Sugar: The World’s Largest Cover Up of Our Deadliest Addiction
Government mandates, corporate greed, and scientific conspiracies all leading to the greatest epidemic of our time.It sounds like a Tom Clancy spy novel. It seems like a thriller you sit down for two hours of pure enjoyment.
But what if this isn’t some fictional thrill? What if this is very real and personal to you and me? What if this epidemic touches us all in some form and gradually destroys our lives?
That probably sounds like a lot of gas. But the risk is that you go about your life clueless without knowing what deadly addiction that is consuming our lives with depression and tears.
What if you ignore this toxin that is taking our loved ones year after year without remorse? It gets even more dicey if this murderous substance is something we were given very early on from our parents and now we are blindly doing the same treacherous work to our kids.
So what is it that I am talking about?
I am talking about sugar.
Yes, that sweet delicious substance that is in so much of our food. We are eating too much sugar and it has become a sugar disease, or a sugar epidemic.
If you want to bear with me for a little ride through how we got into this mess and what it is doing to you and me, then it could potentially extend your life along with those that you love.
Again, maybe a bunch of hyperbole…but isn’t it worth exploring if it gives you a better life?
The Background: The Perfect Storm We Created with Sugar
In 1966 a Japanese scientist, Yoshiyuki Takasaki, invented a cheaper version of sugar called high fructose corn syrup. It received little attention at first and stayed on the shelf as Takasaki and others looked for a purpose for it. This was not only a competing substitute, but it was cheaper than sucrose. Don’t forget that, that tidbit will be important in just a minute because this becomes one of the major sugar problems.
About five years later Richard Nixon was being as paranoid as ever. In spite of his landslide victories, he was always nervous about who could take his throne. Nixon and USDA Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz noticed that food prices were all over the place shortly before Richard Nixon’s re-election in 1972. Nixon, being his high-strung self, was concerned about what volatile food prices would do for his chances of re-election.
Malnutrition was a growing general public concern, with food prices soaring all of this was going to be solid ammunition for his competition. Nixon asked Butz to figure out how to control the shaky prices that could cost Nixon his re-election (even though he ended up having a lot more to worry about as you all know). The only way to level off the volatile prices was to make food cheap.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which was in its infancy, became the cheap alternative for sucrose. Because it was so cheap it could not only be an alternative to table sugar, but it could be included in any processed food as a preservative. The longer food is alive, the better chance it has of being sold. So HFCS was sprinkled into everything like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It showed up in more subtle sources like flour, sauces, yogurt, cottage cheese, breakfast cereal and the list goes on.
Then in the 1970’s George McGovern led a commission on malnutrition. They soon realized that not only did people not have food, but they had poor sources of food. So the question was raised, “What should we eat?” This is a great question, but they found the wrong answer.
The result was Ancel Keys and his testimony on his Seven Countries Study. He recommended that fat was poor for your health and caused cardiovascular disease. This led McGovern and others to support low-fat diets. So in the 1970’s and well into the early 1980’s the USDA, AMA, and AHA called for dietary fat reduction from 40% to 30% in our diets to lower the risk of heart disease.
Around this time we figured out what LDL (low density lipoprotein) was. We also figured out that dietary fat was often associated with higher levels of LDL. LDL also was connected with cardiovascular disease which made it the “bad cholesterol”. So the thought was dietary fat then must cause heart disease. So the pitchforks and flaming torches came out on dietary fat.
We ignored the potential sugar health effects. Instead as we dove headfirst into this low-fat hysteria like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert, the food producers realized that without the fat, food would taste like a mouth full of sandpaper. So something would have to be put in to give the taste back. The cheap answer again was high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup now was building even more momentum. Cheap, tasty, and job saving.
Corporations realized that food with fiber in it takes too long to cook, eat, and it has a short shelf life. It also meant more work to maintain the food or replace it consistently with fresh food. All of this means more money being shelled out to constantly replace food going bad. Oh and don’t forget a lot of money to ship expiring food around nationally and internationally.
