Skip to comments.Is sugar making us fat?
Posted on 07/02/2003 4:56:13 PM PDT by SamAdams76
Face it: were fat. Yes, weve taken low-fat and no-fat pledges, but government statistics and a trip to the beach show were just getting fatter. That has occurred even though many of us replaced bacon and eggs with a low-fat breakfast bar, traded in that roast beef luncheon sandwich for a can of Slim Fast and pick out fat-free dinners in the deep freeze.So why are 175 million Americans still classified as either overweight or obese? Some nutritionists argue that maybe we got bad advice, and they are rethinking the public fight against fats in food.
Instead, they are turning attention to an ancient dietary enemy sugar.
There is absolutely no question that Americans have developed a very sweet tooth.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that over the last 40 years, per capita consumption of sugars has increased an astonishing 32 percent from 115 pounds of all sorts of sugars per year in 1966 to 152 pounds in 2000.
There is a bitter disagreement over what that data mean.
Some nutritionists say increased sugar consumption is alarming, clearly the cause of the obesity epidemic. Others argue that the modern couch potato lifestyle is responsible for the larding of America.
You dont always know it, but there is added sugar in the processed foods you are eating today. McDonalds acknowledges on its Web site that sugar is an ingredient in its french fries, and nutritional studies show a Burger King Whopper contains more than a teaspoon of sugar. Nutritionist Nancy Appleton, author of "Lick the Sugar Habit," calculates 3 1/2 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of Frosted Cheerios and about 10 teaspoons in a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola. There are 15 calories in each teaspoon.
Products labeled low fat often have the highest levels of sugar. Sugar is a cheap ingredient, and food processors add it to other ingredients to keep the food tasty or to change the texture.
Dieters might be surprised to find there is more sugar in a can of strawberry Slim-Fast diet drink than in a quarter cup of M&M candies, and that low-fat and "healthy choice" breakfast bars with fruit filling have as much sugar as chocolate eclairs. Almost half of each teaspoon of ketchup is sugar, according to Appleton. Food companies label sugar content in grams: Every four grams translates into one teaspoon of sugar.
A 12-ounce Starbucks Grande Caramel Mocha coffee has the equivalent of almost 12 teaspoons of sugar, and if you have a Cinnabon Caramel Pecanbon with it, add another 12 teaspoons, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit group.
Some scientists contend people have become so preoccupied with preaching about the dangers of fats and the wonders of low-fat diets that they havent paid sufficient attention to the amount of sugar dumped into food.
Food without sugar or fat doesnt have much taste, and "we arent horses," noted Robert Keith, a professor of nutrition at Auburn University.
"People have become overzealous about taking out all the fats. There are essential fatty acids we need to have," Keith said. The fats, he said, give substance to food what scientists call "satiety values" a sense of fullness after eating that sugars do not provide.
So, he said, "Some fat should be there."
There is no agreement among scientists on how much sugar should be allowed in food.
The World Health Organization says adding sugar to food is making people fat and recommends that people limit sugar consumption to 10 percent of caloric intake each day. A panel of American scientists with the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year said there is no solid data to validate a recommended level, but concludes that daily diets containing more than 25 percent sugar are unhealthy because the sugar interferes with absorbing other nutrients.
Studies estimate that sugars currently account for 16 percent of the average U.S. diet up from 12 percent 50 years ago and reaching the World Health Organization recommendation would require many Americans to cut back sharply.
Some nutritionists say this could easily be accomplished by consuming fewer soft drinks, cookies and cakes. They plan to push the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to emphasize the need to cut back on sugars when the agency reviews its nutrition label policy this year.
The sugar industry is fighting any limitation.
David Lineback, director of the Joint Institute of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the University of Maryland, said sugar is being blamed for increases in obesity that could just as easily be linked to overeating, portion super-sizing and inactivity. "Sugar is an easy and convenient scapegoat," he said, noting how much the American diet has changed in recent years. "If you ask me as a scientist, there is very little evidence sugar is responsible."
Andrew Briscoe, president of the Sugar Association, says the World Health Organization report is based on flawed science. He said his association will lobby Congress to reduce the $400 million in U.S. contributions to the WHO because of its negative views on sugars.
But the World Health Organization also has strong defenders. Nutritionist Marion Nestle, chairwoman of the Department of Nutrition and Food at New York University, said the 10 percent recommendation is in line with current prevailing scientific and government opinion.
