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Sweets and Sweeteners: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Uglier

I recently saw a lady in her 70s who said she did not eat much sugar.  By the time we were done with the conversation, she realized that she eats one or two small chocolates, drinks one soda pop and consumes a small amount of fruit juice on a daily basis.  This is equivalent to between 10 to 15 teaspoons of sugar daily (she did not mention any breads, potatoes, or similar starchy foods that break down quickly into sugar in the body).

Not much sugar?  Actually, she was correct, comparatively speaking, because her consumption is much less than the average intake of a whopping 26 teaspoons per person, per day, in America.

The Good

Is there any good that comes from sugar?  It sure makes things taste good!  And it often is needed for baking, but we can do better.  There is no minimum RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for sugar, or any minimum level of carbohydrate needed to sustain life.  We get plenty of ‘sugar’ in complex carbohydrates as we eat nutritious food.

The Bad

Beyond the fact that there is no nutritional value in sugar (no vitamins, minerals, fiber), what else is bad about it?  We’ll review the various types of sweetener that are available, and discuss each one.

  •  table sugar
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • corn syrup
  • agave
  • fruits
  • raw honey
  • processed honey
  • maple syrup
  • succanat
  • rapadura
  • molasses
  • turbinado sugar
  • aspartame
  • NutraSweet
  • xylitol
  • Splenda
  • Saccharin

First, let’s talk about table sugar, that bleached–yes, bleached–white stuff we put on our cereal or in whipped cream.

Table sugar is composed of two molecules in equal amounts:  50% glucose and 50% fructose.  Glucose gives a rise in ‘sugar’ in the bloodstream.  The rise is reduced by insulin, created in the body for just the purpose of moving the sugar into the cell for energy use.  Part of glucose is also stored as glycogen, the immediate-access form of glucose for times of need (such as meeting a saber-toothed tiger in the jungle).  The rest  (lucky us!) is stored as fat.  Fructose is metabolized in the liver, which also immediately converts that fructose into fat for storage.  Fructose shuts down the satiety (makes you feel full) center so you will eat more.

Excessive fructose is toxic to the liver.  Fructose is actually more toxic to the body than glucose, although it does not raise the blood sugar and it is lower on the glycemic index.

Corn syrup is 100% glucose, while high fructose corn syrup is 45% glucose and 55% fructose.  Agave is 55% to 95% fructose, making it the most dangerous of the four common sugars.

The best source of sweetness is found in fruits.  When we use fruits as our sweetener, we also take in fiber, vitamins, minerals and enzymes to help digest the fruit.  Raw honey contains B vitamins, obviously from a natural source without toxicity.

Although sugar is sugar, there are less refined sources of sugar that may be slightly better than table sugar, although considerably more expensive.  Sucanat and rapadura come from sugar cane and contain 10% to 13% molasses.  Molasses is a strong sweetener that contains excellent trace elements, making its digestion and utilization more effective than white sugar.  Turbinado sugar is also less processed and slightly more nutritious than white sugar.

There are two sweeteners that appeal to the sweet taste in the mouth but have no glucose or fructose in them.  They are Stevia and xylitol, both of which I recommend for those who desire something to use in place of all sugars.  They may not do as well in baked goods as other sugar, but many have had success experimenting with these two ingredient options.

The Ugly

Finally, let’s talk about the ugly side of sugar and sweeteners.  When sugar is taken in excess, the following things have been well documented:

  • high blood sugar and high insulin, followed eventually by diabetes mellitus II
  • immune system suppression
  • hyperactivity,
  • anxiety,
  • concentration difficulties and crankiness in children (which is why Halloween candy is given to children at the end of the school day)
  • rise in blood triglycerides
  • contributes to and feeds cancer
  • promotes tooth decay
  • contributes to weight gain and obesity
  • is pro-inflammatory (so it contributes to all inflammatory conditions—asthma, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers, arthritis, vascular (heart) disease, headaches, migraines)
  • accelerates aging
  • causes and contributes to ongoing Candida (yeast) infections
  • leads to formation of gallstones and kidney stones
  • causes constipation and hemorrhoids
  • the list goes on, and on, and on…

The food industry knows that sugar sells, but wants to hide the fact that it may be the highest ingredient in a processed food.  So how do they “hide” the sugar content?  Simply by listing it in a number of different forms.  For example:

The ingredient list will show sugar as the 5th ingredient, but list 4 other sugars (evaporated cane sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, barley malt syrup) further down on the ingredient list.

