Category Archives: Sugar

Alleged: Sugar Industry Made Dietary Fat the Villain

“Newly uncovered documents reveal that 50 years ago the sugar industry gave secret support to prominent Harvard researchers to write an influential series of articles in the New England Journal of Medicine that downplayed the negative effects of sugar.

Instead, the articles shifted the blame from sugar to fat as the “dietary culprit” behind heart disease.In recent years there has been growing awareness that decades of dietary policy demonized fat and ignored or played down the dangers of increased consumption of carbohydrates and sugars. Many believe this policy had a significant adverse effect on public health, contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemics.”

Source: How Sweet: Sugar Industry Made Fat the Villain | Medpage Today

Riddle Me This: What’s Pure, White, and Deadly?

The answer is sugar, according to John Yudkin and Robert Lustig, among others. The Age has the details. A quote:

[Robert] Lustig is one of a growing number of scientists who don’t just believe sugar makes you fat and rots teeth. They’re convinced it’s the cause of several chronic and very common illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It’s also addictive, since it interferes with our appetites and creates an irresistible urge to eat.

This year, Lustig’s message has gone mainstream; many of the New Year diet books focused not on fat or carbohydrates, but on cutting out sugar and the everyday foods (soups, fruit juices, bread) that contain high levels of sucrose. The anti-sugar camp is not celebrating yet, however. They know what happened to Yudkin and what a ruthless and unscrupulous adversary the sugar industry proved to be.

In 1822, we in the U.S. ate 6.2 pounds of sugar per person per year. By 1999, we were up to 108 pounds.

An occasional teaspoon of sugar probably won't hurt you

An occasional teaspoon of sugar probably won’t hurt you, even if you have diabetes

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that added sugars provide 17% of the total calories in the average American diet.  A typical carbonated soda contain the equivalent of 10 tsp (50 ml) of sugar.  The average U.S. adult eats 30 tsp  (150 ml) daily of added sweeteners and sugars.

On the other hand, Fanatic Cook Bix found a study linking higher sugar consumption with lower body weight, which you might think would protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Read the rest at The Age. It’s mostly about John Yudkin.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t Jamie Scott

Preschoolers Who Drink Sugar-Sweetened Beverages More Likely to Be Overweight

…according to an article at MedPageToday. Here’s how the study was done:

DeBoer and colleagues evaluated the effect of sugary drinks on BMI in 9,600 children evaluated at ages 9 months, 2 years, 4 years, and 5 years, who were enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey — Birth Cohort, a representative survey of the U.S. population of children born in 2001.

Parents answered survey questions about beverage intake at ages 2, 4, and 5. Sugar-sweetened beverages were defined as soda, sports drinks, and fruit drinks that were not 100% fruit juice. They also looked at when the drinks were consumed — such as at meals or with snacks — and if the child was a regular or infrequent/nondrinker.

Toddlers drinking at least one sugary drink daily were much more likely to have mothers who were overweight or obese. The sugared-up kids also watched more TV and drank less milk.

Sweet Drinks Linked to Depression

Researchers recently found a link between depression and consumption of sweetened beverages and diet drinks.  I wouldn’t put too much stock in it at this point.

Is Fructose the Cause of Our Obesity Epidemic?

Mainly because of its low cost, HFCS [high fructose corn syrup] consumption replaced approximately one-third of the total sugar consumption in the USA between 1970 and 2000, paralleling to some extent the increasing prevalence of obesity during this period. Consequently, HFCS has been a particular focus of possible blame for the obesity epidemic. However, HFCS consumption has remained very low in other parts of the world where obesity has also increased, and the most commonly used form of HFCS contains about 55% fructose, 42% glucose, and 3% other sugars, and hence is associated with similar total fructose and glucose intakes as with sugar. Furthermore, sucrose is hydrolyzed in the gut and absorbed into the blood as free glucose and fructose, so one would expect HFCS and sucrose to have the same metabolic consequences. In short, there is currently no evidence to support the hypothesis that HFCS makes a significant contribution to metabolic disease independently of the rise in total fructose consumption.

Given the substantial consumption of fructose in our diet, mainly from sweetened beverages, sweet snacks, and cereal products with added sugar, and the fact that fructose is an entirely dispensable nutrient, it appears sound to limit consumption of sugar as part of any weight loss program and in individuals at high risk of developing metabolic diseases. There is no evidence, however, that fructose is the sole, or even the main factor in the development of these diseases…

— Luc Tappy in BMC Biology, May 21, 2012 (the article is a review of fructose metabolism and potential adverse effects of high consumption)

PS: Luc Tappy believes that excessive calorie consumption is an important cause of overweight and obesity.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Dental Problems and Chronic Systemic Disease: A Carbohydrate Connection?

