Sugar Science

November 18, 2014 in Diabetes Management, Foodland, Health, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

When I speak to college students, especially non-science majors, I often encourage them to take some science classes; like say, physiology. The reason for this seemingly bizarre suggestion is that I’ve found it so upsetting over the years to see how the food processors, commodities companies and their organizations can effectively distort science. I believe that if the public understood how a body works and how metabolism functions, they would be less likely to be preyed upon.

Today I’m concentrating directly on the distortions all around sugar. The nature of these distortions is increasingly being exposed.  An interesting 2012 article in Mother Jones is one fairly recent example, which reveals the tactics and PR and public policy successes Big Sugar has achieved for many years now. I realize that I’ve already written quite a bit about sugar. But a new website with the goal to deliver scientific unsweetened truth about sugar has been designed to supply you with valid research regarding the hazards of excess sugar. The new website is called; “Sugar Science.” I’m already favorably disposed toward the work of one of these sugar scientists, Robert H. Lustig a pediatric endocrinologist (primarily treats children with diabetes) at the University of California at San Francisco. I’ve cited him a couple of times in previous blogs; two are: Sugar Train Wreck and Alarmed over All the Sugar Toxicity Chat? If you’re wanting to read a couple of other blogs that I’ve written in the past about sugar you may want to also read: Detoxing from Sugar? and How to Stop Getting Bit by Your Own Sweet Tooth.

Sugar Science spends considerable effort in helping the public understand how too much added sugar leads to heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. They also explain where sugar lurks (in 74 percent of packaged foods), how much is too much and what too much can do to your body. They’ve based their site on over 8,000 scientific papers, which were scrutinized for conflicts of interest, author bias and insufficiently high scientific standards and threw those that didn’t qualify out of their foundation of scientific research. Certainly we can understand why there is so much public confusion, conflicting information and misperception – about sugar and health. The commodity associations support biased studies and publish the foolishness. They use a proven strategy Big Tobacco used for so long.  Find doctors and scientists willing to say the link has not been proved, and hammer the public with disinformation about so-called healthy effects. The fact is that we know that sugar has a strong link to the number one cause of death among Americans – heart disease (also diabetes and obesity separately contribute to heart disease risk.)

As we’ve said in the past, on this site: taking on the subject of sugar is a high-risk objective. When you go up against an industry with huge profit margins, you’re likely to experience some backlash. It’s like the days of the public health professionals who took on the tobacco industry. In addition to publishing reliable scientific facts, the Sugar Science group is also trying to help the public learn that the food industry is disguising much of the sugar by using words that the public is unfamiliar with – like dextrose, maltose, galactose and maltodextrin. In addition, to these four, the Sugar Science website says there are at least 60 different names on food labels for added sugar. Some of those names are listed in my article: Detoxing from Sugar?

I’ve written many times about the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization’s recommended daily limit of nine teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar for men (about 150 calories) and no more than six teaspoons (24 grams) for women (about 100 calories); but I’ve never seen a recommendation for children. The Sugar Science site uses 16 grams for the limit for a child; that’s about 67 calories of a child’s daily intake (4.2 calories per gram). That’s pretty easy to over-shoot if your child is being served sugar infused cereal; pasta sauce; sweetened yogurt; sports drinks, fruit juice or soda (39 grams in one 12-ounce soda); cookies/cakes/candy and so on.

Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about some teens – how far they had to walk to burn off a bottle of soda (about five miles); it was called: I’d Have to DO WHAT if I Ate That? The study for that article found that showing the amount of exercise that would be required to burn off the calories of soda was effective at helping to turn around intake. Maybe sugar calories should be calculated to exercise calories. But as the Sugar Science website so aptly informs, calories are not the entire problem with sugar.

One of the problems addressed on the Sugar Science site is fructose. If you look up the amount of fructose in a 20-ounce bottle of carbonated beverage (pop, soda or soft drink) with or without caffeine (that’s the standard size bottle so often sold in refrigerated cases), you discover that it has 37,200 mg of fructose. If you want to compare the same number of calories of raw apple with skin, you will discover that it’s approximately 3 medium apples have the equivalent calories and 28,365 mg of fructose. Although apples have only 8,935 mg less than soda for the same number of calories (250 calories), it’s true, apples have lots of fructose. But if you compare apples and soda, you learn that the soda has no nutrients, with the exception of a little phosphorus. Apples are not only a good source of many nutrients, including vitamin C; they also are an excellent source of fiber. The fiber is responsible for not only making you feel fuller, but it also slows the fructose from the rapid release into the blood, ultimately driving up blood sugar. Do note that you need to eat about 3 apples to get the equivalent calories. No doubt, apples are loaded with sweet sugar, but it’s not going to raise your blood sugar as fast as soda or apple juice. How often do you eat 3 apples at a meal, anyway? You can easily prove to yourself that whole apples and other whole fruits make you feel full, but sugary drinks do not.

Another serious concern with fructose is how it affects leptin. Leptin a hormone that helps to tell us when we are full and should stop eating. Unfortunately, when our insulin levels are not balanced and when we consume too much fructose, we can develop something called leptin resistance. Then we don’t realize that we should stop eating.  That lack of realization can easily lead to weight gain and obesity.

Many of us are probably genetically predisposed to have leptin resistance, as our genes come from survivor ancestors who got through the frequent long periods of limited food supply. Leptin resistance enabled our ancestors to overeat during times of a plentiful supply and pack on the fat. The ability to pack on fat helped them the next time there was a famine or at least a shortage of food. This same ability in our genes is deadly bad today, with easy access to fattening foods.  In addition, it is a double whammy, because leptin resistance also causes lethargy; you’re more likely to want to lie around, not exercise and of course, that leads to further weight gain.

Is sugar addictive or habit forming? Is it toxic? These and many other questions have detailed answers, and those answers will be challenged with hundreds of millions of dollars by the Big Sugar PR and disinformation machine. To find your answers to these questions, you like me may be pleased to know that credible scientists with documented evidence have stepped forward and are providing a website with their arguments and evidence.  Any of us can visit this site or send patients, friends or family to get the credible answers as related to sugar (by any name). Try it.  Its called Sugar Science.