Sugar has a deeper bearing on human dietetics than most people realize. It holds the position of the traditional two-edged sword of Eden, suspended over the gateway to the field of moral evolution. It constitutes the acid test of human self-control - an ever-present tempter to laxity of moral fibre in forms of self-indulgence.
The very presence in commerce of extracted sugar demonstrates at once that a violation of the laws of nature has taken place, and that a dietetic non-descript has been let loose in the world. Being an article of isolation and reduction, the very production of sugar means that nature has been compelled to surrender her balance of power and dignity of purpose, to serve the interests of an over-stimulated, overfed organism.
The relation of the creature to the Creator, and of man to nature, is expressed in harmony, co-operation and reciprocity. Every form of life and growth in nature has a definite, self explanatory meaning, and occupies well-de-fined zones of usefulness and necessity. The fruit, the grain, the vegetable are complete entities, well-balanced compounds, containing in the easiest digestible and assimilative form, the elements needed for the strongest expression of a given type of life. In the evolution of nature a creative or constructive chemistry is at work, in which the needs of life are so minutely and intelligently recognized, that every detail in its composition refers to positive needs and necessities of the various organisms.
From this it follows that a disturbance of the integrity of these harmonious compounds in the form of extraction, concentration, separation, conglomeration, etc., by and through which the original character of the compound is lost, is a violation of physiological laws, that will result in a rupture between man and nature, and in the prevention of the former of getting the full benefit of the poised and measured balance of elements held suspended as unit-power in the vegetable form.
The loss to life and personality involved in this vital alienation, between man and nature, can never be adequately realized. For it is not only a loss of the elements removed in and by the process of extraction, but as a result of the latter, the evolution of alien, microscopic entities - organized ferments which, in the form of parasites, proceed to attack and devitalize the organism in which they find a lodgement. The extract, which in a greater degree than any other, attacks and usurps the human organism, is the extract of sugar.
Sugar as an extract is a form of decomposition brought into existence by means of a breaking up of the substance in which it was physiologically, biologically and constitutionally contained. The valuable, life-sustaining properties of sodium, potassium, magnesium contained in the beet, the fruit and the sugar cane, are practically lost in the sugar; while the oxygen represented in the 44 per cent of water in the natural combination, is entirely lost in the extract. The following comparison between the natural and the artificial forms of sugar will readily show the dangerous character of the latter when used in the preparation of our food:
The result of the conversion, or rather subversion, of the natural sugar into artificial sugar is readily surmised. The sugar, entering the system in the ruptured, devitalized condi tion, is trembling under the raging affinity, for the elements from which it has artificially been separated. And as these elements are present in the gastric secretions, it follows that the stomach will become the field of action for a most important chemical affinity by which the sugar will complete and replenish its own deficiencies at the expense of the digestive secretions. As the carbon in the sugar proceeds to extract the oxygen held in the gastric juice, the latter by the loss of this sustaining and balancing element, breaks down into decomposition with the subsequent evolution of carbonic acid gas, ammonia, oxy-bacterial acid, etc., - the output, of course, depending for its type and character on the nature of the food present in the stomach and involved in the decomposition. The destiny of the food after having entered the stomach has only two possibilities: digestion or decomposition. And whenever the normal consistency of the gastric juice has been interfered with, whenever the artificial sweets of extracts, mixed in the foods are chemically combining with the oxygen in the hydro-chloric acid of the stomach secretions, an orderly digestion is impossible. The gastric juice, failing to dissolve and peptonize the ingested foodstuffs, cannot prevent the fermentation and decomposition of the latter or defend the digestic field from being swamped by the bacterial invasion following in the wake of the digestive breakdown.
"Free" - i.e., extracted or concentrated - sugar, cannot be indulged in without incurring a penalty in the loss of strength and vitality to the system, though the harm may not be directly noticeable. For diseases are cumulative, and grow under the false truce of silence and quietude. Physiological, like elemental storms, are generated under a clear firmament, and manifest first after every element is adjusted and charged for the outbreak. Temporary escape - though it may serve as an argument for the short-sighted, and an encouragement for the weak - is a mere makeshift of systemic resistance, which to the very last exerts a native effort to survive, against overpowering odds of dietetic transgressions.
Nor is the ever-present craving for sweets a sign for its legitimacy to be enjoyed, - though we may often hear the arguments that whatever the system craves, is normal and necessary for its sustenance. The craving for the extracted form of sugar, however, arises from the very fermentation which its presence in the stomach brings about. For the process of fermentation gives rise to the stimulation and flush of energy of the system coupled with the intoxication of the nerves through the generation of alcohol, and the subsequent rush of nervous power caused by the sudden demands on the general system for assistance to subdue the gastric upheaval. This rush of vital energy from the central nervous system to the field of digestion, gives the sensation of great physical power, though in reality, the entire process spells profound exhaustion and loss to every cell or nerve center involved.
