Toxic Sugar??? All Sugar Not The Same!


There was a recent 60 Minutes program done by Dr. Sanjay Gupta suggesting that sugar is toxic.  Leading this charge was Dr. Robert Lustig (UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology), who feels that all sugar is toxic and responsible for a host of chronic diseases to include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.  He has a  lecture on youtube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth (please watch this, please), which has had over 2 million hits, and over 16,000 likes (and 300 dislikes ; )

The Research:

Much of the comments on the 60 Minutes program surrounded the work of  Dr Kimber Stanhope, a molecular biologist at the University of California Davis.   In March of 2009 she published a paper where she observed outcomes in two groups of overweight subjects who only differed in the amount of fructose or glucose that they drank.  The glucose or fructose beverage made up 25% of their total calories, and total carbs were 55% of total calories.  She found  that the fructose group gained more fat around their stomach, experienced a worse lipid profile (risk factors for heart disease) and developed greater insulin insensitivity (risk factor for diabetes).  Basically, this study suggests that not all sugar is the same.  It turns out that fructose does not affect insulin levels (only insulin insensitivity), is metabolized principally by the liver, and  is easily converted to fat.  In fact, its the sugar that acts like a fat, and goes right to your stomach.  This is not the fate of glucose, which is a sugar that acts like a sugar.   This caused me to look further into the notion of sugar being toxic.

My Reflections:

I won’t bore you with all of the details of my investigation, and just highlight a couple of impressions:

1) Sucrose, which is table sugar is a combination of fructose and glucose (the good linked to the bad).  This is also the main form of sugar found in honey.  While these sugars (sucrose) can be found in whole foods, the amounts are less, and the toxic effects of the fructose are lessened by the presense of fiber.

2) We get more sugar into our diet than we should and this is not good.  For most, much of the sugar that we consume comes in the form of sweetened beverages, and most of that is fructose.   As an example a large coke at McDonald’s has 84 grams of carbohydrate vs the Big Mac sandwich which has 45 grams of carbohydrate.  And here is another important point, the carbs in the drink is all sugar, vs the sandwich where only 9 grams represent sugar.  Pay attention to the amount of  “sugar”, as this may be more important than the total carbs!?!?  Also pay attention to the amount of fiber, more being better.

3) Fructose in excess has a greater negative consequence on our bodies because of  where the fat shows up, and the effects on our lipid profiles, which changes them in a manner that increases our risk of heart disease.  There is also suggestion that fructose is bad for our joints, causing pain and impairment in a fashion similar to gout (because  it increases uric acid).


1) Limit your consumption of sugar containing beverages (pop, juice, etc).

2) Try to limit the amount of foods that are high in fructose.  I did find one website that list foods by the amount of fructose that they contain.  The website is called SelfNutritionData. It helps that you can filter the foods by category.  Try to migrate your diet toward foods that are lower in fructose.

3) If you find that this strategy helps to take inches off of your belly, and your joints no longer bother you,  LET Me.US KNOW!!! (you can also let me know if you think this is a lot of nonsense : )

1 Minute? Really? That I can do : )

Historically, we have been taught that  for health benefits you need anywhere from 40-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.  This changed a bit to say that it does not have to be formal exercise but any type of “physical activity” that gets your heart rate going.  Well, there seems to be another change developing.  Some researchers have published studies that suggest that if you exercise for 1 minute at 80% of your maximal heart rate (220 minus your age), rest for a minute, and then repeat this for a total of 10, 1 minute sessions, that this is equivalent to working out for 40 minutes.  This is really good news, especially for those who find it hard to get in 40 minutes of exercise in the course of the day.  This was talked about in a recent New York Times article.  Its called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Hearing (reading) this info, I decided to take this a little further.  Knowing other research that states that your don’t have to do your exercise (40 minutes) all at one time, I wondered what would be the benefits of exercising for 1 minute per hour over the course of the work day.  I tried it one day, only doing 3 sessions (my legs were hurting too much from the dynamic squats which was my chosen exercise), and I think there is great potential.  I could do this in my work clothes, did not sweat, and the brief mental break helped me maintain focus on my work.  This strategy could also be of benefit for all of the women that have trouble working out because of concerns for their hair.

I am going to stick with this strategy until my legs build up for me to tolerate the activity over the course of the day, and report back.  For those reading this, why don’t you give it a try and let me know what happens.  Of course those who have concern for their heart need to start an exercise program gradually.  Also, its always a good idea to share such plans with your doctor.

An Apple a Day?

Yesterday morning during work I decided to take a break and eat an apple.  There was nothing unusual about the apple or the taste.  Shortly after eating it I felt very flushed, warm, unusual.  It caught my attention and I wondered if it has something to do with eating the apple.  I was feeling like my parasympathetic system was over exited possibly due to a pesticide.  I decided to do an Internet search to see which foods likely had the greatest pesticide residues.  I was led to several sights that discussed this topic.  Most reference the “the dirty dozen”, a list of the foods that have been found to have the greatest amount of pesticides, and the “clean 15”, foods with the least.  Much of this information seems to come from the Environmental Working Group.  At the top of the dirty list?  Apples.

I don’t know if the apple was responsible for my symptoms, but I will pay greater attention to these list and try to buy organic when its a food on the dirty list.   The other alternative is to use a fruit/vegetable wash like “Fit”.

cleanWhat are the “clean 15″ : Onion , Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomato, Sweet Potato



peachThe “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables: Peaches, Apples, Bell peppers, Celery, Cherries, Nectarines, Strawberries, Kale, Lettuce, Imported grapes, Carrots, Pears.  I would not say that these fruits should not be eaten as there are clearly health benefits, but it may be best to go organic or make sure that you use a fruit/veg wash like “Fit”.


EWGs Methodology:


The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 53 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 51,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2009 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the studies on which the guide is based tested produce after it had been rinsed or peeled.

Contamination was measured in 6 different ways:

  • Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
  • Percent of samples with two or more pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Total number of pesticides found on the commodity

For each metric, we ranked all of the foods based on their individual USDA test results, then normalized the scores on a 1-100 scale (with 100 being the highest). To get a commodity’s final score, we added up the six normalized scores from each metric. The full Shopper’s Guide list shows the fruits and vegetables in order of these final scores.

The goal is to include a range of different measures of pesticide contamination to account for uncertainties in the science. All categories were treated equally; for example, a pesticide linked to cancer is counted the same as a pesticide linked to brain and nervous system toxicity, and the likelihood of eating multiple pesticides on a single food is given the same weight as the amounts of the pesticide detected or the percent of the crop on which pesticides were found.

The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide is not built on a complex assessment of pesticide risks but instead reflects the overall pesticide loads of common fruits and vegetables. This approach best captures the uncertainties of the risks of pesticide exposure and gives shoppers confidence that when they follow the guide they are buying foods with consistently lower overall levels of pesticide contamination.