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Issue 81: The "20 Year Rule"

His name is Thomas Latimer Cleave (1906-1983). At the age of 16, he entered Bristol Medical School, finished his training at St. Mary’s Hospital and then went directly into the Royal Navy where he served as a medical specialist at home and abroad until he retired in 1962.

But that’s only part of the story.

Cleave is best known for relentlessly pointing out that the human body is not made for refined foods of civilization—particularly white sugar and white flour. He spent his life gathering information and research to support his theory, which culminated in what he termed “the saccharine [or sugar] disease.” He also wrote a book by the same name.

In the 1970s, Cleave conducted a classic study in which he found that increases in degenerative unhealth could be traced to increases in refined carbohydrate intake—especially white sugar and white flour. He noted a particularly disturbing trend among primitive civilizations that were recently exposed to these twin health evils—sugar and flour. In every case, Cleave found that primitive cultures were almost entirely free of certain health anomalies until a certain time after white sugar and white flour were introduced to the food chain.

Interestingly, while the addition of sugar to the diets of non-industrialized societies didn’t seem to cause health problems immediately, Cleave observed that it consistently caused health problems to appear about twenty years later. This pattern was so consistent in all the cultures Cleave studied that he named the phenomenon the “Rule of 20 Years.”

Cleave’s was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, however, and it took a long time for people to pay attention to what he was saying. Fortunately, some did listen. Since then, other voices have joined with Cleave’s to sound the alarm, including Anne Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S., Diana Schwarzbein, M.D. and John Yudkin, M.D.

In her book How to Stay Young and Healthy in a Toxic World, Dr. Gittleman says, “Despite what mainstream media would like us to believe, sugar is not an innocent substance that gives us pleasure and causes no harm. Quite the contrary; there is perhaps nothing else in the diet that promotes unhealth and aging more over the long term than excess sugar.”

Dr. Schwarzbein, who wrote the book The Schwarzbein Principle, echoes Gittleman’s sentiments. She says, “I have seen what high-insulin eating and lifestyle habits do to people. People are getting fatter, more unhealthy and more depressed.”

British researcher Dr. Yudkin also saw sugar’s connection to ill health. He conducted numerous studies on this subject and found that sugar is a more likely cause of an unhealthy heart than fat is. The results of his studies in the 1970s led Yudkin to warn that feeding children so much sugar lays the foundation for the development of serious health problems in the future—and may even be as hazardous to their long-term health as smoking.

Maybe we need to take heed before the “Rule of 20 Years” catches up with all of us.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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