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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
New Scientist - Opinion - Obesity expert: Sugar is toxic and should be regulated...

It might taste good, but sugar is addictive and fuelling the obesity epidemic, says Robert Lustig

Your lecture on sugar has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube. Why do you think it's had so much attention?

The obesity epidemic just gets worse and people are looking for answers. Diet and exercise don't work and the idea that obesity is about personal responsibility has come into question. Many people have said sugar is bad, but they didn't supply the biochemistry. I supplied that.

Do you think fructose - which along with glucose makes table sugar - drives obesity?

I don't think fructose is the cause of obesity, but I do think it is the thing that takes you from obesity to metabolic syndrome, and that's where the healthcare dollars go - diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

So the idea that "a calorie is a calorie" is wrong?

As far as I'm concerned that's how we got into this mess. If a calorie is a calorie, the solution is eat less and exercise more. Except it doesn't work. And the reason is that fructose is toxic beyond its caloric equivalent, so if you consume it instead of glucose you get more of a negative effect even if the calories are the same. It's important that people recognise that the quality of our diet also dictates the quantity. In addition, "eat less" is a really crappy message that doesn't work. "Eat less sugar" is a message that people can get their heads around.

Why do we consume so much sugar?

One reason is that it's addictive. The food industry knows that when they add fructose we buy more. That's why it's in everything. There are five tastes on your tongue: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. Sugar covers up the other four, so you can't taste the negative aspects of foods. You can make dog poop taste good with enough sugar. In essence, that is what the food industry has done.

You say that sugar is a chronic toxin. Why?

We have three levels of toxins: things like cyanide where one part per million will kill you; arsenic and lead where 30 to 50 parts per million kills you; and toxins where high doses of thousands of parts per million can kill you. A lot of the last category are nutrients, for instance vitamin A, vitamin D and iron. Well, fructose falls in that category.

You think fructose should be regulated. Why treat it differently to vitamin D or iron, say?

The difference is that for vitamin D and iron there is no abuse potential. With fructose there is. We don't regulate toxic substances that aren't abused. We don't regulate abuse substances that are not toxic, like caffeine. Where we get excited is where we have toxic substances that are also abused like cocaine, ethanol, heroin and nicotine. Well, fructose is a toxic substance that is also abused. By that analogy, we ought to regulate it.

Do you think sugar regulation will happen?

Obviously, no one is ready to do that. The question is how much more metabolic syndrome and diabetes do we need to see before we consider changing that policy? That's a decision for policymakers, but they can't make the decision without the science. I'm supplying the science.
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Robert Lustig is professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. His lecture, "Sugar: The bitter truth", explores the dangers of sugary food
 
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So an apple a day won't keep the doctor away?
It's not the apple so much as the HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) that we're taking in so much more of as a population.

An apple has only 15g of fructose... plus 3 to 4g of fiber and other healthy nutrients that we all need...

A can of coke has more than twice the amount of fructose, and about 40g of sugars in total. HFCS is in bloody everything, being less-expensive than sugar because corn is subsidized by the federal government.

Unfortunately, the average westerner gets LESS THAN 20% of their fructose from natural fruits and vegetables... There would be much healthier people if we got our fructose from natural sources, instead of inserted into our "low-fat" foods....
 

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well an apple has the same fructose that he is talking about. Could it be that we just eat too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yes there is fructose in apples but as Dr Lustig mentions even in this short piece (and at greater length in his presentations) it has more to do with the quality of what we eat... as a simple example consider eating an orange as compared to the refined juice (and sugars) of several oranges in a glass of OJ.

HFCS is basically the same as table sugar (sucrose) but when listed as an ingredient, it can serve as red flag to show that this "food" is manufactured and likely contains other sugars and refined starches. If we eat real whole food (that has no need of an ingredients list) we naturally tend to eat fewer sugars and refined starches.
 

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Sugar itself is a refined product otherwise we would just have to eat sugar caine or beets. What I got out of the article was that people eat just too much crap not so much what it is made from but the quantity of which we eat. Too much of a good thing makes it a bad thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Once again: it is the quality of the food which makes it easier or more likely to eat too much. As in the same example as I used above we can more easily and more quickly get a much bigger load of sugar from OJ than from eating an orange. OJ is less filling and less satisfying but for the same volume it packs a much higher glycemic load.

Is it really simply about quantity? I doubt you are suggesting that we could eat too much green leafy veg? Is it even possible to over eat butter and steak for example? I've seen folks gulp down cola after cola after cola just like it was water... I'd need some convincing that they would sit and eat the equivalent amount of sugar as cane, beets or even as spoonfuls of sugar for that matter.

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Just for reference: I understand that each 12oz can of coca cola contains the equivalent of over 9 teaspoons of table sugar (sucrose = 50% Glucose + 50% Fructose)... can you imagine sitting and eating that quantity of sugar? Several times a day? Every day? But now look at what many teenagers drink each and every day... add to that the HFCS found in the ketchup on their fries, in the token "healthy whole-wheat" bread used for their sandwiches, low-fat yogourt, heck HFCS is even in hot dogs wieners... and the buns and ketchup they are eaten with.

Add up this total glycemic load and then you might see what this Doctor is advocating... I sincerely doubt he is suggesting a fructose police state but rather a change in government policy and heath-driven decisions regarding which food stuffs are subsidized by our taxes.
 

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...I understand that each 12oz can of coca cola contains the equivalent of over 9 teaspoons of table sugar (sucrose = 50% Glucose + 50% Fructose)... can you imagine sitting and eating that quantity of sugar? Several times a day? Every day?
And amazingly, there's as much or MORE sugar in most fruit juices for the same serving size.

A can of Coke has 40g of carbohydrate per 12oz can, all sugars. Apple Juice and Orange Juice ring in at 42g and 39g respectively. Grape juice about 60g per 12 oz glass.

Whereas an apple has 13-17g of sugar depending on it's size.

It's the concentration of the sugars that are causing the problems. I doubt most people would eat four or five apples at a sitting, but I've seen people drink 12oz of apple juice in SECONDS. Or even 20oz... or more... This is why people that want soda vending machines in schools replaced with fruit juice, are just kidding themselves... in some cases their kids may end up consuming MORE sugar.

12 oz of milk, for comparison, has only about 17g of lactose. AND 12g of protein...

Water is even healthier at a whopping 0g of sugar per several gallons worth.

In my day there were no vending machines in schools... Y'all lined up at a water fountain. There was a lot less obesity, too...
 
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