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Why Sugar Hacked Science (And Your Health!)
The latest diet buzz is the bad news about sugar. It is so.
The fact that this acceptance is considered a new trend by nutritionists, dietitians and the general public shows how unimportant the nutrition sector has been for a long time. It also makes the food section look ridiculous.
At least, for me. I’ve been blowing sugar for 20+ years, sometimes getting set back for doing it.
But it is important to follow what happened, so that we can hold those responsible…
Once Upon a Time, Sugar Was Bad
In scientific journals in the 1970s, the negative effects of sugar were getting a lot of attention. There were movies – some very good ones. A famous book was written on the problems of sugar consumption: Sugar Blues, by William Dufty.
Interestingly, Sugar Blues was written long before much (if anything) is known about the brain chemicals caused by sugar. And before any connection is made between sugar and appetite, desires, health, emotions, etc.
It wasn’t until 1975 that endorphin (beta-endorphin) was “discovered.” So the 1974 book was a little ahead of its time. And yet it was time because scientists were researching sugar.
That was not good news for the sugar industry. And the sugar industry is a powerful social center in Washington, DC
If you don’t think food industry lobbyists influence government, an eye-opening book is Food Politics by Marion Nestle. He describes the difficult, frustrating process of creating the original Food Control Pyramid.
Nestle worked for the USDA and was visited daily by representatives of the beef and dairy industry. Their complaints – and the pressure they used – were central to the Food Control Pyramid, which was released in 1991.
Those complaints made the original Pyramid vague and confusing to consumers in several ways. After a few years, it needed to be renovated to make it sound better. (That’s a side story, but stay with me.)
The take home is that the food industry is the real USDA. We, the consumers, are not. Our health is less of a concern for a government agency than it is for its people.
Which brings us back to sugar in the late 1970s.
The sugar industry ignored the scientific emphasis on the health problems associated with sugar and started doing its worst.
Sugar the Devil Spins Oil as an Enemy
By 1984, fat was designated as the new Dietary Demon.
From that time until the late 1990s – and beyond – we suffered from a low appetite for oil. And it was ridiculous, even disguised as the Right Way to Eat.
Some people still believe that! He also mentions Ancel Keys, whose work has been cited by several sources.
At that time, several things happened – not good, except for the sugar industry.
First, scientists stopped sugar and started looking at fat.
He began researching diseases related to diets high in fat, saturated fat, red meat, cheese, and other “bad fats.” A new scientific discovery was discovered and made it into the mass media.
In 1995, the entire supplement of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) published papers from a conference on dietary sugar.
Exhibitors were handpicked from researchers whose names I immediately recognized. They found that sugar has no negative effects on health, weight, and even nerves.
Should I tell you that the funding for these scientists comes from sugar food manufacturers?
Here’s a quote:
After the meeting, all the companies present (General Mills, Kraft, and many other sugar users you know) can “properly” say that their reps attended a scientific meeting – where it was shown that sugar is not bad for any reason. .
Also during the low-fat diet, food companies developed low-fat and fat-free varieties. Appropriate to the sugar industry – not by accident – the product used sugar to replace the flavor that was lost when the fat was removed.
One example? Cream cheese. Full fat does not contain sugar, but the nonfat version does and does. A line of low-fat frozen meals — called Healthy Choice — adds sugar to just about everything, including soup. Other companies followed suit.
Manufacturers also produced synthetic oils. Remember Olean and Olestra? (What about the side effects, like leaking from the butt? Maybe that’s a topic for another post.)
With all the low-fat and low-fat foods available, the fat content of food has dropped more than 30%.
That 30% was approved by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society – until the low fat craving fell upon us.
Medically, I noticed a decrease in protein, especially among women. Proteins contain fat – sometimes a lot – so women who are concerned about losing weight just give it up. They started eating carbs, and lots of them.
Pushing Low Fat Makes Us Eat Sugar
Recommendations for increasing carbs have come from everywhere — including the 1991 Food Guide Pyramid. The bottom layer required 6 to 11 layers of seed.
