649848 tn?1534633700

Sugar isn’t just empty, fattening calories – it’s making us sick

October 27, 2015 3.43pm EDT

"Children are manifesting increased rates of adult diseases like hypertension or high triglycerides. And they are getting diseases that used to be unheard of in children, like Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. So why is this happening?

Everyone assumes this is the result of the obesity epidemic – too many calories in, too few out. Children and adults are getting fat, so they’re getting sick. And it is generally assumed that no one specific food causes it, because “a calorie is a calorie”.

I’ve been studying the role that sugar plays in contributing to chronic disease for years, and my research group at the University of California, San Francisco has just published research in the journal Obesity that challenges this assumption. If calories come from sugar, they just aren’t the same.
Diabetes is increasing faster than obesity

It’s clear that the cause of rising rates of health conditions like Type 2 diabetes isn’t as simple as people just eating too many calories.

Obesity is increasing globally at 1% per year, while diabetes is increasing globally at 4% per year. If diabetes were just a subset of obesity, how can you explain its more rapid increase?

And certain countries are obese without being diabetic (such as Iceland, Mongolia and Micronesia), while other countries are diabetic without being obese (India, Pakistan and China, for instance). Twelve percent of people in China have diabetes, but the obesity rate is much lower. The US is the fattest nation on Earth and our diabetes prevalence is 9.3%.

While 80% of the obese population in the US is metabolically ill (meaning they have conditions like diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems and heart disease), 20% is not. Conversely, 40% of the normal weight population has metabolic syndrome.

If normal weight people have these conditions, how then are they related to obesity? Indeed, we now know that obesity is a marker rather than a cause for these diseases.

Epidemiological studies have found a correlation between added sugar consumption and health conditions like cardiovascular disease. So could cutting excess sugar out of our diets reverse metabolic syndrome?
What happens when you stop feeding kids added sugar?

Our group at UCSF studied 43 Latino and African-American children with obesity and metabolic syndrome over a 10-day period. We started by assessing their metabolic status – insulin and glucose levels, as well as blood fats and other markers for disease, like lactate and free fatty acids – on their home diet.

For the next nine days, each child ate an individual tailored diet. We catered their meals to provide same number of calories and protein and fat content as their usual home diet. We gave them the same percentage of carbohydrate, but we substituted starch for sugar. The big difference: this special diet had no added sugar. This means their diet had no sugar from sugarcane or high fructose corn syrup. The kids consumed foods such as fruits and other whole foods that naturally contain some sugar. These foods also have fiber, which reduces the rate of sugar absorption, so they don’t affect the body the same way that added sugar does.

We took chicken teriyaki out. We put turkey hot dogs in. We took sweetened yogurt out. We put baked potato chips in. We took donuts out. We put bagels in. We gave them unhealthy processed food, just with no added sugar. Each child was given a scale to take home, and if their weight was declining, we made them eat more. Then we studied them again.

The children had eaten the same number of calories and had not lost any weight, and yet every aspect of their metabolic health improved. With added sugar cut out of their diet for 10 days, blood pressure, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance all improved. And remember, we weren’t giving them just leafy greens and tofu – we fed the kids processed foods, just ones without sugar.

Further studies are needed to see if this will also work in adults, and if the benefits are short-term or long-term.
Sugar is like alcohol

This study demonstrates that a calorie is not a calorie, and that sugar is a primary contributor to metabolic syndrome, unrelated to calories or weight gain. By removing added sugar, we improved metabolic health.

Sugar may not be the only contributor to chronic disease, but it is far and away the easiest one to avoid. Kids could improve their metabolic health – even while continuing to eat processed food – just by dumping the sugar. Can you imagine how much healthier they’d be if they ate real food?

The naysayers will say, “But sugar is natural. Sugar has been with us for thousands of years. Sugar is food, and how can food be toxic?”

Webster’s Dictionary defines food as:

    material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy.

Sugar by itself furnishes energy, and that’s about it. In that sense, sugar is like alcohol. It’s got calories, but it’s not nutrition. There’s no biochemical reaction that requires it. And at high doses, alcohol can fry your liver.

Same with sugar. Fructose, the sweet molecule in sugar, contains calories that you can burn for energy, but it’s not nutrition, because there’s no biochemical reaction that requires it. In excess, it can fry your liver, just like alcohol. And this makes sense, because where do you get alcohol from? Fermentation of sugar.

Too much sugar causes diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and tooth decay. When consumed in excess, it’s a toxin. And it’s addictive – just like alcohol. That’s why children are getting the diseases of alcohol – Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease – without alcohol. But our research suggests we could turn this around in 10 days – if we chose to."