Thus, normal strength is generated unconsciously and unnoticed in those undefiled laboratories of the vegetable life - the cells of nutrition - and reaches self-consciousness and individual recognition only under the form of health, endurance and poise. Hence, any form of stimulation to the system is a vital expense, like a draft on a bank account, which in order to be safe, and physiologically legitimate, must be sustained by energy-bearing elements. Indeed the very strength we feel from a stimulant should warn us from its continuance, unless the stimulation is derived from natural energy-producing sources, viz: food, air and water.
Now as to sugar, its stimulating power and inherent seductiveness, has its genesis in the very devitalization and impoverishment of the substance itself. Being a mere extract, the sugar is to its real nature a disrupted, devitalized substance, in which oxygen, as already seen, is almost entirely removed. Hence, its entrance into the human organism is that of a thing of prey and plunder - raging and hungering for the elements of which it has been robbed; and as oxygen is especially among the missing properties, its affinity for this extremely important element is irresistible. In other words, sugar absorbs oxygen in the gastric and intestinal secretions, as a sponge sucks up water - persuing it with the insatiable drain of affinity throughout the entire field of oxygenation. Similar attacks are waged on the other elements of nutrition, such as potassium, sodium, etc., on which the sugar has suffered a loss, leading to the metabolic climax when digestion is perverted into fermentation, and assimilation into decomposition.
It is thus readily seen how the appetite or craving for extracted sweets found its controlling influence over the taste. It drains with a resistless suction every cell of the system, for oxygen and other elements, which are demanded by the digestion to replenish the losses suffered by the gastric and intestinal tissues and secretions through the ravages of fermentation and decomposition. Yet this is not all. If the sugar is consumed in connection with food, the inevitable fermentation of the latter gives rise to the evolution of alcohol and other toxins, the action of which takes effect on the nerves in the exhilaration of the senses known as intoxication - followed by the same vital exhausture and subsequent urge for renewed stimulation. Hence candy-eating is practically a subjective and disguised form of alcoholic inebriety, which in some way or other, leads up to a similar ultimate collapse of physiological and mental power.
The stimulus thus imparted to the gastric enervations reacts in demands of the latter which are utterly false and unreliable. The rush of systemic energy, sweeping through the secretory cells, may induce a sense of hunger, even at the time when the stomach is overcharged with food. Hence the readiness of the stomach, even at the breaking point of surfeit, to accommodate for the long chain of dishes of which the conventional dinner is made up - an accommodation that spells future ruin to the entire system.
In dietetic strictness, the relish of sugar is physiologically legitimate in one form only - the form which nature has rounded out and completed in harmonious fullness of taste, health and digestibility: the fruit. It is in this form that we can enjoy every prompting of taste and relish, without incurring the penalty of a reaction of suffering. But even here we are held under the limitation of inviolable conditions: fruit must be enjoyed perfectly ripe and uncombined with any other food. It is the aristocrat of diet and suffers no rivalry or partnership in its occupancy of the digestive tract. Hence the safest time of the day to enjoy fruit is about two hours before a meal. In the ordinary routine of meals, this would be at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
On the other hand there are exigencies and conditions when fruit may be artificially sweetened. So, for instance, in the employment of sugar in the preservation or seasoning of fruit, we have a logical and hygienic basis in the fact that sugar is a natural ingredient in fruit, being one of its main and indispensable elements. With perhaps the exception of the lemon, all full-grown and perfectly ripe fruits are sweet and congenial, both to the palate and to the gastric juice. When, however, the fruit has had an incomplete ripening owing to insufficient exposure to the sun, or to an excess of humidity in the air and soil, etc., or perhaps in a premature picking, its acidity has had neither the time nor the conditions to accomplish its evolution into a natural sweetness. To avoid the corrosion which this unmodified acidity may have upon the lining of a sensitive stomach and intestines, it may, by way of expediency, be advisable to artificially increase the sugar percentage of the fruit, preferably by the aid of cooking. This sweetening of the fruit tends to balance up its deficiency of sugar, and thus by a neutralization of its acidity, bring about an arbitrary, though under the circumstances, hygenically defensible ripening. This expediency, of course, would only be advisable in the absence of ripe fruit, or - as in the northern climes - in the absence of fresh fruit at all.
But when this sweetening process is extended to foodstuffs whose composition, complete in itself, makes no constitutional demand for an increased percentage of sweets, as in the case of vegetables and cereals, and in the various forms of mushes and pastry, etc., the matter of adding free sugar to the food takes on altogether different aspects. In this case the science of nutrition cannot present a single logical argument in its favor. To add sugar to the mush or breadstuffs in any form, is contrary to the constitutional needs of the starch, and can never amalgamate with its starchy material. Hence such a mixture can only amount to a mechanical, not a chemical or vital association; and when the foodstuff enters the stomach and comes in touch with the gastric secretions, where the oxygen, iron and vegetable salts, presenting a greater affinity for the sugar, cause the latter to desert the starch, to enter into a combination with the gastric secretions and its tissues. This, of course, gives rise to the usual fermentation and decomposition of the food-material, with all its incidents of systemic poisoning.
A last objection to the consumption of sugar in connection with starch or proteids, lies in the fact that its digestion proceeds at a far quicker rate than that of the proteids, and consequently leaves these foodstuffs without the available gastric juice for their successful digestion.