Sugar is Sugar, Right?
You may have seen some interesting commercials lately put out by the Corn Refiners Association of America speaking to the title of this article. Sugar is sugar…right? In their words, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and table sugar are one in the same. Well, although the caloric content found in HFCS and sugar is the same, the commonalities stop there. Dr. Robert Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology delivers a compelling lecture on this topic. It’s called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” and it can be easily pulled up on YouTube for viewing. I will attempt to deliver some of the key points of his lecture to help us all better appreciate this misunderstood sugar. My hope is that after reading this article you will be more informed as to why it is best for your health and wellbeing to eliminate HFCS from your intake.
Dr. Lustig begins his lecture by speaking to current trends in obesity. A particularly interesting point he delivers is that of increased caloric consumption. He reveals that we are eating more as a society than we were 30 years ago with current averages around 187 more calories per day for an adult male and 335 calories per day for an adult female. However what is very telling, and an ongoing theme of his lecture, is a slide later showing how much more of the total calorie influx comes from sugar versus fat. He goes on to develop a compelling relationship between increased sugar consumption, not fat, as the root cause of our rising obesity rates. One sobering slide during this part of his presentation even shows a rise in obesity in 6 month olds! The question to ask is Why?.
The short answer is the introduction of HFCS to our store bought food sources and the national campaign started in 1982 to reduce total fat intake after the discovery of LDLs (low density lipo-proteins).It is at this point in the discussion that Dr. Lustig provides the framework for when and why all of this happened.
In 1972, Richard Nixon commissioned then USDA Secretary Earl Butz with the task of finding a way of stabilizing the volatile food prices that were happening at the time. He had concern that the fluctuating food costs would cost him his election. Mr. Butz, in pursuit of all methods to bring food costs down, was turned on to HFCS by Japanese inventor, Dr. Yoshiyuki Takasaki. By 1975, HFCS was introduced into the American market. Then, in 1982, a campaign was put forward by the American Heart Association, American Medical
Association, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring the national average of fat consumption from 40% to 30% when a relationship between fat consumption and increased LDLs (low density lipo-proteins) was demonstrated to have ill effects on the heart.
Dr. Lustig takes time during this portion of his delivery to speak to two separate literary works and their authors. The first one titled, “Pure, White and Deadly” by John Yudkin, a now deceased British physiologist and nutritionist looks at sugar and its ill effects on us as humans. The second, called the “Seven Countries Study” by Ancel Keys was actually used by the AHA, AMA, and USDA as the basis for cutting down fat intake, especially saturated fat intake. It was a study that looked at the centers in the world with the most centenarians to determine their nutritional habits. Dr. Lustig postulates that it is the absence of fructose, not saturated fat as being the defining reason for why these centers have such good health.
Now the lecture delves into why Dr. Lustig believes that HFCS is contributing more to obesity and diseases resulting directly from this condition. To start he touches on LDLs. This portion of the lecture is particularly interesting. He first talks about two forms of LDLs. The first one called “Large Density LDLs” are defined as large, buoyant, and least likely to get trapped in our endothelial cells (thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels). The second, “Low Density LDLs” are small, dense, and very likely to get stuck in our endothelium where they can begin formation of plaque. Your triglyceride levels aid you in defining which of these are more prolific in your profile. Lower triglyceride levels are what you want. The most astounding commentary comes next when Dr. Lustig reveals that dietary fat raises your small dense LDLs and carbohydrate raises your large dense LDLs.
What follows next is a lot of biochemistry talk with the point being to unveil the clear difference between how glucose, the natural form of sugar at the cellular level, ethanol, and fructose are metabolized in the body. To drive the point home the example of 120 calories of said source is taken through its biochemical process through a series of more slides. The basics are laid out on one slide near the 43rd minute. They are:
- Fructose is 7 times more likely that glucose to form Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s).This is browning of your arteries much like the browning that occurs when caramelizing meat on the grill.
- Fructose does not suppress ghrelin. This hormone is found in your stomach and it promotes hunger.
- Acute fructose does not cause insulin to rise resulting in a lack of leptin response. This is not good considering this hormone tells our brain that we ate and are satisfied. If not turned on, our brain does not think we ate even if we did.
- Hepatic (liver) metabolism is different for glucose versus fructose.
- Chronic exposure to fructose promotes the Metabolic Syndrome (grouping of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease).
