Sunday, January 6, 2013


The "sugar in the food" controversy is raising its head again, threatening the food industry in a serious way which the latter cannot ignore any more. There are thousands of studies which have implicated over consumption of sugar in creating dreaded life time disorders like diabetes, CVD and obesity but there is still no unanimity regarding the adverse consequences sugar may have on human health. The food industry is exploiting this lacunae to put in the market more and more products containing high sugar levels. It knows well that like tobacco, sugar is also an addictive and consumers, especially the kids, can be depended to to buy these unhealthy products again and again. If the coincidence between the onslaught of obesity and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) becoming cheap in the US is taken into consideration, no further evidence is needed to implicate HFCS as one of the major critical factors for the progressive health deterioration among American citizens. Here is a critique on this subject which is both illuminating and logical to understand. 

"The first people in America to say smoking was bad for your health were greeted with derision and called quacks. Even while studies emerged in the 1950s linking smoking to various ailments including lung cancer and heart disease, tobacco supporters (nearly half of Americans smoked back then) questioned whether anti-smoking campaigners detracted from more serious attempts to get at the real causes of these diseases. Robert Lustig, a pediatrician and author of a book out last week, Fat Chance, is sympathetic. He's heard it all before. He wants sugar (both the table variety and high-fructose corn syrup) regulated like alcohol. He wants products full of sugar to get health warnings, like on cigarette packs. Sugar, he says, is toxic in high doses, and should be treated as such. It's also making us really fat. Excess sugar turns into liver fat and that fat makes the liver more resistant to insulin, he explains. The pancreas, which makes insulin, then has to make more. This raises insulin levels in the blood stream, and forces energy into fat, which causes weight gain. Then there's the effect on the brain. High insulin levels block actions on the hormone leptin, which tells the brain when the body has had enough to eat. People who eat lots of sugar are told by their brains that they are still hungry and so keep eating. Lustig says that food companies know this and that's why there's more sugar than ever before in our processed foods. The more sugar foods contain, the more consumers will eat. Here is a (rather long) video of him explaining the science at greater length. Lustig's research started in 1995 while working as a pediatric endocrinologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee. He noticed that children whose hypothalamus were damaged, following neurosurgery to remove tumors, started producing too much insulin and became lethargic and fat. He prescribed a drug to block the insulin and the children ate less, became more active and lost weight. He says the weight loss was the result of the drug (i.e., a hormonal change), not the change in behavior. Since then Lustig has done four studies, two with children and two with adults, to verify the phenomenon. He has concluded that the obesity problem is not about our couch potato tendencies but about the amount of sugar Americans consume, which he says is double what it was two decades ago".

The argument of the author of the above critique, that a day will come, sooner than later, when the food industry will face mega law suits for health damage by millions of citizens who face bleak prospects of leading a healthy life because of industry's deliberate strategy of restricting the product mix to high fat and high sugar containing ones, is logical. This reminds every one about the unhappy saga of tobacco industry of yesteryear which ignored and suppressed colossal evidence against tobacco blatantly and with no remorse about scientific findings implicating tobacco in lung cancer. Looking back, it became a tragedy of Himalayan proportion for the tobacco industry which had to shell out more than $ 300 billion for its past sins and omissions as reparation. Why not food industry learn from the history and overhaul its product basket with less and less sugar, salt and fat, all implicated unequivocally in many human disorders? Earlier this bitter truth is realized better it will be for this high flying industry.


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