If you add all those sugars together, the total quantity would move ‘sugar’ up to be the highest ingredient.

I recently looked at a list of 257 different ways to name sugar.  You can identify most of them by knowing that words ending in -ose are sugars, and descriptions ending in syrup and sugar are also sugars.

The sugar industry has effectively discredited scientists and solid science that speak out against sugar.  Dr. Yudkin in the 1970s presented excellent research on the dangers of sugar, which was discredited by Keyes, who, it was later discovered, was funded by the sugar industry.  Legislation to place a recommended cap on the amount of sugar consumed by an individual per day has been subverted.  In fact, the tactics used by the sugar industry correlate well with the tactics used by the tobacco industry for so long to deny or downplay the true effects of their products on the human body.

Even Uglier

There are sweeteners worse than sugar on the body.  Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) cleared the FDA as a ‘diet’ product.  The data submitted to the FDA showed that this ‘diet’ product actually caused weight gain in the test groups.  The basic chemistry of aspartame is that it is wood alcohol, with an aspartate group and phenylalanine group hooked to it.  We might not have been so excited about it if it had been called “Wood Alcohol-ame.”  Wood alcohol is a toxic substance in the body, so the body breaks it down into formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen (it causes cancer) and a toxic preserving agent.  It is so toxic that some medical students taking anatomy cannot be in the room with formaldehyde-preserved cadavers.

The body then breaks formaldehyde down into formic acid, which is the source of the sting of the fire ant.  All these chemicals are toxic to the body and are considered pro-inflammatory.  Many so-called “diet” sodas are sweetened with aspartame.  Soda, anyone?

Splenda (sucralose) is a chlorinated artificial sweetener that looks chemically more like DDT than sugar.  Chlorine is a toxic substance, whether it’s a gas (which was used to kill soldiers in WWI), placed in herbicides and pesticides, put in water, or added to sweet chemicals and sold as artificial sweeteners.  Of the 110 studies submitted to the FDA for approval in 1998, 2 were done on humans—and the longest one was for 4 days.  A review of all literature on this product reveals the following findings regarding Splenda:

1. it reduces good bacteria in the intestinal tract by 50%

2. it increases the pH in the intestines (viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells like a higher pH)

3. it impairs appetite regulation, which leads to weight gain (diet cola, anyone?)

4. it causes a myriad of symptoms that have been reported by sucralose users, affecting skin, lungs, nose, eyes, stomach, heart, joints, and neurological systems.

Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low) has not had the extremely negative health effects that aspartame and sucralose have had.  The study on animals, showing it caused tumors, was designed with insanely high doses of saccharin.  The tested levels could never by ingested by humans as a sweetener.  However, it is still a chemically manufactured product, with potentially unknown long-term side effects.

 Addiction and Sweeteners

Lastly, sugar causes cravings, which lead to sugar addiction, every bit as real as addictions to alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

 Studies in animals have documented release of pleasure substances in the brain upon ingestion of sugar.  Food Addicts Anonymous follows a program similar to the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program to support people who are addicted to carbohydrates, sugar or food.

