The metabolic poison hiding in plain sight

And my simple 5-step plan for eliminating it from your life for good

What we have all been told about sugar for decades is wrong in two important ways—one you already know, and one I’m going to reveal today.

It’s certainly no secret that science shows sugar consumption is unhealthy, lurking behind obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, as well as other metabolic disorders.

Of course, for decades the government wrongly claimed that dietary cholesterol, saturated fats, and salt were the culprits behind our modern epidemic of chronic diseases. But the real problem is sugar and carbohydrate consumption. And the government and the big sugar lobby have repeatedly hidden or deflected this unfortunate fact.

That’s bad enough. But what I’m about to tell you is even worse.

A toxin by any other name

The problem with eating sugar is not only the excess calories that can lead to the diseases I just mentioned. The toxic metabolic effects of sugar are much more insidious.

That’s because good health is not just a matter of “balancing calories” by matching calories ingested with calories burned. In fact, what has been long seen as a cause of disease, namely excess body weight, is merely a side effect of the real cause of disease—consuming excess sugar and carbs.

In short, sugar is a metabolic poison. And like arsenic or cyanide or any other deadly poison, it will kill you. Just not as quickly.

It’s important to note that I’m talking about cane sugar—otherwise known as sucrose—and not the fructose that is naturally found in fruits and other plants. These two types of sugar are definitely not created equal.

Why? Like most aspects of human health, it has to do with biology.

The not-so-sweet history of sucrose

While fructose has existed since the first fruits appeared on Earth, sucrose is a brand-new chemical—at least in terms of biological history.

Sugarcane was initially domesticated in an isolated area of New Guinea about 10,000 years ago. Fully half of the plant by weight is sucrose (so-called “table sugar’). On the other hand, the natural sugars found in honey and other plants and fruits occur in a different chemical form called fructose, and consist of only a small part of the plant by weight.

Sugarcane is easy to grow in tropical climates (botanically it is in the grass family).  But it cannot be transported because, due to the extremely high sugar content, the cane quickly ferments, turning into a sticky, stinky, spoiled brown mass of vegetable matter.

But by 500 B.C., as sugarcane cultivation made its way to the tropical regions of China and India, growers learned to mash the cane to extract the juice, and then boil it down to produce a hard, golden-brown cake of relatively pure sucrose.

Meanwhile, in the parched Middle East, growers figured out how to use irrigation to cultivate tropical sugarcane. This occurred just in time for the arrival of the First Crusaders from Europe in 1096, who found “reeds filled with a kind of honey known as zucar,” from the Arabic word for sugar.1

Europeans had never encountered sugar before, and they soon became addicted. For a time, Crusaders held territory in what is now Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, and produced sugar on their plantations to take back to Europe. Europeans also seized sugar plantations from Muslim and Byzantine growers in Crete, Cyprus, Majorca, Sicily, and southern Spain (although later, Islamic invaders took them back again, for a time).

But there was never enough sugar to meet European demand, until Portugal and Spain took it to their newfound overseas tropical possessions beginning in the late 1400s.

Columbus brought sugarcane to the Caribbean on his later voyages at the end of the 15th century. The British, Dutch, and French followed suit, cultivating sugarcane in their new territories in the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America. And that’s when our modern troubles with sugar began.

How sugar became the scourge of America

Sugarcane came to dominate the economy and politics of the Americas, in one way or another, for the next five centuries. Sugar growing was also responsible for spreading malaria and yellow fever, as well as slavery.

But during the 1660s, British merchants reportedly made more money from planting sugar in Barbados (an island of only 166 square miles) than they did from the entire economy of their colonies in the vastness of North America.

This might help explain why the British were willing to let go of the new United States in 1783, after the American Revolution, but have stubbornly held onto many of their Caribbean islands to this day.

It also explains why the U.S. Monroe Doctrine, of the 1820s, was backed by the British Royal Navy. The Doctrine was designed to keep the Dutch, French, Portuguese, and Spanish from reclaiming Caribbean possessions following the disruptions of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe (which erupted as the War of 1812 in North America).

Not fit for human consumption

Before sugar, honey was the go-to sweetener. Honey has “always” been around in terms of human nutrition, documented since ancient times.

Not only is honey very different metabolically from sugar, but it’s also full of nutrients and natural antibiotics. In fact, jars of honey from 3,000 B.C. have been discovered to still retain their taste.

Compared to honey, sugar is like the blink of an eye in terms of human biological history. And that’s why the human body is not at all prepared to deal with this relatively new chemical.

As I reported in a March 14 Daily Dispatch (“The sneaky reason why people can’t stop drinking soda”), new research shows that drinking sugared waters (like soft drinks and so-called sports beverages) fools your body’s regulation of thirst and throws off hydration. So in essence, the more sugary beverages you drink, the thirstier you actually are.

And that’s just one of the ways sugar interferes with your body’s natural biochemical processes.

Sugar is more than just extra calories

Although the dangers of sugar are obvious to everyone, the mainstream big food and beverage industry, along with its crony-capitalist medical codependents, wants us to focus only on the calorie issue—while in fact, sugar should be treated not just as a few “extra calories,” but as a toxic chemical and a metabolic poison.

Nutritional science shows us when it comes to carbs, the source of calories (not just the number of calories) is key. For example, 100 calories of simple carbs such as sugar has a profoundly different effect in your body than 100 calories of complex carbs such as whole-grain pasta.

In other words, not all sources of caloric energy provide nourishment, and some are toxic.

