The Truth About Sugar

Sugar

Noun-

“A sweet crystalline substance obtained from various plants, especially sugar cane and sugar beet, consisting essentially of sucrose and used as a sweetener in food and drink”

Also known as the worst thing you could put into your body.

It’s everywhere. In your energy drinks, bottles of ketchup, and most processed foods. Even a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder delivers about 40 percent of the recommended daily maximum sugar intake. The worst part is that all this sugar isn’t put into these products unknowingly and without purpose… but let’s focus on one bombshell at a time.

(Source: Food Navigator) Deadly sugar

We’re talking about the sugar in ultra-processed foods. Sugar comes in many forms: Corn Syrup, White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey, Molasses, the list goes on. There are 56 different names for sugar all of them used to trick you into thinking that there’s less than there is.

On average, one person eats 26 tsp of sugar per day. That’s 40kg of sugar per year or 20 bags! Sugar sweetens products and spikes profits. The processed food industry makes trillions of dollars a year and they wouldn’t be able to do it without sugar.

Sugar is the basic ingredient in 99% of processed foods because it drives taste and appeal. The fact that there’s so much sugar everywhere is no accident. Companies are researching what makes us crave food. How can they get consumers to buy more? Answer: Bliss Point.

American market researcher and psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz coined this term in 1969. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, saltiness, fat or any ingredient for that matter.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you drink lemon water. You keep adding more and more lemon until you reach the perfect amount. After that, it gets too sour and even more lemon makes it disgusting. The bliss point is the Goldilocks zone of taste.

(Source: Rom Phra Khun-blogger) Bliss point graph

Companies think that if they add a bit more sugar, they’ll sell a bit more. Frankly, they’re right and they’re getting the best of us. Everything from yogurt (21g for 3/4 cup), Campbell’s Tomato Soup (25g for 1 can), even oatmeal (21g in 100g) contain outrageous amounts of sugar. How are they getting away with this?

In the 1980s and 90s, we were starting to see rising cases of diabetes and obesity. What did we do? We blamed fat. So, we started removing fat from our diets but the problems did not go away.

Our products have been altered in plain sight these past 35 years. Our fat content is lessening, our sugar content is going up and all we’re doing is getting sicker.

If you have any interest at all in diet, obesity, public health, diabetes, epidemiology, your own health or that of other people, you will probably be aware that sugar, not fat, is now considered the devil’s food. — Robert Lustig

A lot of people might say that it’s the empty calories in sugar that are bad but that’s not the problem. Many foods have empty calories and aren’t bad for you like sausages, bacon, and cheese. The real reason is deeper than that. It’s in the two components of sugar: glucose and fructose.

When you eat an excessive amount of sugar, glucose moves to the muscles and brain to provide energy. Meanwhile, fructose isn’t digested and moves to the liver. When there is too much sugar, the liver has no choice but to turn the energy into liver fat, which in turn causes all the downstream metabolic diseases like fatty liver. What’s even worse, the things that happen in our brain.

Too much fructose shuts down the part of the brain that tells us when we’re full. If you gave someone a can of soda and told them to eat whatever they wanted in a restaurant, that person would eat more than if they hadn’t drunk that can of soda. Crazy.

There was a study done in 2014 that showcased what sugar does to the body. They took healthy college students and fed them sugar. In only two weeks the students had beginning signs of visceral adiposity (fat around vital organs like the liver), and increased risk of diabetes and cancer. They also had raised markers for heart disease and it was fructose that caused the problem. (They tested with different foods and only fructose showed incredible impacts)

Another study had two groups of rats with one on a typical North American diet. Once placed into a bucket of water, the rat on a healthy diet swam onto the island in the middle. The other rat on the North American diet couldn’t find the island for a long time. The brain of the North American rat had been damaged. It had the equivalent of the human Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers concluded that Alzheimer’s was actually diabetes of the brain.

Insulin resistance can happen in many different organs from the muscles (diabetes), the liver (fatty liver disease), ovaries (polycystic ovary disease), and the brain which they believe is Alzheimer’s.

In fact, sugar increases the probability of you getting cancer and worsening the effects if you already have it. That is pretty awful considering that cancer patients are often fed “nutritional” drinks that are actually full of sugar. How does sugar worsen cancer, you ask?

When there’s too much sugar in the liver, the pancreas starts to produce more insulin. The insulin alters the cancerous tumour, making the tumour want to consume the excess glucose. The cancers often have insulin receptors on the cancer cells. The glucose gets ‘tricked’ into going to the insulin receptor and the tumour uses it as a fuel to grow.

Watch out for the sugar names

The truth is that there are many ways that companies hide sugar from their customers. I already mentioned that there are 56 different names for sugar but chemically they’re all the same. Some are easier like “Dehydrated Cane Juice” but others like “Maltose”, “Dextran” or “Mannitol” are harder to identify.

