Sugar Busters Diet: What You Need to Know

If you're on the Sugar Busters diet, you can say bye-bye to refined sugar. See more weight loss tips pictures.

If you came across a diet book authored by three doctors and a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company, chances are you'd think it was pretty credible. "Sugar Busters," published in 1995, was written by Morrison C. Bethea, a cardiothoracic surgeon; Samuel A. Andrews, an endocrinologist; Luis A. Balart, a gastroenterologist; and H. Leighton Steward, a former CEO [source: Zelman]. The Sugar Busters diet has a lot of power behind it -- but does it work?

Sugar Busters was created in the midst of a low-carbohydrate-diet trend. The authors set out to create a diet plan that could be maintained as a lifestyle, not just a quick fix. The diet cuts back on the amount of "bad carbohydrates" a person consumes, targeting processed grain products and refined sugar as two sources of bad carbs [source: Sugar Busters].


Sugar Busters uses the glycemic index to help determine if foods are good for the diet or not. A food has a high glycemic index if it breaks down quickly into simple sugars that instigate higher insulin levels from the body. Higher glycemic foods equate to bad carbs -- the diet eliminates them because they increase a person's insulin levels. Increased insulin levels are said to force our body to conserve its sugar and fat while also making cholesterol.

Sugar Busters claims that it will decrease insulin levels, aid intestinal functions, lower cholesterol and encourage weight loss. It also states that followers of the diet will decrease their chances of Type II diabetes and obesity. Though it's a diet authored by a collection of doctors, there haven't been any official studies that prove or disprove its claims.

Read the next page to find out what the Sugar Busters diet plan is.


Sugar Busters Diet Plan

The Sugar Busters diet plan tells you how, what and when to eat. The plan is meant to become your life, rather than just a quick phase. The basic idea of Sugar Busters is to have you eat fruit, high-fiber vegetables, stone-ground whole grains, lean meat and fish. The plan limits sugar and thus your insulin levels, which Sugar Busters blames as the cause of body fat. If you follow the plan, you might help your cholesterol levels, lower your risk for diabetes, and see an increase in energy and wellness. It's also said to cut back your cravings for refined sugar products.

Sugar Busters sets up a ratio of the types of foods you should consume every day: 30 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 40 percent fat, eaten in three portion-controlled meals. Snacks are permitted, but they must be reasonably sized and healthy. Liquid is another important component of the plan, mainly in the form of water. A dieter should expect to drink six to eight daily glasses of water.


Sugar Busters doesn't ignore the importance of exercise, recommending that you get your heart rate up for 20 minutes for at least four days a week. Exercise is good for your heart and the overall function of your body, and it can also help you lose weight.

Though the plan is seemingly appropriate for a variety of people, experts don't recommend the plan for vegetarians. Sugar Busters doesn't provide enough suggestions for non-meat proteins [source: Better Health USA].

Click to the next page to learn about what foods you can and can't eat when on the Sugar Busters diet.


Sugar Busters Food

The Sugar Busters plan advocates only certain types of foods, mostly those high in fiber and rich in whole grains. Some foods -- both processed and natural -- are restricted. Foods that make the taboo list include baked beans, corn, carrots, bananas, raisins, white bread, white pasta, white rice, potatoes, beer, bacon, lunch meats, cookies, cakes, bagels and crackers. The diet restricts these foods because their sugar content has the potential to raise your insulin levels too much.

The diet promotes the intake of meats, vegetables and fruits, but only certain varieties of each food group, like meats that are lean and have any excess fat removed. Acceptable meats include lean beef and pork, poultry, venison, fish, shellfish and Canadian bacon.


If a vegetable has a low glycemic index, it's probably recommended by the Sugar Busters diet. A good gauge of glycemic index is the veggie's color. Green vegetables tend to be on the low side -- think zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, asparagus, peas and spinach. Other vegetables that qualify include mushrooms, squash, eggplant, artichokes and onions.

Sugar Busters approves of only certain fruits -- watermelon and bananas, for example, have too much sugar. Apples, citrus fruit, pears, cherries, raspberries, kiwis, apricots, cantaloupe, honey dew melon and tomatoes all have the green light.

Click to the next page for an overview of the possible side effects of the Sugar Busters diet.


Sugar Busters Side Effects

The Sugar Busters diet, as we mentioned, hasn't been tested or backed by a sea of studies, so its long-term effects aren't yet known. We do know that the diet cuts back on some important vitamins and minerals by restricting certain foods [source: Reese]. For instance, the diet denies you bananas, which have potassium. Potassium is an essential component of our health.

Also, Sugar Busters is thought to be a potential hazard for people with diabetes. The danger comes when a person follows the book instead of consulting their doctor. The diet claims that if diabetics follow the guidelines, they'll see a decreased need for insulin shots and oral hypoglycemic aids [source: Mendosa]. But any diabetic should check with a doctor before starting the Sugar Busters diet.


A third concern about the Sugar Busters diet is its effect on the kidneys and liver. Some doctors have mentioned the fact that diets that increase protein levels may cause the body to release too much calcium. This excess calcium can damage certain internal organs. High-protein diets might also be the cause of tiredness, weakness and irritability [source: Zelman].

The Sugar Busters authors reference many success stories. But, as with any diet, you shouldn't rely on it as the sole method of making that extra weight vanish -- exercise is a good addition too.

Feeling like you're ready to bust some sugar? There's one more thing you should consider; before beginning any diet plan, it's a good idea to consult your physician.

Click on the links on the next page in order to learn more about Sugar Busters.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Better Health USA. "Rating the Sugar Busters Diet: Advantages and Disadvantages." (Accessed 3/31/09)
  • Callahan, Maureen. "Sugar Busters." Health, 2/20/09. (Accessed 3/31/09)
  • Gorman, Christine. "Sugar Busters!" TIME, 6/24/01. (Accessed 3/31/09),9171,1101980706-139508,00.html
  • Mendosa, Rick. "Sugar Busters!-A New Book About Diet." Diabetes Health, 9/1/98. (Accessed 3/31/09)
  • Nutrition Perspectives. "Book Review: Sugar Busters!" Vol. 24, No. 5. Sep/Oct 1999. (Accessed 3/31/09)
  • Reese, Heather. "Popular Diets Reviewed: Sugar Busters Diet." Health Central, 1/6/08. (Accessed 3/31/09)
  • Sugar Busters. "Sugar Busters! Concept." (Accessed 3/31/09)
  • Zelman, Kathleen. "Sugar Busters Diet: What It Is." Web MD, 7/10/07. (Accessed 3/31/09)