The Health Risks of White Refined Sugar

This letter and article can be sent to the head teacher of your child’s school if, like me, you feel that the amount of white refined sugar on offer throughout the school day is excessive.  Issues such as sweets being given as rewards by the teachers; parents constantly selling cakes, ice creams, and lollies of the poorest quality for fundraising; confectionary given for snacks; and puddings at lunch. I have been in school staff rooms where there are baskets of cheap biscuits on the tables, and the staff just eat them because they are available and was shocked that there was no fruit basket as a healthy option.

For many adults and children sugar is a habit that they never question. As a former class rep, school council rep, and school governor at various schools my children have attended over the past ten years I have experienced a lot of resistance, from both staff and parents, with regard to limiting white refined sugar for the children.  These people have, in my opinion, not considered their own poor food choices and as a result, many were obese.  To have an obese individual tell me as a fit size 8 woman that sugar is necessary for health was quite bizarre, but such is the power of the ego and denial.

My attempts to educate them about the natural sweeteners available, such as local honey and maple syrup, were immediately dismissed as being ‘too expensive’, without any research on their part.  My suggestion to limit the number of sweet options and therefore save money to spend on one quality option was simply ignored.  They were determined not to look at their own sugar addictions and as a result, were passing on their own health problems to the next generation.  My hope is that if more mothers and fathers write to their schools, this problem can be addressed.

Template Letter

At previous schools my children have attended I requested that they should not be given puddings at school because of the detrimental health effects of white refined sugar. One school had a ‘no sugar list’ and fruit was made available as a substitute to the puddings served after lunch.

Research has proven refined white sugar has a negative impact on general health in the long term but also their mental health in the short term. Refined white sugar is widely known to cause tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity yet it also has the capacity to throw our hormones and neurotransmitters out of balance, causing havoc with our emotions and mental health. In addition white sugar strips the body of essential minerals which affects the immune system.

It could be said that removing refined sugar from the school menus is of particular importance to children as it may reduce absence from school due to illness and improve academic performance due to increased attendance and concentration. Puddings could be eliminated and instead, fruit salad, plain yoghurts and other naturally sweet things such as honey could be offered instead. Fruit yoghurts containing added sugar could be substituted with plain yoghurt sweetened with fresh berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

Please find below more detailed research I have conducted which explains the health risks of refined sugar.

Yours sincerely

The Health Risks of White Refined Sugar

Research has proven that white refined sugar has a negative impact on general health in the long term but also mental health in the short term. Refined white sugar is widely known to cause tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity yet it also has the capacity to throw our hormones and neurotransmitters out of balance, causing havoc with our emotions and mental health.

It could be said that removing refined sugar from the school menus is of particular importance to children as it may reduce absence from school due to illness and improve academic performance due to increased attendance and concentration.

However, children might feel aggrieved if puddings were taken off the menu completely so many nutritionists, naturopaths, and health-conscious people suggest the substitution of refined white sugar with natural sugar substitutes. In high quantities natural sugars will also spike insulin and cause obesity but they do not strip the body of essential minerals as refined sugar does so they are considered to be a less detrimental alternative when used in moderation.

Sugar Substitutes

  • Billingtons molasses sugar (in equal measure)
  • Local honey (in equal measure)
  • Organic maple syrup (half the required amount)
  • Organic dates/date syrup
  • Coconut palm sugar

Dr Mercola advises that ‘reducing your sugar intake should be on the top of your list, regardless of whether you’re currently overweight or not’. [1] He bases this opinion on the research of Nancy Appleton, PhD who references articles from a variety of medical journals and other scientific publications to demonstrate that sugar has 100 negative of metabolic consequences on the human body. [2] Some effects are long term such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and premature ageing while others relate specifically to the effects on our children in the short term:

  • Suppression of the immune system impairing defences against infectious diseases.
  • Deficiencies in chromium and copper.
  • Malabsorption of calcium and magnesium.
  • Rapid rises in adrenaline causing hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children but also drowsiness and decreased activity when they come down.
  • Acidic saliva causing tooth decay, and periodontal disease.
  • Lower vitamin E levels.
  • Reduced learning capacity; poor results and learning disorders.
  • Hormonal imbalances such as: increasing oestrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone.
  • Worsening the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Compromising adrenal gland function creating problems with stress management.

Nancy Appleton explains that when children in juvenile rehabilitation camps were put on a low sugar diet there was a 44 per cent drop in antisocial behaviour.

