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Sunday, July 21, 2024

The three white poisons

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Paul Bass
5th year medical student
University of the Gambia

UTG Medical Students’ Association

Often times we hear that someone has taken poison in a suicide attempt, or someone was poisoned to death. And in most of these instances, we become so much furious with the former for taking poison and the latter for poisoning an individual. We consider poisoning a cruel way to attempt to take a human life. Well, what will even surprise is the idea that you might be poisoning yourself with the three white poisons.

Sounds dangerous, right? Well, the truth is that most of us don’t even know that we are consuming these three white poisons every day! A good number of us take it in larger quantities than we should. But what are these three white poisons? Well, read along as I take you through what the three white poisons are, and the risk they pose to our health.

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These three white poisons:

White refined sugar, white refined flour and salt.

Health experts have referred to these good and necessary three ingredients as the three white poisons. As good as they are, these triplets have the potential to cause several problems such as sluggishness and obesity in the short term, and severe and chronic diseases in the long run such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease.

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1. White refined sugar

Sugar is highly palatable and rewarding,

both in its taste and nutritive input. Besides, who does like the sweet sugar rush we feel when we take in sugar? Sugar which is naturally found in certain food is in healthy amounts. The problem, however, lies in the added sugar, this is the excess sugar that is added to the foods we consume on a daily basis and in most cases without realising it. It’s where the harm lies.

Asides from diabetes and the obvious teeth and weight problem added sugars can even have extremely detrimental effects on our mood stability and energy levels.

An example is when you take in a piece of chocolate, you will certainly feel good and energetic for some period of time, but after a while, you completely crash, and you end up feeling lethargic and in need of more chocolate. So, you might reach out for more chocolate or a packet of sweets to keep you going – and the same process will keep repeating itself until you decide to give up sugar completely, preferably for a period of 3 to 4 weeks to allow your body the time to detoxify itself.

Sugar has been characterized by some as an addictive substance, with properties comparable to sugar’s impact on the body, brain, and behaviour to that of drugs of abuse.

Studies have actually shown that sugar releases dopamine in the brain – yes, sugar has the same effect on your brain system as drugs!

This raises the question, what can you really do?

Well, it’s actually not so hard. All you need to do is to totally clear sugar off from your diet. You will have withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and moodiness because sugar is like drugs, don’t forget! But the deal is to keep with it, and by the second week your sugar cravings will begin to go down and you won’t even be moved at the sight of sweet foods. To add to that, you will feel calmer, a lot more relaxed and stable and you will notice that your concentration and productivity levels will significantly rise. That sounds like a gain.

Do remember to include a good amount of naturally sweet foods in your diet, such as dates, fresh and dried fruits. Try to replace your usual unhealthy snacks with more filling and nutritious ones, as this will help to provide you with the right amount of energy and strength to get through your day. Moreover, your moods and even your skin and your hair texture will improve.

2. Salt

This is probably the hardest to control. But fear not, because having some amount of salt in your diet is actually important, so unless you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, clearing salt for long periods of time is unnecessary and will do you more harm than good. Just try to cut down on, or even better, get rid of foods that contain added amounts of sodium.

According to WHO, the amount of dietary salt (sodium chloride) consumed is an important determinant of blood pressure levels and of hypertension and overall cardiovascular risk. A salt intake of less than 5 grams (approximately 2g sodium) per person per day is recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases which is the leading cause of death globally.

Excess sodium from dietary salt (NaCl) is linked to increases in blood pressure (BP). There are also data suggesting that salt adversely affects target organs, irrespective of the blood pressure level. For example, high dietary salt has been shown to adversely affect the blood vessels, heart, kidneys, skin, brain, and bone. This is mediated by inflammation and oxidative stress. These physiological alterations may contribute to disease development over time.

That is to say, we are not only looking at the long-term harms here, like high blood pressure, kidney disease, cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Too much salt in your diet has its short-term detriments too, including severe dehydration, lethargy and even water retention (oedema).

3. Refined white flour

White flour is used in many staple foods like bread, pasta, crackers, and cereal. However, this flour is highly processed — with many of its essential nutrients removed during the refinement process. This leaves behind a high amount of starch.

Even though refined white flour is high in calories, it offers few nutritional benefits and almost no fibre, protein, or healthy fat. The refining process can also remove necessary nutrients like B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and vitamin E.

Processed white flour can also create a spike in blood sugar, which over time can increase your risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

What we are saying so far is that diet is an important factor in health and controlling what you eat gives you strong control over your health and total wellbeing. So just because it is sweet, tastes great and appears appealing does not mean it should enter your mouth.

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