(Written early-December 2012)
(i) WHY SUGAR IS A PRIME SUSPECT IN OBESITY INVESTIGATIONS
Refined sugar – 50% of it fructose, the “sweet poison” half of added sugar – is a prime suspect as a cause of global “diseases of affluence” such as obesity, diabetes, and heart and kidney diseases (even cancer) because eating heaps more sugar (and meat) is the first thing the global population did as it got richer (see chart).
- Sugar may taste nice but there is no nutritional reason why anyone should eat it.
- …sugar can create problems when it is eaten in excessive amounts, and consumption in countries like Australia is alarmingly high.
- In evolutionary terms, sugar is a very recent arrival to the human diet. If we imagine the whole of human existence being condensed into a 24-hour time span, the period of high human consumption represents only a few seconds. It may be that insufficient time has elapsed for the human body to become accustomed to being bombarded with so much sugar. (Eating for Peak Performance; 1988, 1994)
Extraordinarily, in affluent countries, the energy gained by the average human from sugar is right up there with the energy coming from meat! Does that strike anyone else as bizarre: once-hard-to-find fructose – the bad half of sugar – provides close to half as much energy as meat in affluent societies? How much did you eat yesterday? (Be honest, because 24-hour-recall surveys are where national nutrition data come from.)
Of course, Dr Stanton is not big fan of meat consumption. But no-one is saying that meat consumption is addictive or that it is a key driver of global “diabesity”. That’s what is being said about added sugar (see next section).
Dr Stanton is scathing of the University of Sydney’s negligent Australian Paradox paper:
And yes, I agree with you [Rory] that we have no evidence that sugar consumption in Australia has fallen [so the conclusion of a “consistent and substantial decline” is hopelessly wrong]. A walk around any supermarket shows that huge numbers of foods contain sugar. I argue this point frequently with colleagues; I have many objections to that particular paper and to the idea that sugar is not a problem; and I have expressed my opinion about the paper to the authors [Dr Alan Barclay and Professor Jennie Brand Miller]... I will almost certainly cite it at some stage as an example of something I consider to be incorrect. Slide 18 at http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/22Slideshowaustraliangoestoparadoxcanberrafinal.pdf
Similarly, Professor Boyd Swinburn has observed that there is no “inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity in Australia. He says that faulty conclusion is contradicted by the available evidence, suggesting that the Australian Paradox paper is an academic disgrace: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/research-causes-stir-over-sugars-role-in-obesity-20120330-1w3e5.html
(ii) MORE EVIDENCE ADDED SUGAR IS A DISASTER FOR GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH
In his profoundly important history of nutrition science Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007; p.454), former The New York Times science writer Gary Taubes lists his top-three conclusions as follows:
1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilisation.
2. The problem is the carbohydrates in the diet…
3. Sugars – sucrose and and high-fructose corn syrup specifically – are particularly harmful...[as drivers of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases of civilisation.]
That top-three summary for me is the “bottom line” on the current state of the scientific case against added sugar.
That is, researcher Gary Taubes – after more than a decade of searching for the key underlying facts as recorded on the “scientific record” – identified refined or added sugar alongside HFCS (both close to a 50/50 mix of fructose and glucose) as the “worst of the worst”.
And, four years later in 2011, what was he saying? Well, in a widely read report – “Is Sugar Toxic” – in The New York Times Magazine, he wrote:
…If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them. …
But some researchers will make the case, as Cantley and Thompson do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that’s quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers. If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it.“I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,” Thompson told me, “because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.” Cantley put it this way: “Sugar scares me.”
Sugar scares me [Taubes] too, obviously. I’d like to eat it in moderation. I’d certainly like my two sons to be able to eat it in moderation, to not overconsume it, but I don’t actually know what that means, and I’ve been reporting on this subject and studying it for more than a decade. If sugar just makes us fatter, that’s one thing. We start gaining weight, we eat less of it. But we are also talking about things we can’t see — fatty liver, insulin resistance and all that follows. Officially I’m not supposed to worry because the evidence isn’t conclusive, but I do. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 )
That is, after more than a decade looking at everything in nutrition science, Gary Taubes is frightened by the idea of feeding refined sugar/fructose to his kids. That’s good enough for me; and is an obvious starting point for any sensible official dietary advice.
