Sugar as a Toxin: Do you have an opinion?

March 1, 2012 § 3 Comments

I know I’ve been missing in action for the past month or so, but the good thing is I’m learning – learning a lot. Enough about me, let’s talk about food. According to Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist and professor at the University of California, “for the first time in human history, chronic non-communicable diseases such as Heart Disease, Diabetes [Metabolic Syndrome, Hypertension (high blood pressure), caner, and many others]  and so on are a bigger world wide problem than infectious diseases”. In fact, according to Robert Lustig from the University of California,  there are now more people suffering from health problems related with obesity than related to malnutrition. Oh wow.

The American Heart Association directive from 2009, points out that we should be consuming between 150-200 calories in added sugar per day, but instead we’re consuming about 450 extra calories. With 4 calories per gram, 150 to 200 calories is about 38-50 grams, or 6 to 9 teaspoons per day. Currently, we’re consuming about 115 grams, or 22 teaspoons per day. It doesn’t take a statistician to see that something is incredibly wrong here.

I don’t mean to preach but come on people. Sugar is great, it’s delicious, it’s fun, it’s incredibly seductive, and yes, I use it. Now don’t get me wrong; baking with sugar is not a problem, eating fruit laden with fructose (a natural sugar) is not a problem, but what is a problem is eating the processed stuff. According to Dr. Lustig, 80% of the processed foods in our food system are laced with ADDED sugars . That means “organic” processed foods, “natural” processed foods, “gluten-free” processed foods, “vegan” processed food and any other “food” that comes in a package is most likely laced with sugar that was not naturally occurring.

Sugar has a whole lot of politics and passion behind it: it’s subsidized, it’s linked to early aging, dementia, behavioral problems, obesity, and many other chronic diseases, we love it and we’re evolutionarily attracted to it. So, what to do?

First off, listen to this enlightening broadcast, On Point, about Regulating Sugar, hosted by Tom Ashbrook with Mark Bittman and Robert Lustig. It’s worth 45 minutes of your day.

Second, stop feeding the fire that’s killing you – don’t buy processed foods. You’ll be happier, you’ll feel better, you’ll get to experiment with new foods, and you won’t be supporting corporations that are drastically stretching the seams of our country (literally and figuratively).

Third, stop being lazy and get in the kitchen! There is nothing scary about the kitchen, and we should probably all slow down a little bit anyways. Visit your local farmer’s market and specialty stores, grab a bottle of wine, good oil, some sea salt and spices, vegetables, nuts and cheeses and get to it.

Last, have a homemade cookie, a brownie, a piece of pie, or an occasional dessert – but be mindful of what you’re consuming and how often you are consuming it.  The occasional sweet is probably good for you, but the processed “food” (with added sugar) you constantly consume to fuel your body is what will kill you.

Good to be back.



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§ 3 Responses to Sugar as a Toxin: Do you have an opinion?

  • paul says:

    Yup…, I was in one of the first generations to grow up feeding myself junk food to get through the day. My mom was often working so my siblings and I subsisted on Carnation Instant Breakfast, Pop Tarts, Doritos, grape soda…, and hell yeah: Crispy Critters!

    I actually look at sucrose as not just a bad thing but as a drug. In fact, in my more paranoid times I’ve imagined that sugar manufacturers have put extra additives to processed sugar to make it even more addictive than it would be without them (like the tobacco companies did with cigarettes). So clearly I have fiend issues!

    Thanks for the reminder that fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are the way for me now. Yessuh! Apologies for going all old school Rhode Island but I couldn’t help it…:)

  • I remember reading this article in my undergrad. (ha only last year…) Seems like sugar is as sensitive of a topic as fat these days. Perhaps white granulated sugar isn’t the best choice and we need to use natural sugars like honey or agave. I’m not against sugar, or any food for that matter…it’s what food does to people that I’m against. Either way, I still think it comes down to consumption. For me, I think its about educating people how to eat foods, how to RESPECT what it provides for our bodies. i.e. butter. I’ll never give up butter, but I know when too much is enough. I respect butter for its nutritional properties as well as baking and cooking properties. I also think we need to get rid of the bad and good food classification… but that’s a long time to come. I won’t even ramble about the processed foods because this could turn into a book! So glad you posted! Missed your beautiful writing.

    p.s. Italian life is simple, relaxing, and I feel like I’m living in a bubble that I hope doesn’t burst too soon! It’s a unique experience- feel like I’m at Hogwarts. I’ll shoot you an email when I get back from my study trip in Switzerland. I think you would really like it here….

    • paul says:

      Actually I totally agree about the good/bad labeling conundrum…, and also that it’s the effect food has rather than the food itself. Food is food and different versions of it occupy different places on an energetic continuum. Maybe a better way to classify the effects of food (for me, anyway) would be: Awesome-Not so awesome. Butter and refined sugar are different for me in that I’m still able to retain my instinctive sanity around butter, where with refined sugar, having eaten so much of it earlier on and having developed somewhat of an addiction to it, eating some can kick off a total fiend response…, like I can’t wait to run into the next can of cake frosting or something. I think there have been studies with rats or mice (and I’ve got marginal rat/mouse karma…, I worked in a lab taking care of experimental animals in a lab at Yale right after high school) that have shown that when fed highly processed “junk” food they will lose their instinctive sanity and not eat their more nutritious foods, holding out for more junk and jonesing out on it big.

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