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.


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.