Can it be possible that our national obesity pandemic, as well as the eight most common metabolic diseases are in large part the result of our diet - specifically, our over-consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?
The answer to this question is an unqualified, yes.
Recent scientific studies conducted under the auspices of University of California San Francisco, Harvard, Princeton University, Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center, University of California Davis and the American Heart Association now offer scientific proof that at least eight of the most common “controllable” chronic conditions are influenced by, if not “caused” by, over consumption of fructose-loaded global industrial diet in particular.
Further, the obesity epidemic itself is in large part a direct result of “sugar addiction” similar to alcohol and cocaine addiction brought about by the ubiquitous use of fructose in nearly 100% of process foods sold to the public.(1)
After years of consumption of massive amounts of HFCS, we, the consumers of the global industrial fructose-laced diet, are in serious trouble physically and our nation is near the healthcare breaking point financially.
Consumption of mega amounts of HFCS is now proven to link directly with at least eight of the most common diseases which affect 60% ofU.S.population and total 75% of global healthcare expenditures.(2)
How can this be?
It was the discovery of the hormone, leptin, in the mid 1990s by RockefellerUniversity’s Jeffrey M Friedman, MD, PhD, which opened the doors to eventually understanding the insulin-metabolic syndrome connection.
Today, it is generally accepted by the medical community that the chronic metabolic diseases are linked to insulin. The more insulin produced by the body, the more incidence of the diseases.
Leptin is produced in the fat cell and goes to the brain to tell the brain to stop eating, limit what one eats and to start exercising.(3)
Obese people produce lots of leptin. But it is not working, telling the brain to stop eating. If leptin were doing its job then you wouldn’t be obese. Discovering the cause of “leptin resistance” is the key to understanding obesity. “How come leptin used to work 30 years ago and does not work today? Our research has demonstrated some very specific, significant findings. I can sum it up in one word: insulin,” explained Dr. Lustig in the UCTV Prime, 7-part series, “The Skinny on Obesity” (Ep. 3) video.
Dr. Lustig and his UC colleagues have demonstrated that the answer is in how the body metabolizes fructose. They have found that our livers deal with fructose differently than sucrose or glucose and it is this metabolic process that creates fat, which eventually leads to obesity and chronic metabolic syndrome.
Why “A Calorie Is A Calorie” Is Not Enough Information
Perhaps the most difficult obstacle to overcome in the fight to reduce obesity is the general misconception that is held by many in the medical community and government officials: a “calorie is a calorie”.
A calorie is a measure of energy derived from a food source. A gram of fat has a little more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate.
MDs, nutritionists, dietitians, public health professionals were all taught, and are still being taught, that no matter the source molecule, they all translate into calories, and the more calories one consumes the more calories one must “burn”. If one does not burn the calories through exercise, the body stores them as fat and basically that’s why we become fatter.
“The “calorie is a calorie” argument is widely used by the processed food industry to explain that weight loss isn’t really about what you eat but about how many calories you eat. But if it were just about calories, you could eat only sugar and be fine. In fact, you’d die: sugar lacks essential nutrients.” (4)
To be sure, eating too much, especially the “wrong” foods, is a problem. Not exercising is also a problem. Both contribute to obesity – but in a relatively minor way when compared with the role played by sugar, specifically fructose.
We now know that our livers metabolize fructose molecules differently than sucrose molecules. Additionally, after ingesting the mega doses of HFCS-packed foods which most of us consume each day, our livers quickly become overwhelmed and the fructose molecules are “metabolized to fat”.(5)
Here is how Dr. Lustig explains it:
“Sugar, because of its unique composition, is the only food on the planet that is both fat and carbohydrate at the same time. Even fatty fruits, coconut, olive and avocado, have no carbohydrate. There is no food stuff on this planet that has both fat and carbohydrate at the same time — except for sugar.”
“Sugar is made up of two molecules: glucose and fructose. And, they are very different.
“Glucose is metabolized by every organ in the body. Every organism on the planet can digest, absorb and metabolize glucose. Eighty percent of the carbohydrate glucose that one consumes is metabolized by all the organs in the body and only 20% goes to the liver.
“Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver because only the liver has the transporter for fructose. One hundred percent of fructose goes to the liver. So, you are overloading your liver and that’s the rub. Fructose goes straight to the mitochondria and then to fat. A little bit of glucose goes to glycogen until it’s replete and it goes to fat as well, and, you have a recipe for mitochondrial disease. When you have mitochondrial disease you get sick.
“Fructose is a chronic, dose dependent, hepatotoxin which is just like alcohol. In fact fructose, the sweet part of sugar, is more like alcohol than it is anything else.
“Alcohol is metabolized to fat and so is fructose, driving more liver fat than it can export; more liver insulin resistance which drives the pancreas to make extra insulin; driving energy deposition into fat cells peripherally; driving weight gain; and the extra insulin is driving high blood pressure; driving heart disease; driving cell division which leads to cancer; driving changes in the brain which lead to dementia; and when your pancreas can’t make enough insulin and it burns out, it drives diabetes, as well.”(6)
For years we have been told by the government and the healthcare industry that obese people are gluttons and lazy.
But, we now know otherwise. Dr. Lustig and other respected researchers have proven that obesity and the related metabolic diseases are in large part the result of our consumption of vast quantities of HFCS-laced foods.
Unfortunately for all of us, the “obesity epidemic” is truly just a marker, as Dr. Lustig says, for a much more serious problem that will require societal changes of huge proportions.
The solution(s) we must implement in order to “right the ship” will demand much more than eating less and exercising more. And, once generally reported, those solutions will face unbelievable opposition from growers, processors, transporters, the chefs, the healthcare community (to name only a few interest groups) and, us, the consumers.
If that weren’t enough of a challenge, we also now know that like alcohol and tobacco products, HFCS foods can become as addictive as cocaine. (7)
“No one chooses obesity. Obesity chooses them... How long do you believe you can exert a cognitive inhibition (willpower) control over a biochemical drive that goes on 24/7/365, getting worse every single day that you don’t perform it? No one can exert willpower over a biochemical drive that goes on every minute of every day of every year. It’s just not possible.” — Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD (8)
Finally, if the facts above have not yet convinced you to stop eating sugary foods, please go here and watch this CBS 60 Minutes segment:
1. “Sugar the Bitter Truth”, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology University of California, UCTV Series: UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public [7/2009] [Health and Medicine] [Show ID: 16717] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
2. “Sugar the Bitter Truth”, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD
3. “The Skinny on Obesity”, 7-part series, (Ep. 3) UCTV Prime, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology University of California; Elissa S. Epel, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCSF. She is also a faculty member in the Health Psychology Postdoctoral Program, the OsherCenterfor Integrative Medicine, and the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program. She is one of the founders of Center for Obesity Assessment, Study & Treatment, University of California, San Francisco (COAST), and is serving as a Co-Director; Barbara Laraia, PhD, MPH, RD, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, UCSF, Co-Director, COAST, http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=23592
4. “Is a Calorie a Calorie?”, The New York Times, Mark Bittman, 20 Mar 2012, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/20/is-a-calorie-a-calorie/
5. “The Skinny on Obesity”, 7-part series, (Ep. 2): Sickeningly Sweet, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, http://www.uctv.tv/skinny-on-obesity-sickeningly-sweet/
6. “The Skinny on Obesity”, 7-part series, (Ep. 2): Sickeningly Sweet, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD
7. “The Skinny on Obesity”, 7-part series, (Ep. 4): Sugar - A Sweet Addiction, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=23717
8. “The Skinny on Obesity”, 7-part series, (Ep. 4): Sugar - A Sweet Addiction, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD