Few physicians or scientists have done more to warn us of the dangers created by our excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates than Surgeon-Captain T. L. Cleave, M.D., F.R.C.P. Dr. Cleave, a British physician, first became aware of one type of refined-carbohydrate danger fiber-depletion when serving on the battleship King George V during World War II. Learning that most of the crew suffered from constipation, he started adding unprocessed bran to their diets. Within days the problem had passed, and some of the ship’s crew even credited Dr. Cleave with having aided their efficiency and more relaxed state of mind. The sailors knew from long experience that chronic constipation often creates irritable moody behavior.
After the war, Dr. Cleave returned to more peaceful pursuits, and he concentrated much of his attention as a researcher on refined carbohydrates and their effect on Western health. In addition to numerous articles, he has published a major book on the subject: The Saccharine Disease. Because of his distinguished position, I thought that it would be appropriate to share a few comments Dr. Cleave made to me when I talked with him in the English countryside in 1979.
Take, for example, the relation between saccharine disease and arteriosclerosis. I think this is more crucial for people than anything else. In diabetes, for example, coronary thrombosis is the commonest cause of death.
It’s not for me to go into the chemistry of the matter, but it is absolutely certain that the American figures and the British too, for that matter—are incontestable. Coronary disease is now killing millions of people in these islands each year and, of course, even more in America because of the dangerous sugar habit.
I think it’s most important to realize that what I say and what others say is utterly inconsequential compared to what nature says herself. . . . Unfortunately, with the rapid progress of civilization, especially of civilized foods, we are too likely to be distorted by fabricated products sold in supermarkets instead of relying on our own natural instincts for natural foods. What we get in supermarkets is so much simpler and easier to get hold of, and easier and more delightful to eat. . .. But I think there can be nothing more dangerous than eating a lot of foods manufactured for the supermarket foods that do not exist in natural form to activate and satisfy the natural appetite.
Therefore any overconsumption of sugar above all other things is very likely to precipitate not only diabetes in the first place, but the still more dreadful coronary thrombosis in the second…
Carbohydrates and Two Killer Diseases: Is There a Connection?
If you indulge in sweets often, if you eat a lot of sugar of any kind, and come from a family with a predilection for diabetes or heart disease, you could be headed for trouble. This, basically, is the warning issued by Dr. John Yudkin, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., Professor Emeritus of Nutrition at the University of London, who is considered by some medical authorities to be one of the most knowledgeable of sugar’s opponents in the world today.
Here are some of the questions any health-minded person might like answered followed by Dr. Yudkin’s feelings and findings.
Question: Has the link between refined sugar in the diet and diabetes and heart disease been proven?
Answer: Sugar alone does not cause either disease, but there are many provocative findings that indict sugar as a contributing factor in both disorders. If you have seen this idea dismissed in print, don’t be surprised. The sugar cartel and all segments of the food business that are dependent on the continued use of sucrose actively oppose disclosure of any “ bad” news about this substance.
Also bear in mind that both of these disorders are less simple and more serious than adding too many pounds or developing a few bad spots in your teeth. Sugar is one factor, along with other influences on your health as air pollution, smoking, drinking, mental health, etc. Even what part of the country you live in and your ethnic background are determinants of your health. Your genetic heritage is higher on the list of considerations, for example, for diabetes than it is for coronary disorders.
Question: Why does Dr. Yudkin believe that sugar is an important causative factor in coronary heart disease and high blood sugar disorders?
Answer: Any substance that can do the bodily harm that sugar can do is obviously capable of contributing to the progress of major degenerative diseases, too. For example, sugar alters both the blood sugar levels and the body’s normal response to insulin. These two changes are commonly observed in victims of maturity-onset diabetes.
Question: How does sugar affect the body’s major organs?
Answer: Yudkin tells us that the kidney is damaged identically by either a high sugar intake or by inducing a diabetic state. We know this because laboratory experiments using rodents have accomplished that astonishing result. These alterations were actually seen by routine biopsy as well as by microscopic and electron-microscopic methods.
Question: The eyes are commonly affected by diabetes and this often leads to cataracts. Does sugar duplicate this effect?
Answer: Yes. If you wish to bring about the degeneration of the retina, you can do one of two things, feed a rat sugar or make it diabetic.
Question: Is it true that diabetes sufferers often have coronary heart disease as well?
Answer: Yes. These diseases are often found together. In fact, when diabetics succumb, the cause is often a coronary disorder.
Question: How does sugar affect the blood and the heart muscle?
Answer: It has been repeatedly observed that the greater the sugar intake, the greater the increase of fats in the blood— including triglycerides and cholesterol. Just as the grave is the observation that more cholesterol plaques may be observed in the body’s vascular system after heavy sucrose fueling. This accumulation dangerously accelerates the rate at which the blood platelets clump together. This is one of the characteristics in most types of heart dysfunctions.
