"Is Sugar Toxic?"

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    Apr 14, 2011 4:53 AM GMT
    A definite must read.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all

    On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.

    Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.

    The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”

    It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

    If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

    The number of viewers Lustig has attracted suggests that people are paying attention to his argument. When I set out to interview public health authorities and researchers for this article, they would often initiate the interview with some variation of the comment “surely you’ve spoken to Robert Lustig,” not because Lustig has done any of the key research on sugar himself, which he hasn’t, but because he’s willing to insist publicly and unambiguously, when most researchers are not, that sugar is a toxic substance that people abuse. In Lustig’s view, sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that’s killing us.

    This brings us to the salient question: Can sugar possibly be as bad as Lustig says it is?
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    Apr 14, 2011 5:21 AM GMT
    A bit of historical perspective:

    I am in pastry school at a tiny school here in Belgium. These pastries have been around, in some form, for a very long time and the granulated sugar we pack into them would shock anyone. In Belgium, fat people on the scale of the USA are few and far between.

    This perspective might indicate that sugar isn't the problem, it's that people have no moderation and other parts of their lifestyle are not sufficiently balanced with healthy habits to make it tolerable. The USA has few walkable cities, everything is drive through, everything is too big, and people eat garbage all the time.

    So, in defense of my small pastry school and its ancient art of sugar slinging and the history it represents, I would say life is short and sweetness won't kill you near as much as lacking self-discipline. The focus of the article is misplaced, but it makes a good, scary selling headline.
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    Apr 14, 2011 5:23 AM GMT
    About 80% of my fitness success came from cutting almost all non-naturally-occurring sugars out of my diet. That was after watching his lecture last summer. Now the only sugar in my diet is the sugar in my coffee, and the sugars that occur naturally in the foods I eat (mostly Paleo diet).

    While I don't have the nutritional education to affirm that sugar is a toxin, I certainly believe that it very well could be; and have made successful changes in my diet as a result of that belief.
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    Apr 14, 2011 12:29 PM GMT
    Sugar is a necessity. and I'm not talking about sucrose, the sugar that people use in their every day lives. I'm talking about glucose. Glucose is the fundamental sugar molecule. It is the brain's only source of energy and is the molecule of choice for most cells in terms of energy.
    From a health perspective what Lustig is saying is about sugars like sucrose and corn syrup can be quite true.
    corn syrup is reportedly one of the leading reasons for diabetes and from what I have heard americans put corn syrup in virtually everything.
    sucrose levels in many processed foods are way out of proportion and definitely contribute to health problems like diabetes and obesity.
    However, this doesn't make sugar the bad guy. Sugar naturally exists in practically every food we eat in its unprocessed form. the enemy for us is not the sugars indigenous to the foods we eat but the sugars that are added to foods during processing to make them taste better.
    But in saying that, I have to agree with shyshortguy. Sugar in moderation is perfectly safe and for lack of a better word that doesn't carry a lot of connotations, perfectly natural. It's when people are eating what is practically cups of sugar each day or even at one sitting that sugar becomes a problem.

    I would posit that it would be best to take Lustig's words in moderation, just as we should be eating our sugar's in moderation.
  • danielek

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    Apr 14, 2011 2:17 PM GMT
    The sugar he's talking about is fructose specifically. It's the sugar found in fruit, but not once does he recommend we stop eating fruit. He even says fruit is good for you because of the fibre in it or something, from what I recall.

    Sucrose aka glucose-fructose should be avoided. They are in things like soft drinks, cereals, candy of course, everywhere. Processed foods are the worst and should be avoided as much as possible.
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    Apr 14, 2011 2:22 PM GMT
    Good article.

    I think sugar is bad for you. Sugar is tricky because our taste buds and body cope with it...so it doesn't feel bad if we're used to it.

    I went several months without eating sugary foods. I felt great. More energy. Clearer thinking. Then I attended a party and ate a few bites of cake. It was so sweet...it was disgusting. My skin crawled and my stomach went sour.
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    Apr 14, 2011 2:24 PM GMT
    What I find interesting here is in my teens and 20s not too many in my peer group had weight issues. We all consumed huge amounts of sugar. Then came this fructose corn stuff which began replacing sugar.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100322204628.htm

    The article is in the left side column.

    " The consumption of fructose has increased exponentially since the early 1970s, and with this rise, an increase in obesity and complications of obesity have been observed, Abdelmalek said.
    "There is an increasing amount of data that suggests high fructose corn syrup is fueling the fire of the obesity epidemic, but until now no one has ever suggested that it contributes to liver disease and/or liver injury." Abdelmalek said the next step is more studies looking at the mechanisms of liver injury.
    "We need to do formal studies that evaluate the influence of limiting or completely discontinuing high fructose corn syrup from one's diet and see if there are health benefits from doing so," she said.
    Other authors on the study include Ayako Suzuki, Cynthia Guy, Anna Mae Diehl, all of Duke; Aynur Unalp-Arida and Ryan Colvin of John Hopkins; and Richard Johnson of the University "


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    Apr 14, 2011 4:19 PM GMT
    seeteeah saidSugar is a necessity. and I'm not talking about sucrose, the sugar that people use in their every day lives. I'm talking about glucose. Glucose is the fundamental sugar molecule. It is the brain's only source of energy and is the molecule of choice for most cells in terms of energy.


