Sugar KillsWell, if you wanted to call me a Gary Taubes fanboy before, I guess you’ve got one more reason to now as here’s one more post about his writings.

Back in October 2010, I authored a post entitled Sugar – Public Enemy Number One. The main takeaway I intended for the article was to argue that if all the diet books and nutrition gurus in all the world would just agree on this *one* thing: elimination of refined sugars from the diet (including fruit juices, by the way) that would be the single most important contribution they could all make to our public health. This would result in vastly healthier people and dramatically lower health care costs.

Back in January when Gary took his show on the road to Seattle, he mentioned he was working on this big article for the New York Times about sugar. The summary was he was taking a look into the claims of Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF who came out and said fructose was a toxin – in the concentrations consumed in the SAD (Standard American Diet). Now that Gary is a left coaster, he’s gotta make nice with the neighbors (he even got his new BFF Michael Pollan to say nice things about his new book – nice going :)). The net of all this is a ‘little’ piece in the New York Times called Is Sugar Toxic?. Of course, Gary doesn’t do ‘little’ so don’t expect a reader’s digest version, but you should expect a thorough and well reasoned article.

Of course, I want you to read it, but the summary is he thinks there’s something to the idea that sugar should be considered a toxin. One small step for man …

First of the passel of ‘sugar’ books I heartily recommend:

Beat Sugar Addiction Now!: The Cutting-Edge Program That Cures Your Type of Sugar Addiction and Puts You on the Road to Feeling Great – and Losing Weight!

Wish authors didn’t have to play the tabloid headline game with their book titles. Makes serious books look silly. This one is pretty serious.

While the author does focus primarily on the syndromes and conditions that emerge out of sugar addiction, there’s also a *lot* of really great education about what happens to your body hormonally and metabolically and when you consume sugar (of course, when I say ‘sugar’ I mean the whole gamut of sweeteners). He offers a useful breakdown of ‘types’ of sugar addiction that relate to specific responses (adrenal fatigue/distress, yeast overgrowth, etc.). He also approaches the issue from the specific medical conditions. This section I found especially useful and insightful. If any of these conditions means anything to you, you ought to consider reading this book:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes/Metabolic Syndrome
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Spastic colon
  • Migraines and Tension Headaches
  • Obesity
  • Sinusitis

Another general area I appreciated was the way he encouraged the use of appropriate dietary supplements, acknowledging that when you’re trying to right a listing ship, you need to take more activist measures than ‘staying the course.’ Diet alone – especially given our modern patterns of food production/distribution/consumption – just won’t do it. One can imagine it might be a little too much for some, but I believe he erred in the right direction.

While I heartily recommend the book and I learned *a lot* reading it, as is my wont, there are a few things I’d change:

  • It’s great that he references the importance of vitamin D for overall health and specifically as it relates to the conditions that are associated with high sugar intake. His advice, though, is pretty lame. He basically says ‘don’t be afraid of the sun.’ Which is fine if you live in a non-industrialized location the tropics and you are regularly outside in the mid-day throughout the year. Most of the readers of his book would see no appreciable improvement in their vitamin D status by taking his advice. He’s clearly not up on the research in that area (see more).
  • Surprised that he is totally supportive of various sugar alcohols (erythritol especially) as sweetener alternatives. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but it surprised me nonetheless.
  • Gives processed fructose a free ride by not citing the highly toxic effects of processed fructose (see Dr. Lustig).
  • He cites a number of published studies and books, but did not take the trouble to include a bibliography or a list of references to the studies cited. In some cases, I was not able to find the studies he cited in either Pubmed or PLoS. I find that more than a little suspicious.

Even with these reservations, I strongly recommend the book. You will certainly learn something new.

UPDATE: Just happens my good buddy, Jimmy Moore, just recently interviewed the author and the audio may be obtained here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I committed to continuing down this path on sugar. Given there are so many books on the subject, I thought it would be good to just start with the body of work that’s already out there.

