Jack LaLanne, 1914-2011, was a well known bodybuilder, strongman, and health advocate. He was the father of the American fitness movement, long before Jane Fonda made a fitness tape into a VCR ; in fact, long before VCRs were invented.
He had a remarkable record of fitness and strongman stunts until an advanced age. For instance, he received a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. At his induction ceremony, at age 88, LaLanne did push ups on the top of his star.
His first and most important idea was the importance of regular exercise. Close behind – and less accepted to date – was the poisonous and addictive nature of sugar. LaLanne entirely banned sugar from his diet, except as it appeared in fruits and vegetables.
Modern medicine accepts that the chief cause of adult diabetes is a diet high in sugars, refined starches (white rice, white flour, etc.) and other foods with high “glycemic index” (potatoes). The “white foods” all digest quickly into sugar. Sugars go into the bloodstream quickly. The amount of increase in blood sugar from eating a given food is called the food’s “glycemic index”.
Diabetes is the body’s inability to control the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Diabetics age rapidly. All the normal effects of age occur more quickly in diabetics, including cataracts, wrinkles, and heart disease. This is due to over-high levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream.
At the chemical level, the accelerated damage to the body is the reaction of glucose with protein (“glycosylation”) . Proteins play many key roles in the body. Protein molecules are long chains. Glucose can link several separate protein molecules permanently, when they should not be linked. This degrades the proteins’ function.
For instance, the protein elastin can stretch and recoil. It is a major part of every muscle. When multiple molecules of elastin become cross-linked by glucose, they lose their ability to stretch and recoil. Another example: when the clear protein that forms the lens of the eye becomes glycosylated, it becomes a cloudy cataract.
Over the years, scientists believe, the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar degrades if it is repeatedly challenged with high amounts of sugar and “white food” in the diet. The pancreas seems to wear out.
But Jack LaLanne wasn’t just trying to avoid diabetes. He believed that exercise and a natural diet would bring vigor and health to everyone. His remarkable life proved his point.