Book Review: "Sugar Shock!"

Monday, April 16, 2007 - 2:08pm

By Allison Stevens, MS, RD

Is sugar the next Big Tobacco? This comparison is not new.  But, if you are unconvinced of the possibility, pick up a copy of Sugar Shock!  Written by journalist Connie Bennett, an ex-sugar junkie, Sugar Shock! is not another low-carb diet book. Instead, Bennett explores the addictive nature of sugar and the effects it can have on your health. Although over-the-top at times, Sugar Shock is a real eye-opener that leaves you thinking twice before grabbing for that early-morning bagel or afternoon soda.

A Crabby Cantankerous Shrew

A journalist by trade, Connie Bennett turned health enthusiast after she was diagnosed with "reactive hypoglycemia," or low blood sugar, a condition where her blood sugars surge and then drop in response to refined carbohydrate intake.

Prior to her diagnosis, Bennett was plagued by several, seemingly unrelated symptoms, all of which are outlined in the first chapter of Sugar Shock! The list of 44 debilitating physical and emotional effects sugar had on Bennett range from mood swings and temper tantrums to drowsiness and headaches to fainting and nightmares.

After years of outbursts and mood swings that pushed away friends and family, Bennett finally pinpointed her myriad symptoms to one thing: her sugar habit. Basically, her body was reacting badly to sugar and refined carbohydrates, turning her into a self-described "crabby, cantankerous shrew." Bennett was relieved of all 44 symptoms, simply by eliminating sugars and refined carbohydrates from her diet.

Not Such a Sweet Thing 

Sugar Shock! is co-authored by Dr. Sinatra and utilizes information from countless expert interviews and previous research on the topic to make a case against sugar. The increase in obesity and diabetes in our country is often linked with an increased intake of "junk carbohydrates." Sugar Shock! explores this connection and then goes on to link many other health afflictions to excess sugar intake-everything from brain fog, depression, and memory problems to skin problems, including acne and wrinkles.

But Are Carbohydrates Evil?

Sugar Shock! is alarming in tone and frightening upon first read. Readers must keep in mind that the author's personal experience was due to a medical condition and that her research is often one-sided. And although the author raises some interesting points worth exploring, the potential harm of sugar and refined carbohydrates is at times over-stated.

There are good carbohydrates that are essential for energy and health. This is a point that Bennett makes, but one that tends to gets lost in the midst of all of the carb-slamming text. Commendably, Bennett does not support cutting out carbohydrates altogether, but instead recommends switching to healthier sources of carbohydrates (think whole grains, fruits, and vegetables).

The Why's and How-To's

Bennett provides over 200 pages of well-researched information, exploring our society's addiction to sugar and providing evidence as to why readers should eat better quality carbohydrates. However, after scaring the reader into thinking that sugar is the root of all health problems, the book fails to provide recipes and meal plans and lacks much practical advice on how to avoid "sugar shock."

Bottom Line

In a day in age when we are bombarded with sugar-filled foods and drinks, a reminder that these foods shouldn't form the basis of our diet is often necessary. So, before you gulp down one more soda or mindlessly nibble on a basketful of fresh-from-the-oven dinner rolls, read Sugar Shock!