How Sweet It Is

Dr Stephen Chaney  shared this commentary this week in an email – here it is below in it’s entirety.

I love Dr. Chaney’s humor, his perspective and his sensible advice.   He and his wife were in attendance at a recent conference I attended – how great it was to see them both!!

“How sweet it is”

Most of you are probably to young to remember that famous line from comedian Jackie Lesion’s Honeymooners” show.

What brought that famous line to mind was a recent statement by Dr.Oz that we should avoid high fructose corn syrup because it will make us fat.

In recent years high fructose corn syrup has been characterized almost as if it were a poison to be avoided at all costs.

We’ve been told that it causes high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes – almost every ill of mankind. We’ve been told to avoid any food containing it. Are these dire warnings correct?

The answer is yes AND no. It is the amount – not the sugar that is important.

Before I explain myself, let me give you some historical perspective

In the 50s and 60s it was sucrose (table sugar) that was considered to be the root of all evil. Books like “Sugar Blues” popularized its villainy. We were told to avoid everything white – that would be sugar, white flour and milk.

But sucrose was never the villain that it was said to be. Sucrose is a perfectly natural sugar and it is perfectly healthy in small amounts.

The problem was that we were consuming way too much.

That “tablespoon of sugar to help the medicine go down” had grown until sugar made up 10-15% of the calories in the American diet.

In short, we had become addicted to sweetness.

Where was most of that sugar coming from? You guessed it – soft drinks, snack foods and processed foods.

The experts recommended that we cut back on all of those processed foods and start eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. They are a bit less sweet, but so much healthier.

But what did the American public do? We didn’t want to give up the sweet stuff that we’d been accustomed to, so the food industry obliged us by substituting high fructose corn syrup for sugar in all of our favorite foods.

What’s wrong with that?

After all, high fructose corn syrup contains approximately equal amounts of fructose and glucose – the same amounts of these two sugars that are found in honey. It is derived from corn. There is some processing required, but it meets the FDA’s definition of natural. And, fructose is the major sugar found in many fruits, which are among the healthiest of foods.

The problem isn’t in the sugar itself, it is in the amount that we are consuming!

Since 1983 the amount of sugar that the average person in this country consumes has increased by 30%.

We are now consuming 158 pounds of sugar per person in this country each year – and most of that is coming from soft drinks, snack foods & processed foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, not from fruits and milk.

Without going into the biochemistry (which is fascinating to me and boring to pretty much everyone else), let me just say that there is nothing wrong with foods containing fructose or high fructose corn syrup in moderation. But when we start consuming 158 pounds of any sugar a year – with most of that coming from highly processed foods – we are just asking for trouble.

In fact, if we were to consume 158 pounds of honey instead of 158 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year, the health consequences would likely be almost the same. Of course, that will never happen. There just aren’t enough bees.

The same can be said for sucrose (the original sin) and for the sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, malitol, erythritol, etc) that are starting to find their way into a lot of processed foods.

And, as for stevia, it appears to be perfectly safe in the amounts consumed to date, but nobody can predict the safety of 158 pounds of stevia a year!

It’s time to ask if we really need to be consuming all that sugar in any form? Do we really need to consume all of those soft drinks, snack foods and processed foods?

flickr image credit

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3 Responses to How Sweet It Is

  1. It is good to know about such kinda great sugar as it will be of great help and it will play a decisive role in maintaining the proper health of individuals.

  2. This is a very even handed treatment of the high fructose sugar issue. Part of the problem is that it is sneaked into so many products, many that do not need it.

  3. Karen Hanrahan says:

    I agree re: the even handed commentary. Additionally true that so many products could be just fine with HFCS

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