Thursday, 8 August 2013

Isn't That Sweet?

This week I came across a video on YouTube called 'Sugar - The Bitter Truth'. This is a presentation by Dr Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California in San Francisco. If you have the time, it's a fascinating watch.

He talks about the rising problem of obesity and links it with the massive increase in the use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a sweetener in many foods and soft drinks. Diets with high HFCS content can decrease your ability to feel full (so you eat more). Fructose is readily turned to fat by your liver. Not all fat is the same, but the large amounts of fat produced in the liver when HFCS is metabolised can be deposited in your blood vessels increasing the risk of heart attacks. Other problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, liver dysfunction, and pancreatitis are also associated with HFCS.

Dr Lustig recommends 4 effective lifestyle interventions in an attempt to combat this problem:
1. Get rid of all sugared liquids from your home or work; only drink water or milk.
2. Eat your carbohydrates with fibre (remember, highly processed food often contain little fibre).*
3. If you want seconds, wait 20 minutes.
4. Buy your screen time (TV, computer, etc) minute for minute with physical activity (i.e. 30 minutes of surfing the net costs you 30 minutes of exercising or cleaning or walking, etc). Another great reason to use a treadmill desk - immediate payback!

Fortunately, UK diets contain a good deal less HFCS than diets in the USA. I've taken to looking at food labels more closely this week and you'd be surprised what foods are being sweetened. Low fat foods are particularly vulnerable as we find low fat food less palatable, and to increase palatability, the food is often loaded with sugars, which may then be metabolised in the liver into even more unhealthy forms of fat than the fat for which the sugar was substituted. This one reason why dieting is often so ineffective.

Watch the presentation. It will change the way you think about your food and drink and your lifestyle as a whole.

*Wherever there is fructose in nature (in fruit for example) there is also lots of fibre. Fibre is essential because it slows the rate of carbohydrate absorption and increases the speed of transit of intestinal contents, helping us feel more full and less hungry.

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