The Elephant in the Room Is Not Added Sugar

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Added sugar plays a significant role in causing the rising incidence of both obesity and diabetes in the US (and throughout the world). No one can argue with the fact that the sugar industry has erroneously sought to blame fats as the problem in modern diets. It is recommended that one reduce their consumption of added sugars to less than 50 grams (12 teaspoons) per day.

However, I suggest that the most important food causing the increase in obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the US (and the world) is not sugar, but grains and grain-flour products.

Far more than added sugar, grains produce the highest entry of glucose into the body, more than fruit or vegetables at equal volumes. 

Upon digestion in the intestine, grains, which are complex carbohydrates, yield an abundance of glucose molecules that are readily absorbed into the blood. These spike the blood sugar level on an immediate basis triggering the release of insulin from the pancreas, later causing low blood sugar leading to hunger pangs. This often brings on a desire for a snack of more grain-based convenient foods between two and three hours after the main meal.

Grain-based foods—bread, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, rice, muffins, snack foods — take people down a slippery slope, feeling they need to eat until their stomach feels heavy. The average diet of an American adult often consists of 50% of calories from grains. Each 4 grams of grain-based carbohydrate is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. Eating a sandwich is like eating 6 teaspoons of sugar; a pizza is like 10 teaspoons of sugar; a cup of rice equals 12 teaspoons of sugar. The daily consumption of grains and grain flour products for many people far surpasses the 50 grams they may consume in added sugars.

Humans were not intended to consume so much grain. 

The human body does not need complex carbohydrates as we can manufacture glucose from other sources.Our ancestors survived on diets of fruits, vegetables, meats, legumes, and sometimes dairy, but very little grain. It is only in the last 100 years or so that modern farming techniques made grains easier and cheaper to grow, mill, and transform into products. (see The Green Revolution)

I have studied the science behind diabetes for over twenty-five years and my conclusions in fact point directly to grains as the #1 enemy in our diets. Proof of this is evident in the statistics. In every country in the world where grains are increasingly grown and marketed in prepackaged and fast foods, and have thus become a larger share of the nation’s diet, obesity and diabetes are on the rise, including the modern phenomenon of obesity with malnutrition.

Indeed, I suggest the evidence against grains as the leading factor in weight gain and high blood sugar is so strong that we must reevaluate the prevailing theory of insulin resistance as the cause of diabetes. There is a normal body biological mechanism that is thrown off balance by the high consumption of grains—and this alone can explain the cause of diabetes far better than insulin resistance.

Do we need to eat grains?

In my view, we must begin recognizing that the grain industry is aggressively touting the benefits of grains (e.g., multigrain, whole grains, gluten-free – all of which are still glucose-rich complex carbohydrates) while blaming fats and added sugars to protect itself, just like the sugar industry does. Grocery stores are full of baked goods, prepackaged, and snack foods that are heavily marketed to consumers. Fast food outlets are ubiquitous in our cities and rural towns.  The grain industry lobbies Congress for billions of dollars in agricultural subsidies to support grain farmers, while the US government ends up paying $300 billion for the healthcare costs of aging Americans suffering the consequences of diabetes.

In short, Americans must abandon their added sugar. But while they are doing that, I am making a plea that we must educate our citizens about the dangers of a diet high in grain consumption. Suppose people would limit their consumption of bread, sandwiches, pizza, muffins, cakes, rice, and pasta to just once per week. In that case, I am 100% positive we will see a reduction in obesity and instances of diabetes. I also believe we will see a substantial drop in cancer deaths, as grain consumption is equally a factor in feeding cancer cells.



As a best-selling author and Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Dr. John Poothullil, advocates for patients struggling with the effects of adverse lifestyle conditions.

Dr. John’s books, available on Amazon, have educated and inspired readers to take charge of their health. There are many steps you can take to make changes in your health, but Dr. John also empowers us that we must demand certain changes in our healthcare system as well. “Diabetes: The Real Cause and the Right Cure” is now available in a second edition.

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John Poothullill practiced medicine as a pediatrician and allergist for more than 30 years, with 27 of those years in the state of Texas. He received his medical degree from the University of Kerala, India in 1968, after which he did two years of medical residency in Washington, DC and Phoenix, AZ and two years of fellowship, one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the other in Ontario, Canada. He began his practice in 1974 and retired in 2008. He holds certifications from the American Board of Pediatrics, The American Board of Allergy & Immunology, and the Canadian Board of Pediatrics.During his medical practice, John became interested in understanding the causes of and interconnections between hunger, satiation, and weight gain. His interest turned into a passion and a multi-decade personal study and research project that led him to read many medical journal articles, medical textbooks, and other scholarly works in biology, biochemistry, physiology, endocrinology, and cellular metabolic functions. This eventually guided Dr. Poothullil to investigate the theory of insulin resistance as it relates to diabetes. Recognizing that this theory was illogical, he spent a few years rethinking the biology behind high blood sugar and finally developed the fatty acid burn switch as the real cause of diabetes.Dr. Poothullil has written articles on hunger and satiation, weight loss, diabetes, and the senses of taste and smell. His articles have been published in medical journals such as Physiology and Behavior, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Journal of Women’s Health, Journal of Applied Research, Nutrition, and Nutritional Neuroscience. His work has been quoted in Woman’s Day, Fitness, Red Book and Woman’s World.Dr. Poothullil resides in Portland, OR and is available for phone and live interviews.

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