© 2012 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

 Those of you that may have already read our book Killer Colas may remember that we asserted that drinking soda is much like drinking battery acid. You may also remember that we tried several times to replicate a demonstration from Mr. Jacobs’ youth where freshly pulled teeth from a nearby dentist where the teeth dissolved in Coke within about a week and a half or thereabouts. Suffice it to say the teeth didn’t dissolve and we gave up.

In the book, we did present rumors and other assertions from news that the phosphoric acid in most soda brands could be used for all kinds of non-drinking uses like degreasing engine blocks and in one case from India was an amazingly effective pesticide. But, we had to pass these reports on as less than fully confirmed because the articles we based them on were either not found in the mountain of research material used for the book or came from dubious sources. Now we have lawyers and experts from Pepsi on record about the acidity of at least one soda: Mountain Dew.

In 2009, an Illinois man bought a soda at the local convenience store. He pops the top and finds a mouse in the can. After experiencing what might have been an entertaining Ick Dance (at least to the disinterested who got unadulterated sodas), the gentlemen in question performs as expected of the average American and sues everybody even remotely related to this disgusting experience, including Pepsi.

Part of the suit alleges that the soda company willfully took the mouse for testing it and then not returning the carcass to the plaintiff in a condition unusable for court or independent testing. So far this sounds like the normal sort of skullduggery that goes on every day when these kinds of lawsuits finally make it onto the schedule. Maybe Pepsi destroyed the evidence. Maybe the plaintiff is sweetening his case with an exaggeration. The jury will split the baby as the saying goes. Currently, the case is at an advanced pretrial stage discussing last minute motions and such.

But, what is really interesting from the point of view of health writers is what Pepsi’s people just recently said trying not to give the plaintiff money, whether the $325,000 filed against Pepsi, the convenience store and store employees, or the reported $50,000 still on the table after the plaintiff’s lawyers clearly advised him to keep his eyes on the prize: Pepsico’s deep pockets. The defense strategy: the plaintiff could not have encountered the alleged dead rodent because the acid in the soda would have dissolved the body in the time between bottling and sale.

Apparently, the can was bottled in 2008 and sold in November 2009 according to court documents. Pepsi’s expert testified that the mouse would not have been found in the solid state with soft tissue intact because the year interval would have turned the mouse into a “jelly-like substance.” No assertions in court documents were made to assert tampering after being bottled. Also, no mention was made if said jelly would have still made for an unpleasant drinking experience worthy of earning a settlement.

You heard it here, there and maybe everywhere that the acid in soda is one of many reasons to stop drinking soda. Though we must admit that the possibility that on a particular production day in 2008 a dead mouse escaped both the Pepsico and the local government health inspection processes ranks almost as high.


New Years Resolutions

© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

Resolutions, we’ve all made them. Usually, they last two weeks. So how do we give ourselves the best chance of meeting the next batch due in just a few weeks?

Perhaps the problem is that we attach too much to New Years as a time of new beginnings. We get too worked up over the change in calendar, which could put so much pressure on “I resolve to eat better and exercise” or “I resolve to read more books.” The pressure can cause us to freeze up and fail the resolution.

One possible way to give yourself a chance is to shift the New Years metaphor to some other date. Start the regimen in March quietly and without fanfare and maybe you’ll last long enough to change a few bad habits. My son, a writer, for the past two Novembers has tried to write a 50 thousand word novel in thirty days. He got close both times glad to take a half-loaf victory until he came across a suggestion to shift adherence to the challenge to August from another writer. Apparently, this writer admitted he enjoyed the fall TV schedule too much.

But, deferring the promise to yourself until an easier time with less pressure may not be enough to make things work. Some of us still need to figure out a way to eat less sugar and exercise more, right now. In almost no cases do I recommend anything like going cold turkey when it comes to such difficult things as cutting down on sugar, losing weight or becoming healthier. Few people can just quit sugar or any of the other harmful addictive foods in their diet. This is how New Years resolutions crash and burn.

My favorite trick is the half as much as yesterday approach, which I first discussed in my first book Lick the Sugar Habit. Take stock of your sugar intake today and then eat half as much tomorrow. Repeat the process the day after that. In a purely, mathematical sense using half as much sugar means you’d never completely cut out sugar. But, in the real world there is a fuzziness in measurement that means eventually within a week or so you’ll be eating so little sugar that making the last jump to eating no sugar becomes easier.

I used a similar technique when I first got my kids off sugar. Many years ago we were traveling in England and I told them they could have one sugar filled item per day. Of course, I’d already dumped the cakes and colas that were waiting for us at home. My children went with the new regime without complaint and three weeks later we came home to house where the only sugar my kids ate came from outside the house.

