Sugar & Obesity

A recent article in the SF Chronicle by scientists at UCSF talks about the toxicity of sugar and supports ways to get people to kick the sugar habit. In a paper published by Robert Lustig, MD and colleagues in Nature magazine, they argue that sugar consumption is responsible for much of chronic disease that is rapidly increasing throughout the world. Ever since Lustig did a lecture on “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” 

 which went viral and had over a million hits, he has become the naysayer of sugar in food. He has a number of videos which will provide you with an understanding of why he says that sugar and especially fructose as in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is not simply empty calories but should be considered a poison. Lustig maintains that the claims are right in that HFCS is not the only villain: “The real issue is that excessive consumption of any sugar may lead to health problems”. Our sugar consumption has increased markedly since late 1970s when HFCS was introduced into the market. It is half the price of sugar and twice as sweet; and it is in just about everything, particularly processed foods and drinks. Fructose affects the biochemical response of the body to leptin and insulin. Leptin is a hormone that regulates satiety and tells us when we are full. However, just like insulin, we can become leptin resistant and when that happens, our governor for eating is blown off. Ever notice how you can’t eat just one chip, cookie, etc. Lustig gives an example of the kid who eats a cookie and starts bouncing off the wall as an example of proper biochemical function whereas the fat kid can eat cookie after cookie and never get that sugar high because his body does not respond appropriately to leptin. Insulin is a contributor as it takes all that sugar and stores it as fat if it is not used by the body for energy.

In his talk Lustig explains that all the reasons we think make us fat are just not true. No one chooses to be obese, especially children. It is not a matter of calories in and calories, not enough exercise, or just being lazy and gluttonous. It is a biochemical alteration that creates a toxic cycle of sugar, fat, more sugar, more fat. In fact, the metabolism of sugar is very similar to alcohol and can lead to fatty liver and hepatitis.

Bottom line: You can lose weight and control your appetite but you will never do it with the usual diet and exercise routine. You must get your sugar intake and your blood sugar hormones under control or you will continue to cycle and recycle the weight over and over.

Marsha Nunley MD
Marsha Nunley MD
I am an internist, trained and experienced in Western Medicine, who believes that illness and disease are best treated by working to discover their underlying causes. Come to me for bioidentical hormones, advice on healthy aging, and whole-body medicine.