Deadly at any Dose: Sugar and the Corruption of Science: Part 3
Gary Null, PhD
November 11, 2016
The Progressive Radio Network
Sugar and Dental Caries
Studies have repeatedly confirmed that sugar causes dental caries—the cause of tooth decay and cavities. Dr. A. Sheiham, a professor of epidemiology and public health, found that sugars, particularly sucrose, are the most important dietary cause of dental caries. Both the frequency of consumption and the total amount of sugars are important factors that cause caries. The evidence establishing sugars as a cause of dental caries is overwhelming, with the foundation in the multiplicity of studies rather than the power of any one. In fact, we take it as a rule of thumb that sugar is bad for our teeth.
According to Sheiham, the intake of sugar beyond four times a day leads to an increased risk of dental caries. Further, sugars above 60 grams per person per day increases the rate of dental caries. Sheiham concludes that the main strategy to further reduce the levels of dental caries is to reduce the frequency of sugars in the diet. 
Jones, et al., studied over 6,000 fourteen-year-olds to examine the association between the consumption of different drinks and dental caries. The study concluded that consumption of sugary and carbonated drinks was associated with significantly higher levels of dental caries. Drinking unsweetened tea was associated with lower levels of caries.  A host of other studies establish that the consumption of sugar significantly increases the incidence of dental caries, tooth decay and cavities. 
As we age, our teeth often become weak from a lifetime of sugar damage, calcium depletion and wear. Dental bills stack up. Painful cavities can be ignored and grow worse. The best way to keep from causing all this unnecessary damage is to remove excess sugar from the diet and focus your meals on nutrient-rich foods.
Sugar and the Immune System
As we’ve discussed in other chapters, the immune system—though often overlooked when we consider our health—is one of the most important layers of our body’s interconnected structure. The better our immune system, the better so many other systems. That’s why so much of the advice in this book is aimed at bringing optimal health to the immune system: by keeping away from hormone-treated meats, pesticides, and other toxins. But another key way to immune system health is regulating sugar intake.
Several studies confirm a strong link between a high consumption of sugar and the suppression of the body’s immune system. For instance, in one study, 10 healthy people were assessed for fasting blood-glucose levels and the phagocytic index of neutrophils, which measures immune-cell ability to envelop and destroy invaders such as cancer. Eating 100 grams (24 teaspoons) of carbohydrates from glucose, sucrose, honey and orange juice all significantly decreased the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria; the neutrophils became “paralyzed.” Complex carbohydrates from starch, on the other hand, did not have this effect. 
More recently, Yabunaka found that sugar caused an increase in a protein that inhibits macrophage activity. This also weakens the immune system’s ability to function. Elevated levels of blood sugar have also been linked to bacterial invasion and infectious diseases, such as sepsis and vaginal candidiasis. Overall, excessive sugar intake has been shown on many levels to deplete and weaken the immune system. As we know, overall health and a sense of well-being during the andropause and menopause stage depends heavily on one’s immune system functioning at its best.
Sugar and Obesity
Obesity in American children is becoming an epidemic. In December, 2001, The Journal of the American Medical Association presented a comprehensive national picture of weight trends among children over a twelve-year period. From 1986 to 1998, the number of overweight non-Hispanic white children doubled from 6% to 12%. Roughly one in five, or 20% of African-American and Hispanic children are overweight, a 120% increase during the 12-year study period. Several other studies faithfully document that since 1995, there has been a dramatic rise in obesity in American children. This is an alarming change in the overall health of our children, and will soon impact a growing number of adults with the negative effects obesity brings to middle age.
The relationship between increased sugar consumption and obesity in children is well documented in an abundance of recent studies. In the late 1990s, The Children’s Hospital of Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health conducted the first long-term study to examine the impact of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages on children’s body weight. The study involved 548 sixth and seventh graders over a 21-month period. During this time, 57 percent of the children increased their daily intake of soft drinks, and more than half of them by nearly a full serving. The results showed that the odds of becoming obese increased 1.6 times for each additional can of soft drink consumed above the daily average. According to government studies, soft drinks are the leading source of added sugars in the diet of young Americans. In a six-year period, soft drink consumption by adolescent males rose from 11.7 ounces per day to 19.3 ounces per day.