With a demanding fast paced society wanting food five minutes ago, this meant that food couldn’t take a long time to prepare. With our fast food lifestyle, food had to be processed, packed, travel for days and to be ready in an instant to serve up to a hungry mouth. Guess how you solve this time crunch and financial burden? Take out the fiber and pack in the HFCS.
We will talk about what role fiber plays in the next post of the sugar series. Don’t forget the fiber. It matters.
And the Results?
As I mentioned before, in 1982 the USDA, AHA, and the AMA told us to reduce our dietary fat consumption from 40% to 30%. So we did what was asked of us.
We past this test, with flying colors, thanks to “fat free” foods and treats. Those fat free foods and treats are still rampant today. Unfortunately, while our fat intake was cut by 1/4th, our obesity rate has gone in the opposite direction from around 15% of Americans being obese in the 80’s to 33% of our population today. 2 out of every 3 people are overweight. Not good.
It isn’t just growth; this is a raging epidemic that is now being fought by the Center for Disease Control. Just watch the beginning of Chris Gardner’s presentation on The Battle of the Diets: Is Anyone Winning (at Losing)? to see how this is getting way out of hand. It has been accompanied by a huge increase in heart disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, 8 out of the top 10 reasons why we die have to do directly with obesity and malnutrition. The only two exceptions are accidents and suicide, and even then those two could be questioned.
According to the USDA we are drowning in this high fructose corn syrup ocean. Dr. Robert Lustig mentions we are eating more than we did 20 years ago.
- Teen boys are eating 275 calories more a day.
- American adult males are eating 187 calories more per day.
- Adult females are eating a whopping 335 calories more than before. Yikes…I bet you ladies weren’t expecting that huh?
So the thought may be that the extra food is coming from the fat right? Well it isn’t.
For the teen boys 83% of the increase in calories is coming from carbs. A lot of these carbs are coming in sugary drinks like soda and orange juice.
So why are we eating more? Is obesity one of the diseases caused by sugar?
Leptin is a hormone from your fat cell that tells your brain that it has had enough. Or it is like the good friend that tells you at the party that you are overdoing your Chuck Norris jokes and Charlie Sheen impressions. This biochemical feedback system to your brain is jacked up, and it can’t help to stabilize your desire to put more stuff in your yell hole. For some reason as we have decreased in fat and increased in carbs and sugar this hormone doesn’t function as well.
What makes this worse is the physical and economic catastrophe that has happened since then. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for Body Mass Index, we weigh on average 25 pounds more around now than we did 50 years ago. 1 in 3 adults are obese and 1 in 6 children are as well, and there is even an epidemic of obesity for 6 month old infants. How are infants getting fat so quickly? Does sugar cause obesity or is this something else?
There is no way to put it other than this is crippling us as a society and out of control. The health costs for diseases related to obesity are skyrocketing to over $150 billion a year, which is 10% of our national medical budget.
We talked about the sugar intake before. With the introduction of high fructose corn syrup, sucrose has dropped in consumption, but HFCS has more than made up for that. The average American consumes 130-140 pounds of refined sugar every year according to the USDA, Dr. Lustig and CBS News, and 63 pounds comes from HFCS.
In 1977 USDA said we consumed about 37 g/day or 8% of total caloric intake. By 1995 thanks to the advent of HFCS it shot to 54.7 g/day or 10% of our calories. By today, in adolescents it results for 12% of all calories (remember that % is out of a greater number of calories we are eating now compared to the 90’s) or nearly 73 g/day. We are not only eating more, but an exponential growth in fructose as a main source of that uptick.
This is out of control. If sugar was a 16 year old girl I would ground her right now and take away the car keys. This is a crazy epidemic that is sweeping the world with no signs of it receding. So obviously the question is…what is going on here? How did this “massive conspiracy” happen?
Next Chapter Please!
Ok let’s not get crazy here, but there is enough to be concerned about here. Now that I have nicely set up this plot, let’s see where the twists and turns happen along the way in our next post of The Sugar Series.