If you or a loved one are addicted to sugar and need some help changing your life, our Sweet Freedom from Sugar Training Course will be offered again soon.  To receive information about the course, just go to

 Dr. Gardner believes every person has a mission to perform on this earth.  He is passionate about giving his patients the energized health that makes dreams possible.  He consults with corporations about providing healthy alternatives to employees, and has a private practice in Riverton, UT. (801-254-4600) 


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Type II Diabetes

A reader writes: I am a type II diabetic. I have had everything under control for five years and
all of a sudden I have gained 35 lbs. I eat ice cream and chocolate in huge
amounts daily. Sugar cravings. I just do not understand. My A1C has been 5-6
and now it is over 7. Help!

My response: You have already identified your problem–sugar intake raises blood sugar and insulin. Your insulin resistance is worse since starting this sugar binge. Insulin blocks your body’s ability to break down fat and utilize fat for energy, and it causes the body to convert glucose into fat for storage. Your fasting glucose levels have probably risen from 90 to 110 before to the present levels of 130 to 160, while your fasting insulin is probably in the teens or 20s (the ideal should be 5 or below). Treatment starts with stopping sugar intake, and reducing all carbohydrate intake to 60 to 100 grams per day. We have available a Sweet Freedom From Sugar program that has helped others get over their sugar addictions and cravings. Let us know if you are interested and we will put you on the interest list.

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Our Body’s Ability to Heal Itself

A reader writes: Once you have diabetes or arthritis or anything like that can your body heal itself with proper eating or something else?

All diseases or ‘labels’ have a cause. As long as the cause is not addressed and changed, there will be no treatment or cure for diabetes or arthritis. The usual cause in Type II diabetes is taking in too many carbohydrates (especially sugar) into your body for too many years. The solution in reducing carbs significantly and making sure the nutrient deficiencies caused by the bad years are corrected–especially including magnesium, chromium, vanadium, biotin. Exercise also helps. Arthritis is more complicated and difficult, but the principles remain the same.  I have many tools to help your body to heal itself.  If you call my office, I can send you some more information.  801-302-5397.

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High Blood Sugar

A reader writes: grams of carbohydrates in foods for diets for those with high blood sugar?

High blood sugar is related to the amount of sugar (carbohydrates) that are eaten and how responsive your cells are to insulin and its ability to facilitate transfer of sugar into the cells.

It takes years of high sugar intake for the cell membranes and insulin receptors to become resistant to the normal insulin task of transferring sugar into the cell. This is called insulin resistance, a precursor of diabetes mellitus. Once this takes place, you have high blood sugar in the blood and high insulin in the blood. The insulin is being produced by the normal pancreas in response to the high blood sugar levels. Both high sugar in the blood and high insulin in the blood both cause problems in the body, so the goal is to make the cells less resistant. The treatment starts with lowering carbohydrate intake to 60 to 100 grams per day. There are also 3 minerals and 2 hormones that improve insulin resistance and assist in the treatment.

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Fasting and Blood Sugar

Hi, I have diabetes and I eat bitter melon to keep it down, I have seen and been told about cinnamon, so I tried and my blood sugar went through the roof, I waited for about 5 months and tried it again, but with the same result, so why is that? Also when I fast I still need to eat something small so I do oatmeal, but after everything is done by noon, I need to get something in me or I start to get sick, blood sugar gets too low, what a battle.

Although all the active ingredients in cinnamon have probably not been identified, cinnamon has consistently improved insulin sensitivity, which helps the insulin be more effective in lowering blood sugar levels. I assume that ‘blood sugar went through the roof’ means the blood sugar went up.  Without actual levels, much of what I say is conjecture.

So how could cinnamon make the blood sugar go up instead of down?

1. Rarely, you could be allergic to cinnamon and the stress of the allergic reaction (as stress from anything) could raise your blood sugar levels.

2. The cinnamon may actually be dropping your blood sugar initially which causes a compensatory release of glucose from the liver to bring it up.  Perhaps it could be overshooting and raising the blood sugar level, especially if you add your own carbohydrate to assist in the ‘hypoglycemic’ episode.  The best thing to do to train your body to not have ‘hypoglycemic’ episodes is to eat less carbohydrates and more proteins and fats in order to lessen the glucose swings in the bloodstream.