Lastly, it is real important to seek help from other people trying to deal with your resolutions. When all else fails talking to other people with the same concerns can help when making major life changes. This is how Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups work. People contemplating that piece of cheesecake can sometimes only be talked down by a friend. In my area of expertise, nutrition, I’ve dealt with many support groups that can help people from eating too much. My favorite is Food Addicts in Recovery because they seem to specialize in sugar addiction, but I’ve seen equally good results from Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous. I don’t have as much experience with the for profit weight loss programs like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, but I support anything that comes with a support system.

A person with the right plan and support can do anything, so whether waiting for an off month to start, using some variation of the half as much plan or reaching out for the right help any reasonable resolution is achievable. Do your best.

© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D. & G.N. Jacobs

Children’s chewable and gummy vitamins may possibly be the worst thing for your child. We’ve been told for years that our children may need the supplements to make up for shortfalls of key nutrients in their diets. Considering how difficult it may be to convince kids to eat their greens parents believed what they were told. The problem seems to be a whole lot of sugar and other sweeteners on the label.

I have long held the position that the last thing anyone wants to do when taking nutritional supplements is to cut the vitamins and minerals with sugar. Sugar affects the precise mineral balance of the body causing the body’s systems to stop working properly. As you may remember from Lick the Sugar Habit and Suicide by Sugar, I highlighted the Calcium-Phosphorus Ratio calculated from the levels on the basic blood test as the most common indicator of a lack of homeostasis. No vitamin, mineral or medicinal herb will ever work for you when you take it with sugar.

As a result, sugar and similar sweeteners have been linked to obesity, diabetes, asthma, diarrhea and many other ailments. So let’s take a look at a random sampling of a few children’s vitamin labels. A few of these ‘healthy’ supplements are eye opening in terms of how much sweetener has been jammed into those tiny chewables. Just so you know, many food and supplement producers will use the legal requirement for a label to list in descending order of quantity using up to four different types of sweetener to create a label that might read like this (Primary Food or Nutritional Item, Sucrose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Maltose, Lactose, Dextrose…) when the real truth in the label is (SUGAR, Primary Food Item…). The first label is thought to sell the product better, because no one says they want to eat that much sugar.

Disney Princess Gummies – The key offenders on this Nutrition Facts Label are many – corn syrup, sugar, grape juice concentrate, modified corn starch, purple berry color concentrate (maqui berry concentrate and sugar), maltodextrin and farther down the list, mannitol. Just so you know, the manufacturer that paid for Disney’s brand likenesses had to pay $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission for false claims of promoting healthy brain and eye development.

Flintstones Complete Gummies – Perhaps these vitamins are less horrible for your children; glucose syrup and glucose being the only recognizable sweeteners found on this particular label. But, any sugar in the mix is the problem.

Gummi King Sugar Free Multivitamins – A vegan friendly line that lists at the top of the label maltitol and maltitol syrup. PETA supports this brand with an endorsement as being animal friendly.

Centrum has possibly the worst offender with their Centrum Kids Complete Multivitamins. This label list has sucrose (sugar), microcrystalline cellulose, mannitol, pregelatinized cornstarch, mono- and di-glycerides, aspartame, cornstarch, dextrose, dried corn syrup, hypromellose, lactose, maltodextrin, medium chain triglycerides, modified cornstarch and tocopherols. Additionally on this label you will find a few chemicals not from the sugar and other sweetener family that also kill you eventually, including sodium benzoate and propylene glycol alginate.

Sodium benzoate is a preservative found in soda that can turn into benzine, a highly flammable carcinogen. Bon appetite! Propylene Glycol Alginate is anti-freeze, typically a sweet tasting, but lethal kissing cousin to alcohol that requires medical attention within minutes. Sometimes HFCS is made from corn with chemicals like glutaraldehyde, an embalming fluid, linked to headaches, burning eyes and asthma. Mercury is also used in the production process and one estimate puts the mercury contamination of HFCS at somewhere between one half and one third of all the produced sweetener.

Lastly, I wanted to remind the reader that sugar alcohols like mannitol and maltitol are sweeteners somewhere between sugars and alcohol that won’t get you drunk, but can still affect your health in many ways including gas, bloating and diarrhea. So before you deal with the recent possibility that the vitamin supplements themselves may be harmful or at least not as beneficial as advertised, we have to get the sugar out of the supplements. Don’t give your kids those Flintstones!












Morning Coffee

© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D. & G.N. Jacobs

 There was an old cartoon about how in the old days we would meet over coffee and cigarettes to discuss our problems, but now coffee and cigarettes are our problems. Forty years of propaganda has had an affect on smoking, but we really love our coffee a fact that has kept Starbucks in business. This is despite a similar wealth of studies about caffeine being unhealthy to drink.

Caffeine may help give you osteoporosis and several other diseases of the modern age like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Additionally, too much caffeine can have mental and emotional effects like increasing anxiety and aggression and the drink is quite addictive.

Metabolically, the culprit is caffeine’s effect on the body’s sugar cycle.  Catecholmines are released raising the heart rate and excess sugar into the bloodstream. This leads to both high blood sugar and low blood sugar because the pancreas can overreact to wipe out the excess. The high part of the cycle is why we drink coffee and then we crash when the blood sugar becomes too low. Type-2 diabetes results when the pancreas quits working after sustained abuse in this cycle.

Bone loss occurs in this process because calcium is pulled from bones to even out the acidity of too much sugar in the blood. The pH returns to an equilibrium at the expense of the bones. Supplements don’t help because the body is completely out of homeostasis, just as if sugar had replaced the caffeine in the diet. The patient is simply chasing an imbalance with more imbalances.

Some studies suggest that 3 cups of regular coffee can pull 45 ml of calcium from the bones. The body excretes the excess into the urine never to return until the patient stops the cycle by eating healthier and exercising more. Over time this daily dose will weaken anybody’s bones.

Caffeinated coffee has also been shown to raise cholesterol across the board leading to concerns about heart attacks and strokes. The testing suggests that a half-cup of regular coffee may be the upper limit before the effects kick in.

Caffeine also raises blood pressure. One study hooked drinkers up to automatic monitoring devices and let them drink their normal coffee intake. The heavy drink segment (3 to 6 daily cups) showed dramatic rises in blood pressure, but only during morning hours where most of the coffee was consumed.

Entomologists fed caffeine to insects and discovered that insects get just as irritable and anxious as humans suggesting that caffeine evolved as a natural pest repellent. We refer to ‘coffee jitters’ and tell people to drink more decaf when dealing with those who can’t relax. Naturally, this hyper state can lead to anxiety even panic attacks. Panic has long been recognized as precursor to rage and aggression can increase with long-term coffee usage. Hospitals that remove caffeine from the vending machines notice decreases in damage from angry patients and guests.

Lastly, we want to warn people that the cheaper methods for making decaf coffee may also be part of the problem because instead of using water the manufacturer uses chemical stripping agents that may still be in the coffee grounds in trace amounts. Many of these chemicals may cause cancer or other such problems. Reading labels, or better, yet, drinking less coffee, can solve this issue.


Carmel, Harold, “Caffeine and Aggression” HOSPITAL AND COMMUNITY PSYCHIATRY. June, 1991;42(6):637-638.

Conway, Claire, “Truth and Consequences of Coffee” STANFORD MEDICINE. Winter 1991;24-26.

Fried Roy E. et al., “The Effect of Filtered Coffee Consumption on Plasma Lipid Levels: Result of a Randonized Clinical Trial” Journal of the American Medical Association. Feb.12, 1992;267(6):811-815.

Holiday Dining

© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D & G.N. Jacobs

It’s the holiday season! The food on the holiday table looms almost like a movie monster photographed with all the cheesy tricks, including an appropriately ominous music score and vertigo-inducing camera moves. But, how do we enjoy the holidays without getting waylaid in the dark forest by the dreaded Dark Meat Turkey or that plate of mashed potatoes?

Everybody has heard all kinds of the platitudes and suggestions about eating less and some have merit. Perhaps you’ve been told to drink water before eating? The thinking is simple; water fills the stomach tricking the I’m Full switch into activating. Less food eaten of all kinds consumed means less calories during the holidays. But does it work?

As of February 2010, the consensus appears to be yes. The journal Obesity published an article on the subject based on a study presumably conducted during the 2009 holiday season finding results that in a three-month period older (over 55) people on a low calorie diet who drank two cups of water before each meal lost an average of 15.5 pounds compared to the control group that lost 11 pounds.

Other studies show similar results. A 2008 study shows a 13-percent reduction in calories consumed in overweight people that drank water before breakfast. A 2007 study suggested that drinking water 30 minutes before eating worked well for eating less and feeling full among the older people in the study, but not so much for the younger (under 35) respondents in the study. Personally, I think younger people have more pressure to eat up and keep up with their peers that the stress eating completely overwhelms the benefits of drinking water.

But what else can you do during the holidays to limit the damage to your waistline? One trick that works some of the time at holiday meals is to fill your plate with tiny portions of everything so the host won’t feel insulted that you skipped anything on the buffet, but not enough to overeat. Sometimes taking the salad plate through the buffet line is required to eat less. For those parties that actually set out those tiny two-pronged forks for oysters or corn, using this fork instead of the regular forks for salad and dinner may help you take smaller bites.

