Thursday, September 6, 2012

The BB sugar experiment: I want the truth

Sugar really is the big thing at the moment. Since I started thinking about giving up that delicious white substance after reading this blog by another mum, I have read as much information as I can find about it. What I have discovered is a raging and divisive debate. A debate almost as passionate as the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) issue. Everyone seems to have an opinion about it; whether they are scientistsjournalistslawyersgovernment bodiesacademics, and so many of them are conflicting.

How could all this deliciousness be bad?

I am a sceptic by nature. I'm cynical too. The sceptical cynic! I am sceptical about diets that claim you only have to cut out one type of food and you'll lose weight. And I am particularly sceptical about claims that something natural, like fruit, could be bad for you. And, whoa, if someone tries to tell me that exercise is irrelevant to fat loss then, well, as much as I'd like to believe it, I just don't. I'm cynical about radical claims such as these, especially when people are making money from them.

But who am I to understand what the truth is and who I should believe? I'm just another person caught in the never ending cacophony of noise bombarding us about the human diet and how to stay fit and healthy.

The ABC published an analysis of the sugar debate, which pretty much sums up everything I've been reading, in a really clear and informative way. If you are thinking about giving up sugar, I recommend you read it here. Make sure you read the comments, they show you how inflamed the discussion has become. This interview with David Gillespie of Sweet Poison fame (also by the ABC) is interesting for the comments it ignites as well.

One aspect of the argument that really interests me is whether or not sugar is proven to be physically addictive. Dr Robert Lustig, who seems to be one of the loudest on the anti-sugar side, says that it is (check out this podcast here, if only to hear the dulcet tones of Alec Baldwin who interviews him). But then there's another bloke, a Mr David Benton, who says that there's no real evidence to prove that sugar is addictive for humans. You can read his paper here if you want. The most interesting bit I got was that this paper was funded by The World Sugar Research Organization. I'm not saying that this guy has been swayed by this fact but it puts doubt in my mind.

And that's what shits me about all this. This issue, just like the AGW issue, is political. Money and power are involved which makes it difficult to know who to believe. Well, it makes it me cynical about the players involved.

For me, personally, I think sugar is addictive. I think about it and respond to it in just the same way as I did illicit drugs before I got sober over four years ago. If there's chocolate in the house, I gotta eat it. If I'm feeling anxious or tired or sick or upset I gotta eat it. If I want to reward myself or celebrate I gotta eat it. And when I try to abstain from it I crave it like a crazy woman. I don't think I need more evidence than that!

But what about all the other claims about sugar? That sugar is worse for us than some fats, such as saturated fats like butter and animal fat? That sugar is just as bad for our livers as alcohol is? That it causes heart disease? That sugar is actually poison!?

How am I, or anyone else trying to wade through all this, suppose to know?

I just want to know the truth. But is there a truth? Is the 'science settled'? Just like the human induced climate change issue, I don't believe the sugar debate has been settled either.

I'll be keeping an open mind on both issues until they have.


I am just your average chick trying to make sense of the information that's out there with my layman brain. I am writing this as I make my way through a bag of Darrell Lea Choc Coated Honeycomb. If I have made any misrepresentations of any person or fact it was an accident and I blame the chocolate!


Diet Schmiet said...

You're so right that 'sugar' is the buzz word nowadays - either in a bad way, or those trying to debunk the 'sugar is bad' theory. The verdict is out for me at the moment. Although I love my carbs and worry about them, I'm loath to completely avoid anything as it's a sure-fire way for an obsessive freak such as myself to become even more addicted to the stuff!

Good luck!!!


Rachel @ TheKidsAreAllRight said...

I will leave the very boring comment: everything in moderation. But I do agree sugar is addictive - I crave it too. I am trying to do a "cleanse" (half-heartedly) at the moment, which means cutting out added sugar - so none in tea, trying to have vegemite on toast instead of jam, trying to keep alcohol to weekends only, no sweets etc. But I would never cut out fruit entirely, and vegies have sugar in them too right? I read a great article about diet recently - the upshot being: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" -

Julian said...

