We’ve seen what excessive amounts of alcohol can do to the body, remember Nicolas Cage’s performance in Leaving Las Vegas? Cirrhosis of the liver, behavioural changes, and finally complete metabolic shutdown. We know that alcohol in excess is toxic but a group of scientists are claiming that ‘added sugar’ is more detrimental to our health.
Scientists Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis from the University of California, San Francisco are calling for governments worldwide to regulate foods and drinks with ‘added sugar’ as strictly as alcohol and tobacco. They are also calling for the sugary foods to be banned in and around schools, placing age limits on purchases as not only is it taxing to the liver, causing fatty liver disease, and ultimately leading to insulin resistance, but claim it to be the underlying causes of obesity and diabetes.
Dr. Lustig and his colleagues are prompting debate as they argue, citing numerous studies and statistics that indicating that sugar has a bigger impact on public health than alcohol and tobacco, as fructose can trigger processes that lead to a chronic disease pandemic including liver toxicity. They concede that a little is not a problem, but a lot kills - slowly.
No stranger to making provocative statements, in 2009 Dr. Lustig’s lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” was posted on YouTube and has been viewed by almost two million people, not bad for a 90-minute discussion on the evils of sugar.
Many health experts are disagreeing with the controversial article published in the journal Nature, such as Dr Alan Barclay, head of research at the Australian Diabetes Foundation. He told Lifehacker that “many of the statements simply do not apply to Australia and on certain issues there is little evidence to support their views. Sugar is not the issue” he said, “it is far more complicated than that.”
How to limit your salt and sugar intake
Eat as close to nature as possible. Include, in your diet, fresh vegies, some whole fruit, lean meats and whoelgrains. Processed foods are the biggest culprits for both salt and sugar.
Don’t drink sugar. This means no juices, soft drinks or cordials.
Read the label. Salt and sugar are hidden in even the healthiest foods, including nuts, sauces and breakfast cereals.
Prepare own food. Restaurants use more salt than you think. If you start from scratch with fresh foods you can control your intake.
Professor Peter Clifton, head of nutritional interventions at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute says, “sugar is just another form of over-consumed calories — easily available and very palatable but no more metabolically deadly than starch or fat calories and certainly not equivalent to alcohol”. “Alcohol toxicity is not just metabolic — it causes violence and road deaths and sugar in any of its forms cannot compete with this statistic,” he said.
However Lustig does highlight that the level of consumption of sugar is many times higher than what nature intended. As our ancestors found sugar in fruit, unprocessed and only available seasonally, and honey is well guarded by bees.
In the last 20 years, we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. 26 pounds to 135 lbs. of sugar per person per year! Prior to the turn of this century (1887-1890), the average consumption was only 5 lbs. per person per year! Cardiovascular disease and cancer was virtually unknown in the early 1900’s.
The “glycemic index” is a measure of how a given food affects blood-glucose levels, with each food being assigned a numbered rating. The lower the rating, the slower the absorption and digestion process, which provides a more gradual, healthier infusion of sugars into the bloodstream. On the other hand, a high rating means that blood-glucose levels are increased quickly, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. These rapid fluctuations of blood-sugar levels are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body.
One of sugar’s major drawbacks is that it raises the insulin level, which inhibits the release of growth hormones, which in turn depresses the immune system. This is not something you want to take place if you want to avoid disease.
“Over the past 50 years, consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide. Nature made sugar hard to get; man made it easy,” the authors stated. The World Health Organisation states that worldwide the obese outnumber the undernourished. Will there be commercials made asking for donations to help prevent obese people dying of related disease?