And while extra calories from sugar (or any other food or beverage) can certainly lead to extra pounds, there are also plenty of people who develop chronic diseases without ever having excess body weight. As I have pointed out before, a little extra weight can be helpful is some ways. In fact, normal-weight people can have lots of problems with chronic diseases.

One study found that nearly 24% of normal-weight adults were metabolically abnormal, while 51% of overweight adults were metabolically healthy.2

Sounds like the work of a metabolic toxin like sugar—not just excess calories.

All of the science I see shows that people should follow a balanced diet of meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, some fruit, a little starch, and no sugar. This kind of diet is consistent with human biological history, metabolism, and dentition.

How the sugar lobby encourages you to eat more of the sweet stuff

Sadly, the sugar and soft-drink industries have buried the real truth about sugar for decades. And the big food and beverage industry has invested many millions of dollars into research and education to ensure that you, your doctors, dieticians, and teachers all are “drinking the Kool-Aid” that deflects the real cause of disease and obscures the true path to health.

In fact, the whole idea of “energy balance” is a deflection. This fallacy proposes that you can eat sugar as long as you burn it off with more exercise.

Many natural health advocates recognize this is not the path to good health. But what most do not recognize is that there are also limits to healthy exercising, as I often report. Too much exercise can damage your joints, and potentially your heart and lungs. Also, building up excess lean body mass may be as harmful as having excess body fat.

The bottom line is, if sugar is a poison, no amount of exercise is going to counteract it. That’s like thinking you can consume arsenic or cyanide as long as you “work it off.”

Unfortunately, the list of “reputable” organizations that promote the energy-balance myth is long. But guess what they have in common? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the International Food Information Council Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all received funding from Coca-Cola or Pepsico—two of the top sugary beverage pushers.3

In addition, other organizations that have signed onto the NIH “We Can” campaign promoting energy balance include the National Hispanic Medical Association, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It’s not surprising that the sugar industry could fool the NIH, since the NIH has never hired any real nutritional scientists in the first place. Taxpayers should tell the NIH to can its pathetic “We Can” campaign (which sounds suspiciously like another empty slogan—“yes, we can”—that citizens recently rejected. Nothing like a government health bureaucrat “sucking up to the boss,” especially when it comes to soda).

My top 5 “Do’s and Don’ts” of avoiding sugar

Not only does sugar consumption lead to serious metabolic disorders in human bodies that are not prepared to process it, but our new “sweet tooth” for sugar has led us to develop even more chemicals with sweet tastes.

But substituting for the sweetness of sucrose in foods and beverages by adding synthetic sugars and artificial sweeteners is no solution to avoiding the empty calories and toxic effects of sugar. These chemical concoctions actually cause all of the same health problems associated with sugar consumption. Plus, they have additional health problems of their own (see sidebar).

All of this misdirection is another reason why I reject the hapless advice of diet and nutrition “experts” whose only credentials are membership in one of the organizations corrupted by big-sugar donations.

As you know, I follow the nutritional science. Here’s what research shows can be effective alternatives for toxic sugar…or artificial sweeteners.

  1. Skip all sodas in favor of naturally flavored sparkling waters.
  2. Use naturally sweet substitutes, such as blueberries or powdered blueberry extract (see article below), instead of brown sugar on your morning oatmeal or whole-grain cereal.
  3. Read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages. A surprisingly large amount have hidden sugar.
  4. Avoid products that contain artificial sugar substitutes.
  5. Explore natural sweeteners like agave nectar, lo han guo, stevia, and honey. While they’re all as calorie-dense as sugar, they can be safe substitutes, in moderation. Choose the one that best suits your taste and lifestyle.

So remember the truth the next time you hear a so-called health expert talk about sugar, or when you see an industry-backed, crony-capitalist “public-health education” campaign.

The problem with sugar is not just excess or empty calories. The real issue is that sugar is a metabolic toxin…and it’s slowly poisoning your body.

Two other sweeteners to avoid

You’ve probably heard about the evils of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). In fact, it may be even worse than sucrose.

HFCS is made with a bit of natural fructose added to a lot of corn-syrup sugar. While the manufacturing process is tightly guarded, it’s believed that chemicals are used to extract the syrup from corn stalks. And don’t forget, virtually all sweet corn grown in the U.S. today is genetically modified, which adds a whole new dimension to the negative health effects associated with HFCS.

There’s also evidence that HFCS is absorbed more quickly into the liver and causes spikes in insulin, although the Corn Refiners Association has spent plenty of money on advertisements stating that HFCS acts no differently in the body than sucrose does. (Of course, as we are now realizing, that is hardly a “selling point.”)

Artificial sweeteners appear to be just as bad for you as sucrose, metabolically speaking (scientists are still debating exactly how). And, ironically, these low-cal sweeteners seem to increase a person’s craving for sweet foods.

Most shocking, as I have reported before, is that recent studies link artificially sweetened beverages with diabetes, obesity, and other diseases typically caused by excess sugar and carb consumption.

If that weren’t bad enough, in an August 2016 Daily Dispatch (“More reasons to stay away from Splenda and all artificial sweeteners”), I reported on a new lab study showing that sucralose (Splenda) may damage key neurotransmitters and cell membranes. And other evidence links sucralose to leukemia and inflammatory bowel disease.


11493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).

2“The obese without cardiometabolic risk factor clustering and the normal weight with cardiometabolic risk factor clustering prevalence and correlates of 2 phenotypes among the US population (NHANES 1999- 2004).” Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1617-1624.