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Sugar Is Not Poison, But We’re Getting Too Much of It

Sugar is the toxin responsible for most of today’s health problems, a California endocrinologist who conducts research for the American Heart Association, told the television magazine program 60 Minutes Sunday.

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The University of California’s Dr. Robert Lustig said obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease can all be blamed on Americans consuming too much sugar.

The 60 Minutes segment, with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta playing the part of the on-air reporter, said new research is “starting to find that sugar, the way many people are eating it today, is toxic and could be a driving force behind some of this country’s leading killers, including heart disease.”

An ongoing, five-year research project at the University of California – Davis, by nutritional biologist Kimber Stanhope, also got mention because it appears to be showing that high fructose corn syrup intake is linked to heart disease and stroke.  Midway through, the research also suggests calories from added sugars differ from other calories.

Gupta said the belief that a calorie is a calorie is a “mantra” of nutritionists. He also said the scientists involved in the research are personally eliminating all added sugar from their diets. Added sugars are sweeteners added to processed and prepared foods and beverages.

Examples of added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, crystal dextrose and dextrin.

The American Heart Association study Lustig co-authored actually recommends that men limit their intake of added sugars to 150 calories a day, and women to just 100 calories.

Not likely, according to the Sugar Association. One Coke or Pepsi and you could be over the limit.

Marion Nestle, the highly respected food columnist, author, and NYU professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, says: “Sugars–plural to include all forms of caloric sweeteners–are not poison.”

Writing for U.S. News and World Report on Monday, Professor Nestle gave consumers more specific direction than they got on television the night before.  

She says as of now, food manufacturers get to label sugars as separate entities: glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, fruit concentrate and so on. She said all should be grouped together and listed as sugar on nutritional facts panels.

Nestle says added sugars should be also be disclosed on the facts panel.

“Food advocacy groups have tried for years to get FDA to required labeling of added sugars,” she said. “At the moment, food labels list total carbohydrates, and some list grams of sugars.”

Nestle says current information “does not distinguish the naturally occurring sugars in foods that are accompanied by vitamins, mineral and other nutrients from refined sugars added in processing.”  She used the example of the raisins in Raisin Bran cereal being why that cereal might have higher sugar content than others, but with the nutrient value in the raisins.

Whether sugar should be compared to alcohol and tobacco, let alone cocaine and heroin, one fact is certain. Since 1822, when Americans consumed just over six pounds of sugar a year, our intake has been steadily on the rise to the present estimate of 130 pounds annually.

© Food Safety News
  • bob j

    Yeah let’s listen to the food columnist instead of the board certified medical doctor…

  • RMF007

    Interesting program. Unfortunately I was not able to find the published research on MedLine. Clearly too much sucrose has never been shown to be good for you and multiple research studies have shown that insulin goes up when you eat protein, carbohydrates or fats and animal studies have shown that the link between longevity is inversely related to total caloric intake. The subjects confined to the research center (hopefully not the planned approach for American obesity) were reported to have fat calories replaced by carbohydrate (simple sugar carbohydrates) calories. We are not told how long the study was (or if so I don’t remember hearing it) or how many calories participants consumed. We are also not told what happened to insulin levels, triglyceride levels, HDL levels, or anything else for that matter. We are not even told how much the LDL changed. In Ornish’s studies, his subjects ate more desserts over time, which resulted in the storage of these excess calories as fat; specifically triglycerides (VLDLc). Since VLDLc is the precursor of LDL, it would be surprising to see substantial increases in LDL and not VLDL. I have looked at MedLine to see if this work has been published and did not find it. Please let me know when and where it will be published in the peer review literature.
    P.S. What I have noticed, is that several studies were financially supported by the Atkins foundation. We would emphasize that studies which only look at blood tests for results are missing what they are truly talking about. E.g. looking at insulin levels does not do the same thing as looking at cancer. Looking at LDL cholesterol does not do the same thing as asking if the person has heart disease. It’s time to end the era of sloppy science and either look to see if what we are talking about in these studies and what we tell the general public is the same thing. The general public has grown tired of listening to “research” which causes them to shake their heads in disbelief and the tendency has been for too many people to focus on studies which support their own point of view. In the end, too much of anything may be harmful. Too little of anything may be harmful. Poor science which doesn’t actually look at the end issue; but, looks at vague blood tests isn’t helping anyone.

