White sugar is made from sugar beets or sugar cane. Most sugar cane is grown in Brazil. In the United States, Florida and Louisiana lead in sugar cane production.
In the majority of sugar mills around the world, burning the standing sugar cane to facilitate cutting and lifting for transport to the mill is common practice.
In addition, sugar refining is a process heavily dependent upon chemicals. The individual substances that have been proposed for use in the clarification and decolorization of refined sugar number over 600 items! This includes 490 inorganic and 198 organic chemicals, and 54 electrolytic materials.
The Process of Creating Sugar
Sugar cane is a tropical grass that grows ten to twenty feet tall. To extract the 12-14% sucrose, the cane stalks are cut down, washed to remove the dirt and debris from the harvesting process. The stalks are then put through a chopping apparatus which chops them into smaller pieces.
The chopped stalks are washed in a hot water bath that dissolves the sugar from the plant shreds. The resulting juice is run through several steel mesh screens to filter out large debris.
If the canes were burned before harvesting, soda ash will be added to neutralize the excess acidity in the juice from the burned cane. In addition, substances such as diatomaceous earth and perlite are used to filter the juice.
Once the macro-sized particles have been substantially removed from the juice, the juice is subjected to a pH stabilization process and clarification process.
The cane juice is now heated to about 100 degrees, and the clarification process begins.
There are several methods used for clarifying the cane juice so that it can be made in white sugar:
- Sulfidation is currently the most widely used process to clarify cane juice. It consists of adding sulfur dioxide to the juice which reduces its pH levels. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with a pungent, suffocating odor. This substance is corrosive to organic materials and dissolves in water to form sulfurous acid, H2SO3.
The sulfidation process has problems that the sugar/alcohol industry would like to solve, including the presence of a sulfite in the final sugar.
- Another method to clarify sugar cane juice is carbonation, which generally employs treatment with lime and controlled addition of carbon dioxide. Calcium Hydroxide (CaOH), also referred to as milk of lime, is added until the pH level of the limed juice attains a value in the range of 8.0 to 8.5. Carbon dioxide is now added.
The carbon dioxide bubbles through the mixture forming calcium carbonate, a chalk-like crystal that attracts the non-sugar plant materials like wax, fats, and gums from the juice. The calcium carbonate and the impurities fall out of the cane juice and settle to the bottom of the cooking pan. However, this process results in (a) an increase in the loss of inverted sugar in the juice (fructose and glucose) due to the high alkaline pH and the high temperatures used for the process.
- The third method is a recent development and involves the addition of an anionic inorganic colloid such as colloidal silica, aluminum-modified colloidal silica, polysilicate microgels, polyaluminosilicate microgels, polysilicic acid, and polysilicic acid microgels, and similar mixtures. These are collectively called polyacrylamides. The problem with these polyacrylamides is that they are made from acrylamide, a known neurotoxin.
There is evidence that exposure to large doses of acrylamide can cause damage to the male reproductive glands, and direct exposure to pure acrylamide by inhalation, skin absorption, or eye contact irritates the exposed mucous membranes, can also cause sweating, urinary incontinence, nausea, myalgia, speech disorders, numbness, paresthesia, and weakened legs and hands.
The clarified juice is then cooked in a vacuum until much of the water is evaporated. Surfactants and anti-foaming agents are added at this point.
The result is a thick syrup. The syrup goes through a centrifuge, which separates out the raw white sugar. This raw sugar is about 98 percent sucrose and about 2 percent molasses.
The vitamin content of the sugar at this point is minimal, but at least the molasses still has some valuable minerals.
Now the raw sugar goes to the refinery where it is wrought into the ultimate non-food.
The raw sugar is dissolved in water again and boiled down to crystals. The crystals are washed and put into a centrifuge to remove any remaining molasses (and nutrients).
The damp white sugar is then put on a conveyer belt to go through a drying oven. Once dry, it is loaded onto trucks to be transported to a packaging facility.