"This has been decided for decades," she said, noting the current food pyramid issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommends people limit consumption of sugars to 12 teaspoons a day. That translates to 180 calories out of an average 2,200 calories of daily consumption.
Nestle said she would back much lower levels of sugar intake no more than six teaspoons a day of added sugars and argues that people get sufficient sugar naturally in fruits and vegetables.
Adam Drewnowski of the University of Washingtons center for public health nutrition, said economics is driving food processors to use more sugar in manufactured food because sugar is so cheap.
"They have rigged the food sugar is ubiquitous in everything," Drewnowski said. "Sugar and fat are the cheap calories, and we are evolutionarily driven to them."
Drewnowski also urges people to be cautious about the low-fat labels on food and watch out for sugars.
"Slim-Fast, one pound can, has 267 grams, 66 percent sugar. You cant tell me that sugar in Coke makes you fat, but sugar in Slim-Fast is going to make you slim. There are just a few more nutrients in the Slim-Fast," he said.
Others scientists minimize the role of sugar in the obesity epidemic and contend the problem is that Americans arent exercising sufficiently for the amount of food they eat.
"We need to talk about calories," said Alison Kretser, nutritionist with the Grocery Manufacturers of America. "Its the number of calories as well as an excess of inactivity."
Cathy Nonas, director of obesity and diabetes programs at North General Hospital in Harlem, N.Y., agrees.
"Its a calorie game. Nobody has ever proven that sugar will make you fat unless you eat too much of it. Fat is still more easily stored," she said. "Its not as if you feed people sugar, it will make them fatter on its own. Sugar is an empty calorie and those who eat a lot of it tend to eat a lot of fatty stuff. And people are eating bigger portions and eating more times a day than ever and all that, along with inactivity, contributes to obesity."
Sugars are almost always found in processed foods in large quantities. Especially foods that are labeled "low-fat." Having lost 44 pounds since April 1, I have started paying much more attention to food labels. I was surprised, for instance, to find high fructose corn syrup as a major ingredient in even my barbeque sauce. As a result, I have eliminated virtually all processed foods from my diet and this has accelerated my weight loss.
But instead of being obsessed with sugars (carbohydrates), our society is obsessed with fats. It is almost amusing to watch, as I have lost my 44 pounds while having all the things that the "fat" police try to warn us about. Eggs, steaks, pork, sardines, dark chicken meat, etc. I eat all that stuff and I don't bother taking the skin off the chicken or trimming the fat from the beef. I especially don't eat "egg whites." Who the heck came up with the idea that you should discard the best part of the egg? I also use butter instead of margarine and plenty of olive oil, also high in fat.
Now my diet is not the Atkins plan but simply a modified version of it. For example, I will still have rice from time to time and I still have my nightly two beers. But I have cut back on carbs drastically and it has made all the difference. I also walk several miles a day for exercise.
The problem is sugar. Go read Dr. Atkins. He's been making people thin for 35 years.
Hey maybe that explains Hillary's hypoxia referenced in her book?
Hydrogenated fats (or trans-fatty acids) are another thing that the educated consumer should avoid. In fact, the FDA will soon be requiring that food products have the amount of trans-fats on the labels. Now I'm not saying that the government should get involved in what we can and should eat. But I think the food labeling is a good idea. The consumers ought to know what is in the food they are buying so that they can make their own choices.
During this diet, I have totally eliminated bread and just about anything else made with white flour. That includes pies, cakes, cookies, pasta etc. My only exception to that is rice, but I only have that once or twice a week.
Today millions of people exercise frantically--joining gyms, playing tennis, biking for recreation, buying exercise videos and equipment. They're probably getting more exercise than their parents did in the suburbia of the 1950s or '60s. So why are they fat? Look at their diets. We ate garbage back in the 1950s, too (remember Coke and jello salad, marshmallows, Twinkies?). But now we not only eat huge portions, our portions are that worst of all combinations: carbohydrates AND fats together. This combination is perfect for fueling the muscles of a farmer who is about to spend the day loading hay, but it's disastrous for someone whose evening will be spent surfing the Net. Half an hour with the rowing machine won't work off the Supersize french fries.
Sam, I agree with you again. Carbohydrates are the devil if you're trying to lose weight.
The human body is designed to spend its day running around to find enough to eat.
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