Flour and Sugar

  •         White flour and sugar were singled out as particularly noxious, because these had been increasing dramatically in Western diets during the latter half of the nineteenth century, coincident with the reported increase in cancer mortality. (They would also be implicated in the growing incidence of diabetes, as we’ll discuss, and appendicitis.) Moreover, arguments over the nutritive value and appeal of white flour and sugar had been raging since the early nineteenth century. In the now established version of the alternative hypothesis—that metabolic syndrome leads to heart disease—the carbohydrates that had always been considered the causative agent had been officially rendered harmless. They had been removed from the equation of nutrition and chronic disease, despite the decades of research and observations suggesting the critical causal role they played.
  •         Flour is made by separating the outer layers of the grain, containing the fiber—the indigestible carbohydrates—and virtually all of the vitamins and protein, from the starch, which is composed of long chains of glucose molecules.
  •         White sugar is made by removing the juice containing sucrose from the surrounding cells and husk of the cane plant or sugar beet. In both cases, the more the refining, the whiter the product, and the lower the vitamin, mineral, protein, and fibre content.
  •         The same is true for white rice, which goes through a similar refining process.
  •         Millers preferred it because the leftover bran from refining rice and wheat (as with the molasses left over from refining sugar) could be sold profitably for livestock feed.

Until the last few decades, the nutritional debate over the excessive refining of flour and sugar had always been about whether the benefits of digestibility and the pleasing white colour outweighed any potential disadvantages of removing the protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  •         Sugar and candies do not cause diabetes, but contribute to the burden on the pancreas and so should be used sparingly…. Carbohydrates are best taken in starchy forms: fruits, vegetables and cereals. The absorption is slower and the functional strain minimal. GARFIELD DUNCAN, Diabetes Mellitus and Obesity, 1935
  •         Islander Studies - Through the 1960s, the only noteworthy health problems on the islands had been skin diseases, asthma, and infectious diseases such as chicken pox, measles, and leprosy. (Modern medical services and a trained physician had been available in Tokelau since 1917.) In the decades that followed, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, gout, and cancer appeared. This coincided with a decrease in cholesterol levels, consistent with the decrease in saturated-fat consumption. Average weights increased by twenty to thirty pounds in men and women. A similar, albeit smaller, trend was seen in Tokelauan children. The only conspicuous departure from these trends was in 1979, when the chartered passenger-and-cargo ship Cenpac Rounder ran aground and the islanders went five months without a food or fuel delivery. “There was no sugar, flour, tobacco and starch foods,” reported the New Zealand Herald, “and the atoll hospitals reported a shortage of business during the enforced isolation. It was reported that the Tokelauans had been very healthy during that time and had returned to the pre-European diet of coconut and fish. Many people lost weight and felt very much better including some of the diabetics.”
  •         The problem is that we aren't meant to enjoy sugars in such concentrated amounts. In nature, sugar is found surrounded by fiber, in sugar cane and fruits. It naturally comes in a container that produces a shorter blood sugar response and aids in fullness. Today’s sugars are refined and concentrated.”
Previous post