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Here's why you should reduce your daily sugar intake

Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, 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.

Despite previous studies that failed to find a link between the daily sugar intake and heart disease, there is now conclusive evidence that excess sugar causes obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and even some cancers. This sugar consumption is primarily in the form of soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks and even fruit juices. This form of sugar is fructose.

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that fructose tricks the brain into thinking it's still hungry. When consumed in large quantities, fructose is actually a liver poison (hepatotoxin), similar to alcohol.

Robert Lustig, MD, a UCSF pediatric neuroendocrinologist presented his case against fructose at a University of California, San Francisco Mini Medical School course on diet and nutrition in a talk called Sugar: The Bitter Truth (as seen above). Lustig believes that fructose generates greater insulin resistance than other foods, and that fructose calories fail to blunt the appetite in the same way as other foods.

To hear another, more recent presentation about sugar and obesity by Dr. Lustig, check out this YouTube series on UCTV Prime (University of California) called The Skinny on Obesity.

You might also be interested to see how the case against sugar is making its way into the mainstream. Have a look at this 60 Minutes report.

How much sugar do we consume?

Sugar consumption in America, and generally in the "western world", has had astounding growth. Numbers, of course, can be difficult to digest. The graphic below tells the story.

Nursing Your Sweet Tooth

Sugar and obesity

Because obesity has emerged as a major epidemic in the world today and as a definite cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, it is important to consider the potential impact of your daily sugar intake on your body weight.

Refined sugar was not a significant component of the human diet until the arrival of modern food-processing methods in the 20th century. Since then, the daily sugar intake has risen steadily and dramatically.

Over the past century, people in the US have increased their fructose consumption from 15 grams per day to 75 grams per day or more (a 500% increase), Lustig says.

The trend accelerated about thirty years ago, when cheap, high-fructose corn syrup became widely available.

According to the American Heart Association, shorter-term studies show consistent adverse effects of sugar consumption on HDL and triglyceride levels, which could accelerate atherosclerosis.

Sugar has no nutritional value other than to provide calories. Unlike conventional calorie counters, Lustig does not believe all food calories have the same impact on fat storage and energy expenditure, regardless of whether they come from fat, protein or carbohydrate. Fructose, a type of carbohydrate, is not metabolized like other foodstuffs, and not even like glucose, the other major carbohydrate, Lustig says.

Beware - read food labels

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, sugar is the number one food additive. It's found in a wide variety of packaged foods, from yogurts and cereals to salad dressings, pop, and ketchup - not just deserts. If sugar shows up as the first or second item on an ingredient list, you can be confident the product is likely very high in sugar.

Sugar may be listed in the ingredients as: Raw sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids, High-fructose corn syrup, Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose, Sucrose, Maltose, Barley Malt Syrup, Agave Nectar, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Saccharose, Fruit juice concentrate, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Malt syrup, Molasses, Rice Syrup, Maple syrup, Sorghum or sorghum syrup, Syrup, Treacle, Turbinado Sugar and Xylose. It's all sugar!

And here's a little trick the food manufacturers use all the time. They list sugars using a variety of these labels so it does not appear at or near the top of the ingredient list. But add them all up and guess what? You've got a lot of sugar!

Whatever you call it, too much sugar is unhealthy. And the standard American diet now contains exorbitant quantities of sugar that are unprecedented.

How to limit your daily sugar intake?

Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. Eliminate soft drinks (soda pop), sports drinks, fruit beverages, deserts, and candy.

Many of us were brought up thinking that fruit juice is healthy. In reality, fruit juice is really a form of concentrated sugar. And while fruit juice will contain some nutrients, the sugar content far outweighs the benefits. Limit your consumption of fruit juices. Eat a (small) piece of fruit instead. The fibre will help your body feel full and it will reduce the amount of carbohydrates you absorb.

Check out Dr. Lustig's new book, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease.

Eat real food

The best way to eliminate excess sugar from your diet is to eat real food.

What do we mean by that?

Find food that is unprocessed, does not come in a package and does not contain a label!

That way you not only elimimate all the added sugars, you also avoid all the other additives and chemicals that may very well be contributing not only to obesity but a whole host of other problems such as food sensitivities (allergies), autoimmune diseases, leaky gut, IBS, diabetes, crohn's disease, general fatigue, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and many, many more.

For a thorough understanding of how nutrition plays a major role in all of these health conditions, we strongly encourage you to check out Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by Diane Sanfilippo.

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