Read The case against sugar

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Albert Schweitzer began working in equatorial lowlands of West Africa in 1913. He was astonished to encounter no cases of cancer among the thousands of native patients he saw each year. However, as the natives [took to] living more and more after the manner of the whites, cancer in his patient population became ever more frequent (Taubes, 2016, pp 257).

Wise elders, grand parents or statesmen have been  traditional roles for aging adults. Wisdom transforming into Alzheimer’s disease does not compute (Peper, 2014).

In 1960’s Surgeon Captain T. L. Cleave proposed that common western diseases (diabetes, colon cancer, ischemic heart disease, gallstones, obesity, diverticulosis, and dental carries), to which I would add Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases and allergies, could not be due primarily to genetic factors but to new factors in the environment to which man had not yet had time to adapt (Cleaves et al, 1969). As he states, “One such factor was the processing of food which resulted in the consumption of large quantities of pure sugar and starch.  This led to disease because man was evolutionary adjusted to eating smaller amounts of carbohydrates intimately mixed with fiber and protein.”

Clinicians and epidemiologist have consistently reported that none western cultures, whether the Masai in Africa, the Inuit in Northern Canada, the Japanese in Japan, or the Native American, had very low incidences of these western diseases. Yet, when these people adapted a western diet of highly refined carbohydrates and sugar the prevalence of these diseases increased and approached the incidence in western cultures (Burkitt & Trowell, 1975; Taubes, 2016).

Historically these illness were initially observed in the ruling class.  The affluent class was privileged and tended to eat more refined carbohydrates and sugars (white bread, cakes, pastries and sugar in coffee and tea). It is only recently that this class effect is reversed. Lower economic classes tend have a higher prevalence of these western diseases.  Affluent people can afford and often eat low processed organic foods while economically disadvantaged people cannot afford low processed foods and instead eat predominantly highly processed carbohydrate and refined foods.

Highly refined processed foods and sugar–not fats–are  significant risk factors for the development diabetes and cardiovascular disease and mortality (Imamura et al, 2015; Taubes, 2016; Yang et al, 2014) . What is not as well known is that some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease also correlates with the increase intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar (Das, 2015; Kandimalla et al, 2016; Peper, 2014).

It is highly likely that the increase in beta-amyloid protein plagues in the brain is not the cause of the Alzheimer’s but the brain’s defense mechanism to protect it from the fluctuating high insulin and glucose levels. A high sugar and simple carbohydrate diet are risk factors for inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.  These inflammatory diseases are recognized as a precursor for Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is sometimes described as Type 3 diabetes (Kandimalla et al, 2016; Steen et al, 2005).

Taking the perspective that foods are significant risk factors for the development of these western diseases, the focus should be on prevention and less on treatment.  The research to develop drugs to treat Alzheimer’s have up till now been unsuccessful despite that the billions spent on attempting to develop new drugs. For example, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has spent 3.7 billion dollars over the last decade while the National Institutes of Health spends more than half a billion dollars a year on pursuit of treatment (Coghlan, 2017).

The treatments cost of these western diseases, which at best ameliorate the disorders, is overwhelming.  In the USA, we spent $147 billion to treat obesity and $116 billion to treat diabetes. While the medical costs to treat diabetes for a single patient is about $6000/year or $400,000/lifetime (Pollan, 2009).

As a refined carbohydrates and high sugar diet is a risk factor for western diseases, the focus should be on prevention. Thus, reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates intake and increase high fiber vegetable.  To implement such a simple preventative measure means:

  1. Educate the public about the harm of sugars and refined carbohydrate foods.
  2. Ban advertising of foods that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  3. Reward companies to produce foods low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  4. Tax food products high in sugar and refined carbohydrates just as tobacco has been taxed.

I am positive that in the future when we  look back at the 20th and early 21st century, we will be appalled that the government allowed people to poison themselves with sugar and highly refined carbohydrates. Just as we now warn against the harm of tobacco, limit the sales to minors,  and have ongoing public health stop smoking  campaigns.

