Read The case against sugar

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Albert Schweitzer began working in equatorial lowlands of West Africa in 1913. He was astonished to encounter no cases of cancer among the thousands of native patients he saw each year. However, as the natives [took to] living more and more after the manner of the whites, cancer in his patient population became ever more frequent (Taubes, 2016, pp 257).

Wise elders, grand parents or statesmen have been  traditional roles for aging adults. Wisdom transforming into Alzheimer’s disease does not compute (Peper, 2014).

In 1960’s Surgeon Captain T. L. Cleave proposed that common western diseases (diabetes, colon cancer, ischemic heart disease, gallstones, obesity, diverticulosis, and dental carries), to which I would add Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases and allergies, could not be due primarily to genetic factors but to new factors in the environment to which man had not yet had time to adapt (Cleaves et al, 1969). As he states, “One such factor was the processing of food which resulted in the consumption of large quantities of pure sugar and starch.  This led to disease because man was evolutionary adjusted to eating smaller amounts of carbohydrates intimately mixed with fiber and protein.”

Clinicians and epidemiologist have consistently reported that none western cultures, whether the Masai in Africa, the Inuit in Northern Canada, the Japanese in Japan, or the Native American, had very low incidences of these western diseases. Yet, when these people adapted a western diet of highly refined carbohydrates and sugar the prevalence of these diseases increased and approached the incidence in western cultures (Burkitt & Trowell, 1975; Taubes, 2016).

Historically these illness were initially observed in the ruling class.  The affluent class was privileged and tended to eat more refined carbohydrates and sugars (white bread, cakes, pastries and sugar in coffee and tea). It is only recently that this class effect is reversed. Lower economic classes tend have a higher prevalence of these western diseases.  Affluent people can afford and often eat low processed organic foods while economically disadvantaged people cannot afford low processed foods and instead eat predominantly highly processed carbohydrate and refined foods.

Highly refined processed foods and sugar–not fats–are  significant risk factors for the development diabetes and cardiovascular disease and mortality (Imamura et al, 2015; Taubes, 2016; Yang et al, 2014) . What is not as well known is that some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease also correlates with the increase intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar (Das, 2015; Kandimalla et al, 2016; Peper, 2014).

It is highly likely that the increase in beta-amyloid protein plagues in the brain is not the cause of the Alzheimer’s but the brain’s defense mechanism to protect it from the fluctuating high insulin and glucose levels. A high sugar and simple carbohydrate diet are risk factors for inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.  These inflammatory diseases are recognized as a precursor for Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is sometimes described as Type 3 diabetes (Kandimalla et al, 2016; Steen et al, 2005).

Taking the perspective that foods are significant risk factors for the development of these western diseases, the focus should be on prevention and less on treatment.  The research to develop drugs to treat Alzheimer’s have up till now been unsuccessful despite that the billions spent on attempting to develop new drugs. For example, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has spent 3.7 billion dollars over the last decade while the National Institutes of Health spends more than half a billion dollars a year on pursuit of treatment (Coghlan, 2017).

The treatments cost of these western diseases, which at best ameliorate the disorders, is overwhelming.  In the USA, we spent $147 billion to treat obesity and $116 billion to treat diabetes. While the medical costs to treat diabetes for a single patient is about $6000/year or $400,000/lifetime (Pollan, 2009).

As a refined carbohydrates and high sugar diet is a risk factor for western diseases, the focus should be on prevention. Thus, reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates intake and increase high fiber vegetable.  To implement such a simple preventative measure means:

  1. Educate the public about the harm of sugars and refined carbohydrate foods.
  2. Ban advertising of foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  3. Reward companies to produce foods low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  4. Tax food products high in sugar and refined carbohydrates just as tobacco has been taxed.

I am positive that in the future when we  look back at the 20th and early 21st century, we will be appalled that the government allowed people to poison themselves with sugar and highly refined carbohydrates. Just as we now warn against the harm of tobacco, limit the sales to minors,  and have ongoing public health stop smoking  campaigns.

