Monday, February 14, 2011

The Misconception of Natural Sweeteners

Lots of things are natural, meaning they occur in nature. Arsenic, cyanide, uranium, deadly nightshade. That doesn't mean you'd want to eat them, or even come into contact with some of them. I don't know how many articles I have read decrying the evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup, and yet saying that regular sugar is fine. Now, I'm not saying that HFCS is the same as sugar, it's not, by a long shot, however, neither of them are good for your health. Other naturally occurring sugars are no better, like honey. Sugar is sugar, and the glucose spikes your blood sugar while the fructose portion damages your liver and raises your triglyceride levels. That includes the fructose in fruit.

We have articles in newspapers like this one, since it's Valentine's day:
"But let's not make fructose the only bad guy here. The real problem is our consumption of all added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars like fructose, found in fruit, and lactose, found in milk, are valuable nutrients."
Overall, this article is better than most, but still has some problems. It fails in that it differentiates the fructose in fruit from the fructose in HFCS. There's not one iota of a difference, with perhaps the exception that if you ate a piece of fruit you might get less than if you ate something laden with HFCS. The problem is, our modern fruit has been bred to be bigger and sweeter. The sweeter it is, the more fructose is in it. Also, the fructose found in sucrose (table sugar) is also the same to your cells.

The problem is, they can't let go of the notion, that "everybody knows it's common knowledge" notion, that fruit is good for you. Five hundred years ago everyone knew the earth was flat too, and the center of the universe to boot. We all know what happened to Galileo when he dared to suggest otherwise.
"Does this research mean that eating fruit will increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes? Absolutely not."
That statement may be blatantly false, considering the study out of New Zealand that I wrote about last week, that I might add no American media picked up (good thing I didn't hold my breath).

Another newspaper article, also acts like natural sweeteners aren't a problem:
"While the massive amount of high-fructose corn syrup consumed by many people isn't a great choice, a more moderate amount of natural sweeteners can be a wonderful complement to a healthy diet."
What exactly is their idea of "moderation"? Eating 100 lbs of sugar a year versus the current 150+? Taubes wrote about this in "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and it seems from some reports by doctors who were in Africa and other colonial places a hundred years ago that a sugar intake of approximately 60 lbs was the cut off point of "too much". After consumption rose above that level, and after a time frame of about 20 years consuming such levels, they saw diabetes and metabolic syndrome begin to develop, along with all the other western diseases that go along with them. And really, it might be that a lower consumption just means it takes longer to develop metabolic problems in some people, or maybe even in most people. I doubt seriously the authors of these news articles imagine that we really might need to restrict our sugar intake to a minuscule amount to avoid developing disease.

The first article I cited did have a great line in it:
"If we really looked like what we eat, most Americans would look like kernels of corn."
There's the truth if I ever read it.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog.

    Chemically, sucrose and HFCS are almost identical so the HFCS proponents are right with respect to that. However, the risk from HFCS is much greater because it is added to many more foods that sucrose is.

    One Christmas eve, my wife sent me to the grocery store to buy a baked desert. My only requirement was that it could not contain HFCS or hydrogenated fats. I searched for over 30 minutes before I stumbled upon a pie that contained only sugar and butter. I now read food label ingredients for fun and I'm shocked at the number of foods contain added sugars. I've also studied FDA food labeling regulations to see what food manufacturer's are able to hide.

    A food example is Wheaties Fuel. I figured it must be healthy because it had Peyton Manning's picture on the box. However, reviewing the ingredient list showed that, in a 55 g serving, 41 g were either sugar or substances that are instantly broken down into sugar in the gut (e.g. Honey, Maltodextrin, Corn Starch, Brown Sugar Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids). Basically, this supposedly healthy breakfast cereal is 75% sugar.

    I also discovered that when I experimented with giving up artifical sweeteners, my sense of sweet radically changed. Within a couple of months, many foods became "too sweet". The only fruits that aren't too sweet are berries.

    My body also changed in response to restricting carbohydrates. one night I had a Godiva's wfite chocolate truffle and minutes later, I turned beet red and my blood pressure sky-rockted. I've also had to add salt to my foods because my blood pressure dropped too low after going low-carb.

    Lastly, once the myth of "scientific expertise" is exploded, I discovered how much health research is founded upon flawed assumptions.