Another suggestion is to talk the host (or your guests) into going for a walk. I’ve never done this myself, but it seems that the holidays would be an excellent time to explore a video game with a motion capture unit like the Nintendo Wii or an Xbox 360 with a Kinect. Getting the family together for a dancing or boxing game will burn just enough calories for you to keep your nose above water, while creating those cherished family memories that are supposedly the point of holidays.

Lastly, the only other way to get through the holidays is to simply do your best and use the New Year to get back in shape.

© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D. & G.N. Jacobs

 Longtime readers may have noticed that I have consistently said to exercise, pray, meditate, write, listen to music, or even hug the kids and pet the dog before eating. Naturally, I wasn’t just making this advice up as I went along. My source is a giant of medicine Walter B. Cannon, head of the Physiology Department at Harvard for many years. The shortest word for this field is psychoneuroimmunology, which is barely descriptive.

Cannon observed that our state of being and bodies are inextricably linked. Our mouths water, when, like Homer Simpson, we smell – doonuuts! – or even healthier foods like my son’s special wine and soy sauce marinade for lamb. The nice smell causes saliva and starts the digestive process. The aroma sparks a positive association and we feel good just being nearby.

All aspects of digestion can be affected by a positive or negative state of mind. Stress out emotionally or even physically by forgetting to drink water and watch the saliva disappear. The muscle contractions called peristalsis that drive the food from the mouth to the intestines can stop or slow down. Enzymes can decrease while stomach acid increases. Nutrients may become toxic in the presence of toxic emotions, because of improper digestion.

Cannon observed that stress is a highly individualized factor completely dependent on how we choose to perceive things. Some people freak out practically running around with their heads cut off and others breathe deeply and take baby steps dealing with their problems. I’ll give you one guess which type of person typically seems healthier digesting well. Stress happens, but distress doesn’t have to.

The stress reaction is part of the Fight or Flight we all need to help us deal with that tiger that just moved into the tall grass. Stored energy is opened up and our ability to eat new food shuts down. But, we will feel the same tightness in our gut if we try to eat while feeling depressed about the day in the office. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between the tiger and a profound need to cry or shout.

Laughter has even helped people get over diseases like cancer in a small part because the patient is now fully digesting their food after relieving stress. Most problems can be handled by laughing, journaling, meditating and/or praying. A small few need professional assistance. I make no statements about prayer other than to say the body enters the same state as meditation getting the same benefits whether God is listening or not.

It makes sense that people not eat while in distress. A depressed person, say, will get no nutritional benefit from their food causing a cycle downward into more depression and anger. Remember that everything works better when you’re happy. Push away from that plate and get your head and heart on straight before eating. Don’t worry eat happy!

Suggested Reading:

Cannon, W. B. THE WISDOM OF THE BODY (New York: Norton, 1932)

© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

From their book Killer Colas © 2011 Nancy Appleton & G.N. Jacobs

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1)    Sugar-sweetened drinks can cause pancreatic cancer.[i]

2)    Soft drink consumption may lead to hyperactivity and other mental problems.[ii]

3)    Sugar-sweetened drinks can lead to obesity, heart disease and other aspects of the metabolic syndrome.[iii]

4)    Cola consumption has been linked to osteoporosis in women.[iv]

5)    Soft drinks have been linked to liver disease.[v]

6)    Many types of soft drinks have been linked to headaches.[vi]

7)    Many types of soft drinks have been linked to asthma.[vii]

8)    Energy drinks with similar ingredients to soft drinks may cause epilepsy.[viii]

9)    Soft drinks can cause development of kidney stones.[ix]

10)  Soft drinks can lead to low potassium levels (Hypokalema).[x]

[i] Larsson, SC, et al. “Consumption of Sugar and Sugar-Sweetened Foods and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in a Prospective Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84(5):1171-1176.

More citations in Killer Colas

[ii] Lars, L, et al. “Consumption of Soft Drinks and Hyperactivity, Mental Distress, and Conduct Problems among Adolescents in Oslo, Norway.” Am J Public Health 2006;;96(10):1815-1820.

[iii] Bocarslly, ME, et al. “High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Characteristics of Obesity in Rats: increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2010;97(1):101-106.

More citations in Killer Colas

[iv] Tucker, KL, et al. “Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2006; 84(4):936-942.

[v] Abid, A, et al. “Soft drink consumption is associated with fatty liver disease independent of metabolic syndrome.” J Hepatol 2009;51(5):918-924.

[vi] Koehler, S, and Glaros, A. “The effect of Aspartame on migraine headache.” Headache: the journal of head and face pain. 2006;28(1):10-14.

