The Cost of Sugar Addiction, Part 4

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Mark Bittman, a professional journalist who cooks (or perhaps a cook who writes) is only one of the many nutrition-oriented thought leaders who were themselves influenced by Robert H. Lustig, M.D. They are highly critical of all forms of sugar, and especially fructose, because it gets metabolized wrong and turned into fat by the liver, which then starts chain reactions into all kinds of other internal disasters. Then comes the external disaster, as society tries to cope with a national crisis, the cost of all this.

Bittman’s website includes a lively and explicit capsule biography, including the lines:

How to Cook Everything has been completely revised for its tenth birthday. The companion volume, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (inspired by my realization that the world will inevitably move in the lessmeatarian direction, and why not?), led me to write the just-published (and happily well-received) Food Matters, a look at the links among eating too much meat, obesity, global warming, and other nasty features of modern life. (It has good recipes, too.)

One of Bittman’s sayings is, “Cook like food matters.” He mentions a paper published by Dr. Lustig, Laura A. Schmidt, and Claire D. Brindis that explains how the entire global medical paradigm has shifted, because “[…] for the first time, chronic diseases pose a greater health threat than infectious ones.” They name alcohol, tobacco, and diet as the three main risk factors indicating a threat of chronic disease in a person’s life. Bittman says:

The authors […] correlate the rise in consumption of sugar with a rise in disease, listing the many ways in which sugar’s effects on the body are similar to those of alcohol. Their contention is that sugar is hardly ‘an empty calorie,’ but rather an actively harmful one: ‘Fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic metabolic diseases.’

But wait, that’s not all. It gets worse. Here is part of the Gary Taubes article, “Is Sugar Toxic?,” that we have not quoted yet:

Cancer researchers now consider that the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads us to secrete more insulin, and insulin (as well as a related hormone known as insulin-like growth factor) actually promotes tumor growth… If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly.

Does anyone remember the old days, when “billion” was a number found only in astronomy, and never in budget discussions? In less than 10 years from now, the annual cost of American cancer is predicted to be $158 billion. The American Diabetes Association believes the cost of diabetes to be around $174 billion every year in our country. And then there is heart disease, on which the American Heart Association estimates we spend $312 billion annually.

However much of this is due, directly or indirectly, to sugar, is worth figuring out.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Regulating Our Sugar Habit,” The New York Times, 02/26/12
Source: “Is Sugar Toxic?,” The New York Times, 04/13/11
Image by Lowe and Partners, Netherlands.

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