(iii) WHAT DOES THE NHMRC – AUSTRALIANS’ PRINCIPAL HEALTH ADVISOR – SAY ON SUGAR?
Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has assessed that the scientific evidence identifying added sugar as a serious health hazard has firmed significantly over the past decade. The NHMRC was disturbed to find very high-quality evidence that modern levels of consumption of added sugar are a menace to public health.
In response to that higher quality of disturbing evidence, the NHMRC for the past couple of years has been trying to finalise tougher official nutrition advice against added sugar, and in the process has sparked fierce opposition from the University of Sydney and the sugary food industries: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/a-spoonful-of-sugar-is-not-so-bad/story-e6frg8y6-1226090126776 ; http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/research-causes-stir-over-sugars-role-in-obesity-20120330-1w3e5.html
Again, the NHMRC found convincing evidence that added sugar is a health hazard, especially via sugary softdrinks. Accordingly, the NHMRC recommended a toughening of official nutrition advice against added sugar. Australians’ official health advisor now says everyone should treat added sugar as they should treat alcohol – and “limit” their intake:
“How have the revised Dietary Guidelines changed since the last edition?
The revised Australian Dietary Guidelines have been updated with recent scientific evidence about the relationships between food, dietary patterns and health outcomes. They are based on foods and food groups, rather than nutrients as in the 2003 edition.
The evidence base has strengthened for:
- The association between the consumption of sugar sweetened drinks and the risk of excessive weight gain in both children and adults
- The health benefits of breastfeeding
- The association between the consumption of milk and decreased risk of heart disease and some cancers
- The association between the consumption of fruit and decreased risk of heart disease
- The association between the consumption of non-starchy vegetables and decreased risk of some cancers
- The association between the consumption of wholegrain cereals and decreased risk of heart disease and excessive weight gain.
(My bolding; http://www.eatforhealth.gov.
Now, I think we can agree that the damage to health from sugary softdrinks flows from the added sugar, not the added water or the added bubbles.
And of course – as a matter of logic – it must be the aggregate sugar intake that matters, including the sugar from (say) sugary BBQ sause, not just that from sugary softdrinks. In “nailing down” the science, the problem is that it’s easier to find measurable damage to health from the largest subset of sugar consumption – sugary softdrinks – than from any one of the many smaller subsets, including “breakfast cereals”, (plus) confectionery, (plus) bakery items, (plus) flavoured yogurts and milks, (plus) other processed canned fruits and vegetables, (plus) sauces, etc. And that’s before considering other sources of fructose, including whole fruit, juices and honey.
Despite the NHMRC’s assessment that the scientific evidence is strongly against added sugar, Canberra is yet to convert the NHMRC’s tougher Draft advice against added sugar into new official Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Disturbingly, the sugary food industry’s opposition to the NHMRC’s Draft plan reportedly has been so fierce that any toughening of official advice against added sugar has been stalled, and potentially is in the process of being killed. The following articles make it clear that the University of Sydney’s obviously faulty Australian Paradox paper – still falsely claiming “an inverse relationship” between the consumption of added sugar and obesity – has been used – and it turns out successfully – as an intellectual spearhead for the attack on official plans for tougher nutrition advice against added sugar: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/research-causes-stir-over-sugars-role-in-obesity-20120330-1w3e5.html ; http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/a-spoonful-of-sugar-is-not-so-bad/story-e6frg8y6-1226090126776
Note that the first of those articles above reported that the new official advice was supposed to be finalised in 2012. Now, in late 2012, the official story is that “It is anticipated that the revised Dietary Guidelines will be released in early 2013″ (final paragraph at http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/your-health/nutrition/review-dietary-guidelines ).
I think it’s a scandal that reportedly intense opposition from the sugary food industries – citing the University of Sydney’s misrepresentation of facts surrounding trends in sugar consumption (# 25, 26 and 27 on the LHS of this website) – has forced the finalisation of the NHMRC’s plan to toughen official nutrition advice against sugar from 2012 into 2013 at the earliest, and perhaps into the never-never.