For much more information, read science writer Gary Taubes superb well researched and engaging book,  The case against sugar. 



Burkitt, D.P. & Trowell, H.C. (1975).  Refined carbohydrate foods and disease: Some implications of dietary fibre.  York: Academic Press.

Cleave, T.L., Campbell, G.D., & Painter, N.S. (1969). Diabetes, coronary thrombosis and the saccharine disease, 2nd ed. Bristol, UK: John Wright.

Coghlan, A. 2017). The Alzheimer’s problem. New Scientist, 233(3110), 22-23.

Das, U. N. (2015). Sucrose, fructose, glucose, and their link to metabolic syndrome and cancer. Nutrition31(1), 249-257.

Imamura, F., O’Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fractionBmj351, h3576.

Kandimalla, R., Thirumala, V., & Reddy, P. H. (2016). Is Alzheimer’s disease a Type 3 Diabetes? A critical appraisal. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease.

Peper, E. (2014). Affluenza: Transforming Wisdom into Alzheimer’s Disease with Affluent Malnutrition and Immobility. Neuroconnections, 9(2), 32-35.

Pollan, M. (2009). Big food vs. big insurance. New York Times, September 10, A29.

Steen, E., Terry, B.M.  Rivera, E.J., Cannon, J.L., Neely, T.R., Tavares, R., Xu, X. J., Wands, J.R., & de al Monte, S. M.  (2005). Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease-is this type 3 diabetes? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 7(1), 53-80.

Taubes, G. (2016). The case against sugar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Yang, Q., Zhang, Z., Gregg, E. W., Flanders, W. D., Merritt, R., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adultsJAMA internal medicine174(4), 516-524.

From Wisdom to Alzheimer’s: Are we poisoning ourselves with affluent malnutrition and sedentary life style?

Wise elders, grand parents or statesmen have been the traditional roles for aging adults. Older people were revered as the repository and sources of wisdom in many traditional cultures.  Presently the development of aging into wisdom is being overshadowed by the specter of Alzheimer’s disease. Wisdom transforming into Alzheimer’s disease does not compute.  How come that in slightly more than a century after it was first described by the neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, the fear of contracting and possible having Alzheimer’s disease with the concurrent  loss of cognitive and body functions is becoming a possibility? How could this have occurred?

Today more people are living to older ages; however, in traditional cultures some people also lived to very old age (the major increase in present day longevity is due to the elimination of infant and maternal mortality and medical treatment to survive trauma).

Is it possible that the prevention of Alzheimer’s will not be found in pharmaceutical treatment but in promoting organic food diet and movement?   The research data is starting to find that our life style patterns are risk factors for Alzheimer’s.  Changing lifestyle factors is a more promising treatment approach than drugs.  A significant risk factor may be the confluence of a sedentary lifestyle and affluent malnutrition. Researchers are even reporting that the built up of the beta amyloid plaques in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease is not  the result of aging but the body’s attempt to cope with the influx of environmental and dietary poisons or decreases in essential foods or body activities.

Risk: Sedentary lifestyle-Too little exercise

Over the last hundred years–and rapidly accelerated in the last 30 years–we have transformed work into sitting. By sitting in front of a computer screen, we have created a new disease: Immobilization Syndrome. Lack of exercise is recognize as a major factor in numerous illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Movement in many different forms reduces the risk of illness.  Older people who exercise have a significant reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s  (Larson, 2006; Radak et al, 2010).

Regular movement lowers the risk. Even though there is overwhelming scientific evidence that movement and exercise are required for health, there is a disconnect with the medical and educational practices.  Insurances will pay for medical treatment; however, they usually will not pay for prevention or exercise.  At the same time physical education in schools is reduced or eliminated to reduce the risk of litigation (an injured child on the playground could sue the school).  Children now spend most of their time in front of a screen while exercising their thumb and index fingers instead of playing and moving outdoors.

