“Hide not thy poison with such sugar'd words” (William Shakespeare)
Nicotine, alcohol, heroin, sugar: what do all these things have in common? All are addictive substances, and all but heroin have over-the-counter availability. But if the publishers of a recent paper condemning sugar have their way, sugar will become as much a regulated substance as alcohol.
Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, along with his colleagues Laura A. Schmidt and Claire D. Brindis, three leading obesity researchers from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, argue that in all its forms—high-fructose corn syrup and simple sucrose—sugar is as dangerous, if not more so, as alcohol; a highly controlled and, in some cases, addictive substance. To support statistics on chronic diseases such as obesity, the paper sites evidence that the human body processes sugar in a way that is extremely harmful to health and that “lifestyle diseases,” such as heart disease, can be kept in check by regulating sugar consumption on a global scale. According to a 2010 United Nations report, more and more people are dying from chronic, non-communicable diseases now than from infectious disease such as TB, HPV, and AIDS.
The researchers continue by stating, "The UN announcement targets tobacco, alcohol and diet as the central risk factors in non-communicable disease. Two of these three—tobacco and alcohol—are regulated by governments to protect public health, leaving one of the primary culprits behind this worldwide health crisis unchecked." In other words, sugar.
The lead author of the paper states that our bodies metabolize fructose, the sugar from fruit, much the same way it processes alcohol and other toxins. As portrayed in the paper, sugar is a true poison responsible for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and when consumed in high quantities, it is the main contributor to major fatal non-communicable conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Gosh, when you think about it that way, why would anyone jeopardize their health by consuming over 150+ pounds per year of ingestible poison? Because it tastes good and it’s easy to get.
As explained by Gary Taubes in a New York Times Magazine cover story in April of 2011 on the subject:
“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). And if you take that sugar in liquid form—soda or fruit juices—the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.”
(Note: This is the first of a a two-part series. Part 2 will examine the history of sugar’s bad reputation, and discuss ways in which to break the “sugar addiction” to help achieve better emotional and physical health.)
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