Monday, April 02, 2012
The Sweet Disease - you COULD have read it here first ;-)
NOTE: People are crediting Gary Taubes and Prof Tim Noakes as nutritional visionaries, who have just recently become enlightened on what constutes good nutrition. But I think the common sense wisdom surrounding how we should eat has been out there for a while. Both authors have demonstrated (putting themselves on diets), however, that the key to reducing weight (and increasing health) lies in doing one simple thing:cutting out sugar.
I find it ironic, and kinda funny, that in mid-September 2010 I tried my damndest to flog the attached piece of writing. I sent it to a bunch of magazine's, including Men's Health. They turned their noses up at the time, if they even bothered to look at the writing in the first place. The 1500 word article attached below centres around the toxic nature of our ordinary addictions, specifically for (you guessed it) - sugar.
Since then, of course there has been a lot of Hoopla about protein, saying we should shift away from carbohydrate (IOW sugars) towards protein. Many people mistakenly think that means increasing their intake of meats. And I was one of many who believed that animal fats and excessive egg eating is also bad for us. No, what we need to be doing is decreasing our intake of refined foods, including sweets, cereals, pastas and breads, and increasing their intake of produce, especially vegetables (but excluding potatoes and carrots). The article below, written in 2010 says exactly that. But even well before this, in 2006, I was criticising the abundance of sugar and meat in our diet if you listen to this podcast.
A final point worth mentioning is Noakes' warning about the addictive nature of sugar (and modern junk food diets in general). Folk seem to think this an extreme statement. When you think about it, what is extreme is the toxic nature of the food we're conditioned to eating. The average supermarket is stocked with approximately 90% of foods that have a deleterious effect on our bodies, but only small pockets in aisle sections are dedicated to fresh meats, salads and produce. It's no wonder we eat so badly when even the shops are filled with trashy nutrition. And now, to the article which - apparently - wasn't good enough for Men's Health in 2010:
In this shocking exposé, Nick van der Leek reveals to what extent our addictions to sugar [you know, chocolates and sodas] are damaging the health of this generation.
Addiction is our way of life." - Social psychologist Stanton Peele
The formula is simple. If you eat a high-carb diet, that means mostly sugars and starches [including breads, pastas and pizzas], it drives down your cholesterol to an unhealthy level. Low blood cholesterol is associated with aggression and antisocial behaviour. Or moodiness and irritability. It’s not a happy or healthy way to live.
Maintain these unhealthy habits for long enough and the body responds by developing a resistance to this overloading – or overdosing – of sugar. And gradually this resistance becomes insulin resistance. Diabetes. Excess fat in the blood increasingly prevents the body from absorbing sugar. When this condition continues for long enough, you get Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic, often lifelong affliction. In simple terms, it’s like an allergic reaction to sugar.
Sugar is more dangerous than fat
Dr. Harlan Krumholz of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Yale University reported in 1994 that old people with low cholesterol [caused by high sugar intake] died twice as often from a heart attack as did old people with high cholesterol.
We may recognise the impacts to our health on an intellectual level, yet physiologically we’re less assertive when we crave a chocolate fix, and apparently, less clear minded. This is because modern society is addicted to the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, and more particularly to the substances in these foods: sugars, MSG salts, caffeine, even hot sauces. The swathes of obese people, and worse, obese children, weighing down flotillas of lounge sofas are evidence of a society that is now reaching chronic food addiction levels. The implications are that the next generation will be the first to live shorter lives than our generation. Blame widespread obesity for this.
An obesity cure does not come easily, anyone who has watched The Biggest Loser knows what is involved. The problem is our society still considers fast food more convenient [in others words good] than detrimental, a health symptom that is subtle because it happens gradually. It’s also not easy to kick the habit, of trying to change the culture surrounding how and what we eat. For one there is a barrage of advertisements that keep us enslaved. How often do we see advertisements for fresh vegetables?
The Sugar Drug
Addiction at its most simplest is a particular relationship between a user and a substance. The substance creates a particular energy, electrical or nerve response. Sugar may not seem like a drug until you examine your own lifestyle, and notice to what extent it is part and parcel of how we attempt to boost energy levels or lift our moods.
Kathleen DesMaisons measured the physiological responses of the human body to sugars in 1998. DesMaisons discovered that dependence on sugar followed the same paths predicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for other drugs of abuse. The inference is simple, but profound. A substance as simple as 'sugar' can lead to addiction, dependence and mood and behaviour disorders. In addition, drinking a cola or eating chocolate immediately degrades natural immunity. Putting a chocolate into your mouth is literally like mixing drops of water into the petrol tank of your car – a recipe for disaster.
