Friday, February 3, 2012

Nutrition News

By Cindy Farricker, MS, RD, CDE
Bellevue Club Wellness Dietitian

Dr Robert H. Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at University of California San Francisco, is troubled by the increasing rate of obesity and diabetes he sees in the children under his care. He and his colleagues at UCSF have written a commentary on this subject, which came out in yesterday's edition of the "Journal Nature."

Lustig believes a diet that includes too much fructose and not enough fiber causes obesity.  He argues that added fructose is a harmful substance that negatively affects metabolism.

He cites United Nations reports that non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer together are responsible for more than 35 million deaths each year.  Each of these are influenced by lifestyle choices people make about tobacco, alcohol and diet.

Of these three lifestyle choices, only tobacco and alcohol are currently subject to regulation. Lustig concedes that unlike tobacco and alcohol, food is necessary for survival; however, added sugar isn’t any more necessary than tobacco or alcohol.

For example, when it comes to alcohol, there are four criteria that justify government regulation, according to the 2003 book “Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity”:
* It’s unavoidable in society.
* It’s toxic.
* It can be abused.
* It’s bad for society.

“Sugar meets the same criteria,” Lustig and colleagues write, “and we believe that it similarly warrants some form of societal intervention.”

In an interview on ABC news, Lustig discussed how food processors have made our food more palatable by adding sugar. He believes that fructose is a poison.

He goes on to make the case that fructose is the cause of the current obesity epidemic and the current epidemic of metabolic syndrome.

According to Lustig, fructose naturally occurs in foods, but the amount presented to the body becomes a problem.  The fructose load is an issue for our metabolism.  To make his point he said, “it makes no difference if it is a juice box or a soda in terms of the fructose load. In fact, juice is 1.8 grams of fructose per ounce, and a soda is 1.7 grams of fructose per ounce. With juice, they threw away the fiber. The juice is the bad part of the fruit. The juice is nature’s way of getting you to eat your fiber.”

Lustig believes that fructose fools you into eating more. He explained that increasing doses of fructose overload the liver, which in turn confuses the brain about a chemical we all start producing when we eat, called leptin. Normally, rising leptin levels tell the brain we have had enough to eat. Since this signal is blocked with fructose your brain thinks you are still hungry.  Your brain can’t get the leptin signal.

Lestig believes soda should be a controlled substance like alcohol or tobacco. He described the following scenario: “a 15 year old walks into a store to buy a coke and the cashier says show me your ID.”

Click here to view Dr. Lustig’s 90-minute lecture on the subject on YouTube

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