Deception, Complexity, Ambivalence – Sugar

March 12, 2013 in Diabetes, General, Nutrition, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

My emotions are hopping around within me; at the same time I’m feel deceived, grateful, and confused ……… I’m looking for a place to start with a message to share with you. It is a message about something we have let into our lives as a fun friend, which has become a deceitful traitor backed by strong financial interests. That something is Sugar. Sugar appearing friendly in all its artful disguises. Sugar hiding in all its shifting forms. Sugar in excess metabolizing in our bodies and in our livers doing things shocking and disastrous for us; not what a true friend, even a fun friend would do.

Sugar is a relatively simple and small compound. And glucose, half of common table sugar (sucrose), is the only form of energy that the human brain can use for energy. Granted that we can make glucose from just about everything we eat (protein, fat, and carbohydrate), the fact still remains that we use glucose to fuel our body and exclusively, our brains. Having said that, most of us realize that when we only eat refined sugar, regardless of the type, be it, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), regular corn syrup hidden away on the labels, broken up into various forms so it will not be the first or second thing on the food label, the intent is deceit. Unfortunately, it is not just refined sugar, but even sugar in more natural forms as honey and agave, to name a few, that has bad effects in excess.  With all of these we are consuming empty calories – calories that do not provide anything except energy (energy as in calories – not necessarily making you feel energetic). The point is that there is no protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients – ‘NO NOTHIN’ to make you healthy! On top of that there is ever increasing evidence that sugar causes life-threatening disease.

I’ve written many times about the toxicity of sugar, one in particular was last April 17, 2012, but suffice it to say the sugar ‘problem’ is not going away. I’ve just finished reading Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies: How the industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill? By Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t know so many of the details of the duplicitous sugar industry until reading this article. It’s as though I was ushered back into time – the time of the deceit and treachery of the tobacco industry’s fight against Public Health and Science. In fact, big sugar has used the same strategy and tactics to safeguard sales by creating a body of spurious arguments using crafty messaging from so-called evidence that companies have long used to discount and obfuscate unfavorable research. The sugar industry has shed doubt on studies suggesting that its product makes people sick, for over 40 years    Many doctors suspected that sugar might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes; but the most elaborate cloak and dagger story was perpetrated upon the public and science, to keep Big Sugar in Big Business and us out of the know. If you like reading mysteries and intrigue, you’ll love Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies; except for the sickening feeling that comes as we realize that real human lives have been and are being diminished as a result of the fervent perpetration of this deceptive story line.

How did Taubes and Cousens get all the documentation that is listed at the end of their article? In short, the answer is that they gained access to more than 1,500 pages of internal memos, letters, and company board reports of now-defunct sugar companies as well as in the recently released papers of deceased researchers and consultants who played key roles in the industry’s strategy. Oh my goodness! Does burn in hell fit here? The fact that sugar (and its cousins) kills hundreds of thousands of Americans every year; that of course, fails to mention, prior to death, the loss of quality of life that is involved. Let’s not even emphasize the fiscal issue – that sugar-related diseases are costing America about $150 billion a year.

The government regulators have never set a limit on the amount of sugar Americans can safely consume. Thank you to the American Heart Association for having the courage to face down The Sugar Association and others in order to give us a reasonable guide. The AHA recommends that men consume no more than 150 calories per day (9 teaspoons); and 100 calories per day by women (6 teaspoons) of added sugar. Remember that a single 12-ounce can of soda pop contains about nine teaspoons. Also remember that 8 ounces (not one of those big bottles – just one cup) of original Gatorade has 3.5 teaspoons of sugar; and 6 ounces of flavored yogurt has about 5 teaspoons. Don’t forget Twinkies for Breakfast (sweetened cereal); some like Honey Smacks have 5 teaspoons of sugar per cup; even a cup of Honey Nut Cheerios has 3 teaspoons of sugar.

Little more than a week ago the journal PLoS One (Public Library of Science) published an economic analysis of sugar’s effects on diabetes prevalence in the population. In essence, the research says that sugar, especially fructose, increases diabetes risk above, beyond and independently from, obesity. If you read the report you will see that there is a unique correlation between the growth of sugar supply from an average of 218 calories per person, per day in 1960 to over 280 calories per person, per day today and the prevalence of diabetes. The researchers accounted for many factors (aging, obesity, physical activity, urbanization, poverty); but sugar satisfied the criteria for causation. In essence, the research showed that the more sugar that’s available, the more diabetes; the longer sugar is available to a population, the more diabetes; less sugar, less diabetes; people who consume more sugar are more likely to become diabetics. Note: Please don’t think; “No problem, I’ll take insulin and that will solve that problem. Diabetes increases heart disease and many other disease states; it steals quality of life and life itself. If there is any way to avoid it, we should do it. There are many paths to avoiding it, but they all pass through our actually cutting way back on sugar consumption, and replacing our lust for sweets with something other than sugar.

As happens so frequently, Mark Bittman wrote about the findings published in the PLoS One journal. The title of his New York Times article is: It’s the Sugar, Folks. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have.

If you’d like a number to make these research findings useful to you, use this one. For each 150 calories, per day increase of sugar (equivalent of a 12-ounce can of soda) there is a 1.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence. Don’t forget that processed foods frequently have added sugar; so it’s not just the soda pop. About 35 million people are getting more than a quarter of their calories from refined sugars like: cane and beet sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, plain corn syrup and dextrose. Half of that ends up being consumed as soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks and the like; as reported by Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director of Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Because glucose, half of the sucrose (common table sugar) molecule is used by our cells for energy, I think that the government and those organizations trying to protect the public from excessive sugar and its effects, will have a hard time getting meaningful legislation through. I think it’s going to be a long hard fought battle. I hope that we as informed individuals will take the initiative for our own health and find and avoid the sugar that the food processors are adding to a myriad of products. If you’re a trusting soul and think that the food processors will not risk your health, then maybe you’d be helped by reading some of our blogs on processed foods or Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Moss about the success of processed food industry – how they hooked consumers and fueled the nationwide obesity epidemic. Or just read an interview of Michael Moss by National Public Radio (NPR).

Yes, it’s true that our cells use glucose for energy. Yes, we can sprinkle a little sugar on our cereal and not drop over dead. Yes, we can enjoy a cookie, pie, candy or cake now and then and still be healthy. But have you ever heard of the old saying, “Too much of a good thing?” About 1600, Shakespeare used it to mean, good can become bad if it’s in excess. Science often explains it by talking about dose response. What we often learn in our studies and share with you is that even the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for life and health, when administered in excess, are toxic. It’s very simple and I still say Mary Poppins hit it on the head when she said: “A spoonful of sugar.”  Note she did not say 10 or 20 spoonfuls of sugar. Had the children begged for more than one, she would have given them that firm but kindly, knowing look, and quietly whisked them off to some other engaging activity. We need, each one of us, to do that with our inner child as well.

It would be fun and a great service to others, if you’d comment here with the ways that you’re cutting back or cutting out sugar - it may give us each new ideas.