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Diet and Health: It’s the Sugar, Stupid!

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For the past 60 years, the nutritional emphasis has mistakenly been on dietary fat.  Slowly, new research is proving that caloric sweeteners and starches are the real culprits in the diet. Even more, it’s just been revealed that important research information about the link between sugar and coronary heart disease was deliberately withheld from the public.

sugarfree1On September 12, 2016 the results of a study by Kearns, et al, was published in the JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association] that points to the sugar industry as a manipulator of dietary research information  The subterfuge happened back in the 1950s and 1960s, but didn’t get noticed or acknowledged until now. The public outrage has been so great, the sugar association just published an apology (of sorts) on its www.sugar.org website. Here it is:

We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today. Beyond this, it is challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents we have never seen.

The bottom line: Sugar went under the national and world radar and stayed there for a half-century. In the meantime, as a nation, we got fatter. In the 1970s, before eating guidelines were introduced, the national adult obesity rate was around 12% and national fat consumption was estimated at around 40% of total daily calories. Today the national obesity rate is about 36% and the national fat consumption rate is around 34% of daily calories, a statistically significant achievement that did not happen by accident. What happened?

Here are some milestones to consider:

weightloss5People think glucose is bad and fructose is good. Glucose gets bad press because it’s associated with type 2 diabetes and weight gain. It’s also recognized as the villain in the glycemic index. Fructose, on the other hand, seems like it should be healthier because of its association with fruit.

The truth is that glucose and fructose are equally problematic to health and weight. The glucose portion of the caloric sweetener compound ends up in the bloodstream, which raises blood sugar, which raises insulin production, which makes you fat and sick. The fructose portion goes directly to the liver and is converted to triglycerides, which makes you fat and sick. (Don’t worry about the small amount of fructose in a fresh piece of fruit.)

High blood sugar and high triglycerides are both undesirable metabolic conditions that are implicated in every chronic disease as well as increases in body weight and body fat. Unfortunately, there’s no tool for assessing the impact of glucose and fructose. All we have is the glycemic index (GI), which measures only glucose. As you now know, glucose is just half the sweetening picture.

A glucose measurement can also be a very misleading. Agave syrup, for example, has a very high percentage of fructose, and anything that has a high percentage of fructose will have a low glycemic index. That’s how agave syrup got falsely labeled as a so-called healthy alternative to sugar. It’s not.

That said, the glycemic index can still be used as one of many reference points. Anything over 59 is considered high. Table sugar has a glycemic index around 60.

Calories are another reference point. One teaspoon of table sugar has 16 calories. Syrups and honey have slightly higher caloric values because they’re denser. You’ll quickly discover that all caloric sweetening agents have similar amounts of calories. It doesn’t matter if the product is organic, raw, or seems less processed. A caloric sweetener is a caloric sweetener.

Grams are another. When you’re buying a product off the shelf, 3 grams of added sugar per serving is a reasonable target. One gram has 4 calories, so three grams is just 12 calories. The maximum recommended amount of added sugar per day for women is 25 grams (about 2 tablespoons), for men 40 grams (about 3 tablespoons), and for dieters 15 grams (about 1 tablespoon).

Good luck.


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About Karen Bentley

Author, Educator, Speaker, Founder of The Sugar-Free Institute and creator of The Sugar-Free Miracle Diet. Visit www.karenbentley.com, www.sugarfreeinstitute.com, www.sugarfreemiracle.com.
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    The American diet is laden with too much bad food from high sugar content to high LDL cholesterol. There are two gold standard measurements. For example, the LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) provide a barometer for adjusting the mix of fats in the diet. High LDL numbers mean that we need to have fewer fries. Lower HDL cholesterol numbers mean that we need more avocado content in the diet, as well as, healthful fruits and good weight management. The rule of thumb is that the loss of 5-6 pounds will increase the HDL total by 1 point.

    The A1C is an important indicator of sugar content over the past quarter with a weighting of the more recent weeks in the final result. The USDA recommends loosely 35 mg of sugar each day; whereas, some trainers say that 15-20 grams of sugar is the upper limit.

    The Carbohydrates Challenge Test measures the ability of our bodies to process sugar and carbs expeditiously. The patient has a piece of fruit and a small glass of orange juice. Then, blood samples are drawn over the next few hours to test the highs and the ultimate stabilization of the glucose levels.

    Based upon the results of this test, the physician will recommend a dietary regimen which takes into consideration the patient’s ability to process sugar and carbs. The pancreas can recover over the succeeding months based upon a combination of strict dietary adherence to the protocol and/or meds.

    Hauntingly, a diagnosis of diabetes can be a precursor to a later diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. And so, sugar control is an important priority, as soon as, a physician makes the diagnosis of diabetes or even pre-diabetes.

    Some cases of diabetes or even pre-diabetes can be difficult to manage. In these cases, the help of an endocrinologist may be needed in order to diagnose and manage the condition optimally employing state of the art meds and physical therapy recommendations.

    Overall, many foods contain too much sugar. That’s why Mayor Bloomberg
    (former ) sought to put limits on soda content. Some brands have as much as 40 grams or more of sugar in a single can or bottle. That’s a contributory cause to the rise in childhood diabetes along with other sloppy food choices like corn syrup in some cereals. Lack of exercise is another correctable problem in the mix.

    My generation had enforced gymnastics in grammar and high school. In more recent decades, gymnastics have been phased out of the curriculum or cut to the point where the effectiveness of individual programs has been marginalized substantially.