Every food in moderation makes sense but table sugar is not a real food. Moderate amounts of plant derived poisons like nicotine and digitalis are not a good idea. I have come to the conclusion that fructose (as found in table sugar ) is also a plant derived poison. Dose dependent as poisons are, and very slow acting so that its effects are insidious but a poison because it will do you harm. My way through the jungle is to ignore anyone who has taken money from one or more processed food producers. This includes, but is not limited to, the aust. heart foundation, the diabetes assoc.and some well known Australian dietitians. Since reading Gillespie and some of Lustig's work I read rebuttals trying to refute their arguments. However they simply highlighted the fact that there is NO evidence that fructose is safe. If there was ANY positive evidence that fructose was safe there are plenty of vested interests which would shout it from the rooftops. When someone can prove to me that added fructose is safe, I will consider eating it again. Meanwhile I am very happy, and mercifully pain free without any (except that found in veges and fruit)

Nyssa said...

Sugar is not food, there is no reason why we should be eating it at all let alone in 'moderation'. For the record, you won't find many sugar free advocates saying that fruit is bad for you, it comes packaged with loads of fibre and nutrients and is an important part of the diet. What we do say though is that fruit juice is no different from soft drink, and that there is no good reason for savoury foods like bread, sauces, crackers, chips etc to have sugar in them.

I quit sugar after realising how addicted I was 8 months ago, with that one change I have lost 27kg and am happy living sugar free, with no cravings, no bingeing and no desire to ever eat it again!

Murasaki said...

I think the use of the word "poison" in Gillespie's book title and bandied around by the media is mostly for shock value and to garner interest/controversy - any press is good press yeah. His version of the sugar free diet is really "low sugar" not no sugar because he doesnt say not to eat fruit or vege or bread or other items that have small amounts of sugar. I think there are differing levels of addicts too. Like I can have choc in the house and just eat a couple of squares each night, whereas if we have wine in the house my partner will drink it - he cannot just let it sit there.
People will argue that sugar is not addictive - well maybe not physically but at least mentally. Maybe like marijuana - some people can have the occasional smoke, no problems - but others won't be able to stop themselves having more and more even to their detriment. I don't doubt sugar is addictive when I see people so angry about the low sugar movement - claiming we need sugar for brain development - cept we don't need whats in a can of Mother, a block of chocolate, PLUS all the "hidden" sugar in everyday processed foods per day! Its clear the idea of giving up sugar is really really confronting for some people.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks for your comment Murasaki. I agree with you that I have done as much research as I can because I just don't want to believe that sugar is really that bad for me. It has become my replacement drug for the other stuff I was addicted to and I don't want to let go. I'm pretty sure I will give it another go but it is hard. Just like alcohol, it is legal, cheap, socially acceptable and EVERYWHERE and it makes me feel good if only for a short time. Giving up is never going to be easy.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Wow! 27kg, that is awesome! Did you find the initial weeks giving sugar up really difficult? Do you control your intake of fat as well?

What about honey and agave? Are they really as bad as refined sugar?

Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate the feedback with your own personal experience with this.

For the record I haven't consumed much fruit juice over my adult life, except for unsweetened tomato juice, because I know how high in sugar it is. I do, however, drink a lot of Diet Coke. I'm wondering if having artificially sweetened foods make you crave sugar? The thought of giving up Diet Coke makes me very sad.

The Babbling Bandit said...

I agree with you about being completely sugar free sounds so scary but I'm thinking complete abstinence is the only way. Like an alcoholic. One chocolate is too many, 100 never enough.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks Julian for your comment. You have provided a very compelling argument against the pro-sugar side. I guess, like I said in an earlier comment, I am really hoping to find some way that I can have my cake and eat it too. More and more though I'm thinking my cake eating days should be over!