First two books I decided to tackle are Sugar Shock and Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet (see my previous post for a bit more info in each).

This one is going to be short and sweet. A tepid thumbs up on Sugar Shock, Dr. Gott, not so much.

Sugar Shock reads like a collection of Cosmo articles. Most of the topics are handled as stand-alone bits that you can just jump into at any point and read, which has its advantages if you’re reaching out to those (like Cosmo readers … sorry) who are not likely to read a full-length narrative on a subject area this involved. The flip side of that advantage, though, is that you wind up covering a lot of the same ground over … and over … again. Not really my cup of tea.

Taking it in the context for which it was intended, though, the author manages to get a lot of really useful information into that format. For example, her emphasis on the ‘see-saw’ nature of insulin and glucagon (both secreted by the pancreas, with the former promoting fat storage and the latter promoting fat mobilization) is one that the big boys (Taubes, Bowden, Weston, etc.) only gloss over. That was a good takeaway. Ms. Bennett also includes some very useful tables. One that leaps to mind is one that describes the various types of sweeteners out there and what their respective pros and cons (mostly cons) are. I’d take the time to read this one.

Dr. Gott, on the other hand, is stuck in the lipid hypothesis and is clearly not up on the latest clinical research on diet. This is even the case related to the research that supports his approach. My personal ‘net’ takeaway is he advises both a low-carb (although he would be loathe to refer to it that way) *and* a low-fat diet. That simply is not a workable, long-term approach to nutrition, in my opinion.

Not that I’m saying he is not having a positive impact on his patients. Just getting the sugar and white flour out goes a very long way. It’s just that most of the rest of his advice is coming from a 25-year-old time capsule.

Just picked up Beat Sugar Addiction and it’s looking very promising. That’ll be the next one I take on.

Cheers!

A Sugar Reading List

October 24, 2010

My recent post on sugar got me thinking more seriously about the topic – just as I’ve noticed my stress-related consumption of the poison has taken an upward trend as of late (another topic actually, perhaps a post …).

So I raided my local library’s shelves for all the books currently available on sugar (online holds are a great thing) that might help me with this series of posts.

Here are a few of them for your consideration. In the coming weeks, I’ll pick a few and write more in depth posts on each.

Suicide By Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction
My first glance at this one shows that there’s a lot of focus on the addiction element of the problem, given the author self-identifies as a recovered sugar addict (having ‘kicked it’ in the 1970’s).
Potatoes Not Prozac, A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight, and Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel
Again, heavy on the addiction/sensitivity angle. While I’m not a big fan of potatoes as a rule, I’m inclined to think that they top a daily dose of prozac. this
Get the Sugar Out, Revised and Updated 2nd Edition: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet
Heh. Sugar and it’s Kissing Cousins, is a title of one of the chapters.
Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet
Don’t know Dr. Gott from Dr. John, but I figured I’d take a look at what he has to say. The "No Flour, No Sugar" part intrigued me.
Sugar Shock!: How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life– and How YouCan Get Back on Track
A couple of my favorites, Nicholas Perricone and Stephen Sinatra lent hands on this one, so it started out as a favorite. After a quick scan, I find that it takes on the ‘sugar is natural’ argument head on and highlights how traditional sugar is no less processed than it’s more modern ‘kissing cousin’ HFCS.
I think this one goes to the top of the list.
Beat Sugar Addiction Now!: The Cutting-Edge Program That Cures Your Type of Sugar Addiction and Puts You on the Road to Feeling Great – and Losing Weight!
This one is sitting at the library waiting for me, so I haven’t peeked at it yet.
The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program
Same author as ‘Potatoes not Prozac.’ Will pick this one up once it becomes available. As of this writing, I’m in position six on the hold list.

An article on the NPR blog caught my eye today:

Americans Exercise More, But Still Get Fatter

Well, the headline got it right, but when you read the post, you get the same yadda, yadda about ‘lowering caloric input,’ ‘avoiding fat,’ and ‘exercising more.’