Another good tip is to look at the order of the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order from greatest amount to least. So, if sugar is at the top of the list (top 5 at least), be careful.

(Source: BodyByRuth) 56 names for sugar. Bask in the deception.

You’d think that with sugar becoming a pretty bad problem with noticeable effects, the food industry would try to change something. Yet it seems like they’re completely oblivious to the problem. That’s not the case. The sugar industry has known and discussed these ties between processed foods and disease

In the year 1999, there was a meeting held in Minneapolis between all the greatest food companies like Nestle, Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coco-Cola and Mars. Since they’re all competitors competing for shelf space in the grocery stores they don’t get together very often but, in 1999 they came together to talk about the impacts that sugar is having on obesity.

The meeting was called by insiders concerned with the industry’s responsibility towards the claims. Even the presentation was held by two of their own. Micheal Mudd, then a top executive at Kraft and Jim Hill a leading nutrition researcher.

There was a startling parallel made during that meeting. Tobacco companies had just settled an enormous lawsuit that their products caused disease. Mudd asked if the food industry wanted to be next. (More on Tobacco-sugar parallels later!)

(Source: Open Oregon — Pressbooks) Obesity Trends

They showed graphics like the one above. They mentioned that what made obesity easy was the “ubiquity of inexpensive, good tasting, super-sized, and energy-dense foods.” The exact foods that the companies at the meeting were selling. Unsurprisingly, the leaders and top executives weren’t too thrilled that Mudd and Hill were bringing these problems to them.

Mudd and Hill were hoping for funding to research the connections, instead, they got a rebuke. They were silenced by the executives saying that they already have “low-fat” and “low-sugar” options if the consumer wants them. Clearly, they just didn’t care.

This wasn’t the first time that advocates against sugar were silenced. In fact, Michael Mudd later left the food industry out of frustration. The most notable person that was ‘silenced’ was John Yudkin.

In 1972, John Yudkin wrote a book that the processed food industry didn’t like. Pure, White and Deadly was a book showcasing the negative effects of sugar. For once people were skeptical about sugar and the industry.

Ancel Keys, an American physiologist who is responsible for the misled studies that caused the whole population to believe that fat was the culprit of our chronic diseases, was able to destroy John Yudkin’s reputation before it was revealed that he was actually funded by the sugar industry. He called Yudkin crazy, a quack, using his own reputation to undermine another.

For the next 30 years, any researcher that tried to defy the sugar industry was accused of being just like Yudkin. All research surrounding the negative impacts of sugar came to a halt.

That is just one similarity between the sugar and tobacco industries. Yes, Mudd was correct to assume that tobacco was really similar. A bit, too similar.

(Source: Spoon University) Tobacco or sugar, which is worse?

Both undermined science. They also attacked and intimidated scientists. Just like in the case of Yudkin, many researchers were also silenced by a higher power, slowing down the process of revealing what tobacco (or sugar) does to your body. The most prominent one is that they’re both avoiding regulations on how much we can consume.

During the Geneva WHO (World Health Organization), there was going to be some talk around adding regulations for sugar consumption. The sugar companies went to their ‘friends’, the US congressmen, and the congressmen threatened to pull funding from WHO if the regulations were put in place. Silently and without notice, the discussion was pulled from the program.

Putting it simply, the tobacco epidemic was caused by the tobacco industry and the obesity epidemic was caused by the sugar industry.

We need better labels, regulations and a recommended daily limit for sugar. Even Coca-Cola, the world’s largest sugar consumer, has become “aware” and started offering low-calorie and sugarless options. (aware in quotation marks because they are still pushing that exercise, not diet is most important) That doesn’t change the fact that if you’re getting sick, it’s your fault.

It’s like the tobacco companies blaming the 12-year old that goes out and addicts. It isn’t that simple because the people aren’t given enough information. How many of us have ever heard that we eat too much sugar? How many of us even know what it even does to our bodies? There’s no simple answer but we know that that mentality has to change for us to move forward.

In the end, it will all come down to lives or money. Either too many people will be dying or there will be no money left in health care for diseases other than cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A simple change to eating less processed sugar will help your body become healthier in a matter of even weeks. So, next time you’re pushing your cart through the grocery store aisle, will you check the nutrition label?

Some really cool resources to explore the topic further:

Books

Documentaries/Talks

Leading Minds in the Field

  • Gary Taubes
  • Robert Lustig
  • John Yudkin (deceased)

If you’d like to contact me further: olivka.sliuka@gmail.com

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Hey! I’m a grade 10 student fascinated with learning, creating, and sharing what I learn with you!

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Olivka Rozenberg

Hey! I’m a grade 10 student fascinated with learning, creating, and sharing what I learn with you!