10.03.24 - Nutrition Experts Battle Industry Groups Over Sugar

There's a heated debate going on over the health risks of consuming too much sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other caloric sweeteners.

On one side are leading nutrition experts, who believe that these sweeteners add empty calories to people's diets and promote weight gain.

Emerging scientific research indicates that consuming too much of these sweeteners may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems.

On the other side are industry groups representing sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). They claim that their products are natural and don't cause weight gain or health problems. And they have launched advertising and marketing campaigns to spread this idea.

The American Heart Association is on the nutrition experts' side. The group recently issued a scientific statement saying that high intake of added sugars is implicated in many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Sources: (USA Today March 3, 2010)

Dr. Mercola's Comments

The sugar industry groups can tout all the misleading propaganda they want, but it won’t change the fact that sugar, and especially fructose, is essentially public enemy #1 for human health.

When you eat sugar, it actually causes negative changes in your genes that last for two full weeks! So indulge in a couple of sodas or splurge on a hot fudge sundae and not only do your genes turn off controls designed to protect you from heart disease and diabetes, but the impact lasts for 14 days!

Even more concerning, if you eat too much sugar for a long time, your DNA may become permanently altered, and the effects could be passed on to your children and grandchildren.

For most Americans, sugar is not only a regular part of their diet, but often the source of the most calories! On average, adults are eating over 22 teaspoons of sugar a day … which is way over the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 6.5 teaspoons a day for women and 9.5 for men.

How Can Industry Groups Continue to Claim Sugar and Fructose are Healthy?

We now know without a doubt that sugar in your food, in all its myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll on the health of the United States and other developed nations.

Yet, industry groups are trying to take away all the negative press by highlighting that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are "natural." The Corn Growers Association, for instance, wants you to believe that HFCS has the "same natural sweeteners as table sugar and honey."

But don’t fall for it. HFCS is highly processed and does not exist anywhere in nature. The biggest difference is that due to its costs HFCS has massively increased the sugar load in the typical diet, but additionally, HFCS also has fructose as a "free" sugar not joined to other sugars like glucose so it is more easily abhorred and able to devastate you metabolically.

Still, even in its "natural" form, it is a well-proven fact that sugar and more specifically, fructose, increases your insulin and leptin levels and decreases receptor sensitivity for both of these vital hormones. This can lead to:

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Premature aging

Elevated insulin levels are one of your key physical influences that contribute to rapid aging, and there is no question that optimizing your insulin levels is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process.

Consuming sugar (and grains) will increase your insulin level, which is the equivalent of slamming your foot on your aging accelerator. There’s simply no more potent way to accelerate aging than eating sugar.

Agave syrup, too, is being falsely advertised as "natural." In reality, it is actually HIGHLY processed and is 80 percent fructose. The end product does not even remotely resemble the original agave plant and has virtually no nutritive value.

Likewise, honey is very high in fructose. Although its fructose content varies, it typically contains about the same amount as HFCS, or more. So even though honey contains many other beneficial nutrients, you’ll want to use honey very sparingly.

Why You Need to Avoid Fructose-Based Sweeteners, Even if They’re "Natural"

One of the main claims that industry groups are making for the safety of their sweeteners is that they’re "natural." But this argument falls flat when you look a little deeper at the way sugar, and especially fructose, behaves in your body.

I am convinced that FRUCTOSE is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic in both children and adults. Sweetened beverages and processed foods are the main sources of fructose.

For an in-depth understanding of just how fructose is destroying your health, and that of your children, please watch this excellent video lecture from Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at University of California in San Francisco, in its entirety.

It was Dr. Lustig’s presentation on this subject that really opened my eyes to this issue, and then Dr. Johnson, who is the chairman of medicine at the University of Colorado, reinforced that with his book The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick.

You probably already know that fructose is a sugar, but what you may not realize is that it’s distinctly different from other sugars as it’s metabolized through very specific pathways that differ from those of glucose, for example, and through its distinct metabolic action, uric acid is generated.

Uric acid is a normal waste product found in your blood. High levels of uric acid are normally associated with gout, but it has been known for a long time that people with high blood pressure, overweight, and people with kidney disease, often have high uric acid levels as well.

It used to be thought that the uric acid was secondary in these conditions, and not the cause -- but Dr. Johnson’s research indicates that it could be a lead player in the development of these conditions.

And it turns out that one of the most potent ways to raise uric acid is via fructose!

Folks, this is exactly why I am so passionate about educating you on the dangers of fructose! I am thoroughly convinced that it’s one of the leading causes behind the massive rise in needless suffering from poor health and premature death.

Cutting Back on ALL Forms of Sugar is Essential for Optimal Health

Sugar, in any form, will contribute to the decline of your health. Fructose will do so as well, and likely even more rapidly.

This is why significantly limiting sugar in your diet has long been at the crux of my nutrition plan for optimal health.

Reducing sugar in your diet can be tough for some people. After all, sugar is just as addictive as cocaine! But it’s possible, and Dr. Johnson provides helpful guidelines for doing so in his book.

If you’re currently a soda drinker, this will be one of the first areas in which to start cutting back. The major sweetener used in soda is HFCS, and since 55 percent of HFCS is fructose, one can of soda alone would nearly exceed your daily allotment. It is easy to see that anyone who is drinking three, and certainly four, will easily exceed 100 grams of fructose per day.

As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day.

However, for most people it would actually be wise to limit your fruit fructose to 15 grams or less, as it is virtually guaranteed that you will consume "hidden" sources of fructose from most beverages and just about any processed food you might eat.

This includes limiting your consumption of fruit and especially fruit juices so you don’t go over this limit. I’ve included the reference table below to help you keep the total fructose from fruit below 15 grams per day (which should allow you to stay below 25 grams a day total after factoring in the excess fructose from "hidden" sources).

Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fructose
Limes 1 medium 0 Boysenberries 1 cup 4.6
Lemons 1 medium 0.6 Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8
Cranberries 1 cup 0.7 Tangerine/mandarin orange 1 medium 4.8
Passion fruit 1 medium 0.9 Nectarine 1 medium 5.4
Prune 1 medium 1.2 Peach 1 medium 5.9
Apricot 1 medium 1.3 Orange (navel) 1 medium 6.1
Guava 2 medium 2.2 Papaya 1/2 medium 6.3
Date (Deglet Noor style) 1 medium 2.6 Papaya 1/2 medium 6.3
Cantaloupe 1/8 of med. melon 2.8 Honeydew 1/8 of med. melon 6.7
Raspberries 1 cup 3.0 Banana 1 medium 7.1
Clementine 1 medium 3.4 Blueberries 1 cup 7.4
Kiwifruit 1 medium 3.4 Date (Medjool) 1 medium 7.7
Blackberries 1 cup 3.5 Apple (composite) 1 medium 9.5
Star fruit 1 medium 3.6 Persimmon 1 medium 10.6
Cherries, sweet 10 3.8 Watermelon 1/16 med. melon 11.3
Strawberries 1 cup 3.8 Pear 1 medium 11.8
Cherries sour 1 cup 4.0 Raisins 1/4 cup 12.3
Pineapple 1 slice
(3.5" x .75")
4.0 Grapes, seedless (green or red) 1 cup 12.4
Grapefruit, pink or red 1/2 medium 4.3 Mango 1/2 medium 16.2
Apricots, dried 1 cup 16.4 Figs, dried 1 cup 23.0

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