Is Sugar Poison?

Last Updated Jul 28, 2020

David Gillespie has carved a niche for himself as Australia’s most visible no-sugar guru – a self described ‘recovering sugarholic’, he attributes his approach to losing a significant amount of weight (some 40 kg) and transforming his life. In his battle with the bulge David dispensed with more conventional approaches such as dieting and exercise regimes - instead choosing to go entirely sugar free. His views are dismissed by some as the work of an amateur, but this did not stop his first book, 'Sweet Poison' from becoming a bestseller and he has just released his second work, 'The Sweet Poison Quit Plan'. ntpages caught up with David recently to find out more about his radical approach.

As someone with no formal background or training in health or nutrition, how much opposition do you encounter to your work?

“Some dieticians and nutritionists are less positive about my work, but I suspect that many have not read my books. I have had a lot more positive feedback from medical practitioners.”

What science is behind your sugar exclusion approach?

“The stimulus for my interest in the subject was a study published in the 1950s, which linked our consumption of sugar with growing obesity levels. I was battling a weight problem myself at the time and this really struck a chord when I came across it. All my work is based on the latest scientific research and I have yet to have anyone identify anything factually incorrect with it.”

Where do you obtain all your data on obesity?

“The US is the only country with reliable historical data on obesity, so many of the statistics I quote are sourced from there.”

You were addicted to sugar?

“Absolutely, no question about it – sugar is extremely addictive and I was very overweight because of it.”

You are not a fan of diets per se?

“No, studies indicate that people do lose weight initially when dieting, but that they put it back on – and more – later. Instead, I say eat anything you want as long as it is not sweet.”

What about the nutritionist’s mantra – all things in moderation?

“Everybody’s definition of moderation is different which is where the problem arises.  It is also very difficult to consume an addictive substance in moderation – try doing it with cigarettes.”

You don’t really distinguish between natural and processed sugars?

“At the end of the day sugar or sucrose is comprised of two elements: glucose and fructose.  Fructose is what makes food taste sweet. This is true for a processed food such as chocolate or a natural source such as honey and ultimately the body reacts to it in the same way.”

So fructose is the real culprit?

“Yes, it is a hormone disruptor which elicits a cortisol response in our bodies, much like drugs such as nicotine and caffeine. Our bodies do not recognise fructose as a food and convert it to fat immediately, which is why we put on weight.”

Australian’s are apparently eating less sugar today than 30 years ago* – how does this equate with your notion that sugar is ever more prevalent in our diet?

“I would question any data which claimed this because there is good data from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics that suggests the opposite.”

Which foods are the biggest sugar culprits?

“Here you are looking at products such as cereals, fruit juices, dried fruit, yoghurts and sauces – which are perhaps the biggest culprits. A lot of people also don’t realise that products labelled ‘low fat’ also contain a lot of sugar.”

Why are table sauces such a problem?

“The main problem with sauces is that people don’t realise how much they use them on a daily basis. Tomato sauce is often one quarter sugar while barbecue sauce is as high as 53 per cent sugar. Asian sauces are also often very high in sugar content.”

Are the health authorities as concerned as you are?

“I don’t see any evidence of this.”

Besides losing weight, what else is great about being sugar free?

“The real advantages are the significant reductions in my chances of suffering from chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and many cancers. Since quitting my palate has also recovered and I have a much broader sense of taste - sugar really clouds your tastebuds.”

What is your view of the artificial or substitute sweeteners?

“There are a number of different types. Sugar substitutes like stevia, sucralose and aspartame are a bit like methadone – great for helping you get off sugar. Sugar alternatives like sorbitol are metabolised to fructose anyway so there is no point in using these. You then get natural ‘alternatives’ such as honey, maple syrup and agave but these are all high in fructose.”

Are the artificial or substitute sweeteners safe?

“I cannot vouch for their long term safety - no one really knows the long term effects of these on the body, so I would only ever use these as a short term solution. All the evidence points to these not helping you lose weight at all, but they can help you break the cycle of sugar addiction.”

Is there a sugar substitute you would recommend?

“Dextrose - which is pure glucose. It is available in powdered form at your local supermarket or anywhere that sells home brew supplies.”

So how do we get off sugar?

“The first is to admit that you are an addict. Then eliminate sugar from your life, which is difficult. One way of doing this is by keeping to the perimeter when you are in the supermarket – this is where all your fresh food, meat, bread, fruit, vegetables and dairy are. All the bad stuff is in the middle aisles so stay away from there. I also offer a five-step plan in my new book to help you quit.”

You have six children – are they sugar free too?

“Largely. We certainly don’t have any tomato sauce in the house! I think their palates have also adapted, so it is really not an issue for us.”

* Study source:

Originally published on Sep 05, 2011

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