For further evidence that added sugar is a disaster for public health, I suggest John Yudkin’s book Pure White and Deadly (1972, re-released by Penguin in 2012) and Professor Robert Lustig at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
(iv) ARE UNIVERSITY LINKS WITH SUGARY FOOD INDUSTRIES A HEALTH HAZARD?
Importantly, we know a key reason why the science against sugar is not as strong as it might be. It is well documented that “Big Sugar” in the United States set out over half a century ago to scramble and mislead science on the links between modern sugar consumption and chronic diseases:http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign
Extraordinary, the head of the Harvard University nutrition department in the 1960s and 1970s – Professor Fred Stare – became America’s “most public defender” of “modern sugar consumption” as harmless, his “science” corrupted by heavy funding from the sugar and sugary food industries.
Given that backdrop, the deep links between the University of Sydney and the sugar industry are rather unsettling: note the lowGI sugar and other sugary products the University of Sydney endorses as “healthy” at p. 10 at http://www.gisymbol.com/cmsAdmin/uploads/Glycemic-Index-Foundation-Healthy-Choices-Brochure.pdf
Those links are unsettling because the University of Sydney has published – and now is disingenuously defending (at #19 on the left) – the deeply flawed Australian Paradox paper with the spectacularly false conclusion – “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity – that is designed to exonerate added sugar as a key driver of obesity and diabetes.
As I have noted, the University of Sydney and its unreliable sugary food-industry service providers who published the faulty paper refuse to correct or even acknowledge the obvious errors. In particular, Dr Alan Barclay and Professor Jennie Brand-Miller’s main Australian Paradox conclusions are based on a sugar series that was discontinued as unreliable by the ABS after 1998-99, more than a decade before the “shonky sugar study” was published.
Disturbingly, not only were readers – and any independent “peer review” process – left uninformed that the ABS sugar series underlying the main conclusions of Australian Paradox had been discontinued as unreliable – the ONLY evidence was discontinued as unreliable!! – but the authors somehow published a chart with readings for 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 despite no real data existing for those years.
Again, there are no real data for more than a decade before the University of Sydney’s “shonky sugar study” was published, as the relevant series had been discontinued as unreliable after 1998-99. The conspicuous flat green line in Slides 21-22 screams to competent observers that the ABS had ceased production (http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/22Slideshowaustraliangoestoparadoxcanberrafinal.pdf ).
Most recently, given the documented desire of “Big Sugar” in the US to scramble the science surrounding sugar, it was fascinating to see the Australian sugar industry’s failed attempt to rescue its underperforming business partners and University of Sydney’s “shonky sugar study”: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/SugarindustryDeadParrot.pdf
Notably, the University of Sydney unwisely and mistakenly declared victory in the Australian Paradox dispute on the back of the sugar industry’s Green Pool sugar series, a “shonky sugar series” that inadvertently “proved” sugar consumption is flat/up not down over the past quarter century!
Amusingly, the authors of Australian Paradox may still be oblivious to the fact that the sugar industry’s GreenPool sugar series completely contradicts their main claim of declining sugar consumption over the past 30 years (http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/JBM-AWB-AustralianParadox.pdf ).
So too, Bill Shrapnel – one of the University of Sydney’s key links to the food industry – appears oblivious to the fact that the sugar industry’s GreenPool sugar series completely contradicts the University of Sydney’s silly claim of declining sugar consumption over the past 30 years: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/university-sydney-falsely-declares-victory.pdf
But, disturbingly, any toughening of official nutrition advice against added sugar in Australia reportedly has been stalled by sugary food-industry opposition.
(v) LOW-GI INDUSTRY’S SERIOUS BUT UNDISCLOSED CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Is there more than just a series of careless – but obvious – errors behind Australian Paradox? That’s unknowable. We do know, however, that the authors have devoted their careers to promoting the Glycemic Index (GI) approach to nutrition. Many are aware that the low-GI industry revolves around its guess that low-GI carbohydrates (GI 55 and under) are good for your health.