I highly encourage you to the watch the discussion given beginning at the 58th minute because it succinctly delivers why consumption of
fructose is so different from consumption of other sugars. In short fructose increases sugar into the liver by 3 times that of other sugars because only the liver can process it whereas our muscles can aid in uptake of glucose. This surplus leads to the development of the waste product uric acid that in turn increases risk for gout as well as hypertension. Dr. Lustig goes on to the pathway by which all other metabolic syndrome pathologies can be found through excessive consumption of fructose. Compelling stuff!
At 1:04:00, Dr. Lustig expresses this statement. “So when you consume fructose, you’re not consuming a carbohydrate, you’re consuming fat. So everybody talks about a high fat diet. Well a high sugar diet is a high fat diet.” He goes on to demonstrate why this is so through a combination of more studies and a continuation of his exploration of fructose response in the liver cell.
What are the learning points to this? I suggest the following as supported also by Dr. Lustig.
1. Eat your fruits and veggies rather than drinking them. Fiber is the antidote to high sugar content. When we consume 100% fruit and/or veggie drinks we are missing the fiber. Fiber reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption giving us more time to absorb micronutrients and also bringing down the insulin response. Fiber also increases speed of transit of intestinal contents to ileum (part of our large intestine). This is good because our brain gets the message that we are satisfied (remember leptin) sooner.
2. Exercise because it improves skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity, reduces stress and resultant cortisol release, and it makes the Krebs Cycle (system from which we produce life giving energy called adenosine tri-phosphate) more efficient thus detoxifying fructose and improving hepatic insulin sensitivity
3. Avoid high fructose corn syrup.
4. Hold alcohol to a health based serving of 1 drink per day woman and 1-2 drinks per day man. More than that is too much sugar with very toxic effects on our bodies. According to the Mayo Clinic, one drink serving is defined as
a. Beer: 12 fluid ounces
b. Wine: 5 fluid ounces
c. Distilled Spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces
The material presented in the lecture Sugar: The Bitter Truth is well developed. It is insightful and very revealing as to why our nation continues to see declines in overall health and vitality. It is also interesting to see how our termed “American diet” is now contributing to declines in the health of other countries who now, thanks to globalization of the food industry, are now dealing with some of the very health issues that have separated them from us for centuries. I hope you take the time to visit the lecture. While it is long at 90 minutes; it could also be life changing.
Sugar: The Bitter Truth http://youtu.be/dBnniua6-oM
Edrice began her workouts with Chris at BodyBasics in December of 2012 after being referred by her therapist at Pro-Active Physical Therapy. She was in therapy to relieve neck and shoulder pain that was really putting a damper on two of her favorite activities, working as a librarian and knitting all kinds of wonderful things. Within a short time, and minus one more irritating flare up, Edrice’s neck and shoulder pain have resolved favorably. She is knitting away again, reading, and spreading her joy of learning to all ages at the library.
Edrice’s continued dedication to her fitness regimen and her enriched diet has led to improved heart health. She has reversed her pre-diabetic numbers and cut down on her blood pressure medication! These improvements became clearly evident on a recent trip to Sedona where she averaged over 20,000 steps on her trusty pedometer almost every day that she was there!
Edrice, you are such a great testimonial to what consistency can do. Thanks for being such a shining example to all of us at BodyBasics!
Exercise of the Month:
Watch our exercise of the month to find out the answer to the question, “Does Amber like sugar?”
Fresh Cranberry Sauce with No Added Sugar
Minutes to Prepare: 10
Minutes to Cook: 10
Number of Servings: 8
- 1 16 oz package of fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup of DOLE Pineapple, orange,banna
- juice( can use plain orange juice)or no sugar added cranberry juice
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 package (4 serving size) dry sugar free cranberry JELL-O can use other flavors
- 1/2 , 3/4 or 1 cup granular splenda according to taste I like it tart and use 1/2 cup
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon according to taste
- 2 slices of orange for garnish
Wash cranberries and remove any stems or soft berries. Add berries, water and juice, bring to a boil then simmer on low for 10 minutes or until cranberries crack open. Mix once or twice while on simmer as berries can blacken if left on pan bottom the entire cooking time. Add the dry jello ,cinnamon and granular splenda, stir and simmer 1 more minute. Place in serving dish and garnish with cut orange slices You can process in blender or food processor for smoth. I like it very firm thus small amount of juice. If you want it softer or looser add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more water or juice.
Number of Servings: 8
Nutritional Info Per Serving
- Calories: 24.3
- Total Fat: 0.0 g
- Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
- Sodium: 8.2 mg
- Total Carbs: 5.2 g
- Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
- Protein: 0.7 g
Recipe submitted by SparkPeople user MURKOV.