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By Kirpal Singh Khalsa, Ph.D.
Reposted from http://espanolaashram.com
The Yogi (Yogi Bhajan) once recommended I start a diet of blended yogurt drinks. He specifically instructed that I incubate the yogurt an extra 24 hours. He called it sour yogurt. I was to blend it with various fruits, including figs and prunes. I asked if I could add some honey to the concoction. He looked at me and said, “Sugar is a poison to your body.” At the time I thought he was exaggerating to make a point. Since then I have found that numerous researchers into the health risks of sugar refer to it as a poison. How can something that tastes so good be so bad?
The serious offenders in the world of sugars are the highly processed simple sugars such as fructose, glucose, sucrose, dextrose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). They have no nutritional value, no fiber and actually rob your body of essential minerals. But our discussion will also include other sugar based sweeteners such raw sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup and molasses. At least these sweeteners are less concentrated than the highly processed chemical sugars so they are absorbed into the blood more slowly and they do have some nutritional value. But over indulgence of any of these sugars will have long term serious negative consequences to your health.
In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “Anything which you eat in your life which turns into a quick sugar is a death note to you. It doesn't matter what: fructose, sucrose, honey, it doesn't matter at all. It doesn't matter what you are eating, anything you are directly eating as a sugar and it hits your bloodstream... your liver cannot take it.” (11/17/89) As we shall see in this article, the liver is just one of the body systems that are compromised by overindulgence in sugar.
The single largest source of calories for Americans comes from sugar, especially from HFCS. Our consumption of sugar has increased from a teaspoon a day during in the seventeenth century to more than a half pound a day in 2009. Indeed, that year the average American consumed one hundred and eighty pounds of sugar. That is enough to make you sick.
Where Has All the Sugar Gone?
Where does it all come from? It’s in your soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and hidden in almost all processed foods—from ketchup to pretzels to soups and cheese spread. We pour it on our breakfast food, mix it into our tea and coffee, it even hides in diet foods. Most infant formula has the sugar equivalent of one can of Coca-Cola. Our babies are being metabolically compromised from day one if taking formula.
So where does all of this sugar go? It is stored in your body as fat, in your thighs, your belly, in your cheeks and your bottom. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic in this country. The dramatic increase in obesity over the past thirty years can be directly correlated to the switch from sucrose to HFCS as the preferred industry standard for sweetener.
HFCS tricks your body into gaining weight by fooling your metabolism—it turns off your body's appetite-control system. It does not turn off your hunger hormone and does not stimulate the satiety hormone. The result is you eat more and develop insulin resistance. You can now see why fructose is the number one contributing factor to the current obesity epidemic.
Fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity ("beer belly"), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Today more than 25 million Americans have diabetes. By 2050 it is expected that more than 100 million will have the disease. Among adults, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury. Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2007. A person with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying on any given day as a person of similar age without diabetes.
The Sugar Habit Starts Early
As I mentioned earlier HFCS is used to sweeten baby formula and baby foods. Before they are one year old many babies are already addicted to sugar. Then parents commonly use sugar as a reward system. The Yogi says, “And that is the heaviest handicap in the childhood, "Ooh, baby, don't cry. Here it is!" And you put something in his mouth.” (11/17/89) How often have we seen children who are picky eaters? They don’t like vegetables, won’t eat many foods, but give them a bowl of Frosted Flakes and they devour it.
My father rationalized the high sugar content of the diet he approved for me and my brothers and sisters by saying that kids run it off. Perhaps he had a point. In the 1950s and 60s we played outside everyday even in the rain. We rode our bicycles everywhere, played all sorts of sports and never stopped running around. Our neighborhood was safe and my parents did not allow us to watch TV on week days.
Things are different today. Many children today do not live in safe environments where they can just go out and play. Instead they stay home and watch TV, play video games or communicate through social networking. Plus, the physical education programs in many schools have been curtailed. Another difference is that the sugar we ate as kids was sucrose, common table sugar. The pervasive use of HFCS had not started. Today kids can stuff themselves with HFCS rich foods and still want more. It is no wonder that childhood obesity, a term we had never heard of when I was growing up, is at epidemic levels.
Sugar is Addictive
The use of HFCS in children’s foods corresponds to other common childhood health problems. Studies have identified sugar as a possible cause of a rapid rise of hyperactivity or HDAD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Sugar is also associated with a rise in anxiety, adrenaline, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children. Once a kid is addicted, it is a difficult habit to break. Better to be aware from the start and not allow sugar to be part of your child’s diet.
Let’s not fool ourselves, sugar is addictive. Drugs such as heroin and meth stimulate pleasure centers in the brain and release the neurotransmitter dopamine, the brain’s reward system. Sugar stimulates the same area and the same neurotransmitters. With prolonged use of drugs a dependency develops and increased amounts are required to stimulate the desired reward. So, too, does sugar require increasing amounts for the desired sense of satisfaction. Sugar addiction is a recognized medical condition and may be at the root of many food addictions.
The following lists some additional health risks associated with sugar. They were found in Appleton N. Lick the Sugar Habit (1996) Avery, 2nd Ed. 272 pp. Nancy Appleton’s extensive list came from a vast number of medical journals and other scientific publications.
•Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.
•Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
•Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.
•Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.
•Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.
•Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.
•Sugar can weaken eyesight.
•Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
•Sugar can cause premature aging. In fact, the single most factor that accelerates aging is insulin, which is triggered by sugar.
•Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, leading to tooth decay and periodontal disease.
•Sugar can cause depression.
Other common health problems in which over indulgence of sugar may play a role include Candida infection, arthritis, canker sores, osteoporosis, chronic headaches, asthma, chronic constipation and gall stones. The list goes on and on. It should now be crystal clear to you just how damaging this poison is. You simply cannot achieve your highest degree of health and vitality if you are consuming a significant amount of it.
The Yogic Diet does not completely eliminate sugar from the diet. But it limits it to the occasional use of complicated sugars such as honey or maple syrup. To break a sugar addiction, try the Yogi’s diet of fruits, nuts and vegetables for forty days. Include supplements such as Vitamin B Complex plus minerals to strengthen the liver. You will be amazed. Fortunately, your body has the ability to heal itself when given the basic nutrition it needs, and your liver has an incredible capacity to regenerate. If you start making changes today, your health WILL begin to improve, returning you to the state of vitality that nature intended.
Kirpal Singh Khalsa served as director of Guru Ram Das Ashram, Boulder, from 1972 – 1992. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Colorado and taught in the Sociology Department from 1980 to 1992. From 1992 – 2003 he served as Academic Director for Sikh Dharma Education International and helped found Miri Piri Academy in Amritsar, India. He currently lives with the Sikh community in Espanola, NM.