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samedi 25 octobre 2014


When I began working with the Indians, I used to introduce myself as the Sugar Doctor, in keeping with the humour of the times. I distinctly remember, when giving a conference on Type 2 Diabetes among the Indians, Louis LR, Chairman of the Hocanks, impishly questioned me publicly?
Are you a White Sugar Doctor or a Brown Sugar Doctor?
Of course the pun was intended since Brown here referred to my skin colour as well as the rising popularity of Brown Sugar.
Before arriving at the Clinic of the Mexican Kickapoo, properly referred as Texas Traditional Tribe of Kickapoo, they would put up a sign saying, The Sugar Doctor will be here next week. The Clinic Nurse was to later report to me that; the sign alone had tremendous effect on the Type 2 Diabetics among them. In fact, she reminded me, after they see that notice, their blood sugar begin to go down.

After many years being with them, now I can understand the Symbolic Healing offered by the Sign proclaiming The Sugar Doctor will be here!
They did use the term Brown to denote my appearance since they have another word, Makate, which they use to describe Blacks, now identified as African-Americans, of whom there were hardly any in their town in the USA but there is community of descendants of Black slaves of the Seminole Indians, now well mexicanized near the sacred grounds in Nacimiento de los Negros in Coahuila, Mexico
Yesterday morning I was discussing matters of nutritional importance to my friend, Dr. W and he was preparing a nice cup of coffee for me. Of course I will never have any of the artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, and give me Brown Sugar, I told him.
That made me think, what are the advantages of Brown Sugar over say White Sugar?
I don't need any convincing about the ill effects upon health of Splenda or other artificial sweetener such as Aspartame (used in Diet Drinks).
But what about the White Sugar? And is Brown Sugar healthier than the White Sugar? Where did the brown sugar come from or where did white sugar get its colour?
And finally where did sugar come from, which part of the world, and having lived in at least two countries (Cuba, Jamaica) with precious history of Sugar and two states with corporate ties to Sugar (Florida, in the USA and Queensland in Australia), I was prompted to look into it.
The Cane from which sugar is refined is a reed and possibly had its first use as a sweetener in the region now we now know as Papua-New Guinea. But traders brining it to India, was the crucial step in its dissemination to the rest of the world, since the first refining may have taken place in India in or around 5th Century of the Common Era.
Two great Hindu Physicians, Charaka and Sushruta had mentioned in their writings about a disease they called MadhuMeha or Honey Urine Disease, which we now call Diabetes Mellitus (thus named by Arateus the Cappadocian, meaning Syphon, since he observed polyuria in his patients with this illness). He seemed to have practiced medicine in the second century of CE.

The Hindu physicians not only correctly identified the two types of Diabetes, which we now know are Type 1 and Type 2, but also had observed the effects of refining of sugar and its increased consumption to the onset of the “gluttonous type of Honey Urine Disease”.
Refined sugar travelled with the Arabs to the Iberian Peninsula and from there to the Caribbean. Cuba at one time held the record for being the biggest producer of good quality sugar. (It is worthwhile to note that despite that Cuba had one of the lowest levels of Type 2 Diabetes in the world until recently, around 1990s, the prevalence began to increase, so did the obesity)
SO ONE EVIDENCE IN FAVOUR OF MY ARGUMENT: It is not refined Sugar, the white table sugar, Sucrose, a mixture of Glucose and Fructose that causes Diabetes, but some other changes in the society has to accompany the increasing sugar intake. Also here we have to make the distinction, Sugar or Sucrose is made from Cane Juice by evaporation and refining and artificial sugars are just that, chemically produced the most famous of which is High Fructose Corn Syrup which is made from Corn and now, its relative Maltodextrin. There is also non-absorbing sugar alcohol like Erythritol, Mallitol which are found in Chewing Gum, Truvia etc.  But always read labels, chemicals are chemicals and watch out for the company they keep. Truvia which sound rather healthy because of its sonorous similarity to Stevia, the sugar plant of the Indians of the South, is Mallitol plus Maltodextrin. You would also see that it contains:
Rebiana is the trade name for high-purity rebaudioside A, a steviol glycoside that is 200 times sweeter than sugar!
My advice, Cargill the agricultural giant that manufactures Truvia is not known for ethical practices, so stay away!
Back to Brown Sugar..