Epidemiology: A Tool to Explore the Sugar-Heart Disorders Link
The medical community does not seem to be in agreement in regard to the connection between coronary heart disease and refined carbohydrates, especially sugar. It is difficult to prove in any one individual case that a heart attack, for example, was brought on by refined sugar overindulgence. However, the case against sucrose is a strong one if you look at the right epidemiology studies. This refers to scientific observations of large groups, perhaps all the men in one town, or all of the members of one ethnic group in an urban or rural area. F. Grande of the University of Minnesota has done such a study, feeding groups like this sugar at high dose levels. There have been other studies, as well, and we learn from this special method of investigation the following:
- The more dietary sugar, the greater the likelihood that coronary disorder will appear.
- If you are a male and have a myocardial infarction to worry about, plus an uncontrolled sweet tooth, you should know that sugar may well be a factor contributing to your state. Such sufferers often have 50 percent more sugar in their diets than non-sufferers
- High-sugar diets and peripheral artery disease also seem to be linked, says Dr. Yudkin.
- If you are one of the small group of individuals unfortunate enough to have acquired or inherited weakness of your heart or circulation, sugar may pose a special threat to you.
- Population studies of this type also build the case against sugar by revealing that when high levels of fiber are present in the diet, coronary heart disease is comparatively low. (Diets high in refined carbohydrates are usually low in fiber since it is the fiber that is refined out.)
The Usefulness of Animal Studies
It is obvious that a human although he or she might be the most desirable subject for testing the hazardous effects of food ingredients cannot be used. Thus we have many of our fellow creatures guinea pigs, rats, mice, dogs, cats to thank for saving countless lives. Their metabolisms often are so similar to ours that they become very useful as substitutes.
Here are some examples of animal studies linking sugar to coronary heart disease:
- Employing common barnyard chickens, Dr. Richard A. Ahrens, reporting in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that when fed quantities of sucrose and little else, these fowl led lives that were short, even if they were also sweet. Autopsy revealed arteries clogged with fatty deposits not unlike those seen in human cases of atheromas of the aorta. Dr. Ahrens blamed sucrose, especially the fructose portion. Also observed were such risk factors as the increased platelet stickiness, which often signals arterial disorders, a frantic proliferation of the liver cells, called hyperplasia, kidney disease, and gallbladder stones.
- Or consider this experiment with rats reported by Drs. A. E. Bender and K. B. Damji in their article, “Some Effects of Dietary Sucrose.” Empty-nutrient sugar and starch fed to these creatures, the kind that constitutes most of our junk foods, literally filled them full of life-threatening poisons. This resulted from the fact that sugar reduces the potency of the enzymes in the liver. And your liver, remember, is what filters out incoming toxins and thus protects you from infection, disease, and death.
To further prove the point, another group of rats was also fed the sugar-starch combo, but as it occurs in natural foods such as fruit and grain foods. The result was a remarkably reduced incidence of cellular tissue damage.
In yet another study it was concluded that it is unrefined, fiber-rich carbohydrate administration that makes all the difference. “ Processed-death” carbohydrates produced a degenerative disorder of the kidney called Bright’s Disease, reported Drs. L. M. Dalerup and N. Visser, in the rat colony, fed generous amounts of sugary dietary items. As for a control group that was allowed to eat a more moderate, less adulterated fare, it outlived the first group by a wide margin.
Does sugar contribute to diabetes and coronary heart disease? Dr. John Yudkin, considered one of the world’s leading authorities on sugar in the diet, concludes that the trouble sugar causes goes considerably beyond tooth decay and extra pounds.103 For example, sugar causes irregularities in the insulin response; sugar causes diabetes-like damage to the kidneys; it contributes to degeneration of the retina; it raises blood fat levels; and it increases the stickiness of the blood platelets, a common precursor of heart trouble.
The medical community may prefer to look the other way, but even so-called “ conventional” epidemiology studies have produced evidence that the more sugar in the diet, the greater the likelihood of cardiac trouble starting, and the greater the likelihood of it worsening if you are already afflicted.
Animal studies, too, indicate that fatty degeneration of the inner coat of the arteries can be caused in part by high-sugar diets. Fiber and unrefined carbohydrates are not only safer than processed carbohydrates but offer protective benefits as well for the heart, the liver, and all the body’s vital organs.
In some cases, there are respected professional people who have refused to take a stand against sugar largely because they are simply being extra cautious until the link between sugar and many degenerative diseases in humans is firmly established. This does not mean that sugar is safe to consume in the meantime.