More citations in Killer Colas

[vii] Tarlo, SL, et al. “Asthma and anaphylactoid reactions to food additives.” Canadian Family Physician 1993;39:1119-1123.

More citations in Killer Colas

[viii] Lyadurai, SJ, et al. “New onset seizures in adults: possible association with consumption of popular energy drinks.” Epilepsy 2007;10(3):504-508.

[ix] Kirdpon, W, et al. “Soft drink consumption and urinary stone.” J Clin Epidem 1992;45:911-916.

More citations in Killer Colas

[x] Packer, CD, et al. “Chronic hypokalema due to excessive cola consumption: a case report.” Cases J 2008;1(1);32.

More citations in Killer Colas

Is it Really Aging?

© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

“What a drag it is getting old!” – Rolling Stones, Mother’s Little Helper.

I’m sure that most of you that know me probably find it odd that I’m quoting a very loud rock band for my pithy statement about the myths we believe when it comes to aging. After enjoying the Beatles, I chose to miss the rest of the British Invasion. My staff tells me the line comes from a song about Valium abuse among housewives during the 1960s. I like the irony that drug abuse is one way to wear our bodies out faster, causing us to fear getting older driving us to even more pills to block out our pain, a vicious cycle.

But what do we believe about aging that causes such fear?

  1. Fasting blood glucose will increase.
  2. Blood pressure, both diastolic and systolic, will increase.
  3. Bad cholesterol (LDL) will increase at the expense of good cholesterol (HDL).
  4. Osteoporosis will set in leading to brittle bones causing dread of falls.
  5. Our strength decreases.
  6. We will be fatter and less lean.
  7. Our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) decreases.
  8. We will be colder.
  9. Degenerative diseases become inevitable.

Pretty much, I don’t believe any of the above statements. Aging as we know it is a process created by our own bad habits, because we…

  1. Stop eating properly.
  2. Stop exercising and keeping the body aligned.
  3. Let the stress that is inevitable, become distress that sabotages our health.
  4. Let various harmful environmental factors stay in our environment.

I will point you at any of my books which each deal with various signs of bad health and provides the most recent citations for further reading. I discuss blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, osteoporosis, fat retention, metabolic rate, temperature regulation and degenerative diseases in various contexts in Lick the Sugar Habit, Healthy Bones and Suicide by Sugar. Let’s discuss the four solutions.

Eating properly means preferring whole foods to processed foods, cutting back on sugar and the food allergens to which we react. It also means gently cooking the food and eating the proper portions so that our bodies aren’t overworked trying to deal with lots of food. I put the same three food plans in all of my books, because they keep working for people.

Food Plan Three takes many of the foods to which we react out of our mouths. It is a highly restrictive food plan emphasizing vegetables, protein, water and whole grains not loaded with gluten. I recommend it as the sharp transition between unhealthy eating and healthy eating. Then as the person heals the less restrictive Food Plans Two and One may become more appropriate depending on symptoms.

One of the interesting things I found in looking over the source material for this article was how much exercise helps with our aging concerns. Usually, I give equal time to Diet, Exercise, Emotional Health and our Environment that they all work together to make us healthy (or not). This will always be true, but in the specific case of aging well exercise is very important.

For instance, older people who exercise with weight training in addition to their cardiovascular workout resist increases in the fasting blood glucose rate. Some of the insulin made by the body is stored in the muscles. A lack of exercise as we age means these muscles may become body fat and become resistant to insulin resulting in higher fasting blood glucose levels.

And for bone loss, exercise, including weight training, is very important as well. NASA and their Corps of Astronauts have known about weightlessness and bone loss for quite some time. Our bones are designed to hold us up for our lifespan more or less at the bottom of Earth’s gravity well. We’ve all seen the pictures of astronauts in orbit strapped into special bikes to pound out their roadwork. The idea is that the bones will also respond to the strains place on them by overactive muscles working as compensation for no gravity and minimize the bone loss.

However, in the specific case of astronauts at least through the early Shuttle era there were dietary concerns as well, specifically Tang. This was (is?) a powdered drink that replaced orange juice on space flights. It has been a while since I’ve seen the labeling on a bottle of Tang, but sugar, like with many processed foods, was listed at the top. I’ve never seen a study authored by NASA that asked this question: does bone de-mineralization increase for astronauts who drink Tang compared to those who don’t? I hope it’s because no one asked the question instead of someone asking the question and then classifying the answer.

I love repeating this example for those who think we must get weaker as we age. A Tufts University study from some decades ago took 12 older men and put them on resistance training for 12 weeks. Most experienced at least a doubling of the weight they could lift and experienced up to 15-percent increase in muscle mass. Research also seems to show that our metabolism, cholesterol and thermal regulators respond to exercise, as well.

