‘MAINLY sugar and a few flavorings.” So said Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez of those sweetened beverages sold to the public.
“The sweetened beverage, especially the powdered juice drink, is mainly sugar,” he said in a recent news conference in Manila. “But that’s not a secret. If you look at the back, it’s written there.”
In the United States, the American Heart Association recommends that a person’s daily diet contain no more than 5 percent to 7.5 percent added sugar. Yet, many people are taking more sugar than they should.
What most people don’t know is that it is sugar, not fat, that causes heart attacks! “A rigorously done new study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes,” wrote Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.
The study of more than 40,000 people, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, accounted for all other potential risk factors, including total calories, overall diet quality, smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol.
“For years, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that fat causes heart attacks and raises cholesterol, and that sugar is harmless except as a source of empty calories,” Dr. Hyman wrote.
But sugar, he said, “is not empty calories.” He considered those sugar-sweetened beverages, including soft drinks, juices, sport drinks, teas and coffees, as “the biggest culprit.”
“They are by far the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet,” he pointed out. “In fact, more than 37 percent of our sugar calories come from soft drinks.”
As early as 1972 Dr. John Yudkin sounded the alarm that sugar—and not fat!—was the greatest danger to our health in his book, Pure, White, and Deadly.
“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote the British professor of nutrition, “that material would promptly be banned.”
Although the book did well, it cost Dr. Yudkin his career. “Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered,” wrote Ian Leslie in an investigative report published by The Guardian. “He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.”
But Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, remembered him. In 2009, he was researching for his topic, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, when Dr. Yudkin’s name was mentioned by one of his colleagues.
He searched for the “forgotten book” in some bookstores and online, but he couldn’t find a copy. Eventually, he tracked down a copy after submitting a request to his university library. While reading the introduction of the book, he felt a shock of recognition. “Holy crap,” he told himself. “This guy got there 35 years before me.”
When asked by Leslie (who wrote the book, Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It) on why he focused his studies on the dangers of sugar, the first researcher to do so in many years, Dr. Lustig replied: “John Yudkin. They took him down so severely—so severely—that nobody wanted to attempt it on their own.”
Sugar, used to be called as “white gold,” is the generalized name for a class of chemically related sweet-flavored substances, most of which are used as food. They are carbohydrates, composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. There are various types of sugar derived from different sources. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and include glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose and galactose.
The table or granulated sugar most customarily used as food is sucrose, a disaccharide (in the body, sucrose hydrolyses into fructose and glucose). Other disaccharides include maltose and lactose. Chemically different substances may also have a sweet taste, but are not classified as sugars. Some are used as lower-calorie food substitutes for sugar described as artificial sweeteners.
“Sugar was once a luxury ingredient reserved for special occasions,” wrote Tiffany O’Callaghan, an editor in the Opinion section at New Scientist. “But in recent years it has become a large and growing part of our diets. If you eat processed food of any kind, it probably contains added sugar. You can find it in sliced bread, breakfast cereals, salad dressings, soups, cooking sauces and many other staples. Low-fat products often contain a lot of added sugar.”
Just like salt, eating too much sugar is doing us no good. As a matter of fact, sugar is now being touted as public health enemy No. 1. The Geneva-based World Health Organization wants people to cut sugar consumption radically. Fortunately, we can live without taking any sugar at all.
“If God had meant for us to eat sugar, he wouldn’t have invented dentists,” said Ralph Nader, an American activist and author. But Luc Tappy, a physiologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, disagrees: “You cannot live without essential fats. You cannot live without protein. It’s going to be difficult to have enough energy if you don’t have some carbohydrates. But without sugar, there is no problem. It’s an entirely dispensable food.”