Dr. Robert Lustig from the University of California, San Francisco (my alma mater!) is gaining notoriety this week for calling attention to the serious health hazards of sugar. The most accessible read is in the online version of The Atlantic. He points out that sugar is not only bad for us but literally addictive, tapping into our pleasure centers with diminishing rewards, and thus increasing our demand for more and more sugar.
I admit, I have been a denier myself, in the past. If you believe the well-funded ads from the corn industry (hmm, why do they invest money in this campaign I wonder?), there is no difference between the sugar in high fructose corn syrup, ice cream, apples and beets. Sorry, but I beg to differ.
It has been quoted that the #1 food source of calories in the US is high fructose corn syrup, a food that was non-existent before we had epidemics of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It is the arrow through the heart of our love affair with carbohydrates. Our fear of fat, horribly misguided if originally well-intentioned, has sent us running to breads of all sorts, made with new age highly toxic grains. Another troublemaker this week was Dr. Mark Hyman who detailed in his online blog the particular hazards and toxicity of modern grain.
If you have read many of the health topics for specific recommendations, you might accuse me of "perseverating": I recommend eliminating sugar for every health condition. You are right to notice, and would be wise to believe the connection: it's logical, scientific, and admittedly difficult. Sugar throws our metabolism and liver into imbalance (leading to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes), and interrupts the effective action of certain aspects of our immune system. It is a poison, literally, when taken in concentrated or high doses. What's a high dose? A serious dessert made with white sugar or corn syrup more than once a week.
When I first became convinced of the ill effects sugar, I had to make two life changes. No more juice in the house (children particularly are able to reverse obesity in direct proportion to the elimination of ALL sweetened beverages from the home), and limit baking desserts to three or four times a year. I used to buy sugar in 5 pound bags, perhaps monthly for my good mom status as frequent cookie baker. I now am able to afford organic, minimally processed sugar because I use about 2 pounds a year.
Do you eat many sweets? Have you ever tried to quit? What health benefits have you noticed, if any? And most importantly, if you agree with me, what might we all do to stem our insatiable desire for a "treat"?