Natural brown sugar, raw sugar or whole cane sugar are sugars that retain a small to large amount of the molasses from the mother liquor (the partially evaporated sugar cane juice). Based upon weight, brown cane sugar when fully refined yields up to 70% white sugar, the degree depending on how much molasses remained in the sugar crystals, which in turn is dependent upon whether the brown sugar was centrifuged or not.  As there is more molasses in natural brown sugar, it contains minor nutritional value and mineral content. Some natural brown sugars have particular names and characteristics, and are sold as turbinado, demerara or raw sugar if they have been centrifuged to a large degree. Brown sugars that have been only mildly centrifuged or unrefined (non-centrifuged) retain a much higher degree of molasses and are called various names across the globe according to their country of origin: e.g. panela, rapadura, jaggery, muscovado, pilconcillo etc.

Turbinado, Demerara and so-called "Raw" sugars are made from crystallized, partially evaporated sugar cane juice, spun in a centrifuge to remove almost all of the molasses. The sugar crystals are large and golden coloured. This sugar can be sold as is or sent to the refinery to produce white sugar
Muscovado, panela, pilconcillo, jaggery and other natural dark brown sugars have been minimally centrifuged or not all at all. Typically these sugars are made in smaller factories or "cottage industries" in developing nations, where they are produced with outdated, traditional practices that do not make use of industrialized vacuum evaporators or centrifuges. They are commonly boiled in open pans, upon wood fired stores until the sugar cane juice reaches approximately 30% of the former volume and sucrose crystallization begins. They are then poured into molds to solidify or onto cooling pans where they are beaten or worked vigorously to produce a granulated brown sugar. In some countries, such as Mauritius or the Philippines, partially centrifuging the evaporated and crystallizing cane juice to create a sugar-crystal rich mush, which is allowed to drain under gravity to produce varying degrees of molasses content in the final product, produce a natural brown sugar called muscovado. This process approximates a slightly modernized practice introduced in the 19th century to generate a better quality of natural brown sugar. A similar Japanese version of uncentrifuged natural cane sugar is called kokuto (Kanji: 黒糖). This is a regional specialty of Okinawa, and is often sold in the form of large lumps. It is sometimes used to make shochu. (Information on Brown sugar freely available from Wikipedia).
So I cannot argue with my friend, Dr. W, the commercially sold Brown sugar has no greater health benefit than the smugness you may feel about having chosen Brown Sugar but the artisanal brown sugars are still healthier than the white or commercial brown stuff, as they may contain minerals.
As the Brown Sugar Doctor to the Traditional Kickapoo, I can only say:

Pass me the Brown Sugar.. Let me enjoy my Coffee

It is good to have friends like Dr W, who keep an open mind and offer constructive criticism. Here are his comments, published here verbatim. Thank You, Dr W.and L'Chaim, to Life!
Dear S, I'm sorry to say this but I do feel that it would be somewhat irresponsible for you to disseminate this article to laypeople. I think it is a mistake to equate artificial sweeteners as "chemicals" while implying that brown sugar Is natural.

This makes me think of a point that I recently heard in a weight watchers meeting. A 5 pound package of sugar could be sold labeled as "fat free" giving the implication that is a promoter of health.   Of course we would agree that nothing could be further from the truth.

The word "chemical" carries an Implication that something is bad. Please be reminded penicillin is a "chemical", so is oleic acid. As is chemotherapy. It requires some education and knowledge to determine which chemicals are good and which Chemicals are bad for us.   Just as the term "fat free" requires a similar education to be interpreted correctly so as not to be misleading.

And even things that are truly natural which these days are hard to find can be eaten to excess leading to conditions that are just as Pernicious as the ingestion of smaller quantities of substances or chemicals that we may be consider to be toxic.

So in summary, I say please be careful with your semantics. I believe our opinions are pretty much on the same page but you must be very careful as words have multiple meetings and can be very deceiving. I also disagree with the notion that artificial sweetener is bad in all cases. For many people Have been able to lose large amounts of weight by utilizing artificial sweeteners. I think it all depends on the quantity and the particular artificial sweetener involved. Choose your chemical: sucrose, Sucrose with a brown color caused by an insignificant trace of minerals versus erythritol.  I think that the Answer for most of us depends on individual genetics, predisposition to insulin spikes And of course on quantity consumed, etc. More need for individualized medicine is clear.

Unfortunately this leaves the layperson almost as confused as the physicians. I think the jury is still out on artificial sweeteners. Is anyone able to provide scientific evidence That overall mortality is higher in consumers of artificial sweeteners than in consumers of sucrose?