I don’t want to give short shrift to the other factors that help us age healthily. If we are not in a good emotional or intellectual state, we don’t use the foods we eat as well. I have always differentiated between stress and distress: the difference being that stress can happen to you, but distress is what happens when you don’t deal with stress. A family has a big fight and then sits down to eat, bad move. The members are all still angry at each other and this affects their bodies and the digestion of the food.

Another way to define stress compared to distress comes from my earliest research where I took blood samples, dunked peoples’ hands in cold water and then took another blood sample. Key indicators would always be out of whack after the dunking, but presumably because neither my research assistants nor I were berating my subjects for any reason all of them quickly got over the shock. I have always said to deal with stress before eating. That the person, who prays, meditates, writes in his or her journal or even exercises before eating will remain healthy.

Lastly, I must touch on the Environment as the last factor that determines if we will age or if we will be healthy. I used to have fearsome pollen allergies and dreaded going out to play tennis some days. Once I stopped abusing sugar, these allergies cleared up and/or became minor. This allowed me to enjoy being outdoors and reap the benefits of several sets of tennis that included stress reduction, muscle building and all of the other things talked about here.

Since what a 20-year-old should do to remain healthy are the same things that a 60-year-old should do to fight the bad effects of a poor health regimen, we come full circle back to Diet, Exercise, Stress and the Environment. And then I realized that I am talking about Health as an imperfect synonym for Youth, because none of this will keep your hair from turning gray. I use hair color for that.


© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

In the past year or so, my staff and I have fielded pretty much the same question from various endurance athletes at least five times – if I’m supposed to give up sugar how am I supposed to deal with my energy needs during training and racing?

Well, the answers to this question are imperfect at best, because sugar has completely infiltrated sports.

To recap our general nutritional position, EAT WHOLE FOODS as much as possible while engaging in as much CONSISTENT EXERCISE as possible. Athletes do at least half of this equation correctly: consistent exercise. But then after all the wind sprints, stadium steps, miles underfoot, miles under-wheel, four-a-days and/or intense sparring, many athletes will drag healthy bodies through a sweet sewer of sugary training food and sports drinks.

Each athlete that asked us about how to train or race got the same choices:

  1. Stop training and competing.
  2. Make peace with Gatorade, Powerade and/or that chewy bar.
  3. Find the best possible alternative healthy training food manufacturer.
  4. Load up on traditional snacks used by hikers, walkers and non-competitive bikers (water, trail mix, whole fruit, etc).
  5. Make your own training food by becoming intimate with your food processor.

QUITTING – Actually, this first choice is just a mean joke, because I completely understand competing and the value of getting out of the house. I even still have a few of my tennis trophies, so move it along and pretend I never said the word quit.

MAKE PEACE – I’m not stupid. The horrible foods and liquids pushed upon athletes by the large companies have become such a part of our athletic culture because of a combination of factors each tough to beat by themselves, but nearly impossible taken together.

Peer pressure rules. I may be the Original Anti-Sugar Lady since the Stone Age (1980 or so) and was appalled at the amount of sugar in a typical bottle of Gatorade (14 grams per 8oz. serving of the original green flavor) since learning about sugar in the years leading up to my first book Lick the Sugar Habit, but when my son played football and came home with a requirement that each player bring two bottles of the orange flavor for the next game I went to the store and contributed to the team.

In professional sports where Gatorade or whichever sports drink maker paid the most money for the exclusive promotional deal, I have no illusions that the health conscious catcher or running back or some other player whose function I barely understand wouldn’t get worked over by his teammates for not sharing from the Gatorade tank.

Sugar makes its way into these products mostly to cover up foul tasting minerals. The typical sports drink comes with tons of sodium and potassium for purposes of replacing electrolytes sweated out during hard workouts, which can affect nerve function. Naturally, sodium and potassium taste like salt and sugar covers the taste. The sports drink promotion machine justifies the sugar after the fact as providing extra energy.

Now why am I positing make peace as a potential viable solution to the conundrum of training food and drink?

I hate saying this – but once you factor out the changes to body chemistry for which I have spent 30 years on the warpath about, these products do their jobs quite well in the short term. Quick hits of energy and vital minerals help the athlete power his or her way through the race or game. These products are also highly portable a virtue that also helps explains why processed sports food is a billion dollar business that sustains itself with massive ad campaigns and exclusive relationships with various teams.