Just another reminder to look the other way when you hear the conventional wisdom. There is a new wave coming. Stick with me and I’ll keep you right out front on the leading edge.

Interestingly, the article does not appear with the link above any more. Here’s the article I coped from my

Our workouts aren’t keeping up with our pig-outs.

That fitness routine is soooo not working. More Americans are spending some of their leisure time exercising, yet folks just keeps piling on the pounds.

Here are the cold, hard facts. About 35 percent of adults engage regularly in physical activity when they’re not working, according to estimates based on a 2009 nationwide survey. That’s up from 32 percent in 2008.

Now, what’s the scale tell us? Not good. More people in the U.S. are obese than ever. In 2009, about 28 percent of people in the U.S. were obese, up a fraction of a percent from 2008.

But hop in the Wayback Machine and check the weights in 1997. Nineteen percent of people in the U.S. were considered obese then.

There’s not a moment to lose in doing something to reverse the weight trend. A recent study found that a substantial decline in the rate of heart attacks could be fleeting as obesity and diabetes become more prevalent.

Exercise can only burn so many calories. Eating better is crucial. Recommendations for new nutritional guidelines would cut saturated fats even more than in the past and promote healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables.

But maybe you want to try some more reps of that time-honored weight-loss exercise move — pushing back from the dinner table.

What you *really* need to do to be healthy (which, by the way, will lead to healthy weight) is drastically reduce carbohydrate consumption (eliminate sweets and processed carbs), get your inflammation down (principally by upping your Omega-3 and reducing your Omega-6), getting your Vitamin D in a good range (50ng/ml, remember?) and lifting heavy things on a regular basis (see my BBS posts).

None of this aerobics and calorie restriction, OK?

See "King Corn" - Movie Finding reports that demand for high-fructose corn syrup is declining precipitously around the world. Just one look at this Forbes article (Sourced from Associated Press) and they appear to be doomed, I tell you, doomed!

While I’m all for less consumption of corn  syrup in all its form (high-fructose or otherwise), I wonder if we’re just going back to the good ol’ ‘natural’ sugar. That the fructose/glucose mix of sugars (whether cane or beet) is virtually equivalent to corn syrup is still lost on most people. The encouraging sign is the whole Sweet Surprise campaign (can’t bring myself to link to it … do a search if you want to find it) might possibly wind up backfiring on the whole lot of sweeteners given that the one accurate claim of the campaign – that corn syrup is not that different from sugar – is one that is likely to stick.

If you’re interested in an eye-opening look at the whole corn shtick, check out the movie King Corn. Two college buddies from the east coast find out sets of their respective grandparents came from the same little town in Iowa and they set out to discover their roots and learn all you never wanted to know about the brave new agribusiness world of corn production. You’ll be interested (but, perhaps, not surprised) to find that corn functions more like a raw material used in the production of other things that it functions like a ‘food.’ Available on demand at Amazon, Netflix and other places, I’m sure. Perhaps even at your local library?

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

December 28, 2009

Another bombshell. It’s 89 minutes of metabolic truth-telling by Dr. Robert Lustig who is a Professor of Pediatrics (Endocrinology division) of the University of California at San Francisco. His primary focus is on explaining the crucial difference between the way fructose and glucose are metabolized. His central premise could be stated as ‘It’s the fructose, stupid.’ In brief:

[Dr. Lustig] explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin

I’m always keen to get complete agreement from another perspective. The major item that makes this talk unique is that he explains the biochemistry in, perhaps to some, excruciating detail, but it’s necessary to make the point.

To watch the original in its entirety, go to the University of California Television site: Sugar: The Bitter Truth. is also available on YouTube in full form, and is available in nine YouTube-sized bites courtesy of our decidedly eccentric (and I say that in the fondest way possible) Dr. Joseph Mercola.