The truth about fats and sugar

For many of us, keeping a fit body and a healthy lifestyle is truly a struggle and it continues to wreak havoc on our happiness.

It seems all of the diet and fitness programs we’ve tried didn’t work. Aside from the money spent for enrolling in our favorite gym, we’ve been missing the taste of the foods we love to eat. Then, we will look in the mirror and blame all the fats we have eaten in the past.

In Photo: Dr. Robert H. Lustig

In a press conference held recently at the Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, a professor at the Division of Endocrinology in University of California, San Francisco stressed that for 45 years, fats have been wrongly demonized when all the while the real culprits have been sugar, refined carbs and processed foods.

“Sugar was really the bad guy. My point today is to give you a different view of what the problem is so that you will not be taken in by standard food industry propaganda. We’re here to expose you to the real problem in terms you all understand. In order to do so, I have to explain this phenomenon here called metabolic syndrome,” Lustig said.

Metabolic syndrome according to Mayo Clinic is “a cluster of conditions—increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels—that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. Having more than one of these might increase your risk even more.

Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua

Lustig discussed two of the major health problems in the world today, and shed light on the myths that hang around these two health concerns—obesity and diabetes.

He said that there is a correlation between obesity and diabetes but they are not the same,  “because there are countries that are obese but not diabetic such as Cambodia, Iceland, Macronesia, and there are countries that go by without being obese such as India, Pakistan, and China.”

In his presentation, Lustig said that obesity is increasing worldwide by 1 percent per year and diabetes is increasing worldwide at the rate of 4 percent. However, he emphasized that obesity is not the problem.  “People don’t die of obesity. Obesity is not even listed on death certificates. But people die of the disease that normally travel with obesity and therefore goes the metabolic syndrome.”

Lustig added that the world is getting diabetic and it is evident with the numbers of young children diagnosed with diabetes. “The whole world is getting diabetic. The question is, why? It used to be the disease of the aged now the young. It’s the children who suffer first. This is what’s going on. What’s the exposure? This is the most important thing you will learn today, if you do not get this, you cannot solve the problem and you cannot write about the problem.

According to him, the real culprit why the world is getting sick is the too much consumption of sugar.

“The food industry definitely wants this to be about obesity epidemic because then they will win.  The food industry will always steer the discussion to the obesity epidemic, it is not about obesity.  From now on all of you will only write about the diabetes epidemic.  And then you will be right because thin people get diabetes too and they get it for the same reason the obese get it.  And then it’s not about behavior because it’s not about calories. And then it’s about what kind of calories, where did they come from? What happens inside the body?”

“Our sugar consumption is killing us.  And you can’t fix this until you fix the food. You can’t solve healthcare until you solve health, and you can’t solve health until you solve diet. And this is what. The sugar industry paid off scientist,” Lustig revealed.

Lustig bravely announced to the media that for 45 years, companies have made the consumers believe that it is not the sugar that made us sickly. “We have the paper trail and a smoking gun to prove it. We have a proof that sugar is a positive factor for all those diseases, unrelated to calories and unrelated to weight. And that is why I am here in the Philippines to educate the doctors and the press to help educate the public so that you can fix your medical nightmare that’s why I am here and I am happy to help.”

In an article published in www.npr.org, it supports the statement of Lustig regarding the sugar companies, it says, “In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a newly published article in JAMA Internal Medicine. The article draws on internal documents to show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to “refute” concerns about sugar’s possible role in heart disease. The SRF then sponsored research by Harvard scientists that did just that. The result was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, with no disclosure of the sugar industry funding.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education Foundation Inc. (PCDEF) is calling on public and private medical practitioners and institutions to intensify efforts to educate Filipinos on the health risks posed by too much consumption of products containing fructose.

In  a press conference dubbed Fats and Sugars: Friends or Foes?, PCDEF Founder and President Dr. Augusto D. Litonjua said Filipinos are not that aware that fructose, a type of sugar found in fruits and sweetened food products and beverages, could cause conditions falling under the so-called metabolic syndrome.

Litonjua explained that fructose is not easily broken down by the body, resulting in formation of harmful chemical compounds such as “bad fat.”

“The USDA made a study wherein people thought table sugar was bad, so they removed table sugar and encouraged people to eat fruits. After which, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity went up along with the increased consumption of fruit sugar—the (diabetes and obesity) rate was higher than when Americans were consuming table sugar or glucose,” Dr. Litonjua explained.

“The reason for that is that fructose is not metabolized by insulin, unlike glucose. Fructose goes to the liver where it is being deposited and the liver turns it into triglyceride, a form of fat storage making the liver fatty with intake of too much fructose,” Litonjua added.

Litonjua attributed the lack of proper knowledge on the bad effects of fructose to the societal notion that fruits are naturally “good.”

“There’s this notion that fruits are good. But fruit sugar is fructose and these are abundant in fruits,” he said.

Making matters worse is that Filipino consumers are not aware that a chemically produced form of fructose is now widely used in goods sold in the market today. This is known as high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS), an alternative sweetener to raw sugar being used in the manufacturing of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), such as soft drinks and fruit juices.

“If you would ask me if Filipinos aware of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup, I would say no,” Litonjua said. “The effects of high-fructose corn syrup are not widely known in the country.”

This awareness gap between the Filipinos and the bad effects of fructose, especially HFCS, should be addressed on various fronts and different sectors of society.

Image Credits: visualhunt.com