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Annsley Heidtke

Topics in this article:

History of Sugarbusters

Pledge of Sugarbusters Diet

Following the Diet

Glycemic Index

How Sugarbusters works

Claims Made about Effectiveness

Presenters of the Evidence

Correctness of Glycemic Index Values

Does High Consumption of Sugar Cause Obesity?

Does the Glycemic Index Affect Insulin Levels? 


History of the Sugarbusters Diet

One of the Authors, H.Leighton Steward, began eating "bad" foods such as steak, lamb, and cheese after fifteen years of obstaining and found that his cholesterol dropped by fifteen percent and triglycerides by fifty percent. Baffled by this, steward talked to his doctor about the possibility that insulin must have been provoking the liver to produce cholesterol. His doctor, Bethea, another author of the book enthusiastically agreed. He sighted proof by explaining that insulin injections in diabetics tend to elevate cholesterol levels (Steward,Andrews, Bethea & Balart, 1995).

Pledge of the Sugarbusters Diet

The diet will allow for most foods to be eaten in normal quantities or possibly larger ones. One will be able to eat many foods which have been considered "non-diet", such as meat, cheeses, and eggs. The foods to be avoided will be any foods which stimulate large amounts of insulin to regulate blood sugar. Sugar is targeted, not fat, as the culprit for extra pounds (Dawson, 1997). "By simply doing this, one can get slimmer and healthier simultaneously" (Steward, 1995). One author, Dr. Balart, even states that the diet is easy. He believes that after two to four days on the diet the desire for sweets will disappear and after ten to fourteen days they will be intolerable(

Following the Diet

The basis of the sugarbusters diet is to trim fat by eliminating extra sugar. Sugarbusters states that lowering extra sugar is achieved by avoiding white rice, white bread and refined pastas. Other foods to be avoided are carrots, beets, and bananas. Dieters should instead eat foods which are high in protein such as nuts, steaks, eggs and also some fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals and breads (Steward, 1995). The discerning factor between which foods can be eaten and which can not depends on the particular glycemic index of the food.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is the classification of food based on their blood glucose response relative to a starchy food, usually white bread. "A glycemic index is calculated as the weighted mean of the glycemic index value of the individual carbohydrate food, with the weighting based on the the proportion of the total carbohydrate contributed by each food"(Wolever, Nguyen, Chiassen,& Hunt, 1994). In total there are nearly six hundred separate entries including values for most common Western foods, yet these are not available on the Sugarbusters web site. Sugarbusters does establish guidelines by stating that a GI lower than forty is low, between forty and sixty is moderate and greater than sixty is high and should be avoided ( It is this GI which allows for foods such as beef and cheese to be eaten while bananas and watermelon are to be avoided. A list of foods with glycemic indexes can be found at (

How Sugarbusters Works

Carbohydrates are the key to the entire diet because sugar is the building block of all carbohydrates. Sugar absorbed from the digestive system motivates the secretion of insulin to transport sugars into the cells as an energy source. The certain carbohydrate eaten affects the rate that of sugar absorbed and the amount of insulin secreted. A diet of refined sugar and processed grain products produces a noticeable elevation in insulin levels over a twenty four hour period. The extra insulin is then able to promote fat deposition. Not all carbohydrates are absorbed in this fashion, though. Carbohydrates in unrefined forms, such as whole grains, need digestive alteration before being absorbed by the body. This results in a reduction in the amount of insulin secreted and therefore less fat storage or weight gain (Steward, 1995).

Claims Made About Effectiveness

The Sugarbusters web site ( offers a wide array of successful testimonials. One woman states that it is the only diet of many she has tried that has resulted in weight loss. Two Diabetics also expressed great excitement at their success with Sugarbusters. Both had dropped their bloodsugar levels to between "80-112 fasting and 93-134 not fasting" which they had never been able to do before. Other than these most talked of feeling energetic and happy.