Risk: Affluent malnutrition-too much sugar and simple carbohydrates

Affluent malnutrition appears to be another risk factor. Recent findings suggests that the beta amyloids plagues, as the marker for Alzheimer’s in the brain, may be a protective response to the modulating insulin levels triggered by affluent malnutrition and sedentary life style. This disease has been labeled as type 3 diabetes by Associate Professor Suzanne de la Monte at Brown University (Steen et al, 2005). Namely, the disease occurs as the brain tissue becomes resistant to insulin.

Rats that are fed high-fructose corn syrup laced water experienced learning and memory problems in less than 6 weeks and became less responsive to insulin.  At the same time if the animals were given omega 3 fatty acids, they appear to escape the cognitive decline.  In other research rats developed Alzheimer like brain changes and became demented when Suzanne de la Monte interfered with how the rats brains respond to insulin (Trivedi, 2012).

Alois Alzheimer first described these abnormal protein structure in the brains  a little more than a hundred years ago. At that time  the European diet had increased sugar intake as shown in figure 1. While more recently there has been a significant   increase in high fructose corn syrup as shown in figure 2.

Figure 1 sugar

Figure 1. Radical increase in sugar consumption in the last 200 years.  From:

Figure 2 High fructose corn syrup

Figure 2. Increase in the type of sugar consumption in the last thirty years.  From:

We are now becoming concerned with the Alzheimer’s disease as an upcoming epidemic.  It cannot be just sugar; since, its consumption has been high since the beginning of the 20th century. A possible contributor could be the high-fructose corn syrup; however, it is most likely the interaction between reduced exercise and sugar.

Sugar set the stage for pathogenesis to occur in the brain and the absence of movement/exercise promotes and supports the pathogenesis. People continue to decrease movement:  from walking or riding horses to sitting cars or standing on escalators and elevators; from doing physical housework to automated washing machines, driers and dishwashers; from preparing foods from raw materials to prepackaged foods; from filing and typing to computer work; from playing family games to watching TV and searching the net; from face to face communication to texting; etc.

We have separated from our biological evolutionary heritage.  I am not surprised that Alzheimer’s disease and immobility and sugar are linked.   Adopt the precautionary principle  and assume that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in conjunction with reduced movement (immobilization syndrome) is  harmful.

As a reader, you will probably have to wait another 20 years before these findings have been scientifically proven against the overt and covert lobbying efforts of agribusiness and pharmaceutical industry.  Remember it took 30 years to demonstrate that smoking was harmful.  Begin to move and eat in concert with your evolutionary background (See Part III Self-care in Gorter and Peper, 2011).

Begin now!

Eat food not sugars! Eat the foods great grandparents would recognize as food as Michael Pollan (2009) describe in his superb book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Eat foods that have not been processed or adulterated by additives. Take charge by eating brain supporting foods such as organic vegetables, roots, fruits, nuts, fish, some organ meat, and eliminate all those sugary, fatty processed highly advertised fast foods.

Move and exercise!  Get up and move every hour. Walk up the stairs instead of the escalator. Meet new people and move by going  hiking,  dancing,  Tai Chi or yoga classes or volunteer by helping others.


Gorter, R. & Peper, E. (2011). Fighting Cancer-A Non Toxic Approach to Treatment. Berkeley: North Atlantic.

Larson, E.G., Wang, L., Bowen, J.D., McCormick, W. C., Teri, L., Crane, P., & Kukull, W. (2006).  Exercise Is Associated with Reduced Risk for Incident Dementia among Persons 65 Years of Age and Older. Ann Intern Med, 144(2), 73-81.

Pollan, M. (2009).  In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Radak, Z., Hart. N., Sarga, L., Koltai, E., Atalay, M., Ohno, H., & Boldogh, I. (2010). Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(3), 777-83.

