Am I Correct In Assuming A Truly Sugar Free Diet Would Be Fatal?

Cecil has spoken and said a truly salt free diet is fatal

IANA (well I am not many things) but it was my understanding that our cells ran on glucose and that we got that glucose by eating carbs or sugars.

One of my friends posted this on FaceBook

I responded that if you truly STOPPED eating sugar, you would die. My friend wants details that I can’t remember. So I turn to you.


End Thread.

No, you don’t need to eat sugar. You don’t even need to eat carbohydrates, really, although most of our bodies are much, much happier if we do, and if we don’t, we risk vitamin and mineral deficiencies, because things with complex carbs (vegetables, fruits, grains) also tend to have the bulk of our vitamins and minerals. But your body can break down fat and protein for energy in (eventually, I’m skipping steps) the Kreb’s Cycle in cellular respiration.

But that article isn’t saying you’ll stop eating carbohydrates, it’s suggesting you stop eating sucrose, or table sugar, that’s added to foods. Good advice, really.

It depends a bit on what you call a sugar. Glucose (definitely a sugar) is very necessary for the body, but is generally formed through the digestion of carbohydrates more complex than a mono or disaccharide. Are these polysaccharides sugar? They’re not necessarily sweet, and while you might buy them in a paper bag, it’s more likely to be labeled “flour” than “sugar”. If you’re still willing to eat carbohydrates, just not simple sugars, I think you’d be fine.

If you want to cut out all carbohydrates, it gets dicier. Glucose can be synthesized from non-carbohydrate sources through Gluconeogenesis. I’m not sure if there are any long-term consequences to relying on this pathway 100%.

Before we can put together an answer, you need to define what you mean by sugar. Do you mean cane sugar only, or all mono and polysaccharide “-ose” compounds?

The link is pictures of sugar cubes, and talks about soda, cupcakes, cereals, mini muffins, etc. (It’s also excruciatingly slow to load on my computer, so if they suddenly switched to broccoli after the 9th slide, I apologize.)

Every time this subject comes up, somebody dredges up the oft-asked and even more oft-answered question about the Eskimos, and of course I always forget what the answer is. Do they eat carbs or not? I suppose now they can get their little frostbitten mitts on whatever they want (they even have problems now with cocaine and crystal meth in their communities), but in times past, did they ever have a way to make their ATP the way God and nature intended? Didn’t Cecil himself tackle this one once?

Fellas, read above. If you read the very first line of the wikipedia article about gluconeogenesis it answers the question. You don’t need sugar or carbs, your liver can do a few extra processing steps and run things just fine.

I wouldn’t say everything runs through just fine. A few lines later, it says “Gluconeogenesis is often associated with ketosis”. Which (usually) won’t kill you, but most people would say probably isn’t an ideal state for the body to be in. The wikipedia article Low-carbohydrate_diet discusses some of the (possible, controversial) health effects. Even the most ardent Atkins dieter wouldn’t tell you to cut out all carbohydrates. If you did, you’d probably survive, but I think you’d find very few nutritionists recommending a truly zero-carb diet.

The usual question concerning nutrient deficiencies in Eskimos doesn’t involve their carb intake, it involves their Vitamin C intake. Here’s Cecil’s column on that subject.

Yes and no - some of the Atkins followers would occasionally recommend doing an odd ultra kickstart where you ate the required calorie level in no carb stuff like cheese, nuts, lean meats, eggs and so forth - fast fat fast. 2 weeks, first of 1000 calories, second of 1200 calories, then back to a more normal low carb diet. [I tended to believe that it was in the severe restriction of calories more than the lack of carbs that did the trick, but hey - what do I know.] Some atkids [yes spelled right] did a fast fat fast once or twice a year as a regular thing, others just when they hit a plateau.

[I ended up on a funky extreme diet usenet group that included atkins, raw, really early paleo, extreme vegan. One guy on the group made a huge vegan salad that supposedly had every nutrient in the right amount and had that 3 meals a day 7 days a week.:eek::frowning: Just … eeeew. Some of the people on the list were real whackjobs, one ultravegan raw dude claimed to be some sort of doctor and everything wrong with your body was a result of not eating ultravegan raw. :rolleyes: Sometimes I miss the old usenet groups.]

(my bold)

So the answer to the OP is no then, wouldn’t you agree? The OP asked if such a diet would be fatal, not if it would be ideal. Carbs are the only macronutrient not absolutely required for life-sustaining purposes.

Well, the Op asked about Sugar, and even expanding this to all sugars, then a no-sugar diet is fine, might even be healthy. A no-carb diet can be done. Is it healthy for everyone? The jury is out on that. Mind you- likely not "fatal’ except when we’re talking decades or special metabolisms, etc.

Which is what I said in reply one.

Regarding Eskimo diets, back in the old days they would pick berries–blueberries and cranberries grow all over Alaska–and preserve them in oil. This is the famous “Eskimo Ice Cream”. Also edible roots and leaves of various wild plants were eaten, such as Hedysarum alpinum.

Often things like this were gathered from rodent’s winter food caches, or from the crops of birds.

So while a traditional eskimo diet was extremely low in carbohydrates compared to most human diets it wasn’t zero carb, just really really low carb.

Oh, I know. And it really should have put an end to this thread; question asked and answered. But the conversation seemed to have drifted to whether such a diet is healthy and wise, so I was just trying to re-focus. :wink:

First, I made one of same mistakes as the article I linked to. I forgot to define what I meant by sugar. For the record, I meant lactose, galactose, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, and any other -ose I’ve forgotten.

Second, I was wrong. All the posters here agree that you can cut all -ose out of your diet and still be healthy.

Thank you for fighting my ignorance, I shall slink away now.

Humanity has had access to sugar for only a few hundred years. How could it possibly be essential? I guess Ugg might hit the beehive occasionally, but not often enough if it were essential. Now we did and do have a tooth for sweet fruit, but I am sure we can survive fine on just roots and other starches. I suspect the Eskimos survived on a diet with little carbs though.

No, humans have been eating fruit since we were still in the trees with tails. :smiley:

The Facebook page is largely correct. However, it repeats an annoying false statement I see a lot of places: “17. Sugar contains no nutritional value … whatsoever.” That is true if and only if you assert that calories are of zero nutritional value (which is patently false). What might be true is that sugar doesn’t give us anything we can’t get elsewhere, with fewer problems.