The 2012 IFIC Food & Health Survey has found that the number of people blaming sugar for expanding waistlines has nearly doubled since last year.

This followed the screening of the ‘Is Sugar Toxic?’ episode on America’s 60 Minutes’ television programme.

People are talking about it in New Zealand too, so let’s look at ‘the case against sugar’, and especially, sugary soft drinks.

Putting it simply, our most convenient source of food energy is glucose – a simple sugar from plants. Starch is made of glucose.

When we digest most plant foods, the starch breaks down and glucose enters our bloodstream.

Four important things then happen:
– The glucose gets used by all of our organs as their source of fuel.
– When the brain detects that glucose levels are rising because of eating, it releases a hormone that reduces hunger.
– The liver packs away excess glucose into short term storage by ‘carbo loading’.
– After this, the liver converts left-over glucose to fat. ‘Fat from glucose’ is LDL fat, the worst sort for heart health.

Cane sugar, and the industrial sweetener High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), are different. They are about half glucose and half fructose. It’s the fructose which leads to the ‘sugar is toxic’ argument. Why?

– Fructose is not used easily by organs as a direct source of fuel
– Fructose does not cause the release of the hunger suppressing hormone
– The ‘carbo-loading’ storage doesn’t work for fructose, instead the liver processes it more like alcohol, generating toxins like uric acid and aldehyde as by-product. A liver taken from someone with a high sugar diet can look like one taken from an alcoholic.
– Much more fructose ends up being stored as LDL fat.
– Fructose is found naturally in fruit, but when we eat fruit, fibre in the fruit stops these negatives happening.
– Fructose is much sweeter than glucose, and both cane sugar and HFCS are cheap, so are favoured by manufacturers of sweet drinks and foods.

The person promoting the ‘sugar is toxic’ case is Professor Robert Lustig.

In his You Tube clip “Sugar – The Bitter Truth”, Professor Lustig suggests Coke is great to sell with takeaways. He says the fructose will keep your appetite high and mask saltiness. Fructose and salt together help keep you hungry and thirsty while you eat and drink.

Simple maths will tell you that adding one can of Coke a day to your diet is equal to gaining 7kg a year, every year. Childhood obesity is rapidly on the rise and so is soft drink consumption.

Critics of Professor Lustig’s case say reality is not so simple, and favour the view that obesity is caused by excess calories, no matter where they come from.

The Dietitians Association of Australia notes that over there, cane sugar consumption has dropped by 23% since 1980 while overweight and obesity have doubled and diabetes tripled.

Aspire for Life’s view on all of this is to take a step back. Diets high in refined foods and sugary drinks of any sort are risky.

If you eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and healthy amounts of meats, dairy and healthy oils, you will meet your body’s needs.

You probably know that already, the trick to put it into practice and have fun while you are doing it. That’s why we are here to help.

Cutting out good quality staple foods, such as potatoes and grain foods, makes no sense for long term weight loss as these supply the glucose energy you need, along with valuable nutrients.

~ Aspire For Life

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