Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sweet Poison, by David Gillespie

David Gillespie lost 40 kilos after cutting out all sugar from his diet. With the success of his diet, he decided to study the effects of sugar on the body more closely by trawling through all the scientific and medical literature. The result is Sweet Poison, a well balanced book that conveys much material on the convoluted subject of health and diet in a simple and easy to follow manner. More than anything, Gillespie wants you to understand what happens to your body when you ingest table sugar, whether that’s as a food additive or a soft drink sweetener.

Table sugar is sucrose, a disaccharide, or double sugar. The two sugars it is made up of are glucose and fructose, or fruit sugar. The body turns all carbohydrates into glucose, which is shunted to the body cells to give it energy or stored around the liver in a temporary energy reserve called glycogen. Energy that is not stored in this temporary energy reserve is turned to fat.

Half of the sugar we eat is fructose, a sugar that naturally occurs in fruit, giving its sweetness. In caveman times, such sweetness told us a food was high in energy and therefore good to eat. That’s why we still crave sugar today.

The thing with fructose though is that it bypasses all the usual processes for turning carbohydrates into energy and is fast tracked into fatty acids and then body fat. Hence it is bad.

Gillespie marshals some impressive material to show that fructose consumption is responsible for hormonal cancers (such as breast and prostate) and heart disease. It also bypasses the body’s regulatory system that tells it when it’s full. Hence we can eat fructose non stop and not feel full of it at all.

Funnily enough, by book’s end I almost felt that eating an apple could well be a health hazard. In an interview I heard with Gillespie, he said rather ominously that he ate fruit ‘moderately’. In the book he says that since he’s cut sugar out of his diet, most sweet foods are too sickly for him. To my surprise he confessed that he couldn’t eat bananas because they were too sweet.

I’m not sure that I believe him though, because Gillespie has a light bulb moment where he describes coming to the conclusion that the body turns most foods into glucose anyway, which is what powers the body. Hence just eat glucose. He even seriously suggests the food industry start using glucose as a sweetener. (As if we need another miracle food.) Gillespie bought some glucose from the supermarket immediately (it’s in the brewer’s section, called dextrose) and asked his wife to bake some cup cakes. And I thought he was sick of sweet things? As if.

Readers may be wondering if it is safe to eat fruit, seeing it contains fructose. Gillespie warns only one to two pieces a day. Yet his research shows that the fibre that is consumed with the fructose actually has a positive effect on insulin, hence it would be a good protector against diabetes. Whereas the fructose lessens the efficacy of insulin, which is the hormone used to regulate blood sugar (glucose).

So his research seems to say that the good part of the fruit (fibre) cancels out the bad part (fructose).


Fruit juices are bad too, and I agree with Gillespie. They are just a mass of calories and no fibre. That won’t stop me however from the odd glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in the future. You have to treat yourself every now and again.

I’d urge all sugar eaters to study this illuminating book. You’ll think sugar is a poison by the end. It certainly convinced me that any type of refined sugar has some very serious health effects.

The only mystery is why Mr Gillespie wants food companies to take up glucose. This would be yet another one of those new introductions to the Western diet. Surely if this happened we’d only be discovering 20 years down the track how it causes all sorts of health problems.

As a whole food advocate, I suggest steering clear of all processed foods and eat as close to nature as possible. Bananas are surely better for you than glucose cup cakes.
Read some of Chris's food opinion pieces below. My food files are kept here.


'Conversations with Mrs Claus' said...

Thanks Chris!

A very enlightening read! There is no way i'll be taking up glucose and i'll be sticking with my beloved bananas - in moderation of course!

I like your advice to stick to whole food. All I can hear in my head is 'Warning Warming Warning' when it comes to glucose.

Thank Chris your reviews are excellent!

Bernadette, Melbourne, Australia

Viviane said...

I'd just like to point out that the glucose cupcakes were David's only experiment, as he isn't really interested in sweet things anymore. I think he just felt that if people won't give up sugar, glucose might be a better option. And current guidelines for a healthy diet call for no more than 2 or 3 pieces of fruit daily, so there!