Dentists are considering a return to an old theory that dietary carbohydrates first cause dental diseases, then certain systemic chronic diseases, according to a review in the June 1, 2009, Journal of Dental Research.

We’ve known for years that some dental and systemic diseases are associated with each other, both for individuals and populations. For example, gingivitis and periodontal disease are associated with type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. The exact nature of that association is not clear. In the 1990s it seemed that infections – chlamydia, for example – might be the unifying link, but this has not been supported by subsequent research.

The article is written by Dr. Philippe P. Hujoel, who has been active in dental research for decades and is affiliated with the University of Washington (Seattle). He is no bomb-throwing, crazed, radical.

The “old theory” to which I referred is the Cleave-Yudkin idea from the 1960s and ’70s that excessive intake of fermentable carbohydrates, in the absence of good dental care, leads both to certain dental diseases – caries (cavities), periodontal disease, certain oral cancers, and leukoplakia – and to some common systemic chronic non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and dementia. In other words, dietary carbohydrates cause both dental and systemic diseases – not all cases of those diseases, of course, but some.

Dr. Hujoel does not define “fermentable” carbohydrates in the article. My American Heritage Dictionary defines fermentation as:

  1. the anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast
  2. any of a group of chemical reactions induced by living or nonliving ferments that split complex organic compunds into relatively simple substances

As reported in David Mendosa’s blog at MyDiabetesCentral.com, Dr. Hujoel said, “Non-fermentable carbohydrates are fibers.” Dr. Hujoel also shared some personal tidbits there.

In the context of excessive carbohydrate intake, the article frequently mentions sugar, refined carbs, and high-glycemic-index carbs. Dental effects of excessive carb intake can appear within weeks or months, whereas the sysemtic effects may take decades.

Hujoel compares and contrasts Ancel Keys’ Diet-Heart/Lipid Hypothesis with the Cleave-Yudkin Carbohydrate Theory. In Dr. Hujoel’s view, the latest research data favor the Carbohydrate Theory as an explanation of many cases of the aforementioned dental and systemic chronic diseases. If correct, the theory has important implications for prevention of dental and systemic diseases: namely, dietary carbohydrate restriction.

Adherents of the paleo diet and low-carb diets will love this article; it supports their choices.

I agree with Dr. Hujoel that we need a long-term prospective trial of serious low-carb eating versus the standard American high-carb diet. Take 20,000 people, randomize them to one of the two diets, follow their dental and systemic health over 15-30 years, then compare the two groups. Problem is, I’m not sure it can be done. It’s hard enough for most people to follow a low-carb diet for four months. And I’m asking for 30 years?!

Dr. Hujoel writes:

Possibly, when it comes to fermentable carbohydrates, teeth would then become to the medical and dental professionals what they have always been for paleoanthropologists: “extremely informative about age, sex, diet, health.”

Dr. Hujoel mentioned a review of six studies that showed a 30% reduction in gingivitis score by following a diet moderately reduced in carbs. He mentions the aphorism: “no carbohydrates, no caries.” Anyone prone to dental caries or ongoing periodontal disease should do further research to see if switching to low-carb eating might improve the situation.

Don’t be surprised if your dentist isn’t very familiar with the concept. Has he ever mentioned it to you?

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Hujoel, P. Dietary carbohydrates and dental-systemic diseases. Journal of Dental Research, 88 (2009): 490-502.

Mendosa, David. Our dental alarm bell. MyDiabetesCentral.com, July 12, 2009.

173 Years of U.S. Sugar Consumption

Thanks to Dr. Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen for this sugar consumption graph.  I’d never seen one going this far back in time. 

 Dr. Guyenet writes:
It’s a remarkably straight line, increasing steadily from 6.3 pounds per person per year in 1822 to a maximum of 107.7 lb/person/year in 1999.  Wrap your brain around this: in 1822, we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that added sugars provide 17% of the total calories in the average American diet.  A typical carbonated soda contain the equivalent of 10 tsp (50 ml) of sugar.  The average U.S. adult eats 30 tsp  (150 ml) daily of added sweeteners and sugars.
 
Note that added sugars overwhelmingly supply only one nutrient: pure carbohdyrate without vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, antioxidants, etc.
 
Do you think sugar consumption has anything to do with diseases of affluence, also known as diseases of modern civilization?  I do.
 
Was our pancreas designed to handle this much sugar?  Apparently not, judging from skyrocketing rates of diabetes and prediabetes.