Steen, E., Terry, B.M.  Rivera, E.J., Cannon, J.L., Neely, T.R., Tavares, R., Xu, X. J., Wands, J.R., & de al Monte, S. M.  (2005). Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease-is this type 3 diabetes? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 7(1), 53-80.

Trivedi, B. (2012). Eat your way to dementia. New Scientist, 215(2880), 32-37.

Food for thought- Is my “healthy diet” harming me?

How can you imply that I have malnutrition! I eat a full, balanced diet including meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, etc. I take a multiple vitamin every day and even shop for organic foods at my local farmer’s market. In fact, I shifted my diet to follow the American Heart Disease Association and USDA Food Plate and Pyramid guidelines!

Evolution optimized human genetics for a hunter-gatherer diet but in the last few centuries our diet has radically changed and is totally different from the ideal diet of our ancestors. We now mainly eat foods that were not part of our diet five to ten thousand years ago such as corn, wheat, milk and all packaged and processed foods. We eat on the average 160 lbs of sugar instead of less than two pounds of honey a year, and  steaks instead of the organ meats such as liver which would have provided essential vitamin A, D, etc.

A healthy diet is much more than  nutritionally poor a high caloric foods (e.g., cereals, hamburgers, white rice or flour) with some vitamins and minerals added; instead, it is congruent with our evolutionary past —a hunter gatherer diet–which supports the growth and maintenance of our body and brain. This diet would predominantly consist of natural, non industrialized produced foods such as vegetables, leaves, fruits, berries, nuts, roots, tubers, wild fish and meats from free ranging animals. When eating this type of diet, it significantly exceeds the FDA’s  Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) guidelines which is the daily intake level of a nutrient that is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of 97–98% of healthy individuals in the United States.

These minimum RDI for vitamins and minerals are often too low and do not include the myriad of micro and macro nutrients necessary to achieve and maintain optimum health. Nutrients do not act in alone but in concert with each other as Michael Pollan pointed out in his superb book, In Defense of Food.

Dietary guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) My Plate and Food Pyramid and organizations such as the American Heart Association are more the result of successful lobbying by large agribusiness than from research findings. By following USDA and FDA guidelines, we may set the stage for long term subclinical malnutrition which reduces our resilience to fight disease. 

If the recommended modern Western diet was sufficient then there would be no need to take additional vitamin or mineral supplements to prevent illnesses.  This is not the case!  Controlled research studies have shown that  numerous illnesses can be reduced or prevented by taking specific supplements.

Eating the industrialized produced western diet may also increase the risk developing neurological degenerative diseases.  Adults with low omega-3 blood levels had significantly lower total cerebral brain volume than adults who had the highest levels of omega-3s.  More importantly, adults with low levels of omega-3 levels did significantly worse on abstract memory, visual memory and executive function than the adults who had high omega-3 levels.

These research findings are worrisome; since, shrinking  brains are a feature associated with neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.  Is it possible that our diet contributes to the expanding epidemics of Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD?

If some illness can be prevented by taking supplements, would it not be wiser to eat a diet which provides sufficiently nutrients for the brain and body?

Watch the inspirational presentation by Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, Minding Your Mitochondria, who cured her multiple sclerosis which was untreatable by western medicine. She reversed her illness by eating a hunter and gathers diet which provided the optimum nutrition for her brain. Over a period of three to a year, she got out of herwheel chair, started to ride a bicycle, and eventually rode horseback as shown in her Youtube video.

Experience the benefits of eating a hunter gatherer diet. For one month eat as a hunter and gatherer. Eat nine cups of organic vegetables, leaves, berries, roots, fruit as well as tubers, some fish, and some organ meat from free ranging animals. Do not eat corn products, sugar and processed foods. In four weeks, you may notice a difference: more energy, less inflammation and improved cognition. For dietary guidelines see chapter 9 in the book, Fighting Cancer-A Nontoxic Approach to Treatment.