Sugar has been a BIG part of my life for as long as I can remember. I used to claim the “biggest sweet tooth in the world” and my friends and family can attest to that… I lived for cookies, brownies, ice cream. Pretty much anything that was primarily sugar.
You could think of ME as primarily sugar.
The biggest thing I have learned in the past few months since finding the Whole30 and going paleo, is that sugar is THE PRIMARY CAUSE of obesity in America. I know that is a strong statement, I get it. But that is now how I feel and I will be happy to discuss my point with anyone and everyone who disagrees.
A few days ago I watched an incredibly interesting presentation by Dr.Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. It is part of a series from the UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public and delves deeply into sugar and it’s role in our society today. If you are interested in your health and well being, whatsoever, I recommend you take some time and watch the presentation in it’s entirety.
For those of you who don’t want to take the time, I have recapped a few of the biggest pieces that really hit home for me.
I found this chart on Google, which is very similar to the one Dr. Lustig uses in his presentation (which is hard to read but is shown below). It shows how our country really began the switch from sugar as a primary sweetener to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the 80s and it’s effect on total sugar consumption and obesity and diabetes. It doesn’t really get much clearer than that. The ONLY thing that is missing from this chart that Dr. Lustig added in the one below is fruit juice consumption, which you have to also take into account. As you can see, when you add in the fruit juice our total average consumption of sugar per year is well over 100lbs per person. According to a study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation, as of 2009 it was up to 141lbs per person… That comes out to almost an ENTIRE CUP (8oz) of sugar per day.
How does that make you feel? It makes me feel like our country is doomed unless something changes… especially since the government is literally doing nothing to change it. And it’s only getting worse.
HFCS is in nearly everything you can buy that is pre-packaged these days. Why do companies keep putting sweeteners into all their foods? A few reasons. First, sugar is physically addictive. Primally, we are hardwired to eat foods that are highly palatable because they provide us with energy. This was fine back in the day when we only found fruit every now and then, but now a days you can get sugar anytime, anywhere. And what is worse is that HFCS is exponentially sweeter than sugar so it becomes that much more addicting and makes us want more and more, sweeter and sweeter. The second reason HFCS is in nearly every “food product” now is because Americans want everything LOW FAT. In the 80s we were told that dietary fat = physically fat. That cholesterol in eggs, red meat, etc was causing us to get fat and sick! Guess what? Not true.
When you take ALL the fat out of our foods they taste like crap! So, how should the companies make them taste good? Add HFCS. And what makes it worse is that HFCS is sooo very cheap to produce and there is a LOT of it.
This leaves us with sugar is almost literally every product in a grocery store. Unless you are buying real food, with no ingredient list, you are going to have a hard time finding “food” without sugar or HFCS. Believe me, I do it every time I am at the grocery store.
Now. I know that even though all these foods have HFCS in them, I realize that there isn’t ENOUGH to reach 141lbs per year… that is until you take sugary beverages into account. If soda, sports drinks, sugary coffee drinks, and fruit juices were a once in a while treat or consumed in actual moderation we would be doing better. This picture shows what Dr. Lustig calls the Coca-Cola Conspiracy.
Coke knows what they are doing and know that this stuff is physically addictive. Want to hear something that makes it even harder to swallow? (pun intended) The first ingredient is obviously HFCS, but the second major ingredient? Salt. They add so much sodium to their sodas that it makes the drinker THIRSTIER than they were before they drank it. Oh, and clearly the caffeine which is a natural diuretic increases dehydration… Recipe for good business, I guess.
Now, I know I just spouted a lot of information you probably didn’t know, but Dr. Lustig goes into MUCH further depth and explains the chemistry behind what Fructose does in your body, which is something everyone should know about IMO. I will leave you with my favorite quote from the entire presentation and something to think about:
“it goes way beyond empty calories, the reason why this is a problem is because fructose is a poison” He sees sugar as a toxin to our bodies, much like alcohol (ethanol). He states that just because alcohol abuse is lethal both acutely AND chronically, while sugar is devastating with chronic abuse, doesn’t mean that the US government shouldn’t care about the problem.
So, I will get off my soapbox now… I just wish everyone knew what chronic sugar abuse was doing to them. It sucks that even registered dietitians are taught with the USDA and FDA’s standards, which are basically run by big food business. It makes me worried about the future in a big way.
I am NOT saying that I don’t eat any sugar, nor that I won’t have a piece of cake at my wedding someday, or cookies with my kids. I am purely trying to make more people aware of the ill-effects of “sugar abuse” and to help them possibly make better choices for themselves and future generations.
Let me know what your thoughts are!!! Good or bad 🙂
Sweet Potatoes and Smiles,
– The Freckled Foodie