For much more information, read science writer Gary Taubes superb well researched and engaging book,  The case against sugar. 

cover-case-against-sugar

References:

Burkitt, D.P. & Trowell, H.C. (1975).  Refined carbohydrate foods and disease: Some implications of dietary fibre.  York: Academic Press.

Cleave, T.L., Campbell, G.D., & Painter, N.S. (1969). Diabetes, coronary thrombosis and the saccharine disease, 2nd ed. Bristol, UK: John Wright.

Coghlan, A. 2017). The Alzheimer’s problem. New Scientist, 233(3110), 22-23.

Das, U. N. (2015). Sucrose, fructose, glucose, and their link to metabolic syndrome and cancer. Nutrition31(1), 249-257.

Imamura, F., O’Connor, L., Ye, Z., Mursu, J., Hayashino, Y., Bhupathiraju, S. N., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fractionBmj351, h3576.

Kandimalla, R., Thirumala, V., & Reddy, P. H. (2016). Is Alzheimer’s disease a Type 3 Diabetes? A critical appraisal. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease.

Peper, E. (2014). Affluenza: Transforming Wisdom into Alzheimer’s Disease with Affluent Malnutrition and Immobility. Neuroconnections, 9(2), 32-35.

Pollan, M. (2009). Big food vs. big insurance. New York Times, September 10, A29.

Steen, E., Terry, B.M.  Rivera, E.J., Cannon, J.L., Neely, T.R., Tavares, R., Xu, X. J., Wands, J.R., & de al Monte, S. M.  (2005). Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease-is this type 3 diabetes? Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 7(1), 53-80.

Taubes, G. (2016). The case against sugar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Yang, Q., Zhang, Z., Gregg, E. W., Flanders, W. D., Merritt, R., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adultsJAMA internal medicine174(4), 516-524.


Healthy movement is the new aging

Born on 26 November 1911, Mr Robert Marchand and 105 years old, managed cycling 22.55 km (14 miles) at the national velodrome and set a new record for the furthest distance cycled in one hour for riders over 105. (Reynolds, 2017).

Meet 105-year-old Robert Marchand, the centenarian cyclist chasing a new record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey48j6dDNEo

As people age there is an increase in Western Diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, gout, cancer, dementia and  decreases in physical fitness (Milanović et al, 2013Tauber, 2016).   To assume that the cause of these illnesses is the natural process of aging may be too simplistic. Although aging does affect physiology, there are other factors that contribute to the increase in “Western Diseases” such as diet, lifestyle and genetics.

A significant contributing factor of Western Diseases is diet especially  the increase in sugar and simple carbohydrates. Whether you are Pima, Tohono O’odham, and Navajo American Indian Tribes in Arizona, Intuits in Northern Canada, Japanese Americans, or indigenous populations of Kenya, when these people stopped eating their traditional diet and adapted the western high glucose/fructose/simple carbohydrate diet, the degenerative Western Diseases exploded (Bjerregaard et al, 2004; Burkitt & Trowell, 1975; Knowler et al, 1990; Tauber, 2016). Diabetes, hypertension, and cancer which were previously rare skyrocketed within one generation after adapting the Western life style diet. In some of these populations, 30% or more of the adults have diabetes and a significant increase in breast cancer.

The reduction of episodic high intensity physical activity and being sedentary are additional risk factors for the onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Dulloo et al, 2017). As Mensing & Mekel (2015) state, “Sitting is the new smoking.”  Sitting encourages more sitting which leads to nonuse of muscles and causes neural and muscle atrophy.  Our physiology is efficient and will prune/eliminate what is redundant.  This is reflected in the popular phrase, “Use it or lose it.”  As we sit for hours in front of digital devices, use escalators, elevators, or drive cars, we are not using the muscles involved in dynamic movement.  We are usually unaware of this degenerative process. Instead,  we may experience difficulty walking up the stairs  which encourages us to take the escalator or elevator. When we do not use the muscles or are limited in movement by discomfort and pain, we move less. As we move less, we become  weaker which is often labeled as aging instead of non use.

