How much sugar in the life of a believer is a question to be faced.
Good morning, and welcome to this the fourth and penultimate day of the influence of carbs on the wellbeing of believers. It is getting decidedly more difficult now. Today’s talk is entitled “how much sugar?”
My starting point is that there are worldly and heavenly standards regarding food just as in the rest of a Christian’s walk with the Lord. The former the Devil uses to cripple our lives; the latter bring life and health. Such is the complexity of nutrition that the margins are very blurred.
Dr George Campbell was a profound thinker, researcher and physician specialist based for much of his professional life at King Edward VIIIth hospital in Durban; a world-renowned doctor. Diabetes was his dedicated interest, and in particular the effect of changes of diet on the health of rural Indians and Zulus as they migrated to the cities in KZN.
Sucrose of course is not a starch; but all carbs are made up of long chains of sugar molecules. They all end up mainly as glucose passing through the liver.
Indians you well know were brought to SA as indentured labourers to harvest sugarcane.
Whilst working very hard in the fields, consuming large amounts of sugar by chewing the cane for energy they were generally pretty healthy despite their love of white rice.
Rural Zulus ate unrefined mealiemeal for starch and even today diabetes affects less than 4% of the population living in the country. However discovering the charms of refined meal in the cities, both wheat and maize, they began to add large amounts of sugar to their food to give it flavour. And white rice too.
With the move to Durban both Indians and Zulus began to eat fibre-poor rice, cake flour and refined maize meal; more, they both began to consume large amounts of sugar and salt. As we all know once refined, grains have no taste.
How would a cake taste without the sugar?
Dr Campbell’s research on these people led him to propose what today is known as the “twenty year diabetes rule”.
Consuming 20 tsp of sugar per day for twenty years will almost guarantee that we will begin to suffer from insulin-resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Eminent pathologist, Prof George Lundberg, adds grist to the mill. This no doubt will seem utterly over the top and extreme; until you read his credentials.
He was a pathologist; he spent his whole life dealing with what kills people. There's no doubt from which pantry sugar comes in his opinion.
We Christians are not exempt. As Arthur C Clarke, knighted for his contribution to science, remarked, "Human judges, to which we could add God, can show mercy, but against the laws of nature, there is no appeal." Overconsumption of sugar is deadly; it raises triglycerides in the blood, produces inflammation and along with other refined starches is the cause of fatty liver disease for which there is no medically-proven treatment.
The Heart Association recommends no more than about 6 tsp of sugar per day, about 30g, which is probably reasonable. Personally we try to limit ourselves to only three but then we do consume a little natural honey too; another few teaspoons.
But South African children are now the second highest consumers of sugary drinks in the world. One in eight South African adults are diabetic. Is sugar from the Devil’s Pantry? I think so. Dr Campbell thought so; so did Professor Lundberg.
I’d like to end this with a little look at honey. It consists of a mixture of glucose and fructose, two highly glycemic sugars.
It’s pure mystery at this stage, but German researchers after studying eight different honey varieties were astonished to find that five out of six of the natural honeys produced by small beekeepers had a low glycemic index; they have little influence on blood glucose. In fact, diabetics enjoying a little natural honey every day actually had lower fasting blood glucose in the morning.
But commercial honey once it has been processed has a very high glycemic index, greater than that of sugar. Pollen is removed and important enzymes destroyed by heating; and over fifty percent of that on supermarket shelves today is adulterated with high fructose corn syrup and other chemicals which are much cheaper to produce.
Smell your honey before tasting it; does it have what foodies describe as “floral tones?” Or is it just sickly sweet? The natural product of the hive contains volatile substances that give it the fragrance of a million flowers; once processed they are lost and it becomes as dull and lifeless as a teaspoon of sugar.
I would like to finish off today with a few thoughts on orthorexia; it’s a first cousin of better known anorexia. It refers to the unhealthy obsession with eating only pure food, however that is defined.
As you no doubt have noticed, I tread warily, knowing I could easily fall into this unhealthy fascination of nutritious food. The first sure sign that you are on thin ice is when you start to refuse invitations to dine with others because they might have added this or that to their cooking; or insisting that you take your own nosh.
Orthorexia is a serious psychological illness; despite that, there are certain so-called “foods” that I will not touch. But I do believe we should gladly be able in the main to enjoy many that we find questionable, without guilt, on what I call high and holy days.
Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and a slice of chocolate cake at a friend’s birthday party are not likely to be our downfall; anxiety about them could.
Recent research of the genes and other remnants in locks of Beethoven's hair has determined that arguably the greatest musician of all time died at the tender age of 56 of cirrhosis of the liver. What remains uncertain is whether it from too much wine or indulgences in pastries, potatoes and other sugary delectables; they cause non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
Worse perhaps it was over-indulgence in both that killed him. With chronic excess carbs from our food the glucose is trapped in the organ, the surplus stored as lipids. Fatty liver disease is the consequence; the only proven treatments interestingly are beeswax and a severe cutback on all sugar and starches. Otherwise it's terminal and was along with too much wine the cause of Beethoven's early demise.
But some who are suffering from what Dr Campbell called “the saccharine disease” may feel called to give up sugar for ever; as an alcoholic would refrain from all booze. It is I would suggest definitely from the Devil’s pantry; in small quantities it is probably fine.
How much sugar in the life of a Christian is a question to be faced. Certainly no more than 10tsp per day on average; about a cup and a half per week. I think an occasional indulgence is probably okay; Professor Lundberg would vehemently disagree.
We started off this series with the prayer of Sue van Niekerk. Take only home what you discern is of God, and that which your spirit suggests is just the fanaticism of Bernard Preston you can gladly leave on the table. If as Calvin Cook used to say, some of this leaves you with a stone niggling in the shoe then I would suggest that perhaps the Lord is at work.
Goodbye and God bless as you ponder these deep and important matters; they will make the difference between you being a sickly person at 75 or a vigorous and busy 90-year old still joyfully serving our Heavenly Father.
How much sugar in the life of a believer is acceptable? The role it plays in obesity and diabetes is plain for all to see.
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