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A Doctor Asks Dr. Gardner About Diabetes Management

A colleague from another country wrote to ask:  I need and request advice for a patient suffering from diabetes to complete relief by medicine or physiotherapy

There are two types of diabetes.

Type I is an autoimmune disease where the immune system of the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This needs to be treated with insulin, which is life-saving.

The more common is Type II, which is really a product of the excessive intake of carbohydrates. Sugar is the worst culprit, but excessive potatoes, rice, pasta, breads and fruit will also contribute to it.

Type II diabetes starts as insulin resistance, which means the cells of your body are rejecting or are resistant to the intake of glucose and levels of glucose rise in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, equally damaging to the body is the concomitant rise in insulin.

The first step for treatment lies in reversing the cause–decrease the total amount of carbohydrates to around 60 to 100 grams each day.  Also, add insulin sensitizing agents like chromium and vanadium.  I consider healthy fasting blood levels of sugar to be no higher than 89, and insulin levels no higher than 5. There are additional things an alternative medicine practitioner like myself can do if these things are not sufficient.

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Diabetes and Low Carb Diets

Low-Carb for diabetes question. Dr. Gardner, about 12 years ago during a work physical I was found to have fasting BG of 250. My Dad also had diabetes, and was not doing well with diabetes (and died from it a few years after). My doctor did not think that my diabetes was that bad yet, and started me on meds and the standard ADA diet. I did not lose any weight and felt terrible on the diet. After a couple of months of no improvement and frustration a friend who had Insulin Dependent Diabetes told me about the book “Diabetes Solution” by Dr. Bernstein. I started following that diet and exercise regime religiously and in a month had gotten my BG under control and stopped taking all meds. I keep my carbs around 50 a day, and do eat lots of what I call “salad type vegetables” and have been doing this for about 12 years. A few years ago I tried combining an apple with some protein to see if maybe my BG responded positively. It didn’t my BG shot up to 160 after two hours which I consider totally unacceptable. So for the last 12 years I’ve had one piece of fruit, that apple. I wonder what you think about Low-Carb diets for diabetes control?

Type II Diabetes is severe insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when the body is exposed to high levels of carbohydrates (the worst is sugar) over a prolonged period of time. The receptors that permit insulin to take sugar into the cell become resistant to that stimulation. This causes an elevation in blood sugar and insulin, both of which have their individual bad effects on the body.

Treatment consists of a reduction in the total amount of the carbohydrate intake, which reduces the insulin resistance and the cells become more responsive to insulin and glucose. After the reduction in carbohydrates (your 50 grams a day is great), there are other substances that improve this resistance–chromium, vanadium, biotin, and the hormones DHEA and testosterone.

The ADA diet is too high in carbohydrates, and I do not recommend a diabetic following it. Keep up with the low carbohydrate diet that is working so well for you.

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Low Carbs and Diabetes

I have a Low-Carb for diabetes question. Dr. Gardner, about 12 years ago during a work physical I was found to have fasting BG of 250. My Dad also had diabetes, and was not doing well with diabetes (and died from it a few years after). My doctor did not think that my diabetes was that bad yet, and started me on meds and the standard ADA diet. I did not lose any weight and felt terrible on the diet. After a couple of months of no improvement and frustration a friend who had Insulin Dependent Diabetes told me about the book “Diabetes Solution” by Dr. Bernstien. I started following that diet and exercise regime religiously and in a month had gotten my BG under control and stopped taking all meds. I keep my carbs around 50 a day, and do eat lots of what I call “salad type vegetables” and have been doing this for about 12 years. A few years ago I tried combining an apple with some protein to see if maybe my BG responded positively. It didn’t my BG shot up to 160 after two hours which I consider totally unacceptable. So for the last 12 years I’ve had one piece of fruit, that apple. I wonder what you think about Low-Carb diets for diabetes control?

