Cut out the sugar-it is toxic!Posted: March 3, 2013
Putting it simply: Too much sugar in our diet is harmful and when we return to our paleolithic diet, health tends to improve.
Sugar intake in all different forms is the single most important ingredient that contributes to diabetes. In the last one hundred years our sugar intake has radically increased as is shown in figure 1.
Figure 1. Sugar intake per capita in the United Kingdom from 1700 to 1978 and in the United states from 1975-2000. The line on the right with black dots is the obesity rates in the United States in non-Hispanic white men aged 60-69 y. Values for 1880-1910 are based on studies conducted in male Civil War veterans aged 50-59y. From: Johnson RJ et al, AJCN 2007; 86:899-906; Initial source: http://www.indiana.edu/~oso/Fructose/Fructose.html
Even though research and clinical findings over the last one hundred years have shown that increased sugar and processed simple carbohydrate intake are contributing factors to many illnesses ranging from diabetes, obesity, cancer and even epilepsy, the data is now undisputable. As Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times on February 27th, “Sugar is indeed toxic. It may not be the only problem with the Standard American Diet, but it’s fast becoming clear that it’s the major one.”
When researchers accounted for poverty, aging, exercise, total food intake, and other factors, increased sugar intake increased diabetes and decreased sugar decreased diabetes. As the authors state, “for every 150 kcal/person/day increase in sugar availability (about one can of soda/day) there was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% (p <0.001).” (Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013) The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057873)
Presently, the level of proof linking sugar to diabetes is equal to if not better than the level of proof that linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer and other illnesses. Despite the overwhelming scientific data, it will be an uphill battle to change our diet and diet recommendations from the highly processed high glycemic index diet that promotes inflammation and diabetes to a low glycemic index Paleolithic diet that supports health. The major agricultural and food processing businesses have significant influence with the USA Government (for Senate and House members lobbying pays for the election), the FDA and USDA priorities are also highly affected through direct and indirect lobbying efforts or by the financial reward to be offered a job in the agribusiness after working for the FDA or USDA. In the USA lobbying and being rewarded with a highly paid job in industry is the expression of the democratic process–for the rest of the world it is called bribery. Thus, it is likely that agricultural and food processing industries will continue to delay and obstruct any recommendations to reduce sugars and highly processed carbohydrates in our food supply. A preview of this battle has already occurred when Major Michael Bloomberg of New York City intended to restrict sales of sugary soft drinks to no more than 16 ounces a cup in city restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. A barrage of negative comments filled the media spaces. For example, Bloomberg News, reported the comments by Kirsten Witt Webb, a Coca-Cola (KO) spokeswoman, who said in an e-mail. “They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase. We hope New Yorkers loudly voice their disapproval about this arbitrary mandate.”
Soft drinks and soft drinks contain often eight or more table spoons of sugar per drink as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Amount of sugar cubes in soft drinks. Source: http://www.sugarstacks.com/beverages.htm
The sugar/highly processed foods battle will be similar to the battle the smoking lobby fought for the last 30 years. Just like tobacco subsidies, farmers receive subsidies to grow corn to make more low cost high fructose corn syrup. As recent as 2005 tobacco farmers were still receiving a billion and a half dollars in subsidy while farmers growing corn received more than seven billion dollars in subsidies as shown in Figure 3.
At the same time pharmaceutical companies continue to reap a financial bonanza from the sugar diet induced illnesses. They will create more and more drugs to attempt to reduce the illnesses and symptoms.
We cannot expect the US government to promote our health as the lobbying power by agribusiness is overwhelming. We cannot expect published information, whether on the web or in print, to be accurate as advertising dollars significantly affect editorial decisions.
We can start eating differently ourselves and with our families and friends. Begin now. Do an experiment by eating a predominantly Paleolithic diet. For the next two weeks, eat only foods that are real foods which your great grandparents recognized as food. Thus nothing out of box or can. Nothing that has been processed or prepared! Buy only foods in their natural form. Shop at farmers’ markets or only at the periphery of the supermarket: vegetables and fruits, the meat and fish counters. After eating this diet for two weeks, check how you feel. Many people report having more energy, feeling less tired and irritability, and some experience a reduction in arthritic pains, inflammation, headaches and even anxiety. For dietary suggestions see the common sense recommendations in Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.