Fewer are aware that fructose – the “bad” half of table sugar – has a super-low GI of 19, towards the very bottom of the GI scale. It’s low-GI so it must be good, right? And if it’s not low-GI, just add fructose and it soon will be! Check out the tasty low GIs of “Coca Cola”, “Snickers Bar” and “Cake” in search at http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php .
Awkwardly, if super-low-GI fructose turns out not to be “just another carbohydrate” but as harmful as Gary Taubes, Professor Robert Lustig, Professor John Yudkin, David Gillespie and a growing nucleus within the global scientific community believe – that in modern doses it is a slow-acting poison – the low-GI industry will have been completely wrong on the thing that matters most. Someone unkind might then say that the low-GI industry had spent decades seeking to identify “good carbs” and “bad carbs”, yet somehow managed not to identify the only profoundly bad carbohydrate – fructose.
Incentives matter, so it must be noted that the low-GI industry has a strong incentive to sound certain that sugar/fructose is not a problem, and to dismiss the idea that modern doses of low-GI fructose may well be the key driver of global obesity, diabetes and other self-inflicted “diseases of affluence”. That’s exactly what the low-GI crew did – for whatever reasons – when it published its spectacularly invalid but nevertheless high-profile Australian Paradox piece in the obscure pay-fas-you-publish E-journal Nutrients.
The media and ordinary Australians need to be aware that the low-GI industry cannot be treated simply as an objective observer in any debate involving sugar/fructose and health issues. It has a serious undisclosed conflict of interest because – given the modern ubiquity of super-low-GI=19 fructose in the global food supply – “Sugar is not the problem” must be the low-GI industry’s “party line”.
That might explain the spectacularly false claim in the low-GI crew’s flag-ship Low GI Diet Handbook (2011): “There is absolute consensus that sugar in food does not cause diabetes” (p. 73). Exactly the same spectacularly false claim is made in the diabetes and pre-diabetes handbook (sic, 2010, p.43).
Could the co-authors even say that brain-dead false statement out loud with a straight face? There’s “an absolute consensus”, yet debate rages all around? Obviously, there are plenty of people – including me, Gary Taubes, Robert Lustig, David Gillespie, Simon Thornley, John Yudkin (before he passed) and unnamed thousands/millions of competent others – who think that added sugar in food is a key driver of global obesity and diabetes.
Indeed, anyone with their eyes open (see chart above) would struggle to agree with the University of Sydney’s ridiculously false claim that “There is absolute consensus that sugar in food does not cause diabetes”. The next editions of those two books should be corrected, to give everyday readers at least a hint of current scientific realities. So too, the University of Sydney should correct its fraudulent claim in Australian Paradox that there is “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity.
The University of Sydney’s highest-profile sugary food-industry service providers want to dominate the debate, yet they seem determined not to keep up. They are yet to acknowledge that serious scientists are producing serious evidence that sugar/fructose is indeed a key factor driving obesity and diabetes, the whole metabolic-syndrome “nine yards”.
Even for a slow-witted economist, the latest evidence is not exactly wrapped in mystery: “recent data suggest that fructose consumption in human[sic] results in increased visceral adiposity, lipid dysregulation, and decreased insulin sensitivity, all of which have been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A proposed model for the differential effects of fructose and glucose is presented…” (My emphasis; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05266.x/abstract ).
Moreover, in the diabetes and pre-diabetes handbook (sic) the low-GI crew assures readers that “alarmist reports about fructose” involve only “rats and mice fed excessive quantities” of fructose (p.180). Again, things have moved on. The animals shown to suffer from human-sized fructose intakes now are a bit closer to home than teensy-weensy mice and rats.
As highlighted by David Gillespie, US scientists have produced diabetes in Rhesus monkeys within 6-12 months simply by letting them drink 75 grams of fructose at their leisure each day via a 15% mix of standard Kool Aid in 500ml of water (http://www.kraftbrands.com/koolaid/ ; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-8062.2011.00298.x/abstract ).