More recently, Ludwig, et al., supported by Bellisle’s work, found that one daily soda increases the risk of obesity by 60%. He found that about 65% of adolescent girls and 74% of adolescent boys consume soft drinks daily. The amount of sugar added to the diet by soda is 36.2 grams (9 tsp) daily for adolescent girls and 57.7 grams (14 tsp) for boys. It was said that Ludwig’s was the first study of its kind in spite of the fact that the majority of American children have been consuming empty caloric sodas from an early age.
Adult obesity is also at record levels. Researchers at the CDC report that in 2000, most Americans were overweight (more than 56%), nearly 20% of adults were obese, 7.3% had diabetes and about 3% were both obese and diabetic. They said that diabetes rates could be as high as 10% if undiagnosed cases are considered. Whitaker surveyed 9,000 people over a 17-year period and found that more than 25% of American adults are obese in their 30s, and over 60% are overweight. The total number of individuals that are morbidly obese (generally at least 100 lbs overweight) rose from 0.78% in 1990 to 2.2% in 2000. Dr. Mokdad, a researcher of obesity, cautions that, “Obesity continues to increase rapidly in the United States.” To alter these trends, Dr. Mokdad argues that “strategies and programs for weight maintenance as well as weight reduction must become a higher public health priority.”
Another group of researchers found that “there are existing data on the metabolic and endocrine effects of dietary fructose that suggest that increased consumption of fructose may be detrimental in terms of body weight and adiposity and the metabolic indexes associated with the insulin resistance syndrome.” In other words, high consumption of sugar has an indelible effect on weight gain and obesity.
The medical authors of Sugar Busters! summarize how increased sugar in the blood causes increased secretions of insulin, which leads to obesity:
Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose (sugar) in our body, and the glucose raises our blood sugar. Insulin is then secreted by the pancreas to lower our blood sugar, but in the process, insulin causes the storage of fat and also increases cholesterol levels. Insulin also inhibits the mobilization of (loss of) previously stored fat. 
According to Public Health Journal, obesity raises the risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. Researchers have shown that hypertension, Type 2 diabetes mellitus (80% are obese), gallbladder disease, hyperlipidemia, and sleep apnea are other complications of obesity. Other risks include coronary artery disease, knee osteoarthritis, gout, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colon cancer, and low back pain.
Sugar and Diabetes
Various anthropological studies have demonstrated that upon the introduction of refined sugar to a culture, the incidence of diabetes increases after a latent period of about 20 years. According to T.L. Cleave, author of The Saccharine Disease, the “virtual absence of diabetes in primitive communities who live on complex carbohydrates such as various grains and tubers compared with populations eating carbohydrates which are refined is anthropological proof that sugar is a leading cause of diabetes.” But as we know, the link between too much sugar and diabetes is another of those rules of thumb. Yet, like sugar’s effect on dental health, we tend to ignore this shared wisdom when confronted with sugary sweets.
Studies demonstrating the undeniable link between sugar consumption and diabetes are well documented. Salmeron, et al., at the Harvard School of Public Health examined the relationship between glycemic (i.e., sugar) diets, low fiber intake, and the risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. They found that diets with a high glycemic load and a low cereal fiber content increase risk of diabetes in women. A host of additional studies demonstrate that sucrose added to the diet of laboratory animals or increased in the diet of healthy volunteers has been shown to be associated with impaired glucose tolerance, retinopathy and nephropathy, and reduced insulin sensitivity of the tissues. These are all major factors of diabetes.
And now there is an increase in adult-onset diabetes in children. One in four extremely obese children under the age of 10 and one in five obese adolescents under the age of 18 in the US have impaired glucose tolerance—a precursor to type 2 or adult-onset diabetes, which increases the risk of heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and limb amputations. Adult onset diabetes is a chronic degenerative disease that is typically seen in people past the age of 60. The fact that children are now suffering from this debilitative disease would have shocked health professionals a generation ago.
Obesity and diabetes are also causing birth defects that destroy a child’s chance of a normal life. Researchers studied 23,000 pregnant women and found that obese women who also have type 2 diabetes are three times more likely than non-obese non-diabetic women to have a baby with a birth defect, and seven times more likely of giving birth to a child with a craniofacial defect such as cleft palate, or abnormal limb development. Nearly 6% of all women with type 2 diabetes had babies with major defects, compared with 1.34% of women without diabetes.
