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September 29, 2014

If we care: Sugar is toxic and poisonous

Scott Stockdale

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Our food supply has been altered and adulterated under our very noses, and in plain sight over the past 30 years, resulting in numerous chronic and fatal diseases, according to Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California (UCSF), where he is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics.

On a recent edition of the CBC television show The Fifth Estate, Dr. Lustig displayed a graph showing a direct correlation between sugar consumption and type II diabetes and diseases of the heart.

He said that in 80's and 90's we used to blame a lot of those problems on dietary fat, but when we started taking fat out of our food the incidents of disease didn't go down.

Dr. Lustig said sugar – which he characterized as a thousand times worse than fat – is toxic and poisonous: it's not just empty calories.

“Lots of things that we eat have empty calories that are not necessarily poisonous. Sugar is composed of two molecules: glucose and fructose. Glucose circulates in the body feeding our muscles and our brain. Fructose goes straight to the liver and creates problems. When you process fructose in excess, the liver turns it into liver fat which causes many metabolic diseases.”

Moreover, Dr. Lewis Cantley, a cell biologist and a professor in the Departments of Systems Biology and Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said he thinks eating too much sugar can definitely increase the probability of cancer and also make the outcome of people who already have cancer worse.

When there's too much fructose in the liver, the pancreas produces more insulin. Dr. Cantley believes excess insulin changes the cancer tumours, telling them to gobble up the glucose; and some cancers have insulin receptors that trick the glucose into going into the tumour rather than the muscles.

“The cancer tumour can use that glucose as a tool to grow,” Dr. Cantley said.

Among Dr. Cantley's research contributions are the discovery and study of the enzyme PI-3-kinase, now known to be important to understanding cancer and diabetes mellitus: the most common form of diabetes, caused by a deficiency of the pancreatic hormone insulin, which results in a failure to metabolize sugars and starch. Sugars accumulate in the blood and urine, and the by-products of alternative fat metabolism disturb the acid-base balance of the blood, causing a risk of convulsions and coma.

Meanwhile the North American food industry, with nearly a trillion dollars in sales revenue, uses sugar to make its products appealing to consumers.

Former industry executive Bruce Bradley said sugar is one of the essential ingredients in most foods that drive a lot of taste and a lot of appeal for most consumers.

Thus it's no surprise that the North American food industry pays experts like Dr. Howard Moscowitz, to research and determine the amount of sugar in foods that appeals to consumers the most.

Remember this is a competitive industry with a lot a stake.  True to his moniker “Dr. Bliss”, Dr. Moscowitz explains the modus operandi of the food industry.

“Everybody asks what is the bliss point:  the combination of ingredients that makes us crave a product; the level where you like the product the most. Coca Cola has forty grams a can. That's ten teaspoons.”

And this is one of the more obvious sources of sugar in our diets.  Much of the sugar we eat is hidden in foods we don't necessarily consider sweet. It's added to bread, oatmeal, peanuts and chicken dinners, for example.

Moreover, consumers have no idea how much sugar is in a lot of processed food.

Registered dietitian Jacqueline Pritchard, said Nesquick cereal has ten grams of sugar in 3/4 of a cup. In a bowl of cereal that's about 22 grams of sugar added, of non-nutritional value. Researchers estimate that Canadians consume 26 teaspoons of sugar per person per day in Canada. This amounts to 40 kilos of sugar per year; and whether it's honey, corn syrup or whatever, it's chemically all about the same.

But the people who profit from sugar are proving themselves adept at crushing dissenting voices, including in the halls of science.

In 1972 British scientist John Yudkin wrote a book Pure, White and Deadly, about the harmful affects of sugar.

Gary Taube an awarding winning science writer and author said the food industry launched a systematic campaign to discredit Dr. Yudkin, which resulted in any researcher who wrote about the harmful affects of sugar being labelled a quack like Dr. Yudkin. Research ground to a halt, Mr. Taube said.

Gillian Couzens, a community care Dentist in Colorado, who's now doing research at the University of California, uncovered documents that show the processed food industry - or the sugar industry that feeds it - knew in 1971 that sugar was harmful to human health.

In 2003 the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva was looking at a resolution recommending people reduce their sugar intake to just 10 % of what they eat.

It had broad appeal amongst health experts but sugar industry officials said the US would pull its funding for WHO if this report continued. Five months later the recommendation quietly disappeared

Earlier this year New York City passed a law banning super-sized sugary drinks; however, the courts later overturned the law. Canada and the US have recommended limits for fat and sodium. Manufacturers must state what percentage of the daily limit their products contain. But next to sugar there is nothing on food labels.

Researchers estimate that in North America more than 100 million people are diabetic or prediabetic. Dr. Lugstig said sugar is the proximate cause of diabetes worldwide.

“We have hard and fast data to show. Studies in 175 countries over a decade found that what is in the food supply predicts diabetes rates worldwide: sugar and only sugar. It causes increased fat in abdominal area, fat surrounding the liver, intestines and kidneys, and fat associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

And in terms of healthcare costs, Dr. Lutsig said no country can afford what's to come.

“By 2026 there will be no money left because diabetes will have chewed through all the healthcare dollars. There will be no health care.”

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