McCarrison Society

Health Through Nutrition, A Birthright


Surgeon Captain TL Cleave FRCP (1906-1983)



A biography of Cleave, author of the influential book, ‘The Saccarine Disease’  is set out in the attached McCarrison PDF booklet below. He too was of the opinion that diet is central to health, believing that refined carbohydrates including sugar were a significant factor in western disease.

Other information is included in a wikipedia entry. (link)

He was very highly thought of by his contemporaries as illustrated by the quotes below.

Sir Francis Avery Jones

‘Long before the year 2000, time will have amply confirmed the Cleave hypothesis, and over-refinement of food will have become part of our history. His name will be added to the roll of the great men who opened up new fields of discovery in medicine.’

(Link to lecture about Sinclair titled ‘An Apple a Day’ by Sir Francis at a McCarrison AGM )

Dr Walter Yellowlees

‘Like William Harvey, he was a born naturalist; his observations on the reaction of the human gut and metabolism to the onslaught of industrially refined carbohydrate food was part of his understanding of nature’s processes.’

Dr Denis Burkitt

‘Cleave was one of the most revolutionary and far-sighted medical thinkers of the twentieth century, seeing far beyond the small vision of intricate details of individual diseases.’

Dr Kenneth Heaton

‘Cleave saw that many of the diseases of civilisation could be explained as the consequences of eating refined carbohydrate, pointing out the crucial fact that refined foods are an artefact of technological civilisation.’

McCarrison Society – Booklet dedicated to Cleave.


by Geoffrey Cannon

“Half a century ago the British Medical Journal published an editorial saying ‘all the evidence goes to show that the human alimentary tract, from the teeth to the colon, rebels against refined foodstuffs, and in eating a quantity of refined foods people do indeed dig their graves with their teeth.’ In 1986 the British Medical Association summarised all the reliable scientific evidence on food and good health now known to us in its report ‘Food, Nutrition and Health’, recommending ‘an increase in consumption of fresh food and vegetables, wholemeal and other bread and cereals generally’.

The McCarrison Society is the British professional association committed to the promotion of good health and the prevention of disease by sound nutrition. To this end the Society has published this paper on one of the founders of modem nutrition, Surgeon-Captain T L Cleave, whose thesis, built on the rock of Darwin’s general theory, is that the human race is not adapted to processed food of the type now eaten in Western countries.

Cleave’s short book The Saccharine Disease’ is succinct, and written in language that anybody interested in food and health can readily understand. In this book, his masterpiece, he proposes that many deadly, disabling or disagreeable diseases, such as heart disease, common cancers, diseases of the lower gut, diabetes, ulcers, varicose veins, obesity and tooth decay, are all manifestations of one master ‘Saccharine Disease’, caused by Western food, overloaded with refined sugar and flour, stripped of fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and literally unfit for human consumption.

Manufactured food of the type typically supplied to the British Nation is stuffed with cheap processed fats and sugars; and it is no surprise that food manufacturers, and their defenders, reject Cleave’s message. But in essentials, Cleave is right. This paper, written by Dr Kenneth Heaton, an authority on Western food and Western health and disease, is offered as an introduction to T L Cleave’s own writings.

(Commentary) Cleave focused mainly on flour and sugar (Link), although he also wrote a short publication on fats and coronary disease (below).

In 1957 relatively little was known about the chemistry and biology of polyunsaturated fats, and hence there was no reason why he should have suspected that excess consumption of heavily processed vegetable fats may be a factor in western disease, although Sinclair was already warning of the possibility.

He had however presciently postulated in chapter 8 of the ‘Saccharine Disease‘ and in his publication ‘Fat Consumption and Coronary Disease‘ that consumption of what he termed “unnatural fat”, potentially including excess vegetable oils, were in his then view likely associated with cardiovascular disease, and that possibly the body was acculturated to saturated fat. (Link)


The Saccharine Disease (Link to online copy)

Refined carbohydrate disease

The term, ‘refined carbohydrate foods’, will be shortened in this work to ‘refined carbohydrates’. The mass incrimination of these, especially sugar and white flour, over many of the ills of Westernized countries today, was first advanced by the author of the present work in a long paper in 1956; [1] and as far as he knows he was the first to advance this unitary conception, which he later promulgated under the term, ‘the Saccharine Disease’.”

A Molecular Conception of Organisms and Neoplasms 3rd ed., (1955), Bristol: Wright.

Fat Consumption and Coronary Disease (1957), Bristol: Wright.

On the Causation of Varicose Veins (1960), Bristol: Wright.

Peptic Ulcer (1962), Bristol: Wright.

With G. D. Campbell
Diabetes, Coronary Thrombosis, and the Saccharine Disease (1966), Bristol: Wright.
(Second edition, with G. D. Campbell and N. S. Painter, 1969)

His best known work




Conditions caused by the Taking
of Refined Carbohydrates,
such as Sugar and White Flour

T. L. Cleave, M.R.C.P. (Lond.)

Member of the Institute of Linguists
Surgeon-Captain Royal Navy (Retd.)
Formerly Director of Medical Research,
Institute of Naval Medicine

with a Foreword by

D. P. Burkitt, M.D., F.R.S., F.R.C.S. (Ed.),
D.Sc. (Hon.), F.R.C.S.I. (Hon.)

Medical Research Council External Staff

John Wright & Sons Limited

A lessor know but equally interesting 1957 work


An insight into the then arguments and views as to the relationship between fats and coronary disease. which arguably foreshadowed Keys and current, arguably over simplistic, advice to avoid saturated fat.

I bought this copy on the web, and digitised it on the grounds of public interest, as it is no longer in print and very hard to find.

From the original annotations, it appears this copy reproduced below, by remarkable fortuitousness, and poignantly, was given to Cleave’s wife after his death.


Subscribe to Our Newsletter