A calorie is a calorie, right? Wrong, according to a new study that says calories from sugar may be toxic to our bodies.
For years, studies have shown an association or correlation betwen sugar and certain metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes. Americans have been eating more and more sugar over the past 30 years, and we have also been getting fatter and suffering from more cases of diabetes and heart disease.
But as scientists love to say, correlation is not causation; in other words, we couldn't tell if sugar was causing the obesity and metabolic diseases, or if people with those conditions just eat more sugar.
Well, now we can tell.
Research published in the February issue of the journal PLoS One took data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, which measures the availability of foods around the world and compared it with data about obesity abd diabetes. They looked at exactly where people all over the world were getting their calories and compared it with how often they were getting sick, controlling for everything else they could think of including poverty, urbanization, aging, and physical activity.
What they found is that only changes in the availability of sugar explained changes in diabetes prevalence worldwide.
As Mark Bittman put it, this is "the closest thing to causation and a smoking gun that we will see."
Obesity doesn't cause diabetes. Sugar does.
Dr. Robert Lustig, author of the book Fat Chance,says "Sugar in excess is a toxin, unrelated to its calories. The dose determines the poison. Like alcohol, a little sugar is fine, but a lot is not. And the food industry has put us way over our limit."
Modern American grocery stores sell more than 600,000 products and more than 80 percent of them have added sugar—though it goes by as many as 56 other names on the label, so you practically have to be a chemist to know what you're actually eating.
But that added sugar is slowly poisoning us. Scientists estimate that one third of Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050. Yet big food companies like Coca-Cola continue to tell us that a calorie is a calorie, and that they are part of the solution because they offer zero-calorie drinks. (Does that mean that, by inference, they're admitting that their sweetened drinks are the problem?)
As the recent expose in the New York Times Magazine showed, the food industry knows that sugar is a drug, and that they will sell more product by adding just the right amount of sugar. Our dealers will not voluntarily give up pushing that drug on us so long as they know it will make them more money. Our only recourse is to educate ourselves and make the decision to avoid as much added sugar as we can.