Just, because most people loose fitness, it may not represent what is possible or optimum.  Instead, we may want to emulate the diet and fitness program of Mr. Robert Marchand who at age 103 set a new world record and improved the distance bicycled in one hour from 24.25 km at the age of 101 to 26.92 km at the age of 103. A 11% improvement! As New York Times science writer Gretchen Reynolds reports, “Lifestyle may also matter. Mr. Marchand is “very optimistic and sociable,” The researcher who did the study, Dr. Billat says, “with many friends,” and numerous studies suggest that strong social ties are linked to a longer life. His diet is also simple, focusing on yogurt, soup, cheese, chicken and a glass of red wine at dinner (Reynolds, 2017).

The improvement in bicycling performance and physiological indicators such as ⩒O2max increased (31 to 35 ml.kg-1min-1; +13%), appeared to be due to a change in his training regimen (Billat et al 2016).  At age 101 he changed his bicycling training program from riding at a steady speed for one hour to riding 80% at an easy pace and 20% at high intensity.  This is a  type of interval training and includes enough recovery allows the body the recover and strengthen. This analogous to our evolutionary movement pattern of walking interspersed with short distance high intensity running.

As a hunter and gather we often moved steadily and then had to run very fast to escape a predator or catch an animal.  After extreme exertion, we would rest and regenerate (if we did not escape we would be lunch for the predator). Thus episodic high intensity activity with significant rest/regenerative periods is the movement pattern that allowed our species to survive and thrive. Research studies have confirmed that high intensity interval training offers more physiological benefits–increases cardiorespiratory fitness which is a strong determinant of morbidity and mortality– than moderate intensity continuous training (Weston et al, 2014).

Thus when Mr. Marchard changed his exercise pattern from moderate intensity continuous training to high intensity interval training with enough recovery time he set a new world record at age 103. Two years later he set a new world record at age 105.

Exercise improves brain function and interval training appears to improve brain function most.  When rats had prolonged exercise, the brain’s stores of energy is significantly lowered in the frontal cortex and hippocampus all areas which area involved in thinking and memory. If on the other hand, the animals had a single intense bout of exercise and were allowed to rest and feed than the brain levels of glycogen was 60% high in the frontal and hippocampus areas.  This suggest that the brain can then function better (Matsui et al, 2012).

This perspective is supported by the evolutionary hypothesis discussed by Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert who points out that brains evolved, not to think or feel, but to direct movement. When movement is no longer needed the brain shrinks and gets reabsorbed which is illustrated by the sea squirt. This animal swims as a juvenile and then anchors on a rock and is passively moved by the currents. Once anchored, it no longer needed to coordinate movement and reabsorb its own nervous system. See Daniel Wolpert’s remarkable TED talk, The real reasons for brains.

The remarkable feat of Mr. Marchand offers suggestions for our own health. Enjoy healthy movement and exercise and incorporate our evolutionary movement patterns:  episodic high intensity followed by regeneration. At the same time include a healthy diet by reducing sugars and simple carbohydrates.  Finally, it helps to have the right genes.

References:

Billat, V. L., Dhonneur, G., Mille-Hamard, L., Le Moyec, L., Momken, I., Launay, T., & Besse, S. (2016). Case Studies in Physiology: Maximal Oxygen Consumption and Performance in a Centenarian CyclistJournal of Applied Physiology, jap-00569. http://jap.physiology.org/content/jap/early/2016/12/29/japplphysiol.00569.2016.full.pdf

Bjerregaard, P., Kue Young, T., Dewailly, E., & Ebbesson, S. O. (2004). Review Article: Indigenous health in the Arctic: an overview of the circumpolar Inuit population. Scandinavian Journal of Social Medicine32(5), 390-395. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51366099_Indigenous_Health_in_the_Arctic_An_Overview_of_the_Circumpolar_Inuit_Population

Burkitt, D.P. & Trowell, H.C. eds. (1975). Refined carbohydrate foods and disease: Some implications of dietary fibre. New York: Academic Press.

Dulloo, A. G., Miles‐Chan, J. L., & Montani, J. P. (2017). Nutrition, movement and sleep behaviours: their interactions in pathways to obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Obesity Reviews18(S1), 3-6.

