My thoughtful and educated and smart wife texted me an article today about sugar. She is in the “sugar in moderation” camp. Though, I think she is curious about potential health benefits from just cutting out sweets entirely. I’m not pushing her one way or another. But, I did want to respond to the article that she sent me.
This is the title of the Article:
It is on a website called self.com, which I’m not familiar with but that appears to be a self help, self love type of shibboleth.
The subtitle, deliberately done to draw in those with a “moderation in all things” mindset, was scintillatingly seductive, especially to someone like me:
Can I live… and eat donuts?
The way this sentence is constructed, with its extreme positioning and ridiculing tone will most certainly bring out the “quit being so extreme” voices in popular public opinion.
I’m going to break down this article paragraph by paragraph, trying of course to be as fair and understanding of all positions as I can muscle my mind into.
Paragraph 1: Thank Heaven for anti-sugar uprising
Sugar is the source of all health and wellness evils in the U.S. today. Or, at least, that’s what you might reasonably conclude from the chorus of anti-sugar sentiments that’s been ringing loud and clear for years now.
My Response: Yes, thank heavens for the anti-sugar sentiments that are finally building momentum. Consider all of the years that the sugar industry has taken our bodies and minds to conflicting extremes of indulgent wastelands and diabetic prisons.
These commercials are what I grew up with. Sugar cereals marketed as “nutritious.” This is the product of an industry that has skated through decades without criticism:
Paragraph 2: “Dizzingly Hyped-Up Sugar Conversation”
We’re here to bring some much-needed rationality to the dizzyingly hyped-up sugar conversation
My Response: I will concede that I do sometimes get a little “hyped up” with passion regarding sugar. But, I do feel this is in response to how completely off balance America has been for the past 8 decades. A little emotion is probably necessary.
Consider this Long Term Trends in Diabetes Chart put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Paragraph 3: Sugar Makes health food taste good
Added sugars are “ubiquitous in our food supply,” Larson says. They actually show up in relatively small amounts in many items we don’t consider “sweets” in order to enhance or balance the flavor profile. “Sugar plays a really important role in how foods taste,” Colleen Tewksbury, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a senior research investigator and bariatric program manager at Penn Medicine and president-elect of the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF. In this way, added sugars can actually play an important role in helping us incorporate nutritious foods into our diets by making them tastier. “A granola bar or a yogurt without any added sugar probably isn’t going to taste very good,” Tewksbury points out
My Response: Yes, I agree that added sugars are “ubiquitous in our food supply.” I also agree that sugar shows up in everything, even those things we don’t traditionally consider “sweets”. But, I’m not going to go any further than this. The rest of this paragraph is frighteningly manipulative. It sounds like something Sugar CEO would say to his investors.
“Helping us incorporate nutritious foods into our diets by making them tastier”???? Wait. This must be a tongue in cheek statement. Manipulating the taste of our foods by adding sugar into them, thus changing our palettes and making us dependent on sweet and tasty food? What about the fat, that has long been blamed, that used to naturally make our food taste good? Isn’t the research moving towards fat being healthier than sugar infused foods?
Mind is spinning at this point. Bring me your bland foods.
Paragraph 4: “Added sugars in and of themselves are not unhealthy”
Added sugars in and of themselves are not unhealthy—in fact, they’re the same as naturally occurring sugars in terms of their chemical structure and how the body processes them. It’s the large amounts of added sugar and the nutrition-lacking foods people regularly consume them in that are an issue.
My Response: Pure lies. Sorry. Just calling this one out. It’s a lie. Natural sugars occurring in fruit and vegetables are not the same as those occurring in a candy bar. They are different. They are processed through your body differently.
Read this from a Harvard trained Pediatric Endocrinologist:
If you don’t want to read it I’ll summarize it in as easy language as I know:
1). Sugar in candy is packed more densely
2). Sugar in fruit is surrounded by fiber
3). Your body processes sugar in fruit in healthier ways, your glucose levels don’t spike nearly as high.
I’ll add in my own anecdotal evidence. There are 19 grams of sugar in an apple. When I eat an apple, I feel energized. There is no sugar slump, haze or glucose spike. There are 19 grams of sugar in a kit kat bar. When I eat one, my body is drained. Give me a bed, I will need a nap.
Paragraph 5: Correlation or Causation
It’s important to note here that studying nutrition in the real world is always complicated business. There’s little in nutrition science that is 100 percent settled yet (and few findings that haven’t been challenged or disproven over the years). We could debate the merits of various studies all day, but there are two main things to take away from all this sugar data: First, the body of evidence demonstrates that there is definitely a correlation between excessive added sugar consumption and poor health outcomes. Second, we can’t totally prove a cause-and-effect association between the two. The studies that point to this link are mostly observational, meaning they take place in the complex and messy real world where there are a million variables in play—not a neat, controlled lab setting.
My Response: What in the world is this paragraph? “There is definitely a correlation” but that doesn’t mean “causation”. And to go a step further, we live in a complicated world so don’t believe everything you hear.
Let me take out some of the messiness for you.
- Americans are indulgent and obsessed with sugar (Intentional blanket statement to characterize the problem. There are plenty of exceptions);
- Sugar is toxic to our health;
- Diabetes is out of control;
- Heart disease is out of control;
- Sugar is in everything we eat.
Paragraph 6: Sugar as an All or Nothing proposition
The second thing to keep in mind is that added sugar is not an all-or-nothing proposition here. While regularly eating large quantities of sugar-dense foods is associated with numerous poor health outcomes, eating a moderate amount of sugar is not inherently a horrible idea like, say, smoking cigarettes. “We really don’t have enough data to say added sugar is as a whole ‘toxic,’” Tewksbury says.
My Response: I think I’ll tend to agree with this paragraph. That for many people, maybe even most, sugar is not an all or nothing proposition. You might be able to eat something sweet everyday and be fine. However, this should be said with caution. Some people binge and are addicted to sweets. When something sweet makes it into their mouth, they cannot stop. So, yes it is an all or nothing proposition for them, for me. And I will say Toxic. There I said it.
Paragraph 7: Let’s not demonize Sugar
It’s definitely tempting to pin all of our woes on sugar. The idea that there’s one thing we need to remove from our diets to achieve optimal health is so appealing that we, as a society, keep buying into this kind of magical thinking every few years, merely swapping in one target (fat, cholesterol, gluten) for another. “I think we’re always going to demonize one nutrient or food and praise another,” Tewksbury says. “Right now, we love fat and hate sugar. But I think that will shift with time.”
My Response: My life is night and day different when I am off sugar. Before I even educated myself on the harmful effects of sugar, I felt them. When I eat sweets, I turn into a zombie. When I discipline my mind and body and maintain “added sugar abstinence” I have consistent energy, mental stamina and clarity, more joy, less body and joint pain and overall better health.
CONCLUSION: I think this article is lazy garbage meant as click bait to the over zealous dieter seeking moderation in their life. It isn’t scientifically sound, logically rational or productive to a healthier person or society. But it made me think. So, I’m glad someone wrote it and I’m glad I read it.