Portable products are very important in races because weight is an issue. A competitive cyclist going up the hill in the tenth stage of the Tour de France can’t carry the whole foods I will suggest in later sections on his bike, or in a backpack. An apple may weigh ten times as much as the tube of applesauce so graciously provided by the sport food manufacturer for much the same caloric intake. The apple may have more dietary fiber, which is why whole fruit can have tons of fructose and still be part of a healthy diet, but the weight differential when seconds count makes eating healthy in such competitive environments a hard call.

Now, I must say that for many sports there are workarounds that could allow the athlete to eat healthy and still crush all comers. In the case of the Tour de France (mentioned because one of our original questioners competes with the Garmin GPS bike team), there are entire support staffs of people in cars who drive up to their athletes, hand over the sports drink or chewy bar and help replace flat tires or broken wheels. A team that manages to get out from under a sponsorship contract with a food producer that uses more sugar than their competitors could use the support staff to pass over a baggie of trail mix (nuts, fruit, crackers – a fuel source created by hikers who may go the same distance, but have the time to enjoy the view) instead of a sugar-bomb disguised as an energy bar. But, money talks in all highly competitive sports.

One thing I can attest to is the power of exercise to delay the many health effects of too much sugar in the diet. As I wrote in every one of my books that needed an introduction, I juxtaposed lots of sugar, wheat and dairy that I didn’t know would harm me with enough hours of tennis to actually keep that chocolate from my hips most of the time. It is this power that allows me to present make peace as one possible solution to the athlete who needs to get through a marathon, an Ironman or even a long round of golf in the deep desert.

My competitive years came before the invention of Gatorade after which I became just a good recreational tennis player. So when I say that exercise delays the onset of the diseases that I and many other researchers have linked to our modern diet, I don’t mean that eating and drink these products should ever go beyond the athlete’s prime years. My experiences with the sugar, onion rings and other sludge that I worked off with some hard tennis told me (once I understood sugar) that the crap always catches up to you.

By the time I was forty or so, I still played quite a bit of tennis, but suffered allergies that sometimes kept me off the court. I freaked out anytime pollen got anywhere near me and don’t get me started on hibiscus flowers. I had nearly regular bouts of pneumonia and I was sometimes crabbier than I needed to be with my kids. So despite my regimen, I wasn’t healthy. Ending sugar helped put me in a place where nothing worked against my tennis, hiking and, for many years, stair climbing for keeping me healthy. The competitive cyclist mentioned above emailed us reporting decreased competitiveness – slower stage times and an all-around crummy feeling after a few years of being at the top of the game. We suggested to this man that he’d run out the string on his body’s ability to make peace with his training diet.

Making peace can only work with two provisos that MUST be applied. First, the athlete who uses such sugar-filled training food and drinks absolutely SHOULDN’T EAT SUGAR from other sources during a training cycle and should limit sugar during a down cycle. Part of my problem was that I may have used a few sports drinks in my later unhealthy years, but that I also ate sweets, cakes and above all else, chocolate at the same time. I overloaded my body and paid for it every time I banished my sick children to their rooms for fear that their colds would become pneumonia. If I had to choose now, I would omit the training food and drink and stick with the more pleasurable chocolate, but I will leave that decision up to you.

Secondly, an athlete who goes this route will need to go into a sugar-free life as soon as they retire from the sport. When we are young and still able to go out and play regardless of the consequences, we won’t need much health and nutritional advice. But, at some point the body needs to be well taken care of so we can still go outside and play. So, perhaps you’ve figured out with the options I present here that make peace is perhaps the worst choice?

FIND A HEALTHIER SUPPLIER – While I would prefer that the serious athlete bring apple slices, nuts (at least for the person who isn’t allergic), beans or some other mostly whole food to the game along with water and salt tablets, I realize that not every athlete can break the deals that may fund their sport. The next best thing is to search around for a manufacturer who does the best they can at limiting sugar, preservatives and other chemicals from their products.

I support whole foods rendered in a blender (see section below) as necessary, because some people just have trouble with solid food. In Suicide by Sugar, I took such meal replacement drinks like Ensure to task saying that the best solution for getting people who can’t eat their nutrition was to run a healthy meal through the blender. The nutrients and dietary fiber may be chopped up for consumption through a straw, but are still present. Not so with many processed foods, so finding a company that tries to have better food is a rare find.

We have a relationship with one such company – Hammer Nutrition – that promised on their website that their food was derived from whole foods that had been rendered in a food processor to make the pastes that come in those tubes or those drink bottles. They also promised that they don’t add extra sugar. In the interest of full disclosure, they publish our articles and sell our current book Suicide by Sugar and my staff and I suggest them to any athletes who ask about their training food problem.

Presumably, the Me-Too attitude in our business environment suggests that soon other training food companies will start selling healthier products. There may be some out now, so if Hammer Nutrition doesn’t work for you other companies are just a Google search away.

