Is Sugar Bad For You? Is It Public Enemy #1?

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Posted on: September 27, 2015

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Is Sugar Bad For You?

First, let’s make sure we distinguish between refined sugars and natural sugars.

Essentially, natural sugars are sugars that occur naturally in whole foods like fruit.

Refined sugars are crystallized sugars that have gone through processing. They are added (often in large amounts) to drinks like sodas, lemonade, and sugary lattes, and foods like candy, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, energy bars, and sugary breakfast cereals.

Refined Sugars

So, is sugar bad for you? A diet high in refined sugar certainly is. No one would ever argue that a healthy diet is one that is full of foods high in refined sugars.

But interestingly, for roughly the past 15 years in the U.S., rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes have continued to rise while per capita sugar intake has actually been declining.

That’s not to say we’re a low-sugar-eating country. Not even close.

350 Calories of Sugar Daily

Currently, we’re consuming about 94 grams (350 calories) of sugar daily. That far exceeds the American Heart Association’s recommendation to limit refined sugar to no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) for women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men. There’s little doubt that a large intake of refined sugar leads to large bellies and increased risk of life-threatening diseases like type 2 diabetes.

Which is Worse? Meat, Dairy or Sugar?

When it comes to raising cholesterol levels, our #1 enemy is not refined sugar. It’s foods high in saturated fat, like meat and cheese.

Meat, Dairy, Sugar

Worldwide, refined sugar intake tends to rise as affluence rises. Just ask companies like Coca Cola. But one could probably find a better correlation between meat intake and economic good times than with sugar intake. The fact is, economic well-being leads people all over the world to increase their intake of meat and dairy products as well as their intake of refined sugars.

The Baddest of the Bad?

But unfortunately, opinion pieces like that of Dr. Stanton Glantz’s in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assocation suggest that sugar is the baddest of the bad. His article, likely read by physicians nationwide, feeds the questionable narrative of Atkinites and Paleo-Diet enthusiasts that sugar is what really promotes heart disease, not foods high in salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

This is utter (or udder?) nonsense.

In his article, Dr. Glantz attacks Dr. Mark Hegsted of Harvard School of Public Health. Beginning in the 1960s, Dr. Hegsted published groundbreaking research showing that foods higher in saturated fat and cholesterol led to higher blood cholesterol levels, which we now know promote heart disease. Clearly, citing Dr. Hegsted’s work as an example of having been biased for profit, as Dr. Glantz does, seems a stretch. Moreover, it negates the wealth of data published in the following decades affirming that diets rich in saturated fat and cholesterol raise the risk cardiovascular disease.

The Real Profit Mongers

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