Hello, the low-GI crew! You do not need to be a scientist or nutritionist wise in the ways of science to sense that’s a profound result. After all, monkeys locked in cages – with genomes that are a 93% match with human genomes – find it pretty hard to cheat on their diets (“enforced compliance”!), and don’t lie about what they ate in the previous 24 hours! Yes, one could conduct an improved experiment by having another group of monkeys nearby not consuming Kool Aid (think the children’s drink “Tang”), but that already had been done in the sense that those particular monkeys had lived a long life in captivity and had remained healthy, until they started drinking child-sized serves of Kool Aid.
Today, the science is unambiguous that sugary soft-drinks are bad for us and our kids. So when will the University of Sydney lift its head from the sand and concede that – with unnaturally high modern doses of fructose/sugar now consumed by populations across much of the globe (see chart above) – we actually are dealing with something pretty scary? Again, the evidence is compelling: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all .
(vi) THE FUTURE – SOME PREDICTIONS
There will be other paradoxes but perhaps few as fascinating and troubling as this Australian Paradox. A Masters project at the University of Sydney. Published by student’s supervisors, both PhDs and distinguished nutritionists. High-profile nutritionists publish supposedy profound Australian Paradox paper – less sugar but more obesity – in no-profile pay-as-you-publish E-journal. Lead author is “Guest Editor” of “Special Issue” in which AP paper published. Everyone insists AP was “peer reviewed” by experts, yet AP’s conclusion and title clearly are contradicted by authors’ own charts. And conclusion based on key sugar series that was discontinued as unreliable by the ABS over a decade before AP was published. AP’s mistaken conclusion – “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity – sits neatly beside authors’ low-GI approach to nutrition. And at a time when that particular brand needed a lifeline, given super-low-GI fructose increasingly is suspected of being key driver of global obesity and diabetes. Low-GI industry’s serious conflict of interest remains undisclosed. AP’s mistaken conclusion also sits neatly beside authors’ spectacularly false claim in best-selling diet books: “There is absolute consensus that sugar in food does not cause diabetes”. In original rebuttal of economist’s AP critique, authors – while under scrutiny – invent the-cars-not-humans-ate-the-
One hopes that the University of Sydney eventually will do the right thing and correct or retract its “shonky sugar study”. After all, it has presented no evidence that Australians’ refined sugar consumption has declined, let alone declined “substantially” over the past 30 years (1980 to 2010). Until it corrects the misinformation it is using to poison the important public debate on obesity and diabetes – together the most important public-health issue of our times – and which is being used with some success by sugary food companies as an intellectual spearhead to kill official efforts to toughen national nutrition advice against added sugar (see previous section), the University of Sydney can only pretend that it cares about scientific integrity or public health. At this point, the University of Sydney is a menace to public health and deserves to lose all funding for “science” research (see #22 and 23 on the left).
Further afield, the E-journal Nutrients faces a critical choice: it can wake up and fix its peer-review process, or not. If it chooses the latter path (perhaps by default), it will remain a little-known and little-respected pay-as-you-publish E-journal with little or no serious focus on quality control when it matters, probably becoming a natural refuge for third-rate papers that can’t get published elsewhere. That is, third-rate papers like Australian Paradox, which has become an academic disgrace, a menace to public health and an incompetent embarrassment in the careers of all concerned.
The low-GI industry will struggle in the new world where added sugar/fructose no longer is considered benign. The low-GI crew needs added sugar/fructose to be harmless. But to the extent that now-ubiquitous super-low-GI=19 fructose indeed is a disaster for public health – and incoming studies provide ever-firmer evidence – the low-GI industry will tend to contract/collapse in line with any improvement in the public’s understanding of nutrition matters.
In the meantime, the shonky Australian Paradox paper’s surprisingly strong influence on the public debate has made it a menace to Australian public health. Disturbingly, the Heart Foundation, Diabetes Australia, Nutrition Australia and the Dietitians Association of Australia are only some of the many entities that have taken false comfort from the University of Sydney’s sugary food-industry service providers’ mistaken conclusion that Australians’ unnaturally high level of sugar/fructose consumption has nothing to do with obesity (and so diabetes).