Knowler, W. C., Pettitt, D. J., Saad, M. F., & Bennett, P. H. (1990). Diabetes mellitus in the Pima Indians: incidence, risk factors and pathogenesis. Diabetes/metabolism reviews6(1), 1-27.

Matsui, T., Ishikawa, T., Ito, H., Okamoto, M., Inoue, K., Lee, M. C., … & Soya, H. (2012). Brain glycogen supercompensation following exhaustive exerciseThe Journal of physiology590(3), 607-616.

Mensing, M., & Mekel, O. C. L. (2015). Sitting is the new smoking-Modelling physical activity interventions in North Rhine-Westphalia. The European Journal of Public Health25(suppl 3), ckv171-037.

Milanović, Z., Pantelić, S., Trajković, N., Sporiš, G., Kostić, R., & James, N. (2013). Age-related decrease in physical activity and functional fitness among elderly men and women. Clinical interventions in aging, 8, 549-556.

Reynolds, G. (2017, February 8). Lessons on Aging Well, From a 105-Year-Old Cyclist. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/well/move/lessons-on-aging-well-from-a-105-year-old-cyclist.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront

Taubes, G. (2016). The Case Against Sugar. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Weston, K. S., Wisløff, U., & Coombes, J. S. (2014). High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysisBritish journal of sports medicine48(16), 1227-1234. http://www.rcsi.ie/files/facultyofsportsexercise/20141201122758_High-intensity%20interval%20traini.pdf

Wolpert, D. (2011) The Real Reason for Brains.  http://www..com/tatedlks/daniel_wolpert_the_real_reason_for_brains.html

Youtube video: Meet 105-year-old Robert Marchand, the centenarian cyclist chasing a new record: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ey48j6dDNEo

 

 

 


What the food companies forgot to tell you: For the sake of profits we promote metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes

Should  a five year old be responsible for being obese?

Drinking diet sodas increases the urge to eat more!

Sugar is more addicting than cocaine!

Calories from sugar are NOT the same as calories from other types of foods.

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As you are reaching for another diet soda, low fat yogurt, or low calorie dessert, you are compromising your health by increasing the risk for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity. The artificial sugar substitutes increase feeling of hunger and encourage you to eat more while the low fat foods are made more appetizing by adding sugar (Lustig, 2012; Lustig et al, 2012).  As sugar is more addicting than cocaine (Ahmed et al, 2013; Lenoir et al, 2013), how can you assign personal responsibility to young child who is obese with the statement, “You are responsible for being fat and for eating too much sugar laced foods!”  Watch the superb documentary, Fed Up,  based upon impeccable science. It explores America’s obesity epidemic and the food industry’s role in aggravating it. It systematically shows that everything we’ve been told about food and exercise especially by the food industry and federal government for the past 30 years is dead wrong. The documentary can easily be viewed from streaming video services such as Google Play, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Instant Video.

For the impact of sugar on health and the myth of self-responsibility, watch the 2013 TEDxBermuda talk, Sugar–the elephant in the kitchen, by Robert Lustig, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco.

The movie, Fed UP, and Professor Lustig’s 2013Ted talk serve as a call to action to take control of the foods we serve and eat. Support policies to promote food health:

  • Increase local taxes on every soft drink sold and use the income to support public health.
  • Demand that schools and public institutions serve children real food and not sugar laced fast foods.
  • Support policies that prohibit sales of soft drinks to minors just as alcohol is prohibited to minors.
  • Eliminate all soft drinks from public institutions and work sites just as smoking is prohibited.

References

Ahmed, S. H., Guillem, K., & Vandaele, Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 16(4), 434-439.http://journals.lww.com/co-clinicalnutrition/Abstract/2013/07000/Sugar_addiction___pushing_the_drug_sugar_analogy.11.aspx

Fed Up.(2014). American documentary film directed, written and produced by Stephanie Soechtig.http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home

Fowler, S. P., Williams, K., Resendez, R. G., Hunt, K. J., Hazuda, H. P., & Stern, M. P. (2008). Fueling the Obesity Epidemic?Artificially Sweetened Beverage Use and Long‐term Weight Gain. Obesity, 16(8), 1894-1900.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2008.284/full

Lenoir, M., Serre, F., Cantin, L., & Ahmed, S. H. (2007). Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PloS one, 2(8), e698.http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0000698

Lustig, R. H. (2012). Fat chance: beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease. Penguin.

