Sweet and Deadly… Sugar is Making Us Fat and Sick

“We humans are the only mammals that suffer from chronic ill health. One critic suggests it’s because we are the only animals clever enough to manufacture our own food—and stupid enough to eat it.”
(Dr. Timothy Noakes)

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert Lustig was a big wake-up call for me. I learned that the food industry has added so much sugar to the average American’s diet that it has disastrously altered our biochemistry and is making us fat and sick. Personally, I have already eliminated most of the sugar from my diet but reading this book made me realize that’s not enough – I need to get it out of our house. My wife and I have a responsibility to provide a healthy and nutritious home environment for our daughters.

The Situation

90% of the food produced in the United States is sold to us by ten big conglomerates—Coca-Cola, ConAgra, Dole, General Mills, Hormel, Kraft, Nestle, Pepsico, Procter and Gamble, and Unilever. Of the 600,000 food items that these companies make available to us, 80% have added sugar. They’re devious about it too. Do you know that they use at least 60 synonyms[1] to hide the added sugar on food labels?

As a nation, we are absolutely drowning in a sea of sugar, which poisons our bodies and leads to chronic metabolic disease. The book explains how the problem begins and ends with the energy-storage hormone insulin. Insulin converts unused sugar to fat. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body creates, the more fat accumulates, and the more sick you get, period. As Dr. Lustig says, “Sugar is a toxin. Plain and simple.”

The average modern American consumes 153 grams of sugar each day, compared to only 9 daily grams a century ago (See Mind-Blowing Sugar Consumption Infographic). The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men[2]. Even though I have “eliminated most” of the sugar from my diet, I am probably near the 38 gram limit just from the sugar in the organic cream I add to my coffee, my evening glasses of red wine, and the real food I eat for my meals.

Sugars Carbs
Harris Teeter Organics Apple Juice 30g 30g
Honey Nut Chex

9g

28g
Heart Healthy Quaker Oatmeal 11g 32g
Horizon Organic Lowfat Chocolate Milk 22g 23g
GoGo Squeeze Applesauce 11g 13g
Motts Healthy Harvest Applesauce 11g 13g
Dole Pineapples Tidbits 14g 15g
Thomas Honeywheat Bagels 7g 49g
Total from one serving of each 115g 203g

As you can see from the Gersper Girls’ “Healthy” Pantry, the processed food industry has stacked the deck against us. If my daughters ate just one serving of each of these so-called healthy foods, they’d be 90 grams over the AMA’s recommended daily sugar limit and 143 grams over Dr. David Perlmutter’s daily carbohydrate limit (something which I also try to observe). And that’s if they didn’t eat anything else containing sugar or carbs. It’s shocking and dangerous how much sugar is put into our “healthy” foods – so what can be done about it?

The Three-Part Solution

Part One: Focus on the Right Target

The first thing is to focus on the right target. Whenever we step on the scale, we are measuring the sum of four different parts of the body, only one of which is bad for us.

  1. Bone 😀
  2. Muscle 😀
  3. Subcutaneous fat 😀
  4. Visceral fat ☹️

The more bone you have, the longer you live. The more muscle you have, the better your health. And believe it or not, Dr. Lustig says subcutaneous fat is good for your health too. The only part that is consistently bad for you is visceral (aka abdominal, ectopic, or “big belly”) fat. So, visceral fat is the target! Body weight doesn’t really matter; it’s visceral fat that creates disease.

Therefore, waist circumference is a better indicator of your health status than body weight or the Body Mass Index (BMI)

Part Two: Consume Less Sugar

The second thing is to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Start with eliminating all sugared beverages including juice – perhaps especially juice! Then move on to all the other processed foods in your kitchen, replacing them with real food. Add lots of fiber to the menu, too. And wherever sugar is called for in a recipe, reduce the amount by one third.

“Diets that work… What do they all share?” asks Dr. Lustig. “Two things. They are all low in sugar, and they are all high in fiber (and therefore high in micronutrients).” He adds, “Real food doesn’t have or need a Nutrition Facts label.” He says real food spoils—which is a good thing: “If bacteria can digest it, that means you can, too.”

Part Three: Exercise

The third thing you can do to improve your health, and which will impact directly on your waistline, is to exercise. When you exercise you build muscle and strengthen your bones. And exercise also helps you burn more energy (fat) when you are at rest. I wrote about the new exercise program I started this year in my post, How I Intend To Become a Fat-Burning Beast.

So I’ve asked my beautiful wife to read Fat Chance so that she and I are on the same page when it comes to sugar. Then we’ll read this post to our daughters and watch The Truth About Sugar as a family. After that, we’ll begin recreating the Gersper Girls’ Healthy Pantry, to make it genuinely healthy.

I’m so grateful to Dr. Lustig for writing his book, and feel fortunate that I stumbled across it when I did. Now I have a real chance to help my family beat the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease… and so do you!

If you like this post, you’ll love the book!

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[1] http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/1/13/14219606/sugar-intake-dietary-nutrition-science

[2] http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/circulationaha/120/11/1011.full.pdf

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