8 Responses
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Avatar universal
RPS, you have been posting this stuff all over this site and everyone keeps correcting you.  Perhaps you might reconsider.  There is no research that has stood the test of time to support your theory, although as I've said to you often, you can do whatever pleases you, that's fine.  If you have a special condition and this works for you in the short term while you try to fix that condition, I get it.  But long term, you can't live that way and expect to live a long healthy life.  You might, but you shouldn't count on it.  There are people who do eat almost all animal food -- largely people who live in places that without global trade and modern storage didn't have much plant food.  Places such as the far north, where it's just too cold for much plant life to thrive, or the American plains, which used to be just grasslands for the most part and you can't eat that.  But those folks didn't live long lives.  There is only one way of eating that has consistently proved out with long-term study, and that's what we call the Mediterranean Diet but has nothing really to do with that part of the world, it has been studied in many parts of the world, and that is a balanced diet high in whole grains, veggies, fruits, food from the ocean, and very moderate or low amounts of land animal protein.  These are the least obese most healthy and longest living people on Earth, on average -- it's always true that individual mileage will vary.  As I've told you, your diet is completely and totally lacking in antioxidants, and without them you simply cannot sustain your organs.  Your brain will atrophy.  Your nervous system will deteriorate.  Your digestive system will stop up.  Your immune system will not be immune to anything.  Again, this is generally true, you might have a very odd body that can do this, and some people did evolve over many centuries to live almost entirely on animal protein, but again, they lived very short lives.  You also seem to lack an understanding, and you're not alone on this as these fad diets have been propounding misleading information for a long time now and it has had an effect, of what a carb is.  Most of the food that is best for our health is full of carbs.  You confuse white flour for whole grains -- all civilization was based on grains except the Inca, which appears to have been originally based on fruits like quinoa and amaranth, which are very like grains.  Now, one could make a good argument that civilization was the worst thing that ever happened to Earth, and that humans are a virus that is better off dying young and not propagating so much, but as we are humans on here, I'd guess we'd like to stay alive and healthy and wish for the same for our offspring.  Fruits are quite good for you.  Honey, by the way, is a whole food if you eat pure honey, it's not a processed food.  You might not want to eat a lot of it, which just goes to show that not all whole foods are all that good for you.  Wheat is probably not great for us.  Dairy is probably not all that great for us.  Tomatoes are probably not all that great for us.  But I will add, those people who ate the Mediterranean Diet did eat a lot of white flour in their pasta and bread, and Asians ate a lot of white rice, and they were a lot heathier than we are in the US and other rich countries until they got wealthy enough to start eating a lot more meat and sugar, and got a lot more obese and unhealthy.  There's the laboratory of real life for you.  So you do what you please, but it would be better for the health of those on here if they looked for more accurate and studied sources of info.  Peace.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
I agree with your post except for it’s well established…..
If one looks hard enough, one can find statistics that back them up. Frankly, the more I read, the more confused I get. Try dietdoctor.com
or Dr Jason Fung on YouTube. According to them, carbs are the devil. I know what works for me. I eat only dinner with lowER carbs. Is it sustainable? It’s very difficult I’ll admit that but it because of less meals, I eat less. The only thing I think is fact is to eat as little processed food as possible, drink a good amount of water and move yourself as much as you can.
Helpful - 0
The thing is:  only “certain” carbs are the devil (not sure I’d call it that).  As I posted earlier - simple carbs aren’t good for us - that’s sugar, honey and other things that turn into sugar quickly, such as starches, fructose, etc.  

Vegetables, fruit and grains that contain complex carbs are good for us, because they slow down the absorption of  sugars (as in eating fruit)  Fruit should be limited because of the fructose, but not eliminated because it has a lot of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.  

I totally agree with you regarding the processed foods - we don’t need them - stick to fresh/frozen veggies/fruits/grains and you’ll do okay.  Don’t forget some healthier fats like avocado, olive and/or coconut oil and exercise.

It all has to be balanced out in order for us to be healthy and still lose weight.
Avatar universal
Helpful - 0
I don't think I'd structure my diet based on a Joe Rogan Show interview.  Legitimate research on healthy diets are published in reputable scientific journals and are generally known to, and recommended by, registered dieticians.  

It is well-established that carbohydrates play an important role in nutrition.  Anyone who claims to have suddenly discovered that they do not merits suspicion.  

If you have published results from a clinical trial to share, that would be helpful.
Avatar universal
Steak and eggs.
Helpful - 0
Although steak and eggs are both nutritious, it's not good to eat too much red meat.  In addition, carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy, so if you don't eat "some" carbs (preferably complex), you're going to get pretty run down.
649848 tn?1534633700
One can't live without carbs - there are different types of carbs and our body needs some of them.  Most foods have "some" carb in them, with the exception of eggs (almost zero carbs) and most meats.  

The two different types of carbohydrates are simple and complex.  Simple carbs are those such as sugar, honey, fructose, etc.  Complex carbs are those found in vegetables, fruit and grain, that's commonly known as fiber.  Complex carbs are healthy for us, simple carbs not.

As AnnieBrooke said - how would you design a diet without any carbs?
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
One could live the rest of their life without a single carb.
Helpful - 0
I think if you said "one could live the rest of their life without a single grain of white sugar" I would say yes, certainly true. But how do you create a diet without a single carb?
Avatar universal
A little confusing, though.  A bagel has a higher metabolic rate on the scale scientists use than sugar does.  Fructose is found in fruits, but the main sugar we eat is sucrose.  Sprouting grains creates maltose.  Different sugars break down at different rates, and the slower they break down the easier the body can handle them.  It's one small study, but a lot in it does not sound like it was written in a way we can have complete confidence in the details.  
but you know, we all know sugar is a problem, so if it gets people to consume less, job done.  I do love the explaining how calories are not the main issue.  I say that a lot on here, but most people keep going on and on about calories.  It's always been more about how we metabolize food.  I do wonder, though, how do they get accurate info on people in Mongolia or China and the like?  Not easy countries to get accurate info from.  Peace, all.
Helpful - 0
242912 tn?1660619837
Good article, Barb.  Makes sense.  Thanks for posting.
Helpful - 0
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