Lustig, R. H., Schmidt, L. A., & Brindis, C. D. (2012). Public health: The toxic truth about sugar. Nature, 482(7383), 27-29.http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v482/n7383/full/482027a.html


Be aware of evolutionary/ecological traps

Slide2

Dead bird on Midway Island in the North Pacific, 2000 miles from any other islands. The bird mistook attractive coloring of plastics that float in the ocean as food. From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtJFiIXp5Bo

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Being captured by a digital device. From: http://images.gameskinny.com/gameskinny/c9689c75994e58a03dbc5e489d346e55.jpg

How come birds on Midway Island are dying?

How come your son keeps playing computer games even after he said he would stop?

How come you ate all the French fries and the dessert even though you promised yourself to reduce your calorie intake?

How come you procrastinated and did not get up from the couch to exercise?

How come you watched pornography?

The usual answer is absence of will, self-control or self-discipline. The person is automatically blamed for making poor life choices. If you had more self-worth than you would not let yourself get obese, addicted to computer games, or watch pornography. Blaming the victim is easy, however, there are other factors that underlie the person’s covert/unconscious choices. Many of these illness producing behaviors (e.g., overeating, playing the computer games, sitting and sitting) are responses to external cues that in prehistoric times promoted survival, reproduction and health. To respond rapidly and appropriately  to those cues offered a reproductive advantages while not reacting would reduce your survival. In many cases there are no upper limits to turn off our responses to these cues because the more the person responded to those cues the more was there a reproductive advantage. Now, however, our adaptive preferences have become maladaptive because the cues that trigger the same behaviors lead to lower fitness and illness (Schlaepfer et al, 2002; Robertson et al, 2013). The cues have become evolutionary/ecological traps!

Some of the recent evolutionary/ecological traps include:

Vigilance for survival. While playing a computer games, the person rapidly responds and continuously experiences immediate rewards (e.g., successful shooting the target, points, next game level). This process activates the same  survival mechanisms that hunter used for thousands of generations. A visual or auditory stimuli represents  sources of food or danger (a game animal to hunt for food, an attack by a predator or an enemy). The visual/auditory cue captures the person’s attention and if the person reacts to that cue he would probably survive. On the other hand, if he did not react, he may not survive and reproduce. In our modern world, similar stimuli now hijack the neurological pathways that in earlier times supported survival. Over activation of these pathways is a cofactor in the development of ADHD and other disorders (Peper, 2014). For a superb discussion of  how cellphones, computers, gaming and social medial are changing our brains, read Dr. Mari Swingle’s new book, i-Minds (Swingle, 2015)

Energy for survival: Eating carbohydrate/sugary and fat foods are necessary for survival as humans constantly searched for energy sources to support life. Breast milk and almost any fruit that is sweet contain calories and supports growth. If the food was bitter it was usually harmful. For most of our evolutionary past, we would eat as much as possible because food was scarce. There was no evolutionary advantage to limit food intake as the stored calories would supply enough calories to survive during periods of famine. In our modern world, our survival mechanisms have been hijacked by advertising and the oversupply of foods which  contribute to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

Being a couch potato and not moving again is again survival mechanism. In a prehistoric world with limited food supply, the less movement (the fewer calories you burned), the longer you could survive. You would move when you needed to build shelter or search for food. Again in a world where shelter and food are often abundant, there is no intrinsic mechanism to initiate movement.

Sexual arousal for reproduction: Men are often captured by pornography. They can watch for hours and feel aroused. The whole porn industry is based upon hijacking our sexual drive for reproduction.

