothing else. Caloric energy and habit-forming taste: that’s what sucrose has, and nothing else.
All other foods contain energy plus. All foods contain some nutrients in the way of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins or minerals, or all of these. Sucrose contains caloric energy, period.
The “quick” energy claim the sugar pushers talk about, which drives reluctant doughboys over the top and drives children up the wall, is based on the fact that refined sucrose is not digested in the mouth or the stomach but passes directly to the lower intestines and thence to the bloodstream. The extra speed with which sucrose enters the bloodstream does more harm than good.
Much of the public confusion about refined sugar is compounded by language. Sugars are classified by chemists as “carbohydrates”. This manufactured word means “a substance containing carbon with oxygen and hydrogen”. If chemists want to use these hermetic terms in their laboratories when they talk to one another, fine. The use of the word “carbohydrate” outside the laboratory – especially in food labeling and advertising lingo – to describe both natural, complete cereal grains (which have been a principal food of mankind for thousands of years) and man-refined sugar (which is a manufactured drug and principal poison of mankind for only a few hundred years) is demonstrably wicked. This kind of confusion makes possible the flimflam practiced by sugar pushers to confound anxious mothers into thinking kiddies need sugar to survive.
In 1973, the Sugar Information Foundation placed full-page advertisements in national magazines. Actually, the ads were disguised retractions they were forced to make in a strategic retreat after a lengthy tussle with the Federal Trade Commission over an earlier ad campaign claiming that a little shot of sugar before meals would “curb” your appetite. “You need carbohydrates. And it so happens that sugar is the best-tasting carbohydrate.” You might as well say everybody needs liquids every day. It so happens that many people find champagne is the best-tasting liquid. How long would the Women’s Christian Temperance Union let the liquor lobby get away with that one?
The use of the word “carbohydrate” to describe sugar is deliberately misleading. Since the improved labeling of nutritional properties was required on packages and cans, refined carbohydrates like sugar are lumped together with those carbohydrates which may or may not be refined. The several types of carbohydrates are added together for an overall carbohydrate total. Thus, the effect of the label is to hide the sugar content from the unwary buyer. Chemists add to the confusion by using the word “sugar” to describe an entire group of substances that are similar but not identical.
Glucose is a sugar found usually with other sugars, in fruits and vegetables. It is a key material in the metabolism of all plants and animals. Many of our principal foods are converted into glucose in our bodies. Glucose is always present in our bloodstream, and it is often called “blood sugar”.
Dextrose, also called “corn sugar”, is derived synthetically from starch. Fructose is fruit sugar. Maltose is malt sugar. Lactose is milk sugar. Sucrose is refined sugar made from sugar cane and sugar beet.
Glucose has always been an essential element in the human bloodstream. Sucrose addiction is something new in the history of the human animal. To use the word “sugar” to describe two substances which are far from being identical, which have different chemical structures and which affect the body in profoundly different ways compounds confusion.
It makes possible more flimflam from the sugar pushers who tell us how important sugar is as an essential component of the human body, how it is oxidized to produce energy, how it is metabolized to produce warmth, and so on. They’re talking about glucose, of course, which is manufactured in our bodies. However, one is led to believe that the manufacturers are talking about the sucrose which is made in their refineries. When the word “sugar” can mean the glucose in your blood as well as the sucrose in your Coca-Cola, it’s great for the sugar pushers but it’s rough on everybody else.
People have been bamboozled into thinking of their bodies the way they think of their cheque accounts. If they suspect they have low blood sugar, they are programmed to snack on vending machine candies and sodas in order to raise their blood sugar level. Actually, this is the worst thing to do. The level of glucose in their blood is apt to be low because they are addicted to sucrose. People who kick sucrose addiction and stay off sucrose find that the glucose level of their blood returns to normal and stays there.
Since the late 1960s, millions of Americans have returned to natural food. A new type of store, the natural food store, has encouraged many to become dropouts from the supermarket. Natural food can be instrumental in restoring health. Many people, therefore, have come to equate the word “natural” with “healthy”. So the sugar pushers have begun to pervert the word “natural” in order to mislead the public.
“Made from natural ingredients”, the television sugar-pushers tell us about product after product. The word “from” is not accented on television. It should be. Even refined sugar is made from natural ingredients. There is nothing new about that. The natural ingredients are cane and beets. But that four-letter word “from” hardly suggests that 90 per cent of the cane and beet have been removed. Heroin, too, could be advertised as being made from natural ingredients. The opium poppy is as natural as the sugar beet. It’s what man does with it that tells the story.
If you want to avoid sugar in the supermarket, there is only one sure way. Don’t buy anything unless it says on the label prominently, in plain English: “No sugar added”. Use of the word “carbohydrate” as a “scientific” word for sugar has become a standard defense strategy with sugar pushers and many of their medical apologists. It’s their security blanket.