  • I Will Believe Anything

    Might also mention “since 1822″ Americans are logging quite a few more air miles, watching measurably more television, holding cell phones to their heads somewhat more frequently, driving more miles in their cars (and faster than the gold standard oxcart, I might add), defecating less often in outdoor privies, and consuming far more agenda-driven propaganda from the internet. Oh, and Americans are living significantly longer than they did in 1822 (if you consider the difference between 35 years and 70 years significant). So, yeah, sugar is poison if sold-out hack media medico Sanjay Gupta says so. Whatever.

  • Ryan

    The sugar association say it is not likely to drop the added sugars to less than 150 calories for men because of a coke or a pepsi? Guess what? Don’t drink the coke or the pepsi.

  • Anonymous Jones

    What I find funny about “I Will Believe Anything”‘s attempt at a tongue-in-cheek moniker is that when you try to use irony without realizing that you are exactly what you are mocking, you are engaging in truly spectacular act of self-embarrassment.
    Well done!
    The logic is stunning by the way. True, there is some acknowledgement in the first sentence that this is a complex topic that should be subject to a multivariable analysis but then we finish up with no logic or analysis at all but merely some evidence-less accusation of “selling out” (to whom? and for what purpose? pray tell!) about a reporter who is merely reporting someone else’s research. Just really spectacular.
    Also, you clearly don’t understand how life expectancy numbers work. The main difference in life expectancy between now and two centuries ago is in rates of infant and child mortality. But surely, whatever increase in longevity that a 20 year old has now versus two centuries ago is probably attributable to eating more sugar. It must be good for you.
    Thanks for helping!

  • TeeDee

    Umm, marion Nestle is more than “just a food colomnist.” See bio below.
    Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health (the department she chaired from 1988-2003) and Professor of Sociology at New York University. Her degrees include a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition, both from the University of California, Berkeley.
    Her first faculty position was in the Department of Biology at Brandeis University. From 1976-86 she was Associate Dean of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, where she taught nutrition to medical students, residents, and practicing physicians, and directed a nutrition education center sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
    From 1986-88, she was senior nutrition policy advisor in the Department of Health and Human Services and managing editor of the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. She has been a member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee and Science Board, the USDA/DHHS Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and American Cancer Society committees that issue dietary guidelines for cancer prevention. Her research focuses on how science and society influence dietary advice and practice.

  • http://www.phfspec.com Peter Cocotas

    Lustig starts with diseases-obesity,heart disease-and concludes that the cause is sugar but the cause is people who are overweight from a multitude of problems, one of which may be excess sugar consumption. There is nothing to demonstrate that people who eat a lot of fruit are ingesting “toxins.” I remember when sugar was THE problem, then fat was THE problem and now sugar is again THE problem

  • Richard Gebhart

    “Good Calories, Bad Calories” Gary Taubes is a great read about how we arrive at our version of truth which may or may not be the Real Truth.

  • Chuck Brooks

    I was under the impression that moderation was the key to staying fit and healthy. Americans, and ever increasingly, our contemporaries around the world are eating to much of EVERYTHING, and not being active at all. Who ultimately controls what goes into your body? You do. Who controls how active or inactive you are? You do. So to say its some inanimate substance is killing us is just ludicrous; so here’s to the transference of blame to something the has no mind from supposed intelligent people. I hope humanity stops playing the victim and remember they have the power in their lives, thanks for your time and I reply appreciate this news letter, it saved my puppies life, thank you

  • keene observer

    Fantasy is Not Poison, But We’re Getting Too Much of It.

  • John Pasztor

    I’ll buy MODERATION! Let’s make the over-eating issue a climate change problem. The more we eat, the fatter we get, the more poop we produce never mind the poisonous substance called CARBON DIOXIDE. The poop has to go somewhere. Soon we’ll be drowning in our own poop. If that is not a National Security issue, I don’t know what is?

  • http://evolvinghealthscience.blogspot.com David Despain

    I’m glad to see this balanced article. I wrote a post on my blog, but it was more out of outrage “No, Dr. Gupta, hummingbird fuel is not toxic” http://evolvinghealthscience.blogspot.com/2012/04/no-dr-gupta-hummingbird-fuel-is-not.html