Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sugars ... and ... Obesity?

Consumers are being lead to fear and loathing of detestable sugar. We're grossly overweight as a society and by now everyone must be aware that the obesity epidemic is leading to an epidemic of chronic illnesses that imperil longevity. Some scare-mongers -- and there's no lack of them -- clarify the situation simply; cut out sugar from your diet and you'll be healthy. It is sugar and its deleterious effect on the body that infiltrates healthy cells and makes us obese, then morbidly ill.
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Sugar, simple sugar refined from plant sources, or the type of sugar that is called fructose that makes fruit taste sweet to us, or just carbohydrates from other food sources like pasta and rice and cereal grains, all of which contain sugar, energize our body, our muscles and feed our brains. The crisis of obesity that has struck society is indeed a serious one. But it isn't sugar that's to blame, it's immoderation.

It is the inability of people to discipline their appetites. It's a relatively new phenomenon; plentiful food supplies were not always a matter of course in any society. At one time in our development as societal groups wherever we lived, it was only the wealthy among us who could afford all the food they wanted. And it was among the wealthy that obesity most often occurred; taken as a sign of wealth and at the same time held to be a sign of good health.

We know a lot better now. And we know that good health is more complex than simply eating to satiation. Good health requires good nutrition and moderating our appetites, which means steering away from the energy-dense empty calories packed into fast-foods and the convenience of processed foods. Our bodies also need to be exercised adequately, particularly in societies like ours where we tend to locate in offices to perform a day's work, not agricultural enterprises.

But there's a kind of bullying junk science industry that glories in misinforming people, leading them to believe that sugar is destroying their internal organs and shortening their lives, causing diabetes, stroke, heart disease and ultimately early death. When, in fact, it is the overindulgence in the kind of nasty pretend-food that is so readily available everywhere one looks. The formula for good health is whole foods and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. And obeying the Golden Rule: moderation.
Carbohydrates are the body's main energy source.
Carbohydrates are the body's main energy source.
But even if the focus was on whole foods -- shunning junk food -- eating too much of any food leads to overweight and ill health. Those who implicitly believe that sugar is poison to our bodily system would prefer to believe it than to control their appetites. Some science leads us in the direction of acknowledging that the decline of social smoking has helped lead to increased obesity rates; it is, in fact, a statistic promulgated by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

A meta-analysis concluded by Dr. John Sievenpiper of the University of Toronto, and which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stated that "fructose had no significant effect on body weight or blood pressure as compared to other carbohydrate sources". The problem, according to the good doctor and his colleagues, is overconsumption, not sugar toxicity.

High-fructose corn syrup is considered to be a demon. Yet the American Society for Nutrition has reported no strong correlation between obesity and corn syrup. In the United Kingdom, corn syrup is not in use as a sweetener, but the weight of Brits has still gone haywire. A huge study at the University of Washington which reviewed 97 research papers on dietary patterns, reached the conclusion that obesity drives sugar consumption, rather than sugar consumption leading to obesity.

The world Health Organization's guideline on sugar; exclusive of sugars derived from fruits, vegetables and dairy, is that the daily energy intake should reflect no more than 10 percent sugar. That would be about 53 grams. Interestingly, a can of soft drink has about 40 grams. The U.S. National Academy of Medicine after reviewing the evidence, concluded that added sugars be no higher than 24 percent of the diet.

In Canada, sugar consumption has decreased in the last several decades with Canadians drinking less pop and greater amounts of just plain water. On average, Canadians consume around 11 percent sugar in their diets. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have all seen falling sugar consumption. How does that square with rising obesity rates, despite a diminished consumption of sugar?

Anti-sugar advocates in Australia were so incensed when researchers at the University of Sydney found sugar consumption had been falling, irrespective of obesity rates rising, that they insisted that an investigation be launched into the data the researchers depended upon. And so an independent review was taken, and it verified the results of the study.

Wholesome carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for muscles.
Wholesome carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for muscles.

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