The topic of this post is a piece by the BBC in advance of blaming two American men for the obesity epidemic in the world today. So the title comes from that.
So Jacques Peretti weighs in with another piece on how Americans sabotaged the world with sugar with: What caused the obesity epidemic in the West? Jacques is pictured at right behind a ginormous platter of food. For a piece blaming sugar, one would think the picture would feature pastries and a Big Gulp, but no, it's bread surrounding what appears to be a bunch of dippy fatty stuffs. Oh ... and we don't just eat too much food, right? In this latest piece of pseudoscience journalism run amok, Peretti focuses heavily on quotes from Lustig. I'll come back to some of the rest of that when I get to critiquing the "science" in Part III of the Skinny on Obesity series. And let's just mention but move on from the most ridiculous statement in that article now shall we?
- HFCS is responsible for that "just baked sheen" on bread? And here I've been brushing beaten egg yolk on my Easter paskas all this time to get that effect.
Overnight, low-fat products arrived on the shelves. Low-fat yoghurts, spreads, desserts and biscuits. All with the fat taken out, and largely replaced with sugar.
The public embraced the new products, believing them to be healthier. But the more sugar we ate, the more we wanted.
Let's use yogurt as an example, because it is a perfect illustration of the bastardization of how things really went down vs. what hacks like Peretti are telling readers. When I was in high school, many of the (mostly) girls trying to lose weight would buy a Dannon fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt for lunch. Now this is from memory, but single yogurts at the time were 8oz vs. the 6 oz more typical today. The yogurt was full fat, and there was a lot of sugary "fruit" (jelly really) on the bottom to be stirred in. A less-than-satisfying container packed somewhere in the 250-300 calorie range. By the time I went to college, lower fat yogurts started coming into style, but the sugary fruit was nothing new. Mostly take a lower fat yogurt with the same fruit and knock 50-75 calories off the label for the same serving. But these yogurts weren't as creamy and tasted too tangy/yogurty. Saccharin, the only AS clinging to FDA acceptance amidst cancer scares, was an unacceptable substitute in some products. It went over OK in sodas (what I wouldn't give for a classic Tab every now and again!) but not so much in blech diet stuffs. And then as I made my way through college, aspartame came to be, and came to be found in more and more products. Yogurts were the perfect "diet food" target! Sure they took out the fat, but the "healthy" yogurt marketed towards those watching their weight also had sugar taken out. You could take the sugar out and have a product with even fewer calories! For the most part when fats were removed, gums and other thickeners were added to replace it. Certainly not sugar. And when Splenda hit, it was huge because it (a) tasted more like sugar, and (b) was temperature stable! When one looks at commercials (however ridiculous) for 80-100 calorie yogurts these days, they most certainly are not foodstuffs where fat has been replaced by sugar!! So I find this whole line of thinking utterly preposterous from the get-go! It's darned near impossible to find full-fat yogurt anymore except for large containers of plain, but the sugary fruit was always there, and that too has been cut back in many varieties.
By the time anyone began to ask if it was a good thing to replace fat with sugar, it was too late - but it was a decision with huge implications for the obesity crisis.
"If fat's the cause, that's a good thing to do," says Dr Lustig. "If sugar's the cause, that's a disastrous thing to do… and I think over the last 30 years we've answered that question."
But we didn't do that Doc! There is absolutely zero evidence that we cut fat at all. Every resource I've seen has us flat-lining or slightly increasing total fat consumption. No evil American government or corporation brought about the Big Gulps and turned us into a nation of Red Bull revelers , energy drink enthusiasts not to mention Starbucks sippers.
Sure, sugar is added more to foods it was already added to (pasta sauces for example), and it's added to some others it never was. And yes, we have the health hoax that is the Snackwell cookie. But the nutritionists have been all over those warning people since about a year after they came on the market (20 years ago if you can believe it). Strawman cookies ....
Fructose is easily converted to fat in the body, and scientists have found that it also suppresses the action of a vital hormone called leptin.
"Leptin goes from your fat cells to your brain and tells your brain you've had enough, you don't need to eat that second piece of cheesecake," says Dr Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist.
He says when the liver is overloaded with sugars, leptin simply stops working, and as a result the body doesn't know when it's full.
"It makes your brain think you're starving and now what you have is a vicious cycle of consumption, disease and addiction. Which explains what has happened the world over," he says.
How about you just eat sugar by the spoonful and see how far you get. :D