Given that alcohol is a complex sugar, the idea of sugar as an addictive substance doesn’t seem so farfetched. But don’t be fooled. Our habitual consumptions are just as pernicious as alcoholism, and both manifest in the familiar ‘bloated’ appearance. The genteel cup of tea in Victorian England is just as much a 'fix' as an officeworker unwrapping a chocolate bar, filling up a cup of coffee or a raver downing ecstacy in a busy nightclub.
Princeton's Bart Hoebel has found that sugar stimulated cravings and activated pathways in the brain that evolved to respond to natural rewards, meaning habitual sugar intake could become a gateway drug for other drugs.
Sugar has recently been linked to the stimulation of opioids and dopamine in the brain. Neural adaptations associated with drug taking include the same changes associated with high sugar use. Children who consume a lot of sugar are vulnerable to hyperactivity disorders; and worse, total cholesterol may be a risk factor for aggression or a risk marker for other biologic variables that predispose to aggression.
McDonald's and Coca Cola can be considered to be two well known, well recognised salt and sugar resources for our popular culture. McDonald's serves 47 million customers daily, and is the world's largest fast food restaurant franchise. It is also the only restaurant brand in Interbrand’s top 20.
Coca Cola is the world's largest producer of soft drinks and considered to be the world's number one brand by Interbrand. According to Interbrand McDonald's is 7 brand positions below Coke, at 8th position in the world. Indeed, McDonald's offers sweet Coca Cola to compliment their salty Happy Meals, along with a toy. The Happy Meal is specifically tailored to children. These food and beverage brands have come up with the following pitches to the public over the last 20 years:
Make every day a McDonald's day
It's what I eat and what I do
Coke...after Coke...after Coke
Coke adds life
Can't Beat the Real Thing
Taste it all
I'm lovin' it.
What we're made of
"People don't go to sleep thin and wake up obese. The understanding and comprehension of what hamburgers and French fries do has been with us for a long, long time." - McDonald's lawyer Brad Lerman.
"People need to understand that obesity is not about a beverage or a candy bar or a restaurant meal or a PlayStation game or about working longer hours. It's a systematic lifestyle issue that we must address individually and collectively as a society." - Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent
The Sweet Disease
The number one leading cause of death in the world is due to coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is caused by the intake of high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood (fast foods are highly associated with these fats), high blood pressure (linked to obesity and poor diet) and high sugar intake (sodas are amongst the highest sugar containing beverages). High-calorie, low-nutrition franchised fast foods have well-known links to heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Some of the highest sugar containing beverages are the Starbucks Frappucino (550 calories), Coke (155 calories) and Red Bull (110 calories). McDonald's de lux breakfast has 1140 calories (49g of fat), a Big Mac has 540 calories, while fries have even more. A large portion of McDonald's french fries have 610 calories and 29 grams of fat. The amounts of sodium (salt) in ordinary McDonald's meals is also higher than average.
6 of the top 10 selling drugs in the world treat the symptoms of excessive junk food eating:
- high cholesterol [LIPITOR – world’s best selling drug, ZOCOR world’s 10th best selling drug]
- heart disease [PLAVIX – 2nd best selling drug in the world]
- heartburn [NEXIUM, PREVACID]
- high blood pressure [NORVASC]
The tide does seem to be turning. Recognition has kicked in that unless we change our eating patterns, this generation won’t live nearly as long as their parents. Jamie Oliver is one of a number of celebrities spearheading a much needed Food Revolution. The premise is simple, but may not be easy at first. When one recognises the health costs, health risks and the sheer lousiness associated with everyday heaviness, this is a cause worthy of pursuit.
So here’s the easy to remember formula to living better, longer and healthier. In terms of diet:
Brown is Bad: if all your food is golden brown it’s not healthy.
Green is Good: add color to your diet, especially greens.
Cut the Confectionary: cut out sugars, particularly the raw stuff in colas, fruit juices and confectionary.
Go Veg: replace these unhealthy sugars with fruit and vegetables [but don’t drink pure juices].
Salad Staple: eat less meats and more salads. Try to make salad a staple food; have at least one salad serving a week.
Kickstart the Kitchen: prepare your own food rather than buying processed. It’s not only healthier, it’s often cheaper.
Rarely use Raw: use as little as possible of the raw sugar you sprinkle by the spoonful on cereals and in coffee or tea
And in terms of lifestyle, that old staple of health – exercise. Exercise is effective when it balances the calorie equation in terms of energy consumed versus energy converted into action. Remember, anything you eat that isn’t used by the body is stored, and becomes fat. Sugar is extremely energy rich, and one of the quickest and easiest ways to pack on the pounds. That piece of information alone ought to have you running for the hills. When a cupcake next makes its way to your plate, make sure you do.
Word count: 1505