Though it does not directly affect health, it is always good to know the facts behind the products we take for granted. Often, when we consider a product we may be ready to do without, finding out the moral costs of that product helps to solidify our decision. As with the moral problems raised by meat consumption, sugar has its own moral complications. The sugar industry has a long and sordid history of using both slave labor and child labor to harvest sugar, refine it, and bring it to market. In an October 17, 2001 article for Creative Loafing, senior editor John Sugg reported the current exploitation of child labor by the sugar industry:
While we’re talking sweet, take a hard look at your sugar bowl. Much of the sugar on American tables comes from the Dominican Republic. The Rev. Kirton recalls seeing cane-cutters, braceros, as young as 6 labor dawn-to-dusk shifts. And it’s not a Dominican company that works the children. ‘Those plantations were owned by Gulf & Western, the same people who make movies at Paramount studios,’ Kirton says. (In 1985, Gulf & Western sold its 240,000 acres of plantations—along with a posh resort—to the politically powerful Fanjul family of Palm Beach. That clan is often accused of widespread abuses of labor in its fields in the Everglades, so it is unlikely to have improved conditions in the Dominican Republic.) 
The sugar industry was also one of the largest exploiters of slave labor. The University of Calgary, in its applied history tutorial “The Sugar and Slave Trades,” provides a concise review of sugar production’s historical origins:
Sugar cane cultivation had its origins in Southwest Asia. From there it was carried to Persia and then to the eastern Mediterranean by Arab conquerors in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Shortly after sugar cane’s introduction to the Mediterranean, it was being grown on estates similar to the later plantations of the Americas. By the fourteenth century Cyprus became a major producer using the labor of Syrian and Arab slaves. Eventually sugar made its way to Sicily where a familiar pattern of enslaved or coerced labor, relatively large land units, and well-developed long-range commerce was established. The Portuguese and the Spanish both looked to Sicily as a model to be followed in their own colonies in the Atlantic, and in 1420 Prince Henry sent to Sicily for cane plantings and experienced sugar technicians.
An innovation in sugar production, the roller mill, was introduced to the Mediterranean (perhaps by the Sicilians) and the Atlantic Islands in the fifteenth century. The roller mill reduced the time and labor needed to prepare the sugar cane, thereby increasing the mill’s capacity. It was this technology, combined with the system of production developed in the Mediterranean, which was transplanted and expanded to the Atlantic Islands. The final component necessary for the industry’s growth was satisfying its requirement of a large labor force. The solution was the incorporation of African slaves.
Herbert Klein, in his book African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean (1990), traces the history of the sugar industry and compares it to other exploiters of African and indigenous Indian slavery:
Once we enter the more familiar history of the “Atlantic Islands”, sugar and slavery become the economic foundation for European imperialism, even more so than the cotton and tobacco industries. Before the cotton and tobacco plantations there was the sugar industry in Brazil. When the Dutch became the direct competitors of their former Brazilian partners in 1630, their first step was to deny Brazil access to its sources of African slaves because slavery was the pivotal component of the sugar industry. So much so, that the Brazilians were forced to enslave the indigenous Indian populations of the interior regions of Brazil. Dutch Brazil then became “the source for the tools, techniques, credit and slaves which would carry the sugar revolution into the West Indies, thereby eliminating Brazil’s monopoly position in European markets and leading to the creation of wealthy new American colonies for France and England.
According to Klein, by the 1650s, with the decline in Brazilian production, the Dutch were forced to bring their slaves and sugar-milling equipment to the French and British settlers in the Caribbean. When the Dutch themselves migrated to the Caribbean, the sugar plantation system took hold on the islands and by the 1670s sugar became a larger commercial operation than tobacco and indigo. The accompanying slave trade led to a declining population of indentured whites and soon blacks outnumbered whites on Barbados for the first time. By 1700 every year saw the arrival of at least 1300 black slaves and Barbados, with 50,000 slaves, became the most densely populated region in the Americas.-
Kretchmer and Hollenbeck, authors of Sugars and Sweeteners (1991), estimate that in the four centuries prior to the abolishment of slavery, the transport of slaves involved 22 million people, 12 million of whom were utilized in the Americas. The remainder died on board ship or shortly after arrival. Further, “a number of historians state that sugar was responsible for 70% of the traffic of slavery.” The critical historical role that slavery played in the development of the sugar industry in the Americas has also been well established in several other scholarly volumes on the subject.
