Letters to the Editor

Sugar: The low-hanging fruit

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The matter of health, like that of God's Kingdom, is not merely about whether you are exposed to, or indulge in that which is deemed bad, but rather what these maligned habits, substances, foods, or even beliefs, deprives an individual or society of.

Non-communicable or chronic illnesses are largely based on a deprivation of what sustains life. To illustrate what sustains life we only need to turn to the seven basic characteristics of living things. They are: feeding; imbibing; adapting and responding to stimuli; reproducing; excreting; respiring; and growing, whether in size or sophistication.

I constantly see people unwittingly hurt themselves in restricting or even eliminating sugar from their diets. Sugar makes for an easy target as it is what we readily see in a diabetic, and plus it is a metaphor for sin, as in “sin is sweet”. However, the ill effects of diabetes are mainly caused by the patient's cells and organs not getting the sugar that they need; technically, a state of deprivation of sugar, rather than an excess of it. The microbiome, a remarkably important organ which lines our guts is fed by sugars, and its diversity proportions have been shown to be highly impactful on our tendencies to become overweight or obese. The presence of fibre, however, seems to be a determining factor in whether or not the relationship between sugars and the effect of gut flora on our body weight works in the host's favour.

Lastly, the human body actively seeks to increase its blood glucose levels when it is not well or when stressed. Why not intelligently help our bodies out by not further “stressing it out” with insufficient sugar intake?

Health Minister Christopher Tufton, though being action-driven in 'instructing' the lowering of sugar levels in sugary drinks, has got it wrong, much like how the national policy for the fluoridation of tap water in the US in the 1970s to 80s did. What Dr Tufton's officials could have done was to devise a nutrient content scoring system for foods to encourage manufacturers' and caterers' fortification and enrichment of their products to prevent under-nutrition, and subsequent and compensatory overconsumption-related obesity. Fries, artificial sweeteners and other junk foods are what need to be got rid of, not brown sugar.

Andre O Sheppy

Norwood, St James


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