TRADITIONAL HIKING SNACKS – For many generations, hikers and other people who exercised for long periods without trying to win the race have packed along snacks that are mostly whole foods without succumbing to the bad things promised by the commercials. People who bring trail mix (usually a baggie with nuts, raisins, crackers and, regrettably, sometimes a small amount of M&Ms) usually manage to cover their energy needs as they climb or walk to the lake to fish. Others bring meat jerky (salted meat), which helps with the need for both salt and protein possibly eliminating the need for Gatorade’s three-stage system for before, during and after the game.

As I have said, there can be a portability issue for athletes who do actually have to win the race. Hikers, walkers and soldiers marching to the objective usually bring a large pack with them because the point of the journey is not to get there fast, but to get there at all. However, many sports do have support structures built in that ease the problem. Football teams keep their hydration gear on the sidelines. Bike teams, marathoners and tri-athletes all have staff who drive up and hand over the supplies. It is the same level of difficulty to hand over a can of trail mix, as it is to hand over Gatorade. Please consider this option.

MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD – Frankly, now that I think about it an athlete that stays up late into the night to run beans, peanuts, apple slices and other fruit through a blender seems like a horrible waste of time. True, the athlete in question will know what went into his or her food, but one of the points of modern life is that we specialize. The athlete competes, the writer writes and so on.

The athlete needs to train and trust in his support staff. But, there will always be a few that need to control everything, so knock yourself out. Whole foods do everything promised by the processed foods and have done so for thousands of years, before we even heard of Gatorade, Powerbar or even those nasty K-ration bars made by Hershey for World War Two. But, you still need someone in the kitchen making the healthy food for you.

My life up to this point says that whole foods and exercise are always better for people than the alternative. But, athletes have special concerns that make the transition to a sugar-free life somewhat difficult. I have attempted to provide choices that can help the athlete be healthy as well as champions. And just so you know, I will have more to say about Gatorade and other sport drinks in my upcoming book Killer Colas, due agonizingly soon from Square One.


© 2009 Alain Braux

Review © 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

How does one change their diet from the overcooked, sugar and free radical filled modern American diet to a healthier food plan? To tell the truth, there are many ways to achieve optimal health through an improved diet, but all of them require food that people will actually eat. One such way to eat your way to better health would be to read and apply the recipes in How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food by Chef Alain Braux.

Braux, a real-life French chef transplanted to Texas, answered a question about how to use French cooking techniques to eat properly starting a journey back to the foods of his native southern France, a variation of the Mediterranean Diet. This diet consists of more fish, vegetables and gently cooked meats in sauces made from wholesome ingredients. Whether you call it the Mediterranean Diet, the Atkins Diet or even my own Food Plan Three, we favor this kind of eating.

Sugar and the other diet red flags cause raised cholesterol mostly in the form of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and lowering high-density lipoproteins (HDL).  Whole food diets like the Mediterranean Diet fight cholesterol because the original human diet had ten times the fiber, more whole foods and next to no sugar. Cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes have followed.

Of the nearly hundred pages devoted to recipes, most follow precepts with which we agree: more organic fruits, vegetables and locally derived grass-fed meat. Frankly, the recipes seem so delicious that we regret not having enough time before going to press to try any of the dishes. In our defense, neither one of us has the Dutch oven required for a good percentage of the meals. Still, if we were any better at cooking ourselves this is the cookbook we would write.

Of course, despite many interesting uses for fish, venison, other meats and just about every vegetable available in France or Texas, Braux is still a French-trained chef likely to run home to Mama with an amazing pastry. Pastries and some kind of sweetener always go hand in hand as the sugar, honey or high fructose corn syrup feeds the yeast that makes bread rise. For people who are moderately healthy there can be a little bit of indulgence, but other people just can’t have any sugar at all. At least the plan allows for that treats are just that, rare things that spice up life.

Another quibble that we have with Chef Braux’s program is his assumption that a few of the sweeteners listed in his book are better for people in moderation. We have already commented on agave as a sugar substitute, which Chef Braux has used in some of his desert recipes. Our position is that agave is primarily fructose and isn’t quite as healthy as advertised.

As a book, How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food presents the information in a fairly clear manner using both the French and English terms for each dish. We did find some typos indicative of a self-published book written by a non-native speaker. But, the program is golden and actually has a chance of keeping people eating well.

Chef Braux speaks with great authority as he applied these recipes to his own diagnosis of high cholesterol. He is glad to report that his blood test shows a return to good health all without resorting to statins or other medical interventions.

We can’t recommend this book highly enough. Please follow the links below to learn more about Chef Braux and his healthy recipes.