Kevin Bales noted in his book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (2001), that even today, large amounts of slave labor exists in Africa, Asia, Pakistan, Brazil, and the Caribbean, among other places. As a result of globalization and the international commodities markets, products tainted with slavery are being broadly distributed throughout the world. According to Bales, “Maybe 40 percent of the world’s chocolate is tainted with slavery. The same is true of steel, sugar, tobacco products, jewelry – the list goes on and on. Thanks to the global economy, these slave-produced products move smoothly around the globe.” Banes points out that the global market in commodities, such as cocoa and sugar, functions as a money-laundering machine. Cocoa, for instance, coming out of West Africa and entering the world market almost immediately loses its ‘label.’ If you’re a buyer for a candy maker, you don’t say, ‘I’d like to buy six tons of Ghanaian cocoa.’ You just say you want six tons of cocoa. When the cocoa is delivered to your factory, you can’t tell where it’s from, so you may be passing on a slave-tainted product without knowing, and consumers will buy it without knowing. The same is true of sugar and other commodities, where the source is not easily identifiable. Peter Cox in the New Internationalist (November, 1998) asked the question, “Slavery on sugar plantations is a thing of the past. Or is it?” Cox’s investigation revealed the following: ‘We suffered all kinds of punishment,’ one witness told the Brazilian Justice Ministry. ‘We were hit with rifle butts, kicked and punched. I tried to escape, so did my uncle. He was shot and killed by farm gunslingers.’ 
The word is peonage – a vicious system of forced labor, common in many parts of Latin America, Asia and even in the southern US. A recruiter entices the poor and the homeless with promises of employment, good wages, food and shelter. Then they are trucked long distances to toil on remote plantations where they are held prisoner and compelled to work at gunpoint. The victims aren’t paid cash—they receive notional ‘credits,’ which are offset by extortionate charges for the tools they use and the hammocks they sleep in.
‘Life for these people is worse now than it was under slavery,’ says Wilson Furtado, of the agriculture federation in Bahia state, Brazil. ‘Then the owners had some capital tied up in their slaves so it cost them if one died, but now they lose nothing.’ No matter how hard the victims work – cutting sugar cane or felling trees—they can never break even. A loaded rifle keeps them in line, but it’s debt that keeps them working. 
However, Cox points out an irony for those countries relying on sugar as a cash crop while the sugar industry focuses on more research and development into artificial sweeteners. According to Cox, the plight of non-Western nations whose economies are dependent on cash crops such as sugar is identical to the position of the victims of peonage. Both are held to economic ransom by a system that ensures they can never free themselves of debt – no matter how hard they try. The more they produce, the more indebted they become. In 1981 the Dominican Republic earned $513 million from its sugar exports, yet by 1993 its income had dropped almost by half—to $263 million, despite increasing its production by 84,000 tons. This disastrous decline in income saw the Dominican Republic’s debt swell from $600 million in 1973 to a staggering $2,400 million in l983. And not only sugar producers are crippled: plummeting prices for commodities in general have impoverished many Third World economies, leading to widespread starvation.
Cox also investigated how one of the richest islands of the Philippines could become the setting for another Ethiopia-type famine, where an estimated 85,000 Philippine children under six were suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition. Partly, according to Cox, this was because the corrupt Marcos regime mismanaged the industry. Also, the U.S. market for Philippine sugar had disappeared (being replaced by corn syrup), throwing a quarter of a million sugar workers out of their jobs. And the land—rich and fertile—was exclusively used for sugar cane which prevented self-sufficiency in food production. Cox concludes that a disaster was waiting to happen. Quite a few other authors have documented exploitations of modern slavery, and its variants, by the sugar industry. 
Sugar and the Environment:
Sugar production also causes stress on our natural environment. As cash-crop economies vainly struggle to repay their debts environmental devastation becomes another consequence of the modern sugar industry. In 1997, American University in Washington, D.C. issued a special-case study on the environmental consequences of the sugar industry on the environment of the Philippines:
The relationship between sugar production and environmental damage is found in deforestation, soil erosion, and consequent bio-diversity loss caused by forest conversion to sugar cane field. Forest clearing caused widespread soil erosion and had a devastating effect on the ecology, wiping out a third to a half of the known species of snail and birds in the Philippines.
In the overall Philippines, cultivated upland areas increased from 582,000 hectares in 1960 to over 3.9 million hectares in 1987. Soil erosion was estimated at about 122 to 210 tons per hectare annually for newly established pasture, compared to less than 2 tons per hectare for land under forest cover. Forest cover declined from 50 percent of the national territory in 1970 to less than 21 percent in 1987.
The deforestation rate of the Philippines, driven in large part by the sugar industry, is now pegged at 25 hectares an hour or 219,000 hectares a year. Experts say the country can expect its forests to be gone in less than 40 years.
The Multinational Corporations:
Quite a few large multinational companies are invested in the sugar industry. One example, explored by Daniel Hellinger and Dennis Brooks in their book The Democratic Façade (1991), is Gulf and Western. They write:
Gulf+Western came to the Dominican Republic in 1966, two years after an invasion by U.S. Marines. Aided by major tax concessions granted by President Balaguer to foreign investors, economic penetration of the country quickly followed U.S. military and political intervention. With loans from Chase Manhattan Bank, Gulf+Western gained a foothold in the island’s economy with its purchase of the South Puerto Rico Sugar Company. By 1976, its investment had grown to $300 million in sugar, meat, citrus, tourism, and tobacco. Other transnational corporations also operated in the Dominican Republic, but Gulf+Western dominated the economy as the country’s largest landowner, employer, and exporter. Because the yearly revenues of Gulf+Western were greater than the Dominican Republic’s Gross National Product, it could accurately be called ‘a state within a state.’
Immediately on entering the country, Gulf+Western broke the sugarcane workers’ union, SindicatoUnido. Denouncing the union as communist controlled, the corporation fired the entire union leadership, annulled its contracts, and sent in police to occupy the plant while the American Institute for Free Labor Development (an agency financed in part by the CIA) formed a new union that obtained immediate acceptance from the Dominican president. The possibility of free unions on Gulf’s sugar plantations disappeared (along with dozens of labor leaders), with the result that of the country’s 20,000 cane cutters, only one out of ten is Dominican. Most of the cane workers are Haitian immigrants paid $1.50 to $3.00 a day to do what Dominicans call ‘slave work.” 
Hellinger and Brooks also describe how Gulf+Western set up the first of the industrial free zones that thrive in the Dominican Republic. Often called ‘runaway shops’ (because businesses relocate there from U.S. communities) or ‘export platforms,’ such zones offer a low-wage labor force, government subsidies, and freedom from taxes and environmental regulations. Unions are not permitted in these zones, and so in the mid-1980s, 22,000 workers earned an average of 65 cents per hour working in factories surrounded by barbed wire and security guards. Dominican Law 299 grants corporations a 100 percent exemption from Dominican taxes and also provides them with a 70 percent government subsidy of plant construction costs to set up business in the zones. Bestform, Esmark, Milton Bradley, Ideal Toys, Fisher Price, and North American Phillips are among the U.S. corporations that take advantage of the free zones to assemble and manufacture their products for export back to the United States.
There is no longer any debate that the excessive sugar consumption rampant in in America is a major contributor to the epidemic levels of chronic degenerative disease we are experiencing. The solid independent science showing sugar’s toxicity is, and has been available for decades for those who dared to investigate it. This is why a minority of Americans have informed themselves about this sugar’s deadly health consequences and have chosen to eliminate it from their diet altogether. It is time for us take the empowered step of dumping sugary foods and replacing them with nutrient-rich whole food alternatives. At the same time we must also demand an end to the influence of the sugar cartel, which extends to science, politics and the corporate media. There are no more excuses.
Sheiham, A. Dietary effects on dental diseases. Public Health Nutr 2001 Apr 4(2B):569-91.