Pritikin Wellness Center suggests that foods with 7% protein and less than 10% fat, leaving 83% or more in the diet.
My dieting clients pointed out that the carbs they were eating instead of fat and protein were not vegetables, beans, or leafy greens, but sugar and refined flour.
During the low-fat diet, sugar consumption skyrocketed. From 1984 to 1997, the increase in sugar consumption – not the total consumption, an increase of 13 years – was 25 pounds per person per year.
This increase may be due to a phenomenon known as the sugar/fat seesaw: when one drops in the diet, the others go up. When everyone had low fat, the decrease in fat intake was met with a significant increase in sugar.
Sugars/fats are accepted in scientific journals but not defined. In my 1999 lecture, I discussed hormones and neurochemicals.
During the low-fat period, consumption of artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup rose, according to USDA statistics. In 1996, the Nutrition Action Healthletter reported that sugar consumption in the US had risen again for the decade in a row.
Additionally – and it didn’t surprise me – obesity in the US had become an epidemic. The CDC reported that, after 20 years at 25% of the population, the number of overweight Americans increased to 33% in the 1980s. Researchers from the Minnesota Heart Health Program could not explain the increase with data on fat intake.
But he hadn’t realized that he was going to research sugar. Like in the 1970s.
Clearly, the sugar boom benefited the sugar industry. The obesity epidemic was an unfortunate consequence of their profit-making strategies.
Low Fat Athletes See the Light
At first, the fitness industry jumped on the low-fat bandwagon, and I got caught up in it. Throughout the industry, weight loss advice to customers reflects the low-fat theory. At fitness events, the goodie bags were filled with low-fat, high-sugar “energy drinks” and more.
In the early 1990s, I gave a presentation to exercise professionals about the diseases associated with eating sugar. An angry woman stood up and shouted, “I have the same degree you have” – we both had master’s degrees in physiology – “and you don’t know what you’re talking about!”
In 1995, I was invited to a fitness conference to participate in a discussion called “To Eat Carbs or Not to Eat Carbs”. The ‘Team’ included two people: the Pritikin Center researcher and me. It was created as an argument – and someone wanted me to lose it.
I didn’t know about things, but Pritikin’s boy was on the attack. He was even ready to speak a second time so that he could challenge my words with his very low Pritikin voice.
In the late 1990s, a controversy arose. The fitness industry began to show some controversy. We saw advertisements from the fitness industry warning against carb intake, followed closely by articles promoting “carb loading” before exercise.
A few years after the 1995 pro-sugar supplement, the AJCN issued a comprehensive 1998 supplement on the role of fats and oils in the fight against obesity and metabolic disorders. Several articles in it described the failure of low-fat diets to produce long-term weight loss.
Now we have come full circle. People are finally realizing the many ways that sugar and sugary foods affect our health – diabetes, high blood pressure, mood swings, overeating, and more.
Bonus Tip: Be Perceptive, Cautious and Skeptical
Because more people know more about nutrition now than at any other time I can remember, I don’t think the sugar industry will be able to tell us about the dangers of fat. Recent studies have shown the benefits of certain oils – and the harmlessness of the ones we were always told were bad.
Will the sugar industry stop? Don’t depend on it. I hope to see the benefits of “sneaky sugar,” which people want to believe is good for them because it gives them an excuse to eat sugar.
The sugar cheat also includes sweeteners and “natural” fruit juices. Or the agave juice that we see everywhere these days. And maybe new things we haven’t seen yet. Will they – be good for you? Please believe me when I say “No!”
What we are told about food in the US is often not what we need to know or do, but what will benefit the various food industries.
Sugar creeps into our food and drink in many ways. It can affect health, inflammation, metabolism, appetite, and mood. It can cause cravings and overeating. It can affect autistic children, as well as pregnant women and their babies.
Fructose is the worst form of sugar – it has its drawbacks! Yet people are more reluctant to give up fruit than ever before – it’s the preferred form of sugar for people who want to believe their diet is healthy.
I have written book chapters on fruit as the “final frontier” in health science. And it can be.
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