In the mainstream media, sugar is often portrayed as being an almost essential part of the everyday diet and, in some forms, even good for you. Next to its evil cousin fat, sugar looks like an innocent alternative. People naively avoid fat in all forms when it is in fact sugar they must watch out for.
When I read David Gillespie’s book, Sweet Poison, I can honestly say my life changed forever. My approach to sugar has transformed, and I feel like I have some secret knowledge outside the majority of the population. Rather than guarding that invaluable information tightly to my chest, I instead encourage every person I meet to read this book.
Sugar is what makes you fat. As soon as sugar enters the bloodstream, it immediately metabolises into fat. It destroys your appetite control system so you never feel full. It causes a build-up of fat in the arteries, which can result in heart disease. Persistently high blood sugar from fructose consumption leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes and, in some cases, dementia. Too much fructose depletes collagen and elastin minerals which in turn impair muscle growth, cause varicose veins and prematurely age skin.
Despite these truly horrifying consequences, sugar is hard to avoid. It’s pumped into ordinary items of food, and people are often blissfully unaware of how much sugar they are actually consuming. Sugar is found in the bucketload in items such as breakfast cereals, muesli bars, sauces, mayonnaise, salad dressing and crackers, with Weight Watchers’ products among some of the worst offenders.
As a society, we are constantly bombarded with low-fat alternatives to better our lifestyles and shrink our waistlines. But what most people don’t realise is that low-fat products are loaded with sugar to compensate for the lack of fat and corresponding flavour. In my opinion, such products are far worse for you than the full-fat alternative.
A 200g tub of diet yoghurt, for example, boasts negligible amounts of fat but some varieties harness a whopping 30g of sugar on a scale comparable to ice cream. Yet these packages are plastered with healthy gimmicks and play up the ‘natural fruit’ inside. Since I read the book six months ago, I haven’t touched a drop of yoghurt which isn’t natural or Greek. Yes, I will admit it’s not the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted, but can I really live with myself if I had what is essentially dressed-up ice cream for breakfast?
The whole world is, knowingly or not, addicted to sugar. Gillespie notes the importance of making sure you don’t think of giving up sugar as an exercise in deprivation. Instead, approach the idea as one of breaking your addiction. He notes, somewhat dramatically, that any offering of sugar is not a temptation to overcome but rather an attempt to poison you.
Although I had a healthy diet before reading the book, I did indulge in desserts twice or even three times a week. While I did not think the odd piece of chocolate was anything unusual, the book made me realise that the way I ate desserts was much more out of habit than enjoyment.
The idea of giving up sugar cold turkey terrified me, but I did it. It was the best thing I ever did. My body feels better now than ever before. Any time I have a large amount of sugar it has a hugely negative effect on me and does not even taste good. My cravings have completely disappeared.
I’m not as hardcore as I could be (I still enjoy honey in my oats!) but I do limit my fructose intake to no more than 10 grams a day and try to only eat products that have less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams (not that I eat a lot of things that come in a package anyway).
The average person consumes 75 grams of sugar per day. The 10 grams of fructose I consume – and Gillespie recommends – is equivalent to approximately two pieces of fruit. The important thing to note is that this fructose must come packaged with fibre so as not to cause damage. That means having an apple as opposed to a chocolate bar as part of your 10 grams. And no, fruit juice and dried fruit don’t count as fruit: juice contains the same amount of sugar as soft drink and dried fruit is 70 per cent sugar!
Make sure you have no more than two pieces of fruit a day, and even this amount is debatable within the fitness industry. Many people believe the five vegetables and two fruit recommended per day are interchangeable – that it’s okay to have three serves of vegetables as long as you get four pieces of fruit a day. Your body does not need all that sugar!
Despite the ample evidence proving sugar is toxic, it still amazes me as to how resistant people can be to the facts when they are right in front of them. When I have gushed about this book and its sequel to other like-minded healthy people, they too have gone out to purchase the books and spread the word. But when I have loaned my copies to ‘average’ people, most notably women, their responses have blown me away.
With rebuttal claims of ‘a little bit won’t hurt me’ and ‘I just can’t give up cold turkey so why should I even bother’, it is truly astonishing to see how one man’s words can completely change my life while having absolutely no effect on another. One person I gave the book to (who is completely and utterly addicted to sugar!) could not bring herself to read the whole thing; instead, she skim-read the science-based section and only focused on the part which explains how to quit. How on earth can you expect to give up something that is such a large part of your life if you have no reasoning behind your conviction?
Somehow, she is now completely against fruit, but is convinced that having chocolate every day “as a treat” is okay. The book also explained why artificial sweeteners are so terrible (the body senses food coming and expends energy but no calories arrive, which then forces your body to hold on to fat and turns further incoming food into fat as your body is not adequately prepared for digestion) yet she still has a Diet Coke every day, bizarrely claiming “I have one every day because I want to, not because I’m addicted”.
How much sugar do you really eat, and do you think you could give it up completely? Has anyone out there read the book, and what did you think?