Presenters of the Evidence

These testimonials are supplied on the web site by the four authors of this book. The authors are Dr. Luis A. Balart, who practices gastroenterology and hepatology in New Orleans, H. Leighton Steward a CEO at a fortune 500 energy company, Dr. Morrison Bethea, who practices thoracic cardiac and vascular surgery in New Orleans and Dr. Samuel Andrews who practices endocrinology and internal medicine ( These doctors are presenting this evidence in hopes of targeting a wide range of the public to buy their book.

How Correct Are Glycemic Index Values?

Glycemic Index values are usually listed with their value, type of subjects tested to gain values, and original source of data. This information is valuable when determining whether one personally finds the values relevant. Also, if two values have been published for a given food both will be provided, or shown how the mean was found. Usually these values are reassuring because they are generally consistent. An example is that apples may only vary between thirty-two and forty in four separate studies. Although these values are quite close, GI values should not be expected to be exact(Miller,1995).

There are some instances of great variation. Porridge may be scored as low as forty two and as high as seventy five due to methods of cooking and processing. Particle size is also important. As the particle size decreases the glycemic index increases. Also to be considered is gelatinization. The greater the degree in starches the higher the glycemic index. Particle size and gelatinization help to explain why the GI's of bread and pasta differ so much.

With an accurate Glycemic Index, one should be able to determine which foods will illicit high or low insulin responses. "In general insulin responses follow the rank order of glycemic responses" (Milller,1995). This would be supportive of the Sugarbusters diet in which lower GI foods are encouraged because of low insulin levels.

Does High Consumption of Sugar Cause Obesity?

There is concrete evidence which suggests that the fat to carbohydrate ratio in a diet affects weight regulation and in instances of high fat/low carbohydrate diets obesity is promoted. In this situation the high fat portion of the diet is probably the problem, and therefore a lower fat diet would reduce obesity. In the instance of a high carbohydrate diet "there is little evidence that sugars have direct affects on either total energy intake or total energy expenditure in human subjects; such affect would promote body fat accumulation" (Hill & Prentice,1995). In essence their is little evidence to suggest that high consumption of dietary sugars poses a threat to national health. There are some special instances where a high carbohydrate diet could lead to insulin resistance. In this case overeating and consuming large amounts of dietary fats may lead to obesity where it would not have in a non-insulin resistant person. In general Hill and Prentice state that there is no need to make recommendations about dietary sugar intake with regard to weight regulation (Hill&Prentice 1995). This study is not in agreement with the Sugarbusters program which suggests a low GI diet with few carbohydrates for weight reduction.

Does the Glycemic Level Affect Insulin Responses?

Incorporating foods with low glycemic levels without changing dietary fiber "reduces postprandial blood glucose and insulin responses and improves overall blood glucose and lipid concentration in normal subjects and patients with diabetes"(Wolever 1994). Three clinical experiments have proved that low Glycemic Indexes improved blood glucose levels when the GI level was reduced by twelve to forty percent of the regular level. Also, two of the three experiments proved that a low GI diet reduces serum cholesterol and triglycerides (Wolever 1994).

An interesting factor in this study was that simple sugars were considered to have low GI's, and to be reducers of blood glucose and insulin. For this reason, fruits such as apples and bananas were sited as important in one's diet. This disagrees with the Sugarbusters diet which discourages bananas based on their high glycemic index.


Dawson, F. (1997,February). Fat Chance. New Orleans Magazine,p.30.

Hill,J.& Prentice,A. (1995). Sugar and Body Weight Regulation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ,62,2645- .

Miller,J. (1995). International Tables of Glycemic Index. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,62,8695- .

Steward,H. ,Andrews,S. Morrison,C.& Balart,L. (1995). SugarBusters.USA:SugarBusters.

Wolever,T. ,Nguyen,P. ,Chiasson,J.& Hunt,J. (1994). Determinants of diet glycemic index calculated retrospectively from diet records of 342 individuals with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,59, 1265- .



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