Our brain does not discriminate between actual visual and auditory stimuli, imagined or film/video images. Until the late 19th century everything we saw and heard was real. Only in the 20th century could we produce images and sounds that appeared real. These film, TV , and the ever present digital displays activate the same neurophysiological pathways as when the stimuli were actually real.  A scene on a digital screen triggers the same biological pathways and responses that for thousands of generations supported survival. If we did not respond we would not have survived.  If you have any doubt, watch a scary horror movie and check how you feel afterwards. You may feel more scared, your sleep may be disturbed, your heart rate increased, and you probably interpreted any noise around you as possible danger. Thus, cues in the environment may become evolutionary/ecological traps in the same way that birds on Midway Island in the North Pacific, 2000 miles from any other islands, mistook the attractive coloring of plastics as food. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtJFiIXp5Bo. Should the birds be blamed because they have no self-control?

What can you do!

Recognize that modern industries for the sake of profits have hijacked our cues that had evolved to aid survival (Kemp, 2014).

Recognize that not reacting to product cues means inhibiting the intrinsic biological triggered survival responses. Yes, it is possible not react to the stimuli and demonstrate self-control; however, it is not only a problem of will. It is a problem that our cues have been hijacked and tricked for commercial profit.

Society may need to protect its own populations from commercial exploitation of evolutionary/ecological traps. A young child is automatically drawn to the visual stimuli on a smartphone and tablet which parents use to quiet the child during dinner. In this process they are activating the pre-wired biological pathways that captured attention for survival. By over activating these pathways, the brain is changing in response to this activation which increases the risk of developing ADHD, autism, and mood deregulation including anxiety, depression, and anger management, and other forms of addictive behavior (Swingle, 2015). In addition, school performance and memory retention are reduced when students take notes using their keyboard or read text from digital screens (OCallaghan, 2014). It will take the family and society to limit the availability of these cues until self-control has been developed. Similarly, the availability of cheap calories in large food portions, sugars in soft drinks and sugar and fats in snacks, need to be limited if the epidemic of obesity and diabetes is to be reversed.

It may be unreasonable to think that people can easily interrupt their biological responses to cues that have been created to increase profits. We need to take collective responsibility and limit the availability of commercially augmented evolutionary traps and cues in the same way we need to limit the plastic in the ocean so that the birds at Midway Island may be able survive. Without respecting our evolutionary past, our future may not be different from those Midway Island birds.

References

Kemp, C. (2014). Trapped!. New Scientist, 221(2960), 43-45

OCallaghan, T. (2014). Goodbye, paper: What we miss when we read on screen. New Scientist.224 (2993). 41-43.

Peper, E. (2014). Support Healthy Brain Development: Implications for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychophysiology Today, 9(1), 4‐15.

Robertson, B. A., Rehage, J. S., & Sih, A. (2013). Ecological novelty and the emergence of evolutionary traps. Trends in ecology & evolution, 28(9), 552-560.

Swingle, M.K. (2015). i-Minds. Portland, OR: Inkwaterpress.com ISBN-13 978-1-62901-213-1

Schlaepfer, M. A., Runge, M. C., & Sherman, P. W. (2002). Ecological and evolutionary traps. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 17(10), 474-480.


Concered about food and health?

If you are concerned about food and health, watch Michael Pollan’s presentation, How Cooking Can Change Your Life. It is pragmatic and full of wisdom.


Cut out the sugar-it is toxic!

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.

sugars a

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.

coca cola and sugarFigure 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.

corn subsidy

Figure 3. Farm subsidies in 2005. source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy

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.


What is the best single thing we can do for our health

There are so many factors that contribute to our health: diet, social support, preventative medical screening, etc.   Yet, what is one single most important procedure that gives largest return of investment for your health? Listen to  Dr. Mike Evans describe the  procedure that if is used as treatment- one hour a day three times a week- reduces pain by 47% for patients with arthritic knees;  if the treatment is done most days, patients with diabetes reduce the progression of their disease by 58%; post menopausal women who have the treatment four times a week reduce hip fractures  by 41%; the treatment also reduces anxiety by 48% and patients with depression who receive a low dose of this treatment experience  relief of depression by 30%  while those on a high dose experience a  47% relief; in addition, it is the number one treatment of fatigue.

The treatment is 30 minutes of exercise–mostly walking–as described in the superb YouTube video, 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?