On the bright side, momentum against added sugar is growing and my guess is that within a decade or two, across the scientific, medical and nutritionist communities, added sugar/fructose will be linked to obesity and diabetes in the same way that today tobacco is linked to lung cancer.
It probably is that simple. I’m no scientist but above I’ve highlighted evidence that adding sugar promotes obesity and diabetes in monkeys and humans, not just rats and mice (contrary to the fiction sold by the University of Sydney). Coming at the issue from the other direction, removing sugar sparked a reversal in my trend towards obesity, after having done the same for David Gillespie and for thousands of his followers (http://au.news.yahoo.com/sunday-night/features/article/-/13058226/sweet-poison/ ).
Yes, much more scientific study is required. In particular, it would be good if scientists were able to explain exactly how/why fructose consumption does SOMETHING BAD to appetite control. It is the power of this little-understood feature of David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison story that has changed thousands of lives profoundly for the better. (Try these two studies for starters:http://www.slideshare.net/sithor/sickly-sweet-electronic-version#btnNext and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21054899 )
But let’s not wait forever before doing the obvious: not eating added sugar clearly is a chunky low-hanging fruit in any serious anti-obesity programme. What’s the downside relative to the potential to spark profound life changes for millions of everyday people, if only the public debate were not regularly poisoned by factually incorrect statements by high-profile nutritionists and sugary food-industry service providers who should – and now do – know better.
The bottom line is that working to reduce the consumption of added sugar across society should be a public-health priority, in my opinion. If millions of Australians got the message and stopped eating added sugar right now – today – the sharp reversal of our obesity uptrend over the next few years might be as spectacular as the exploding giant glutton in Monty Python’s famous film, The Meaning of Life (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXH_12QWWg8 ).
Importantly, if society over time can gain a better understanding of – and then reduce – the damaging health effects of excess sugar/fructose, then tens of billions of health-care and aged-care dollars could be saved or redirected, every year. Not to mention the much happier, healthier and longer lives that would be lived by a slimmer population with greater control over its appetite.
(vii) A CONFESSION, ORIGINS OF THE DISPUTE AND BASIC ADVICE ON DIETS
In the “Is sugar driving global obesity and diabetes?” debate I’m biased, because in May 2011 – after reading David Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison – I stopped eating added fructose and over the next eight months lost 10kg (as at 31 December 2011), without extra exercise. For me, simply avoiding fructose – everything sweet – turned out to be an effective “silver bullet” for weight-loss (from a peak of 97kg to 87kg) and improved health. (I have been flattish either side of 87kg through 2012, and maintaining that 10kg of weight loss has been easy.)
What was profound for me was that within a week or two back in 2011, my long-lost self-discipline returned. In life after sugar, constant food cravings and the desire for snacks and outsized meal portions collapsed like a busted blimp. Appetite control became – dare I say – a snack. Not eating sugar – anything sweet – opened the door to eating less of everything, and my body just started deflating gradually without much effort. Removing fructose worked for me, after I had become rather despondent about diet and weight issues in the decade after I stopped running regularly.
Importantly, I’ve kept the weight off in 2012 (early December) without any great effort – typically printing 86-87kg – and I’m confident that my once-looming obesity/diabetes problem is sorted for keeps. Apart from the births of my sons, this profound turnaround has been the biggest event in my life in the past decade. (Oops – not forgetting my wedding!) David Gillespie’s own turnaround (minus 40kg!) was even more striking. In further good news, he now has clothes that fit! Too bad the University of Sydney still is Australia’s leading provider of incompetent scientific research on obesity and diabetes (http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/how-hard-can-it-be-to-cut-sugar-20100630-zmvt.html ).
(a) Origins of the dispute
My initial interest in the low-GI crew at the University of Sydney – including its incompetent Australian Paradox analysis – was sparked by a July 2011 feature article in the Weekend Australian, featuring Professor Brand Miller and Bill Shrapnel aggressively defending sugar:http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/a-spoonful-of-sugar-is-not-so-bad/story-e6frg8y6-1226090126776 .