The theory that refined carbohydrates such as flour and sugar have a negative effect on health was discovered in the 1930s by Dr Weston Price. He travelled the world examining the teeth and skulls of every primitive race he could find. In his landmark work ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’ he demonstrates that when these tribes were exposed to white sugar and white flour they experienced tooth decay and degenerative diseases for the first time. His work has never been challenged. [3]

The negative effects of refined sugar are caused by the digestive process of glycolysis, which breaks down glucose into energy (ATP). Each step is driven by enzyme reactions with vitamins C, B, zinc, chromium, and magnesium as co factors. Since refined white sugar is devoid of nutrients the body has to draw from its nutrient reserves to metabolize it, therefore using up more nutrients than it supplies. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride says that ‘to metabolise only one molecule of sugar the body requires around 56 molecules of magnesium. Consumption of sugar is a major reason for widespread magnesium deficiency … leading to high blood pressure, neurological, immune and many other problems’. [4]

The regular consumption of refined white sugar therefore depletes nutrient stores which has a knock-on effect in how the body functions. Dr Carolyn Dean explains that ‘drawing on the body’s nutrient reserves can also lead to chronic mineral deficits, especially in magnesium (a mineral required for more than 300 different enzyme activities) and chromium (a trace element that regulates hormones such as insulin), putting you at risk for dozens of diseases, from depression to attention deficit disorder to asthma.’ [5]

She also explains how refined sugar compromises immune function: ‘Two cans of soda (which contain 24 teaspoons of sugar) reduce the efficiency of white blood cells by 92 per cent – an effect that lasts up to five hours, according to Kenneth Bock MD an expert in nutritional and environmental health. Since white blood cells are an integral part of your immune system, if you happen to meet a nasty virus or bacteria within five hours of drinking a few colas, your immune system may be unable to fight off the invader.’ [5]

Refined white sugar is the worst kind of sugar for the body because the refining process strips the sugar cane plant of its naturally occurring nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The refining process removes 93 per cent of its chromium, 89 per cent of its manganese, 98 per cent of its cobalt, 83 per cent of its copper, 98 per cent of its zinc, and 98 per cent of its magnesium. In the 1920s, Sir Frederick Banting, a Canadian medical researcher scientist who first discovered insulin, visited Panama to study diabetes. He found almost no incidence among the workers who ate the whole sugarcane plant daily but the disease was rampant in the group of Spanish employers who ate the end product: refined white sugar. [5]

Low levels of magnesium and B Vitamins have been found in people suffering from anxiety and depression. Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can also be caused by vegetarian and vegan diets, is recognised by medical professionals as a cause of anxiety. Dr Myhill says that ‘psychological problems in children and anxiety are rising because of Western diets rich in sugar and refined carbohydrate. This results in a tendency to hypoglycaemia which causes adrenaline release and therefore exacerbates any underlying tendency to anxiety.’ [6]
Dr Wilson explains that ‘our nervous system requires several dozen minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and amino acids to function at all properly. Deficiencies of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, D3 and E are rampant, especially if one eats any refined foods.’ [7]

Christiane Northrup MD believes that magnesium is important because it ‘helps keep adrenal stress hormones under control and also helps maintain normal brain function’. [8]

In its natural form, the sugar cane plant is a complex carbohydrate, which means it contains all the properties of a whole food: vitamins, enzymes, and minerals. The refining process turns it into a simple carbohydrate or a devitalized artificial product. The fructose contained in fruit is a natural, whole food, which can be easily digested by the body with no stress or depletion of mineral stores. Fruit is a complex carbohydrate and a complete food containing vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. When complex carbohydrates are broken down, the result is a usable glucose molecule. Simple (refined) carbohydrates are not easily broken down so they ferment in the digestive tract to make alcohol, acetic acid, and carbon dioxide, which cannot be used by the body. [9]

The NHS currently recommends ‘no more than 19g a day for children aged 4 to 6 years old (5 sugar cubes), and no more than 24g (6 sugar cubes) for children aged 7 to 10 years old. [10] These upper limits can easily be reached at breakfast time with foods that are typically considered ‘healthy’: fruit juices, yoghurts, and cereals can contain shocking amounts of added refined sugar. Fruit-flavoured yogurts can contain upwards of 19 grams of sugar; 12 grams of which is added sugar while a 150ml glass of fruit juice can contain 12.9g. An article in the Telegraph reported that ‘children’s breakfast cereals can contain as much as three teaspoons of sugar – the equivalent of two and a half chocolate biscuits’. In a 30g serving the children’s cereals with the highest sugar content are Coco Pops with 12g, Kellogg’s Frosties with 11g, and Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut also with 11g. [11]

Campbell-McBride MD, Natasha Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Medinform Publishing, 2010.

Additional Links
Type 2 diabetes mellitus in children and adolescents:

Jamie Oliver’s Documentary ‘Sugar Rush’
Short version:

Further Reading

John Yudkin, Pure, White & Deadly Penguin 1972, 0-14-008353-7*&keywords=&publisher=&min_year=&max_year=&minprice=&maxprice=


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