By Father Bill Kneemiller
Is there a connection between our spiritual health and our physical health? Yes, that’s my angle with Jeff O’Connell’s informative book “Sugar Nation.” O’Connell begins by quoting Genesis’ first temptation of Eve offering Adam an apple, which is, after all, fructose and glucose, surrounded by some fiber. O’Connell sees sugar everywhere in his new worldview since his diagnosis as a pre-diabetic. His diagnosis shocked him since he has always been trim, fit and a writer for Men’s Health Magazine.
Sugar Nation is filled with nutritional revelations. Our current American food choices are tailored to our taste buds. Sugary foods, fluffy breads and starches are so enticing to us that we Americans individually consume over 160 pounds of sugar a year. That’s about three pounds a week, close to three times in excess of the American Heart Association’s recommendation for sugar consumption. Sugar is essential to our nutritional needs, but for most of us it has become too much of a good thing.
O’Connell explains how sugar is processed by our pancreas, liver and kidneys and how these organs are orchestrated and moderated by the hormone insulin. However, excess refined sugar can cause us to become insulin resistant. Then the body shortcuts itself to run on “fast carbs.” We crave these refined sugars and bread products, pastries and pastas, etc. Thus, we cycle into a continual craving for the fast carbs that are as convenient as the nearest fast food eatery.
Part of the culture of Sugar Nation stems from the boon in grains and carbs as part of our food pyramid and the discovery of high fructose corn syrup in the late 70s. In the midst of this culture, it is easy to go from one fast carb rush to another. More food revelations:
1. Several statistics in Sugar Nation should be a national wake-up call. A study in “Diabetes Care” stated that an estimated one-third of the people born in the U.S. in 2000 will become diabetic. For minorities, the estimated rate is an astounding 50%. Individuals who consume three cans of pop a day are close to three times more likely to be depressed. Now, for the good news…
2. Exercise, calorie reduction and carb-cutting lead to sustainable weight loss and help our insulin to work better. Exercise is the most effective tool in both the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
3. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that for each 2.2 pounds of body weight reduction, a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped by 16%.
4. O’Connell made the switch from “fast carbs” such as pastas, breads and starches to “slow carbs” such as veggies and fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Reducing sugary treats and other junk foods from his diet unveiled the simple pleasures of natural food. He noted that fresh fish and steamed broccoli, with a little wine, becomes an exquisite pleasure. Rather than feeling deprived, O’Connell reported enjoying food more than ever before.
So, can we describe a connection between our physical and our spiritual health? If our bodies are truly temples of the Holy Spirit, then we honor God with our bodies by being good stewards of our health. My takeaway from Sugar Nation is that we really don’t need to consume an entire cup of sugar or its equivalent every day. The American Heart Association recommends about a third of this amount, as sugar could become more of a treat than a daily heartbeat! I also highly recommend the DVD “Forks over Knives” on healthy healing. In summary, Jeff O’Connell’s Sugar Nation is a must-read. Find the book online by using your favorite search engine.
(Father Bill Kneemiller is the chaplain at the Kahl Home in Davenport.)