by Mary-Janne Nystøl - June 23th, 2022
Sugar can have many negative health effects, some of which we will address in just a moment, but first, let’s take a look at some of it’s history and what is actually meant by sugar.
Sugar in the form of sugar cane originally came from New Guinea and was spread to India about 500 years B.C. and to China where it was grown about 200 years B.C. Sugar came to Europe via Spain through the entry of the Berbers and Moors in the 8th century and was then referred to as "the white gold". Sugar was to be found in pharmacies where it was weighed in grams and sold at a very high price.
From the 1420s, sugar was grown in a large scale on the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and other islands in the area. It was spread via Christopher Columbus to Hispaniola in the Caribbean - where sugar cane grew rapidly. In the mid-18th century, the Caribbean was the largest sugar producer (1). We all know the tragic story of how Africans were transported to the Caribbean, South and Central America and sold to large plantations as slaves. After the United States carried out a trade blockade in 1803, the Caribbean plantations were closed down and Cuba took over as the largest supplier from the 1820s. Today, countries such as Brazil, India, China, the EU (European Union as one) and Thailand are now the largest sugar producers in the world. In 2019-2020, the world's sugar production was about 166 million tonnes (2).
In recent times, it is to deplore that several large areas of the world that once had rich and fertile soil have been depleted because of sugar production.
Different kinds of sugars:
When we talk about sugar, it is common to think of white sugar, but, in fact, there are many types of sugars. Sugars are digestible mono- and disaccharides. For example, glucose and fructose are monosaccharides, and sucrose, lactose and maltose are disaccharides. Plain white sugar is sucrose.
We find glucose and fructose in honey, fruit and vegetables and sucrose also in fruit and vegetables; lactose is the sugar found in milk (3).
Polysaccharides and oligosaccharides are carbohydrates such as starch and fibre. Examples of starch are potatoes and rice, which give a rapid rise in blood sugar. Fibres, on the other hand, produce a slower rise in blood sugar. Foods that are high in fibre include beans, legumes and vegetables.
In addition to white sugar, we also have brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, powdered sugar, coconut blossom sugar, different types of honey, fruit sugar, syrup, raw cane sugar, and different artificial sweeteners and more. Everyone of these can be more or less harmful to us, it depends on the quantities.
The interesting thing is that many types of food also have the same harmful effect on the body as sugar has. These are foods with a high glycemic index (GI). GI says something about how much and how fast specific foods increase blood sugar. Some foods have a high glycemic index, others have a low GI, and some are somewhere in between. Foods with a low glycemic index cause a slow rise in blood sugar when ingested.
Foods with a low GI are for example:
Beans and legumes, meat, eggs, fish, broth, poultry, butter, avocados, sweet potatoes, and most vegetables.
Foods with a high GI are for example:
Grains, pasta, rice, potato, different types of sugar and sweets, cornflakes and other cereals, corn, cakes, french fries etc.
To maintain good health or experience improvement in disease, it is recommended to eat foods with a low glycemic index. These are less stressful for the body, help to maintain stable blood sugar levels and allow to go for a longer period of time without food. In addition, this helps to avoid the snacking that often happens when the blood sugar fluctuates a lot (4).
Research shows clearly that sugar is harmful.
Sugars of various types interfere with hormone regulation, weaken the immune system, damage teeth, contribute to obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, drain the body of vitamins and minerals and have a say in mental and behavioral problems. Children, in their development, are more vulnerable to sugar and tolerate less than adults. We have probably all seen children running around, unable to calm down after drinking soda and eating cake!
It seems that serious health problems start when we have passed 15-20 kg of sugar per capita - on average. Do you think 15-20 kilos of pure sugar sounds like a lot? We agree, and yet, this is less than half of the sugar intake that most inhabitants of industrialized countries consume per year.
When we then add fast carbohydrates with a high GI, such as potatoes, pasta, rice, and grains - well, then it is no wonder we have both become heavier and sicker in the last decades. Sugar is the main cause of a whole range of the most common diseases and ailments we have (5).
As we talked about in the previous article, stable blood sugar is essential for good health, and when the intake of processed white sugar, other sugars and fast carbohydrates becomes high over time, it contributes to poorer public health and can also play a role in relation to autoimmune diseases, inflammation, depression, anxiety, cancer, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. All diseases start with inflammation and too much sugar can cause inflammation in the body.
In order to both prevent and reverse poor health, we recommend a diet without sugar and fast carbohydrates. We focus on food that comes naturally from nature and has been through very little to no processing. Proteins, good and natural fats, as well as slow carbohydrates in the diet need to be balanced for every individual.
When you come to Kokoon for a consultation, you get an individually tailored diet program, along with treatments that will assist you with exactly your ailments.
This is general information and we always see every person as an individual case. Allergies, sensitivities and other imbalances are considered from a holistic point of view.