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Friday, December 10, 2004

Hippie is Evil part 4: The Demonization of Sugar.

"Cutting back on sugar" is one of the most universally accepted new age-ish health recommendation. So much that, for the most part, it has gone mainstream, and occasionally some not so bright gullible writer will write a little something about the horrors of sugar. This concept is probably even what gave rise to the idiocy of avoiding ALL carbs, which I'm not going to get into.

Even though the fear of sugar started long before it, I'm holding the 80's book Sugar Blues accountable for the madness, because everyone who says anything bad about sugar always quotes this stupid book. And here's why.

The author, William Dufty, blames on sugar everything from the Bubonic Plague to mental illness. His reasoning is akin to the one used to conclude that "bread causes crime because 90% of criminals ate bread before committing the crime." Not only that, but he claims sugar is actually addictive. "Don't believe it? Try to quit eating sugar," it is claimed. Well no, of course you can't - because surprise, surprise - it is a macronutrient. Sugar refers to simple carbohydrates.

We evolved to enjoy things that taste sweet because they contain sugar, and carbohydrates are necessary for organisms to survive. Without energy (that's right - calories!), we die. So of course it's normal to eat sugar. I could as well say that protein and fat are addictive. Don't believe me? Try quitting them!

What is claimed though, is that only refined sucrose is bad (other sources claim that the bad sugar is actually high-fructose corn syrup, but that's another story).

But why would sucrose be worse than other sugars? It is simply a fructose molecule attached to a glucose molecule. The process of digestion breaks down the sugar into their separate glucose and fructose parts, and the fructose is further transformed into glucose, which in turn can be used for energy. And why is "refined" sugar bad? Well, because it doesn't come with other nutrients. "Crystalline sugar," as they call it, is pure carb and nothing else. If you drink cane sugar juice, for example, you'll be eating that exact same molecule present in refined sugar, except that it comes with a few extra vitamins and minerals. So the statement that it "leeches nutrients from your body"? Not true. The fact is, we use up nutrients to, well, stay alive -- and that includes digesting things. So when you digest something that's not replenishing the nutrients in your body, some smartass can come along and say that it is "leeching" all the goodness of your soul, or whatever.

So while refined sugar isn't necessary for survival, it is not inherently bad! It's the exact same molecule found in fruits, just without all the stuff that makes fruits good. If it was sugar itself that was bad for you, then fruit would be bad for you too, and it's obviously not. But maybe I'm just saying fruit is not bad because I'm addicted to it. I tried quitting, but I can't stop! *sniff*

The dude at balancetv also claimed that if sugar was discovered today (yeah as if a macronutrient would take so long to be discovered), it would be classified as a pharmaceutical because it's "crystalline pure". I don't know what kind of "pharmaceuticals" this guy is on, but being crystalline does not a pharmaceutical make! Is ice a pharmaceutical, by any chance? Is salt? I can't quit salt either, by the way - even desserts need salt to taste edible, so maybe salt is evil too.

Anything in large quantities is bad. I'm not saying that we should all start eating refined sugar. Evidently, eating things that contain vitamins and minerals is better than eating things that don't. Other than being empty calories, sugar isn't evil. It doesn't cause cancer, osteoporosis, mental illness, or bubonic plague. Hopefully the hysteria will end.