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks for your comment Rachel. I am going to read that article. It is a big one! I have made several attempts to cleanse/detox off sugar and it is a struggle, as I've said. I think it is a physical and emotional addiction that I have to sugar, same as a lot of people. When I was addicted to cigarettes, for example, the thought of giving them up was at first laughable, even though I knew it had to be done, or I'd likely die an early death. But I still smoked for about 15 years. Now I haven't smoked for years (except for one relapse last year) and it disgusts me. I cannot fathom feeling the same way with sugar! But maybe it is possible.

shari said...

I'm actually a Gillespie believer and have done the sugar-free thing twice now, each time losing 17kg - easily - once the hideous withdrawals were over. I know it's addictive to me - one small choccy and hell, give me the whole damn block thanks! The other thing too, that people get confused about is the fruit. Fruit is certainly ok if it is whole fruit, with it's natural fibre. Only a couple of pieces a day is all our bodies need though - lots of people overeat fruit but historically it was such a seasonal or rare commodity and not so accessible. Sorry for banging on. x

Lisa said...

Hear hear. Why else would people feel so threatened, just like smokers and alcoholics . . .

Kelly HTandT said...

Love this post! I believe sugar is addictive, I can't go without it! But I also believe that we need it. It comes from sugar cane, so it's a plant, so it's natural, so it's good for you! Sshhhh... If I choose to live in denial and believe this then so be it. BTW - LOVE NWA hahahaha

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hi Shari, thanks for your comment. Wow! 17kg, that is fantastic! It is those success stories that make me want to give up.

Regarding fruit though, what about in other cultures, where they eat a lot of fruit? Like in Caribbean populations? Personally, I don't eat huge amounts of fruit. Probably more during the summer when all the good stuff is available.

My other question is: why have we evolved with sweet taste buds if we weren't supposed to enjoy sweet stuff?

See, I'm still looking for a way out of giving sugar up!

Thanks again.

Michael Gmirkin said...

Fruit / sugar is calorie dense, and can pack on the pounds. Get it while it's in season to fatten up for the lean times when it's out of season. That's just good evolutionary sense. Our taste buds guide us toward things that COLD be essential to survival, be they caloric sources (sugars, starches, fats) or other things (salts, vitamins, minerals, etc.)...

Don't see why having sugar-sensing taste buds should be considered detrimental to the theory that over-consumption of fructose causes us to pack on pounds, raises blood pressure (via uric acid production), raises LDL, lowers HDL, etc. Generally does a lot of things associated with heart disease, T2 diabetes, etc.

Just my limited 2c worth.

I tend to Listen to David Gillespie (Sweet Poison), Robert Lustig (Sugar: the Bitter Truth), Richard Johnson (The Sugar Fix), as regards fructose... If you haven't read Johnson's "The Sugar Fix," I suggest it.

Michael Gmirkin said...

An *emotional* response (I don't *want* to believe it) isn't the same as a *reasoned* response (I've heard something, now let's dive into the studies and see what's what).

So, it sounds good that you've decided to perhaps also read the literature rather than illogically "going with your gut" (the "knee-jerk reaction") as so many seem to have, without necessarily considering *WHY* they're reacting so negatively to an alternative position (cognitive dissonance? not wanting to acknowledge addiction, thus potential negative self-image connotations of considering oneself an 'addict'; "golly, no!").

Anyway, neato YouTube playlist of most of the anti-fructose sentiment out there:


Michael Gmirkin said...

Agave is an industrial byproduct. It's not "natural." They basically take a cactus, grind it up, and subject it to various industrial processing to distill out the tiny bits of sugars and process them into a largely fructose 'syrup.' It's kinda' gross... Better to go with pure dextrose. You can pick up a 50 lbs bag for dirt cheap from Honeyville Grain in USA. (I did.) Plenty sweet for most things, once you get off the super-sweet fructose. And, morepever, the body actually USES it metabolically and sees it metabolically too. Fructose pretty much slides completely under the radar of the metabolism (for the reasons outlined reasonably lucidly in Gillespie's book), so the body basically doesn't even realize it's been ingested and you may end up re-eating a similar amount of calories the body CAN "see." Again, so the theory goes.