    Sugar, processed or otherwise, is not an essential nutrient in that humans can live on a diet that is remarkably low in (or absent of) sugar. That carbohydrates are first in line to be metabolized over fats and proteins is not necessarily indicative of the body's "preference" for carbohydrates. Alcohol is processed in the liver and turned into energy before the body deals with blood sugar. But that doesn't necessarily mean alcohol is the body's preferred source of energy.

    seeteeah said
    But in saying that, I have to agree with shyshortguy. Sugar in moderation is perfectly safe and for lack of a better word that doesn't carry a lot of connotations, perfectly natural. It's when people are eating what is practically cups of sugar each day or even at one sitting that sugar becomes a problem.


    Agreed. Humans have evolved a palette for foods that contain beneficial nutrients. In general, what most people find delicious are sweet, salty, and fatty. Sugar is fine in the context of consuming it from the sources that also contain the beneficial nutrients (fruits, primarily).

    Excessive carbohydrate intake, however, is detrimental to health and the primary cause of obesity. Elevated blood sugar causes insulin to be released, which tells fat cells not only to stop burning fat, but to also store carbohydrates as fat in the form of triglycerides. And if we're constantly consuming carbohydrates (sugar, fruits, bread/pasta/rice), we're keeping insulin levels elevated (insulin resistance, anyone?) and telling our fat cells to stop burning and keep storing fat.

    Unfortunately for us humans, sugar is more addictive than cocaine icon_eek.gif

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17668074
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    Apr 14, 2011 5:30 PM GMT
    Say Sugar!

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    Apr 14, 2011 5:40 PM GMT
    @Riddler78: I read that article last night. Glad you posted it. It's an important issue.

    Good thing that all of us here have followed the same advice as this kid.


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    Apr 15, 2011 12:59 AM GMT
    I watched the video when you posted it about a month ago on another thread. It was an hour and a half well spent... I felt like I was back in school, it was great. icon_biggrin.gif We all know excessive sugar consumption is bad... he just does a good job explaining exactly how the body breaks it down and why it's similar to alcohol in the effects it has on the body. Glad so many people are watching it!

    Btw, he's not saying to cut out all sugars, rather, put down the big gulp...
  • jperfit

    Posts: 593

    Apr 15, 2011 1:04 AM GMT
    Raw sugar in moderation is fine, Europeans have been eating sugar for decades and they donot get as obese as americans, the problem is like so many of you on here have said excessive amounts can be damaging, after all many cancer cells feed off of sugar and iron
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    Apr 15, 2011 1:05 AM GMT
    Sugar can be horrible for your body. Look at the indigenous people living in Papua New Guinea. They have perfect teeth and have no instances of acne or other conditions related to intake of foods with high glycemic index. ie. potatoes, rice, and sugar. Same goes with many of the preservatives added in foods.

    Watch this video. In fact, watch the whole movie. It doesn't allow to embed. Watch at 3:28.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM9Xvlk4qRg
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    Apr 15, 2011 1:06 AM GMT
    To answer you're question...

    Yes, yes it is

    25g per kilogram of bodyweight of glucose will kill the average rat rat

    So is water

    90ml of water per kilogram of bodyweight will also kill the average rat

    The point is everything has a certain toxicity
  • jperfit

    Posts: 593

    Apr 15, 2011 1:09 AM GMT
    alonelyplanet saidSugar can be horrible for your body. Look at the indigenous people living in Papua New Guinea. They have perfect teeth and have no instances of acne or other conditions related to intake of foods with high glycemic index. ie. potatoes, rice, and sugar.



    raw sugar is better for your body then these sweeteners such as splenda,equal etc: which is nothing but chemicals that put holes in your brain, the body recognizes sugar, however moderation is the key
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    Apr 15, 2011 2:14 AM GMT
    Timely post. Last week I attended a health-care presentation showing the correlation among sugar consumption, obesity and our skyrocketing health care costs.

    In 1960, per-capita sugar consumption in the U.S. was around 5 pounds; today it's more than 200 pounds per person. Wow!

    The culprit is refined sugar, not the natural stuff found in fruits, etc. The presenter said that simply cutting refined sugar from your diet, even without exercise, leads to significant weight loss and a decrease in health risk factors.

    Now if you'll excuse me, gotta go grab my Gatorade.
  • hartfan

    Posts: 1037

    Jun 06, 2012 3:04 PM GMT
    I know riddler posted it before, but just thought I'd post it again. Really interesting stuff. Like someone else said, it's 90 minutes well spent. Literally food for thought.