This article is well worth reading on the metabolic effects of sugar and how it is associated with the fastest growing epidemic in this country..obesity + diabetes, known as “diabesity.”
But if you can’t read this 9 page article, here are the highlights:
1. Robert Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. “Sugar,” he says, “is not just an empty calorie; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”
2.“Sugar” means both sucrose — beet and cane sugar, whether white or brown — and high-fructose corn syrup.
Refined sugar (that is, sucrose) is made up of a molecule of the carbohydrate glucose, bonded to a molecule of the carbohydrate fructose — a 50-50 mixture of the two.
3. Fructose is almost twice as sweet as glucose. This is what distinguishes sugar from other carbohydrates like bread or potatoes that break down to glucose.
4. High-fructose corn syrup is 55 percent fructose, and the remaining 45 percent is nearly all glucose. It was first marketed in the late 1970s and was created to resemble refined sugar when used in soft drinks. Our bodies react the same way to both, and the physiological effects are identical.
5. Sugar has gotten a bad rap, even from the Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association. Refined sugar and H.F.C.S. does not have any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber. This displaces other more nutritious elements in our diet, or are eaten above and beyond what we need to sustain our weight.
6. Biochemists have made the case that its the way the human body metabolizes fructose and not the empty calories that is the problem. This means we can eat 100 calories of glucose (from a potato or bread or other starch) or 100 calories of sugar (half glucose and half fructose), and they will be metabolized differently and have a different effect on the body. The calories are the same, but the metabolic consequences are quite different.
7. The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose).
8. In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity.
9. By the early 2000’s, according to the U.S.D.A., we had increased our consumption of sugar to more than 90 pounds per person per year.
10. Physicians and medical authorities came to accept the idea that a condition known as metabolic syndrome is a major, if not the major, risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. Having metabolic syndrome is another way of saying that the cells in your body are actively ignoring the action of the hormone insulin — a condition known technically as being insulin-resistant. Having chronically elevated insulin levels has harmful effects such as higher triglyceride levels and blood pressure, lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good cholesterol”), further worsening the insulin resistance — this is metabolic syndrome.
11. What causes the initial insulin resistance?
Researchers who study the mechanisms of insulin resistance now think that a likely cause is the accumulation of fat in the liver.
12. Despite the steady accumulation of research, the evidence is not conclusive. The bigger questions is, how much of this stuff do we have to eat or drink, and for how long, before it does real harm? And is that amount more than we’re already consuming?
Lustig points out that the question is whether sugars are “chronic toxins,” which means “not toxic after one meal, but after 1,000 meals.”
13. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup could indeed be toxic, but they take years to do their damage. It doesn’t happen overnight. Until long-term studies are done, we won’t know for sure.
14. One of the diseases that increases in incidence with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome is cancer. Craig Thompson has done much of this research and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He explains that the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply.
15. What these researchers call elevated insulin (or insulin-like growth factor) signaling appears to be a necessary step in many human cancers, particularly cancers like breast and colon cancer. Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, says that up to 80 percent of all human cancers are driven by either mutations or environmental factors that work to enhance or mimic the effect of insulin on the incipient tumor cells.
We can make better choices…