Organic white sugar goes through basically the same process as milled white sugar, except the molasses, is left in the final product.
Rapudura sugar is basically dehydrated cane juice. It does not go through any processing which would destroy nutrients, and so it is rich in iron, but little else.
Health Effects of White Sugar Consumption
White sugar offers very little nutritional value with its calories. The body suffers a net loss of vitamins and minerals processing and digesting it.
White sugar is composed of a molecule of glucose and a molecule of fructose. While glucose is metabolized by all cells for fuel, fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. Eating large amounts of sugar puts a load on the liver, because of the amount of fructose consumed. High fructose intake is linked to high blood pressure, gout, kidney stones, and fatty liver disease, and is also linked to insulin resistance.
Sugar is also highly concentrated. Consuming even small amounts causes a spike in blood sugar which stresses the adrenal glands, the pancreas, results in the body excreting chromium (a mineral vital for proper blood glucose regulation), and causes large amounts of insulin to be released within the body to process the blood sugar spike. High insulin levels are a major contributor to heart disease and obesity.
Dr. Ron Rosedale, an authority on diabetes and insulin discusses this in an article from DiabetesHealth.com:
“High insulin is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. It results in the inability to properly store magnesium, causing blood vessels to constrict, elevated blood pressure, and coronary arterial spasm, all of which can result in a heart attack. Also, with low magnesium, you can’t properly metabolize important fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, which are vital to your heart and health in general.
Excess insulin causes retention of sodium, fluid retention, elevated blood pressure, and congestive heart failure. Studies have shown that if you drip insulin into the artery of an animal, the artery will become blocked with plaque.
Heart attacks are much more likely to happen after a high carbohydrate meal than after a high-fat meal. The immediate effect of the rise in blood sugar after a high-carb meal is to raise insulin and leptin; that, in turn, triggers a “stress response” that can cause arterial spasm, constriction of the arteries, irregular heartbeat, and even sudden death.”
High Blood Sugar and Cancer
In addition, high blood sugar suppresses the immune system and may be linked to higher risks of cancer. Just recently, a study authored by Par Stattin, MD, Ph.D., of Sweden’s Umea University Hospital revealed that women with high blood sugar may be more likely to develop cancer, even if they don’t have diabetes.
In an 8 year study involving over 64,000 people, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) wasn’t tied to men’s overall cancer risk, but when researchers looked at specific types of cancer, they found that both men and women with the highest blood sugar levels were more likely to have pancreatic cancer, urinary tract cancer, and malignant melanoma (the most deadly type of skin cancer) than those with the lowest blood sugar levels.
Sugar and Politics
Did you know that when you use or buy white sugar, you are contributing to the profits earned by a very small group of sugar farmers in the US?
Yep, thanks to a good ‘ole U.S. government price-support program, we all pay for a sugar support program that guarantees domestic sugar farmers a minimum price by restricting sugar imports and purchasing any excess sugar.
According to the US General Accounting Office (GAO), the program costs Americans $2 billion annually in artificially high sugar prices, and another $2 billion over 10 years just to store all that excess sugar.
Worse, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, thirty-three farms in Florida and Hawaii receive more than a million dollars in benefits EACH on a yearly basis. This is a full one-third of the benefits of the entire federal sugar program. Just four sugar cane companies in Florida receive more than $20 million each in benefits from the sugar program every year.
That’s your tax money supporting just a few families who are producing a substance that does major harm to your health. Kinda crazy, huh?
Resources for Further Reading on White Sugar
- Sugar Blues by William Dufty
- Lick the Sugar Habit by Nancy Appleton
- Potatoes Not Prozac, A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight, and Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel by Kathleen DesMaisons
- The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen Desmaisons
- Acrylamide in Fast Food
- Chemicals Used in Sugar Processing: a report from the EPA. In the processing chart, you can clearly see that lime, soda ash, and phosphoric acid are used.