The not so sweet side of sugar
Sugar has become big news. “Death by Sugar” ran in MacLeans in May, and the producer, Laurie David, has a new documentary on the obesity epidemic called Fed Up, and people are beginning to listen to the likes of Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, a professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at UCSF.
Dr. Lustig sums the complicated territory of sugar up in one word: poison. And we are consuming it in ever increasing amounts. Canadians downed 110 grams of sugar a day in 2004, according to Stats Canada’s 2004 numbers. That’s about 600 more sugar calories daily than when I was young and children are consuming even more than adults. The average Canadian nine-year-old boy twill consume a whopping 123 pounds of sugar in a year.
One of the problems with sugar is that it is in just about everything, especially prepackaged foods. Yet, Health Canada doesn’t set a recommended limit on sugar consumption, although the World Health Organization is recommending that limit be set no higher than 10 percent of total calories and preferably closer to 5. And, while this may be fine for adults, I have seen numerous holistic nutritionist say that for young children there is no healthy amount of processed sugar. If, indeed, we are going to look at sugar as a toxin, then we know that it is not enough to simply adjust children’s exposure down based on weight as a child’s body is not able to detoxify like an adults and their developing organs are far more vulnerable to permanent harm.
Wait, you are thinking, isn’t fructose the better kind of sugar? Not so! Fructose triggers the body to make fat and blocks the ability of the body to burn fat, depletes energy, and triggers hunger. The more we eat, the more our bodies crave, says another research Dr. Ludwig author of Fat Chance. He suggests this addictive behaviour can start before kids are even born crossing the placenta and programming the unborn baby to crave sugar. He says the earlier you expose a child to sweets the more they crave it later. This includes: infant formula, natural juices, and sweetened milks.
You and your CHILD are in danger of being part of the obesity epidemic if either of you drink juice (yes, even unsweetened, even organic), soda pop, sports drinks, baby formula, store-bought breads, cookies, or almost every food sold as low-fat. All of these things can make kids fat. I know right now you are desperately hoping: “No-sugar added juice must be okay?” Not so: in fact, Dr. Lustig calculates that for adults just one glass of no-sugar-added juice a day equals seven extra pounds a year. He stresses that juice is not the same as eating fresh fruit. Not only do you drink more of the sugar because it is concentrated, but you also take the fibre away, which slows the absorption. And, soda he says is the equivalent on the body of drinking a can of beer, but without the buzz as just as much ends up in the liver.
Should you be thinking that non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame or saccharin might be your answer, think again. Aspartame has been linked to cancers in lab studies on rats. At least one such study found aspartame to be linked to the development of lymphomas/leukemias and mammary cancer at levels “close to acceptable daily intake for humans.” Studies have also found increased carcinogenic effects with fetal exposure, small increased risk in non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and a “strong association” between the consumption of diet soda and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.