In 2009, Dr. Robert H. Lustig of the University of California at San Francisco presented enlightening insights on why the campaign by mainstream medical doctors and the US government to have people eat a lower fat diet has caused skyrocketing rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Since the, more than two million have viewed the video of his presentation but far more have never heard of it.
Sugar: The Bitter Truth
Lowering fat intake can lower LDL cholesterol, as suggested by observations of the Japanese and Italian diets. But that is not what the modern American diet pushed by the government does. Lustig presents much evidence that this is because the American diet uses high levels of sugars, particularly fructose, to make low-fat foods more appealing.
Making Cardboard Taste Good
Low-fat foods tend to taste like cardboard. Obviously this is not good for sales of these foods, so the companies making them wanted to find ways to obey the government’s directives while not destroying the sales of their products. To make these low-fat foods palatable, manufacturers increased the amount of sugar used in their products. To make it cheap, they switched from table sugar (sucrose) which has a 50/50 mix of glucose and fructose to using high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which tends to have higher levels of fructose than table sugar.
Fructose Is Much Like Ethanol Alcohol
In the presentation, Lustig shows how fructose is metabolized in the liver much like ethanol alcohol. It is not exactly the same because the brain can metabolize ethanol whereas it cannot metabolize fructose. This accounts for why ethanol intake causes acute neurological symptoms whereas fructose does not. Aside from this difference, however, they are highly similar in their effects on the liver and the rest of the body.
Fructose is only metabolized in the liver where it is converted largely into fat. Like alcohol, fructose intake results in fat storage in the liver. Accelerated fat storage can lead to fatty liver disease, even liver cirrhosis, that compromise the health of the entire body.
Even if one does not get a badly damaged liver from consuming large quantities of fructose, health will suffer. Fructose metabolism, like ethanol methabolism, boosts triglycerides and the most harmful form of LDL cholesterol, the small dense pattern B LDL cholesterol that tends to initiate or aggravate many cardiovascular diseases.
Fructose Alone Does Not Satiate Appetite
Another problem with fructose is that it consuming it does not satiate appetite, unlike intake of proteins, glucose, fats, and fiber. Foods and drinks containing high levels of fructose tend to cause people to eat and drink more, compounding the problem. This is especially the case if the fructose has been separated from the fiber with which it is found in whole foods.
Fruits contain significant amounts of fructose, but they are much more healthy than fruit drinks. One reason why whole fruits are not as harmful as fruit drinks is because they also contain meaningful quantities of fiber that reduce gastrointestinal absorption of the calories in fruit and help satiate appetite. Fiber also helps favorably modulate insulin response caused by fructose.
It may be that animals did not evolve a appetite control loop that detects fructose because in nature the foods with high levels of fructose usually also have high levels of fiber that satiate appetite on their own. Lustig cites estimates that ancient humans used to consume 100 to 300 grams of fiber in their diets per day. Today, many people get fewer than 20 grams of fiber per day.
Another reason why whole fruits are better than fructose separated from its source is because the original food often contained significant quantities of antioxidants and polyphenols that are helpful to health.
Sugar-Packed Drinks Are Horrible For Health
Sugary drinks are the worst culprits. Drinks such as sugary sodas not only contain high levels of fructose like fruit juices, they are also formulated with significant levels of sodium to make people more thirsty to encourage them to drink more.
Lustig highlights some of the results of his approach to treating obese children by eliminating sugar-packed beverages from their diets. Ridding them of intake of fruit juices and sodas, leaving them drinking only water and regular milk (not chocolate milk or other sweetened milk), causes rapid improvements in health. This can be measured in a number of ways such as BMI (Body Mass Index), weight, insulin sensitivity, blood glucose levels, HbA1C (glycated hemoglobin), and blood lipid profiles.
He also explains how high fructose diets increase the rates of hypertension (high blood pressure) and gout because they raise uric acid levels to abnormally high levels.
Obesity Epidemic Affecting Even Babies
One point he makes is that any theory explaining why children and adults are experiencing skyrocketing rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes must also explain why this is happening to babies, too. His theory of fructose being a chronic poison that harms the body after repeated exposure explains this well. Looking at the composition of infant formulas, he shows that fructose is likely also responsible for the skyrocketing rates of obesity in 6 month old babies. Infant formulas are loaded with sugars and fructose much as sodas and beer are. You wouldn’t feed soda or beer to your baby, would you? Many infant formulas have similar nutritional problems and should also be avoided.
Lustig’s presentation is excellent and goes a long way towards showing how today’s health epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes are directly caused by the policies of the US government and the mainstream medical establishment. They have run a 30 year experiment on our diets that is killing us. It was all based upon flawed science that made basic logical errors in its reasoning which resulted in the false conclusion that reducing fat intake would reduce LDL cholesterol. By reducing fat and adding sugar, the diet they advocated has had the exact opposite result. And it is even worse when you consider that the increases in LDL cholesterol that it causes tend to be mostly the dangerous small dense LDL cholesterol rather than the large fluffy pattern A cholesterol that cannot punch through endothelial linings and start or aggravate the processes of atherosclerosis.
Applying What You Have Learned
The single biggest lesson you should take away from this presentation is that you can greatly help your health by eliminating sugary drinks from your diet. Additionally, anything you can do to reduce fructose intake and increase fiber intake is also likely to help. If you like sweet fruit juice drinks, instead drink water and eat the whole fruit.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has crept into almost every processed food on the market. Lustig pointed out how a survey of 32 types of bread in a grocery store found only one that did not have HFCS in it. Look at food labels and try to pick options that have lower levels of sucrose and fructose with higher levels of fiber.
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