Not sure if any of you caught the CNN article on the 1960’s research on sugar. Likely not, it was published in Sept. of 2016. I just discovered this article and needless to say, it wasn’t good. As if the bullshit the food industry is engaged in already hasn’t already pissed me off, this has taken me over the top. If you were already pissed off, this might have you joining me. It has chapped my ass for sure.
I know, the language. I have been so very good up to this point. I really have. And I will again. I just happen to be a little more passionate about this topic in particular. Let me summarize the article for you and see if you understand where my passion is coming from.
According to the article, scientist began discovering the link between sugar and heart disease about 60 years ago. And now I’m going to directly quote from the article. “A new historical analysis published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday claims that the sugar industry sponsored research that cast doubt about sugar’s health risks and promoted fat “as the dietary culprit” in heart disease — and didn’t disclose it.”
Wow. That is a very powerful statement.
Anyway, quoting again. “The organization was founded in 1943 by members of the American sugar industry and was dedicated to the scientific study of sugar’s role in food, as well as communicating that role to the public.” They paid for research that was focused on fat as a culprit in heart disease to help offset some of the research that was focusing on sugar and its detriment to health.
I’m going to use another direct quote from the article to make a point about the impact this has had on our health. “If we had not dismissed the idea that carbohydrates played a significant role in heart disease, we would be potentially in a different place today in terms of our obesity and heart disease rates.”
The researchers that we originally used to conduct the research in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s are no longer with us but their documentation was still with the Universities. Recently, researchers were going through their data and found letters, 319 letters. In all of this information, it became clear that the sugar executives paid for their own research to be conducted to help draw the attention away from the negative impacts of sugar on our health and to redirect it towards potential impacts of fat on our health.
That is all I’m going to say on the article. I think I’ve made my point. IF you would like to read the full article, you will find it here.
My reality is that I have a love/hate relationship with sugar. Every day is a battle and I realize that it is a battle that is going to last my entire life. The more I find out about the effects of sugar on the body, the more I hate what I love. Let me talk a little bit about the science of sugar and the body.
Before we dive in, I would like to throw a few facts out there. Prior to 1980, about 15% of Americans were considered overweight or obese. It is now 55%. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes almost tripled. In that same timeframe, the number of people with metabolic syndrome has increased from 50 million to 68 million. These numbers are shocking. What has changed so much? Eating habits and the type of food that we eat. In 1822, the average individual in the US consumed about 2 teaspoons of sugar a day. Today, the USDA estimates that the average American consumes up to 12 teaspoons of sugar every 7 hours. (Alexander, 2013)
Let’s talk about two of the four types of fat in the body and then focus in on one specifically since it seems to be causing a lot of issues for people today. The first type, white fat is the subcutaneous fat that seems to spread out around our butts, thighs, backs, and arms and acts like more of a storage for energy. Belly fat or visceral fat is a whole other ball game. It surrounds our organs like spray foam. It is toxic and hormone producing and affects the liver, heart, and pancreas. Want to know more about this? Go to Youtube.com, and search visceral fat. The visuals are riveting.
Here is where the science comes into play. Your muscles and your brain rely on glucose for energy. Your body gets its glucose from carbs. Your body uses insulin which is created by the pancreas to move the glucose from your bloodstream to the cells. More glucose means more insulin production. Bad carbs and sugar digest quickly resulting in an increase in the output of insulin. Your body will eventually become insulin resistant with repeated indulgence in carbs and sugar. This means your pancreas is now being overworked because it has to make more insulin to compensate for the resistance. The extra insulin is going to cause your body to store more fat and reduce the amount of fat that is used for energy. If you are not using the stored fat for energy, you are getting hungrier between meals. Here comes the vicious circle. You are now eating more, spiking your insulin, storing more fat and becoming even more insulin resistant.
When you are hungry, your stomach produces a hormone called ghrelin. Your digestive system works to break down the food into glucose which triggers the making of insulin. The release of insulin causes another hormone, leptin, to be released. This hormone curbs your appetite and lets you know it’s time to stop eating. Insulin resistance also wreaks havoc with this process. Your appetite is left unsatisfied and the glucose is more likely to be stored as fat.
That isn’t the worst of it.
We haven’t even talked about fructose yet. It is in our table sugar and a key component of high fructose corn syrup or HFCS. Fructose has a direct impact on your liver because only the liver can metabolize it. A diet high in fructose means that fat is going to form in the cells of the liver. It is called nonalchoholic fatty liver disease and it is estimated that 30% of adults suffer from it. The fat stores in and around the surrounding organs. And this fat also plays a role in the resistance to insulin, causing the pancreas to make even more insulin which leads to more fat storage and the cycle continues along with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL and high triglycerides. (Alexander, 2013)
“In the early 1980s, high-fructose corn syrup replaced sugar in sodas and other products in part because refined sugar then had the reputation as a generally noxious nutrient. (“Villain in Disguise?” asked a headline in this paper in 1977, before answering in the affirmative.) High-fructose corn syrup was portrayed by the food industry as a healthful alternative, and that’s how the public perceived it. It was also cheaper than sugar, which didn’t hurt its commercial prospects. Now the tide is rolling the other way, and refined sugar is making a commercial comeback as the supposedly healthful alternative to this noxious corn-syrup stuff. But marketing aside, the two sweeteners are effectively identical in their biological effects. “ Taubes, Gary. (April 2, 2011). Is sugar Toxic, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=
The Science of sugar does not work in our favor. If we are going to continue to go overboard with our sugar consumption, there is no easy way to avoid the toxic effects to our bodies. There is only one choice and that is to limit the amount of sugar that we consume per day and learn to savor those small amounts. What are those small amounts? Men should limit themselves to 9 tsp of sugar per day; women 6 tsp. There are 4 grams of sugar in every teaspoon of sugar. (Alexander, 2013) Be careful not to consume all of your allotted teaspoons in cookies and candy because fruit and carbs also convert to sugar in your body. The point is to just be aware and limit your sugar consumption and to make sure that most of your sugars are coming from fruit and good carbs.
If you are looking for more information on the effects of sugar on the body, there is a great book called The Sugar Smart Diet by Anne Alexander and I found a great little Ted video about the effects of sugar. You can check it out here.
Here is another great book if you want to learn more about how the food industry caters to the bliss point, that addictive center of the brain, Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss.
I have become my own science experiment and I have to say it is the best thing I’ve done for myself ever. It is sometimes amazing to me the level of poor health or illness one has to achieve before they will actually, if ever, decide to make a change. My passion for health and education and the results of this journey have allowed me to share it with many more that are beginning to reap the benefits as well and I hope to be there to help many more.
Time to give up the sugar people.
It’s doing nothing good for you.