This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Other fruits poor in carbohydrates are strawberries, gooseberries, apricots, and melons. Modern medical scientists doubt the necessity, or propriety, of excluding all starches, and forms of Sugar from the diet of diabetic patients. An exclusively animal diet produces what are chemically called acetones in the patient's urine, these being dangerously liable to absorption into the blood, and (as diacetones) to action as narcotics on the brain. Mr. Ireland, a Canadian gentleman, suffered incessantly for twenty-five years from diabetic troubles, and difficult digestion. Taking his case into his own hands, as regarding starches, and starchy foods, he discovered that if the starch of cereals was partially predigested he could eat such foods without subsequent discomfort, or injury. "I assert," he writes, "without fear of refutation, that starch-changed cereals are far superior to gluten in all cases where that article is considered necessary. I claim to change the starch to that stage which is almost identical with the same when effected by the ptyalin of healthy saliva." There is plenty of evidence that cataract in the eyes may be produced in animals when Sugar is taken by them to excess, even though their general health does not suffer therefrom.
Experiments have proved that cataracts were caused in trout by sugaring the water in which they lived; and similarly in frogs with the same result. It has been justly inferred from these experiments that the progress of a cataract in the human eye can be retarded by restricting the use of Sugar in the food, and drinks. In advanced diabetes, when an excess of Sugar is detained in the blood, cataract is commonly induced, and the sight becomes thereby obstructed. Per contra, is it not admissible to suppose that in cases of spontaneous cataract when Sugar has been taken only sparingly, as a habit, with what was eaten, and drunk, the sagacious administration of Sugar as a medicine systematically pursued may be helpful? It is remarkable that persons affected with diabetes have a subtle characteristic odour: Sir Lauder Brunton has instanced a doctor who can diagnose the disease by their scent. The said doctor strolls down among the crowd of out-patients at a large hospital, and will select six diabetics by their smell.
It is an allowed fact that antiseptics, such as boric acid, and the like, if given in limited quantities, help to correct the excessive output of Sugar in diabetes mellitus.
Eichorst pronounces that the great secret of treating this diabetes successfully lies in the dietary, and chiefly as regards a plentiful supply of fats, whereof the physician should be able to suggest a large variety of forms in palatable dishes. The diabetic patient who passes 400 grains of Sugar in his urine daily will have to take 400 grains of albumin, or 180 grains of fat, to compensate for the loss. A New Zealand physician lately induced a patient suffering from advanced diabetes to nevertheless eat bread, and honey, (starch, and dextrose, in concentrated forms) at his morning and evening meals, throughout a week, doing this just to prove how mistaken the old notions about Sugar in the diet have been. The said patient (now steadily recovering) did not find any alteration in his urine as to its specific gravity, quantity, amount of sugar, or other morbid characteristics, from taking the week's bread, and honey.
Saccharin (Benzoic Sulphamide), which is often prescribed as a substitute for sugar to sweeten foods, and drinks, is a product of coal-tar, and does not possess any nutritive properties whatever, but rather the reverse, as it tends to paralyse the digestive energies. So likewise do other coal-tar products taken for a like purpose, as dulcin, saxin, and sucramin, though they contribute to the taste all the sweetness of sugar. Furthermore, Saccharin, when thus used instead of Sugar, is found to reappear in the saliva, giving it a mawkish sweet savour, and impairing the appetite. Dulcin has been given to a dog at the rate of one gram (fifteen grains) a day, and the animal died after three weeks of this practice.
It is the tendency of all the several Sugars to undergo fermentation in the stomach, according to three varieties: alcoholic (leading to the formation of acetic acid, or sour vinegar); butyric (with formation of butyric acid, such as follows often on taking hot melted butter); and lactic (the product being lactic acid, an element of rheumatic gout); in which latter case Grape Sugar (dextrose) should be avoided, whilst Cane Sugar, Maltose, and Sugar of Milk may be used in moderation. When butyric fermentation is disposed to occur, then Sugar of Milk is to be preferred for sweetening the food, and beverages; likewise when there is a tendency to sour alcoholic fermentation, with vinegar produced in the stomach. If Sugar is taken with other foods by a person in fair health, and is distributed uniformly over the day, considerable quantities can be allowed, and properly assimilated, without any subsequent discomfort. As a general rule one may assume that a quarter of a pound can be taken daily without any bad results at all; but the precise amount must depend mainly upon the muscular activity of the individual subject, for it is as a muscle-food that Sugar is of especial importance.
Whilst a muscle is in active use, and a flow of blood is stimulated thereto by vigorous exercise, the Sugar in such blood is used up far more rapidly than when the muscle is at rest. On this principle depends the fact that in a person of active daily habits, if Sugar is taken early in the evening, it is capable of decreasing the fall of muscular power which ensues at that time, and of increasing the power of resistance to fatigue. Glycogen, or concentrated Sugar, stored in the liver from the blood, and transmitted therefrom to the different muscles of the body, becomes used up when these muscles are set to work, and it accumulates in them again when they resume an attitude of repose. Hence arises, as already explained, the constant love of active schoolboys for sweets, which is altogether a commendable instinct. Oribasius wrote (a.d. 370): "Puer nuper in lucem editus melle primum nutriatur!" Can this be the authority for a custom still followed by so many old nurses, of thrusting a piece of butter with Sugar into the mouth of a newly-born infant?