I Think It’s Poison

I’m a little late getting to this, so you may have seen it already: a compelling article in the NYTimes called “Is Sugar Toxic?”

I won’t try to summarize it here – much better if you go read it yourself. But here’s a tasty quote:

It’s one thing to suggest, as most nutritionists will, that a healthful diet includes more fruits and vegetables… It’s entirely different to claim that one particularly cherished aspect of our diet might not just be an unhealthful indulgence but actually be toxic, that when you bake your children a birthday cake or give them lemonade on a hot summer day, you may be doing them more harm than good, despite all the love that goes with it.

Crazy factoid I learned: Did you know that a few decades ago, high-fructose corn syrup was portrayed as healthier than white sugar?!

Scary factoid I learned: By the 2000s, Americans were consuming about 90 lbs. of sugar per person per year. That’s also when one in three Americans was obese, and 14 million were diabetic.

Terrifying factoid I learned: Cancer researchers believe the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads to the secretion of more insulin, and insulin (as well as a related hormone known as insulin-like growth factor) promotes tumor growth, i.e., sugar can = cancer.

One more sobering quote, and I’ll leave you to read for yourself:

“I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,” Thompson [president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center] told me, “because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.” Cantley [director of the Cancer Center at Harvard Medical School] put it this way: “Sugar scares me.”

Go read it!

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  • ❦ fitcetera says:

    I have thyroid cancer for the 4th time even though I no longer even have a thyroid. My doctors claim that diet doesn't have anything to do with it.
    I just started the Whole30 and plan to continue it as long as possible and my goal is that at my next check-up that this damn cancer is GONE!
    I eliminated a lot of processed food from my diet before and the nodule had shrunk! They just shrugged their shoulders after I told them that I had eliminated the processed foods. You would think they would've picked my brains for answers!!!
    I hadn't eliminated splenda, honey, dairy, legumes or grains at the time though.
    Now I have.
    I am VERY interested to see the results from my next ultrasound in 8 months.
    IF it's gone, I KNOW it'll be because of diet, especially a paleo type eating plan.

  • Danni says:

    Fruit has sugar. Heck, even spinach has sugar, no? I am having trouble articulating my feeling about this without sounding like a rabble rouser but it seems like a gross oversimplification to demonize sugar as evil, toxic or poison. Is consuming tons of concentrated sugar bad? Obviously.

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    fitcetera –> Congrats on your Whole30 experience — and good luck with kicking your thyroid into shape. I had my thyroid removed due to a nodule in 2009, and it's been a roller coaster since. My endo and I have finally gotten me to a good place, I think — but what a drag! And yes, clean eating TOTALLY helps. Keep me posted on how you're doing!

    Danni –> Agreed, there are natural sugars in fruits and vegetables that are not "poison." If you read the original article, you can see it differentiates between those sugars (which fall within that "safe" 40 lbs. per person per year I mentioned) and additional sugars like high quantities of fructose and sucrose that can spike insulin and potentially lead to disease. If you take the time to read the whole article, it presents not so much a zealous argument, but a reasoned examination of research to date — along with the desire for more long-term research. I personally demonize excess sugar because it helps me remember that extra sugar is not doing me any favors. The article is just another piece of info in my arsenal to understand my body and keep myself on track.

  • Morten G says:

    Let’s see, 90lbs per year is about 112 grams per day. That’s a liter of soda usually. Or 34 oz.
    Which to me means that a lot of people must be having less sugar because there are a lot of people who consume more sugar than what’s in two bottles or three cans of soda.

    I’m not sure if I’m convinced that Lustig is right about the toxin/evil though. TBH I am guessing that the empty calorie effect is enough to induce all the ills he mentions. Along with the deleterious effects of excess fructose on gut flora.