There is a longstanding debate of the harmful effects of sugar and more evidence is surfacing to confirm reports that high sugar consumption may lead to an untimely death. Sugar’s evil replacement, high fructose corn syrup, is not the only one to blame – pointing fingers can include good old-fashioned table sugar.
Dr. Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, who has begun campaigning “the war against bad food” or at least that is the message of his YouTube video that has inspired the pick-up of this story across multiple media outlets and fueled new academic research studies. He describes “bad food” as the classic culprits known for derailing most diet efforts: table sugar, honey, syrup, sugary soda, juices, pastries and desserts and hidden sources, like yogurt, ketchup, bread and even peanut butter. These “hidden sources” cleverly disguise sugar as high fructose corn syrup on their labels.
Lustig’s campaign was instigated by the extreme number of sick and obese children coming into his practice each day. He believes that sugar is the central cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease – coupled, of course, with the typical American lifestyle.
Dr. Lustig interviewed with Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CBS news on Sunday night, stating, “Seventy-five percent of [these conditions are] preventable.” And Lustig has not been silent in this battle – he has published more than a dozen articles on the evils of sugar and his YouTube video is the first step in bringing the message to the masses.
In 2011, Lustig was interviewed by The New York Times to discuss the findings of a study out of Children’s Hospital in Boston that revealed replacing sugary beverages, like energy drinks, bottled iced teas, juices and sodas, with water results in significant weight loss and a reduction in the risk of fatty live disease, among teens.
Now, in 2012, multiple, long-term studies are underway that go beyond the beverages and may change how sugar is regulated in America.
Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, is the lead researcher of a five-year study that will back-up Lustig’s theories. She also spoke with CBS News. So far, her results suggest that individuals who over consume sugar – high fructose corn syrup or traditional table sugar – experience an overload of fructose in the liver, which converts to fat, ultimately leaking into the bloodstream and generating an increase in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol.) An increase in LDL particles is dangerous – these particles easily lodge in the blood vessels, contributing to the formation of plaque and an increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Lustig says that most doctors and dietitians are not aware of this new bit of evidence. At Harvard, other ground-breaking evidence, by Dr. Lewis Cantley, suggests that increases in insulin levels, in an attempt to regulate excess sugar in the bloodstream, work as a catalyst and fuel certain types of cancers, including breast and colon cancer. Cantley advises that sugar should be kept to a minimum, if at all, the impact they have observed on the development of cancer cells is irrefutable.
American consumption of sugar may be hard to avoid. In the 1970s, heart disease began to skyrocket, so the federal government stepped in and mandated lower fat consumption – the response from the food industries was less fat, but more sugar, to make up the lost flavor. Lustig told Dr. Gupta, “Take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard. And the food industry knew that. So they replaced it with sugar. . . And guess what? Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and death are skyrocketing.”
The government is not solely responsible for this “addiction” to sugar. Additional research has surfaced out of the Oregon Research institute. MRI images that show the brain’s reaction to sugar, such as a Coke, reveal that sugar activates the brain in much the same way recreational drugs, like cocaine do. Dopamine is released and makes the consumer experience a euphoric effect – lighting up the reward center of the brain.
People continue to consume more and more sugar, hoping to experience the same sensation as they did the first time, but as more and more goes down, the reward center becomes stifled and the experience cannot be matched – unbeknownst to the consumer.
This evidence uncovered by these academic bodies led each these researchers to comment that they will be giving up sugar in their diets, due to these significant health concerns. The researchers may not be the first to recognize the need to rid sugar from the diet. The American Heart Association has worked in tandem with Dr. Lustig to revise the recommendations of sugar in the American diet. He co-authored the report stating that men should consume no more than 150 calories of sugar per day and women no more than 100 calories. A difficult task when you consider that 100 calories of sugar is a mere 6 teaspoons. For the health conscious, who sprinkle 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar on their salads at lunch, have reached a quarter of the day’s allotment, under these guidelines, if you are female.
Dr. Lustig believes this is a public health crisis and that much like the regulation placed on other legal, but harmful substances – tobacco and alcohol – sugar should be tightly monitored as well.
Feel free to weigh in with your comments: Do you think sugar should be regulated like tobacco or alcohol – in light of this evidence?