I had just sorted the biggest problem in my life simply by junking sugar from my diet, yet here were a couple of high-profile (low-GI) food scientists insisting that sugar is greatly over-rated as an issue, in part because Australians are eating “less and less” of it. Anyway, I was sufficiently energised to shoot off a letter to the editor: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/there-is-life-after-sugar/story-fn558imw-1226092644963
Everything else has followed from there. The material on this website represents my best efforts and personal opinions after a year of devoting much of my spare time to studying the issues. I’m sure the discussion above is not perfect but on the key data issues involved in demolishing Australian Paradox I’m absolutely confident I am correct. Just look again at the uptrends in the available sugar data in the authors’ own charts above (Part 1).
Whereas the authors’ always unlikely story on sugar and obesity – eek, a paradox! – fell over in the face of basic fact-checking, my analysis of Australian Paradox will stand the test of time. Moreover, I’d like to think that the material above – and in Resources to the left – will prove to be an informative and interesting read for many everyday people, and perhaps even provide a useful starting point for further robust analysis by enthusiastic students of nutrition, incompetence and what happens when the sugar industry is involved and quality control goes to sleep.
From here, I’m planning to do as little as possible on the topic of sugar. After all, there’s a lifetime of other fun stuff to do while we’re still young – and now that I’m (fairly) trim again, it’s much easier to want to do the active fun stuff!
(b) My two-cents worth on healthy diets
All I can tell you is that everything I’ve read and experienced suggests that avoiding “sweet poison” – all added sugar/fructose – is the single-biggest thing you can do to avoid/reverse obesity, diabetes and the various other self-inflicted problems that can dumped into the bucket labelled “diseases of affluence”. (I’m assuming you are smart enough to already know that avoiding alcohol and tobacco is a no-brainer.)
Since I’m now regularly asked for advice, my suggestion for those who are seriously overweight – but don’t want to be – simply is to try hard to stop eating concentrated or refined sugar – everything sweet including fruit juice but not necessarily fruit – for (say) a month to test if anything good happens. Simply look at the label, and don’t eat or drink anything in packaging (except plain milk) with “SUGARS” on the label in excess of (say) 3g “AVG QTY PER 100g”. Indeed, the healthy alternative involves eating as little processed/manufactured food as possible.
If avoiding sugar doesn’t work any magic for you, then that’s a pity but not many killed. In any case, you might be like me and quickly develop a greater appreciation of the good stuff – fresh (green) vegetables and fruits (especially tomatoes and avacados), fresh meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and nuts, etc. It was amazing to me that in life after (added) sugar, a simple apple could become interesting again!
For many, however, removing added sugar will turn out to be a “silver bullet” for significant weightloss and better health. And then – as the suddenly sugar-free experience the unexpected joys of trending towards slimness again – sceptical food scientists watching from the sidelines can ponder all the second-order issues that make a complete understanding of obesity so complicated.
An important part of the anti-obesity story is that SUGAR DOES SOMETHING BAD TO APPETITE CONTROL, KILLING “SELF DISCIPLINE”. That is, scientists need to put more energy into explaining exactly how/why sugar tends to promote food cravings, why a calorie clearly is not a calorie when it comes to satiety. Meanwhile, the opinions of “scientists” working on the clearly wrong assumption that there is no such thing as addiction to sugar – and that “a calorie is a calorie” – should be ignored or ridiculed.
Again, my confident forecast is that within a decade or two, across the scientific, medical and nutritionist communities, fructose will be linked to obesity and diabetes in the same way that today tobacco is linked to lung cancer. It probably is that simple. Set up a Google “alert” for “fructose” and watch the evidence – linking the sweet stuff to bad health outcomes – roll in each week, month after month.
My bottom line is that removing added sugar from our food supply is the obvious low-hanging fruit in any serious anti-obesity and anti-diabetes campaign. If society over time can gain a better understanding of – and then reduce – the damaging health effects of excess sugar/fructose, then tens of billions of health-care and aged-care dollars could be saved or redirected, every year. Not to mention the much happier, healthier and longer lives that would be lived by a slimmer population with greater control over its appetite.
[email protected] – Comments, criticisms, compliments, whatever are welcome
economist and former-fattie
now fairly fructose free!
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