Skip Sugar Day

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Yesterday was Skip Sugar Day, at least in Greenwich, Conn., where city leaders proclaimed the event. Maybe next year it will be national. Meanwhile in that city, HALSAmd Research, whose mission is to address, educate, and coordinate medical treatment and behavioral counseling, got together with the HALSAmd weight management clinic to hold a screening of the widely discussed documentary Fed Up.

Someone examined 600,000 food products and found that sugar is added to 80% of them. That’s four out of five of the processed foods we put in our mouths. The average American, in fact, appears to eat more than 150 pounds of sugar each year. But here is another statistic, straight from the documentary:

Only 30% of people suffering from diet-related diseases are actually obese; while 70 percent of us — even those who look thin and trim on the outside — are facing the same consequences.

In other words, people of normal weight are not exempt from the horrifying consequences of sugar in all its forms. It just hasn’t hit them yet.

At the 74th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association, two studies were presented. From the Yale School of Medicine came one suggesting that the adolescent brain handles sugar differently than the adult brain. Researchers focused on the brain regions that appear to be involved in decision-making and reward motivation, and found that in teenage brains, glucose increases blood flow, while the opposite is true for grownups. The following quotation is from Ania Jastreboff, MD, Ph.D., the lead researcher:

This is important because adolescents are the highest consumers of dietary added sugars. This is just the first step in understanding what is happening in the adolescent brain in response to consumption of sugary drinks. Ultimately, it will be important to investigate whether such exposure to sugar during adolescence impacts food and drink consumption, and whether it relates to the development of obesity.

Of course, that seems pretty obvious — but more research will, to use an unfortunate figure of speech, put the icing on the cake. The other study presented at the meeting came from University Children’s Hospital in Leipzig, Germany, and indicated that there are changes in the adipose tissue of obese children starting very early on. The subjects included children and adolescents, both obese and normal weight. The researchers found:

When children become obese, beginning as early as age six, there was an increase in the number of adipose cells, and that they are larger in size than the cells found in the bodies of lean children. The researchers also found evidence of dysfunction of the fat cells of obese children, including signs of inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes and other problems, such as high blood pressure.

Here’s a Connecticut connection: Samantha Heller, a prominent dietitian, nutritionist, and media figure who calls that state home, has lamented the American tendency to let our kitchens become “junk-food havens.” She also said, “Whoever is the gatekeeper for the family food supply needs to take a good, hard look at their choices.”

Stephanie Soechtig, the director of Fed Up, said this about the film:

I really hope the audience leaves feeling with a sense of obligation. The system isn’t going to fix itself — we all need to get involved if we want things to change.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Free screening of FED UP on Skip Sugar Day,” Greenwich-post.com, 10/25/14
Source: “Understanding The Unique Nature Of Children’s Bodies And Brains,” RedOrbit.com, 06/16/14
Source: “U.S. Kids Still Eat Too Much Added Sugar: CDC,” USNews.com, 02/29/12
Image by Lindsey Fitzharris

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