Our Readers' Opinions
June 28, 2016
The consumption of salt and/or sugar neither precursor nor cause of diabetes or hypertension!

Editor: The more knowledgeable one is about ones anatomy and physiology, the easier it is: (1) to understand one’s illness; (2) to better understand the reason(s) for taking one’s medication; (3) to have a better compliance rate; (4) to have an overall recovery or cure rate; and (5) to have a better understanding of one’s health. I am of the opinion that health education therefore ought to be a must from kindergarten onward in order to create a healthy nation. It is like the truism: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”{{more}}

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, there are too many among the non-health professionals who pontificate on matters of health as though they are a health research laboratory. At a town hall discussion on 15/06/2016 in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, led by the CARICOM mission on the marijuana debate, a member of the audience, a lawyer, in defense of his support for the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana, stated categorically that the number of amputees that he sees in St Vincent as a result of diabetes is due to the consumption of sugar. He concluded that sugar is more a health hazard than marijuana is.

Lawyer, Senator Jomo Thomas, Speaker of Parliament and member of the ruling ULP administration, in his contribution to the debate on marijuana, wrote in THE VINCENTIAN of Friday, 17/06/2016, thus: “Thousands suffer from diabetes (sugar) and hypertension (salt), but no right-thinking person calls for a ban on salt and sugar.”

The current ULP administration has imposed a 15 per cent VAT on salt, stating that salt is a major cause of hypertension and upping the cost of salt will limit its use, thereby reducing the high incidence of hypertension.

In light of the above, I have chosen for the benefit of the public and especially the unsuspecting, who may become gullible to the above mentioned fallacies, a few documented, proven scientific facts, as they relate to the consumption of sugar and salt.

SUGARS are carbohydrates, which comprise starches and sugars, (sugar cane or beet). A starch or sugar enters the stomach after a meal. To enter into the bloodstream for the purpose of utilization by the body, both starches and sugars, by the process of digestion, are changed into the simplest form of sugar: glucose/dextrose.

SALT, commonly called table salt, is chemically known as sodium chloride. Like starches and sugars, salt cannot enter the blood stream in its natural state. It is chemically changed into sodium ions and chloride ions.

SOURCES OF ENERGY: The human body, like all other living organisms, requires a constant source of energy in order to perform its functions. This source of energy comes from sugars (glucose/dextrose), proteins and fats; however, the energy from proteins and fats only becomes available when the body’s source of glucose has fallen below the normal body level. Then by a series of chemical processes, the body transforms protein (amino acids) and fats (lipids) into glucose. Glucose to the body is like the fuel to a combustion engine. If the engine runs out of fuel, it closes down. Similarly, if the human body runs out of glucose, it closes down, but unlike the engine, where anyone can refill it even days later, the human body requires a special mechanic, a medical doctor, or some other health professional trained to administer glucose by intravenous means and AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, otherwise death ensues.

For both the human body and the engine, the reaction is the same:



INSULIN: Insulin is a hormone secreted by glands called Islets of Langerhands, located in the pancreas. Insulin is not a stored commodity, hence it may not be correct to say that the store of insulin has been depleted. In a normal healthy individual, when a meal of carbohydrates is digested, the Islets of Langerhands are stimulated and insulin is secreted. This insulin takes the glucose across the stomach walls into the blood and ushers it into every cell membrane of the body. The excess glucose that is not required for immediate use is stored in the liver and other muscles of the body for release whenever the blood sugar level falls below normal.

An individual who consumes carbohydrates more regularly than normal, will always maintain a higher than normal blood sugar level and instead of depleting the stored glucose(glycogen), will be building up the reserve to the point of becoming obese. After a prolonged state of high blood sugar level and obesity, other mechanisms may come into play, causing the various cell walls to become resistant to insulin. In such a case, except the intake of carbohydrates is controlled and obesity reduced, the individual may become a diabetic.

Researchers and scientists have concluded for years that diabetes is caused by one or more of the following factors: obesity, heredity, increasing age, emotional stress, autoimmune Beta cells damage, endocrine disease, insulin receptor defects, drugs (cortisone, estrogen, thyroid, phenytoin, diazoxide and thiazide diuretics) and post insulin-receptor defects.

SODIUM CHLORIDE (table salt): Sodium ions (Na+) forms 90 per cent of the cations (+ions) that are found in the extracellular fluids and chlorine (Cl- ) forms 60 per cent of the anions (– ions). An isotonic solution of sodium chloride (consistent with plasma fluids) is the choice of a vehicle for many drugs which have to be administered by intravenous injection. Sodium ions determine directly or indirectly over 90 per cent of the osmotic pressure of extracellular fluids. Sodium chloride is used in the treatment of dehydration. Glucose facilitates the absorption of sodium ions from the gastrointestinal tract. In times of stress, when the body would have lost large amounts of fluids, through diarrhea and or vomiting, sodium chloride and glucose form the major part of any electrolyte replacement therapy given orally or parenterally (I.V).

THE KIDNEYS, through the adrenal glands, work in conjunction with insulin in helping to maintain blood glucose level and osmotic pressure at normal levels.

Glucocorticoids secreted by the kidneys change protein into glucose, while the mineralocorticoids prevent the excretion of sodium ions in the urine in order to maintain a normal osmotic pressure.

HYPEERTENSION: Hypertension occurs when the kidneys’ functions become abnormal. Several factors may cause this to happen. Approximately 90 per cent of all persons who have hypertension are said to have essential hypertension (of unknown origin). However, in most cases of essential hypertension, there is a strong hereditary tendency.

SODIUM RESTRICTION: “While there is a clear epidemiological evidence of a direct relationship between dietary sodium intake and blood pressure, severe dietary sodium restriction is usually not sustainable and is not needed.” (Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics).

Except the above can be disputed, among the most important elements to enter the human body for the maintenance of life are sugars and salt. It is okay for lawyers to make sweeping statements about aspects of health and to glibly compare the social/legal discrimination between marijuana and alcohol. His training is not one of empathy for the victim.

His practice is one of grandstanding before a judge and if he displeases the judge, he simply says “Me Lud, I apologize.” He can also appeal the judge’s decision. The health professional is trained to exercise empathy; to make his patient the centre of his concern.

Death is final. He cannot appeal death’s decision. The health professional has a responsibility to be concerned. He ought to be concerned.

REFERENCES: (1) Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, by Williams and Wilkins. (2) Medical Physiology by Guyton. (3) Remington’s Pharmaceutical Sciences. (4) Martindale, The extra Pharmacopeia.

Matthew Thomas