Also, see some of Novick's videos on YouTube. I forget which one it was, but one of them was rather interesting regarding "liquid nutrition" vs. "whole foods." That is, how much one consumes if one eats whole foods vs. what one consumes if one eats the same foods liquefied (juiced, etc.), with and without the fiber added back in later. In most cases, eating whole foods in the original state ended up with feeling fuller and consuming fewer calories versus eating the same stuff liquefied, which didn't have the same satiation power and thus one ended up eating more calories than if one ate the whole foods.

Interesting stuff. I'm not a whole foodie, but find the subject fascinating...

Also, on a completely different note, you might also look into Esselstyn's work on reversing heart disease via a plant-based diet (eschewing most fats; that is keeping fats to under 15% of calories, not 0 fat, just under 15%). Strangely enough, Neal Barnard's book intimates that a strikingly similar diet also has positive effects on T2 diabetes, often to he point of being able to reduce or eliminate diabetes meds. 2 lifestyle-diseased birds with one stone?

Michael Gmirkin said...

Stick with the glucose / dextrose (blood sugar) side of the sugar family and you'll be fine. It's the fructose side, in excess, that's the problem...

That said, even with glucose, excess can bring it's own potential problems (vis a vis, insulin's regulating effect on fat storage, per Gary Taubes, et al.). That is, if you're continually spiking blood sugar, you'll also spike insulin, and if there's too much insulin in your system, the door to the fat calls largely get the message to stay shut or only swing inward, never outward, thus it'll be harder to lose the fat / weight. So, even there moderation might be a good idea, especially for the overweight looking to lose pounds.But, we always need SOME blood sugar or we get light headed and our bodies don't work right. So completely cutting it out is no good either.

But, I'd rather have glucose than fructose. That much I'm pretty sure of. Glucose gets burned first, generally speaking. Fructose just gets converted to ATP and then to triglycerides / body fat...

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hey Kelly. Thanks for the comment. I want to live in denial too, but as so many people have pointed out below, the evidence is really pointing in the direction of fructose = bad. When I look down at my tummy, I think I have to agree!

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks for all your comments, Michael! You have been super informative. I do plan to research this further, but I think that giving up sugar is the way to go.

Catherine Torres said...

@BabblingBandit:disqus I do agree with you that fructose = bad. Looks like I get bigger while eating foods and drinking too much soda. I'm not aware before until my friend told me about fructose. That's the time I started to do my homework and look for good articles that will clarify everything. This is just one of the article I've read before -

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hi Catherine. Thank you for your comment and showing me the link to that resource on fructose. Will definitely have a look. The more I hear, the more I think that giving up sugar is the way to go for both weightloss and health. V.

Joey Thomas said...

I'm glad I'm not the only extreme skeptic out there... When I got diagnosed with fructose malabsorption I read every article I could get my hands on about the topic.. and like most things there are a lot of contradictions. Our food, cleaning products and cosmetics are full of so many chemicals that our bodies are becoming more and more sensitive to natural substances in our environment.. which I believe is the reason that people like me are ending up with intolerances to "natural things" like onion and fruit. It's incredibly frustrating.

I personally can't stand the sugar free craze right now because it's make it harder for people to develop and awareness of fructose malabsorption. There is still not one soup that I can buy of the supermarket shelves that doesn't have onion in it. Sorry I'm going on a massive tangent here..

I just get so angry with people's unhealthy obsession with sugar and sugar free products. I am not allowed to eat any of the alternatives and which that just used plain old sugar in their products, rather than alternative things to sweeten (which are often much much worse) like high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners (which have proven to be carcinogenic mind you). I think a lot of people would notice benefit from reducing the amount of "fructose" in their diets.. and I truly believe this is the real reason people are achieving results on a sugar free diet, even if it is a little extreme.

I certainly feel much healthier. It's also stabilised my moods and helped me sleep better. I don't think any of us will ever find out the real answers when it comes to debates like these.. because everyone always has a hidden agenda.

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