Sugar, my love

Have you ever wondered where this magnificently beloved, highly addictive substance called “refined sugar” came from and how it came to be so much a part of our everyday consumption?

The origins of sugar date back to medicine and to Persia 600 AD (present day Iran) when the School of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Djondisapour discovered a way to preserve the juice from the sugar plant in a solid crystalline form. This substance was highly acclaimed by Persian physicians. Over the next few hundred years sugar was used exclusively by Persian, Arab and Jewish physicians in medicinal formulas in very miniscule amounts. It was considered a rare and precious drug that could cure plague and pestilence. It was a “miraculous substance” that facilitated the human body and brain to go from the exhaustion of near death back to life (and hallucination) in seconds.

Over time the Arabs finally took over the Persians and made huge strides in producing large quantities of crystalline sugar and creating the first sugared candies and drinks. What was for centuries a medicine now entered into the Arab culture as a recreational substance for pleasure. As noted by botanist Leonnhard Rauwolf, whose name was given to sugar (rauwolfia serpentina) and who traveled extensively in to the land of the sultans: “The Turks and the Moors cut off one piece of sugar after another … in the streets without shame … and are no longer the intrepid fighters they had formally been.”

Rauwolf noticed the effect sugar addiction had in taking

As the Crusaders entered the Arab world they soon acquired a taste and addiction to “serpentina,” and European rulers soon discovered their ambassadors at the Egyptian Court were so corrupted by the sugar habit they would “sell their souls” for it.

At the time of sugar’s introduction to Britain around 1300 it was valued at $25 a pound, the equivalent of a year’s salary for a working man.

The last major crusade ended in 1204 but a hundred years later in 1306 an appeal went out to the Kings of France, Sicily and Britain, which stated: “In the land of the Sultan, sugar grows in great quantities and from it the Sultans drew large incomes and taxes. If the Christians could seize these lands, great injury would be inflicted on the Sultan and at the same time Christendom would be wholly supplied by Cyprus.”

Out of this final crusade emerged seven centuries of slave trade on the back of the sugar drug trade.

In 1912, Dr. Robert Boesler, a dentist from New Jersey, had this to say about refined sugar .

“Modern manufacturing of sugar had brought about entirely new diseases. The sugar of commerce is nothing but concentrated crystallized acid. If in former times sugar was so costly that only the very wealthy could afford to use it … no consequence. But today when because of its low cost, sugar had caused a degeneration of the people … The loss of energy through the consumption of sugar in the last century and the first decade of this century can never be made good … Alcohol does not contain destructive acids. What has been distorted by sugar (in the human physiology) cannot be recovered.”

The difference between sugar addiction and narcotic addiction is only a matter of degree. Small amounts of narcotic substances change body/brain chemistry fairly quickly whereas sugar changes brain chemistry just as strongly but takes a longer time.

Just how does sugar change the body and brain? The mind is greatly affected by body chemistry. Whether we feel up or down, energized or tired, calm or stressed out, sane or insane depends on a large extent on what we put in our mouth. To function at our best the amount of glucose in the blood (from the chemical transformation of food) must be kept in balance with the oxygen level of the blood. When we ingest refined sugar it is so close chemically to glucose that it largely escapes chemical digestion and goes directly to the large intestine where it becomes predigested glucose. This then goes directly into the blood where the glucose/oxygen level have already been established but now are drastically out of balance, causing and acute crisis of glucose/oxygen balance. The brain is the first to measure this and sends hormones from the adrenals and insulin from the pancreas to form a tug of war to avert the crisis. When this happens it is perceived as a biological emergency and therefore happens too fast and goes too far. Finally, the tug of war is lost, the bottom drops out, and the blood glucose levels fall out of balance with the blood oxygen levels, and we come crashing down from a “sugar high.” The pancreatic islets have to shut down and the adrenal glands must produce other hormones to regulate and bring the glucose level up again.

After years of sugar intake the adrenal glands become damaged and exhausted from this form of chemical whiplash. The endocrine system also becomes damaged, and the build up of acid in the blood weakens the immune system and increases inflammation.

So the next time you reach for that snickers bar, remember – refined white sugar is not a food. It is a powerful drug, a crystalline acid. Proceed with great, great caution.

Story resource: “Sugar Blues” by William Dufty.

Julienne Battalia, LMP, is also an acupuncture student. Her student clinic is on Mondays through November 2008. Call for details at 468-3239.