Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sugar: White Poison

“It’s not about the calories,” says Robert Lustig, specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.” To what is he referring? Sugar. Yup, sugar.

Extreme? Maybe. But worth paying attention to. According to the recent New York Times article, per Lustig "sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that’s killing us." Lustig is referring to both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in his assessment, the latter of which is the latest villain in the food industry world. High fructose corn syrup is pervasive in the American diet and has been linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. Concerns over the dangers of HFCS have driven many of us back to "plain old sugar" as we seek out a simpler alternative. Not so fast says Lustig, "High-fructose corn syrup, sugar — no difference. The point is they’re each bad — equally bad, equally poisonous.”

According to Lustig, the high consumption of sugar or HFCS, especially in liquid form (sodas or fruit juices) taxes the liver which turns the excess easily into fat and, over the long term, leads the body to develop insulin resistance "which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2." As the consumption of sugar has increased in the United States, so has the rate of disease. "In 1980, roughly one in seven Americans was obese, and almost six million were diabetic, and the obesity rates, at least, hadn’t changed significantly in the 20 years previously. By the early 2000s, when sugar consumption peaked, one in every three Americans was obese, and 14 million were diabetic."

And the trouble doesn't end there. According to Nancy Appleton, author of the book Lick the Sugar Habit, sugar can depress the immune system, raise your cholesterol, feed cancer cells, weaken eyesight, cause gallstones, and contribute to osteoporosis, among others.

So what to do? Clearly, reducing our intake of sugar and high fructose corn syrup is a top priority. But giving up our sweet tooth sounds insurmountable (at least over here!). Explore alternative and natural sweeteners such as organic honey, stevia, and maple syrup when the sweet craving comes. But watch out for artificial sweeteners and other concoctions and, most of all, do your research!

1 comment:

  1. One of the things that Lustig and Taubes aren't talking about much is the difference between glucose and fructose. There's quite a bit of emerging research (still in its infancy, unfortunately), that may be villifying fructose (and sucrose), but not glucose. I wrote about this on my site recently... In part 1 I give a quick primer on the types of sugars, and part 2 looks at the different sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup. Hope it's helpful to you:


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