Hello, Mr. Norris. I love “C-Force” and read it weekly. I saw last Sunday on “60 Minutes” a segment on how sugar is toxic. Really? Toxic? – Robert F. in Sydney
It’s true that Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on “60 Minutes” that recent scientific research shows that sugar is in fact toxic and that overconsumption may lead to heart disease and even cancer.
At the heart of Gupta’s piece was the work of Dr. Robert Lustig, a leading expert in childhood obesity and pediatric hormone disorders at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
Lustig is conducting his war on not only table sugar but also the man-made and often vilified sweetener high-fructose corn syrup, as well as honey, syrups, sugary drinks, desserts and nearly every processed food, in which sugar is often hidden – for example, sauce, bread, yogurt and even peanut butter.
Though Lustig reported that sugar consumption has gone down nearly 40 percent since the 1970s, he says that high-fructose corn syrup has more than made up the difference and that both are toxic because they contain fructose.
He added that we used to consume fructose in small amounts from fruits, which also contain fiber, slowing its absorption. But now the average American consumes 130 pounds of refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup a year – a third of a pound every day.
Lustig has published at least a dozen scientific articles on the evils of sugar. However, he’s best-known for “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” his popular 2009 lecture. It has more than 2 million views on YouTube. Thirteen times in the 90-minute lecture, he refers to sugar as a toxin or a poison, with five more references to the sweet substance as “evil.”
Lustig argues that table sugar (sucrose) is just as harmful as its alternative high-fructose corn syrup. However, when digested, glucose and fructose (the equal parts of sucrose) break down in our bodies differently. Glucose is used as a natural energy source, but fructose isn’t.
Lustig says that 30 percent of the fructose we consume produces new fat in our bodies because its molecules react more like a fat than they do a carbohydrate. Further proof came from a study of healthy medical students who, as a result of a six-day high-fructose diet, doubled their triglycerides and free fatty acids, causing insulin resistance and five times more fat creation.
For years, Lustig has been purporting that consumption of too many sugars (particularly fructose) is linked to diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease – something the scientific community ridiculed for decades. But now others are coming to Lustig’s defense.
For example, a five-year study by Dr. Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis, has linked excess high-fructose corn syrup consumption with increased risk factors for heart disease and stroke, suggesting calories from added sugars are different from and more harmful than calories from other foods. Calories are not all created equal.
Stanhope reported that “subjects who consumed high-fructose corn syrup had increased blood levels of LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease” within just two weeks of increasing their sugar-based foods.
Stanhope explained that too many sugar-based treats overload the liver with fructose, converting some into fat that goes into the bloodstream and helps produce the dangerous LDL, which clogs blood vessels (unlike glucose, which is metabolized by every cell in the body, fructose primarily is metabolized by the liver).
Time’s Healthland just reported that based upon a 22-year study of more than 42,000 men, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that men who drank roughly six sugared beverages a week were 20 percent likelier to have a heart attack than those who never drank them. And a 2009 Harvard study found that women who drank more than two sugary beverages daily had a nearly 40 percent higher risk of heart disease than women who seldom consumed sugary drinks.
Therefore, as Stanhope concluded, “drinking a sweetened drink might be just as bad for (our) hearts as the fatty cheeseburgers we’ve all been warned about since the 1970s.”
In Part 2, I will discuss not only the scientific evidence supporting how excessive consumption of sugars can lead to cancer but also what sugar substitute my family uses.