We Americans should be feeling pretty “sweet” since we consume 130 pounds of sugar every year. The topic is frequently in the news, and I think it will be for a very long time—until “things change.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently did a story for CBS News in which he interviewed San Francisco endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, who’s convinced our American way of eating is killing us.
Sugar is hiding out, not just in plain site in the bowl, but in many other foods. You know it’s in honey, syrup, sugary drinks and desserts, but it’s also in processed foods that populate our pantries and refrigerators. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the same, Lustig says, and they’re both bad news.
We know: Sugar and high fructose corn syrup contribute to weight gain in people who don’t burn enough calories. Enter Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis. She’s engaged in a five-year study to investigate whether calories in added sugars are different from other calories, and she’s learning exactly how they impact heart disease and stroke.
She told Gupta: “We found that the subjects who consumed high fructose corn syrup had increased blood levels ofLDLcholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” Further, she says, “drinking a sweetened drink might be just as bad for…hearts as the fatty cheeseburgers we’ve all been warned about since the 1970s.”
Lustig says when the food industry reduced fat in food—as it should have—that food tasted like cardboard, so the “empty space” was replaced with sugar. We won’t eat what doesn’t taste good, and the food industry wants to make money.
Out with the trash
Gupta also spoke to Lewis Cantley, a Harvard professor and the head of the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center. He says sugar suddenly raises insulin levels in our bodies, which then feeds certain cancers. We do not want to feed cancers.
Eric Stice, a neuroscientist at the Oregon Research Institute told Gupta that sugar is addictive because it activates the brain like cocaine does, releasing dopamine. He also says that the more we eat sugar, the less it affects us, so we want more. Sounds familiar, yes?
Lustig’s “kicker” for this story makes me think I need to clean house: “Tobacco and alcohol are perfect examples. We have made a conscious choice that we’re not going to get rid of them, but we are going to limit their consumption. I think sugar belongs in this exact same wastebasket.”
(Photo courtesy: Suat Eman)