Diabetes is not a life sentence.  Your body is capable of healing; my caution is in the case of  Type I, where the insulin producing cells in the pancreas have been damaged and insulin is no longer being produced.

Basically, diabetes type II is severe insulin resistance. This means the cell membrane, which houses the insulin receptors, is unresponsive to insulin and will not let it flow freely into the cell. This is usually caused by years of sugar and too much carbohydrate intake.

The treatment, then, consists of improving insulin resistance. This starts with a low carbohydrate intake, which you have already done. Congratulations on sticking with a 50 gram per day carb diet. Keep it up.

Five other things that improve insulin resistance:

  • chromium,
  • vanadium,
  • biotin,
  • DHEA,
  • testosterone.

You should already be on chromium, and possibly vanadium and biotin. You will need to get levels of DHEA and free testosterone through a health practitioner who is comfortable with using bio-identical hormones to bring those levels up if they are low. I do not consider age-appropriate levels as necessarily the healthy optimum, but I look at levels we had in our 20s as the most appropriate range.

Incidentally, the last time I looked at the ADA diet, they were recommending 150 to 250 grams of carbs per day for their patients. It is no wonder blood sugar levels are so high in those following the ADA diet. That also means the insulin levels are high, and insulin is the most inflammatory substance the body makes. As the insulin goes up, so does the total body inflammation, which makes you feel rotten. Keep up the low carb diet, and listen to your body.

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Type II Diabetes: Healthy Alternatives

I am thrilled and interested in your new website. I have been a type 2 diabetic for 10 years. Though I have always eaten fairly healthy and am not over weight, I am having difficulty keeping my BG in check. I have been very discouraged by the attitude of my current physician, though I was told that he treats alternatively. I am hoping to get some additional information and how I can control and eventually overcome this condition because I firmly believe that it is possible.

The basic treatment for type II diabetes is shifting from simple carbs (potatoes, breads, pasta, rice, fruits) toward more and more complex carbs, like vegetables and legumes. Whole grains are much better than refined grains, but you will need to watch all grain intake, as grains are high in carbs.

Because insulin resistance is part of type II diabetes, the following will help reduce that issue:

  • chromium,
  • vanadium,
  • biotin,
  • DHEA,
  • testosterone (if levels are low you will need a physician to prescribe).
  • Metformin (Glucophage) is also safe and helps with insulin resistance.

Diet is always the most important factor.  Recent studies have shown that adapting a primarily raw diet can be effective in reducing and even eliminating type II diabetes.

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Supplements, Gestational Diabetes, and Pregnancy

I had gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy and have occasionally had a slightly elevated fasting blood sugar since then. Which of your supplements would you recommend? Are your supplements safe to take during pregnancy.? Thanks!

Reduction of carbohydrates is the most important treatment of diabetes, whether during pregnancy or not. The amount of insulin resistance you have is determined by a fasting insulin level. If it is less than 6, there is no insulin resistance and the eating goal is to only eat complex carbohydrates, legumes, vegetables and limited fruits and whole grains.

If the insulin level is above 5, there is insulin resistance, and the higher numbers above 10 mean that it is worse. I recommend a reduction of carbohydrate intake, to be between 60 to 100 grams per day if you are insulin resistant.

There are additional minerals that assist in reducing insulin resistance—chromium, vanadium, and biotin. These minerals are often low in the body; our food is often devoid of these micro-nutrients. My product, Gluca Primivia, was specifically formulated for your condition—insulin resistance. This product has a potent multi-vitamin, essential fatty acids and the minerals to help reduce insulin resistance. Gluca Primivia Forte is designed for those with more serious insulin resistance and diabetes. These supplements are safe to take during pregnancy. If you take 6 per day, they will supply the needed 800 micrograms of folic acid. However, none of my multi-vitamin products have iron in them, as high iron levels are a catalyst for free radical damage. If your ferritin level (your level of the iron storage form of iron) is less than 15 during pregnancy, you should take additional iron, as the baby will draw your excess iron stores out of you.