Bad bad American Science FrUKtion

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.
Peretti writes:
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


Chris said…
The programme is on at 9 pm tonight. It will be interesting to watch!
Lerner said…
I haven't seen any mention in the asylum about the Australian Paradox.

The Australian Paradox: A Substantial Decline in Sugars Intake over the Same Timeframe that Overweight and Obesity Have Increased 2011 Alan W. Barclay and Jennie Brand-Miller

"Ecological research from the USA has demonstrated a positive relationship between sugars consumption and prevalence of obesity; however, the relationship in other nations is not well described... The prevalence of obesity has increased 3 fold in Australians since 1980... When all sources of nutritive sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrups, were considered, per capita consumption decreased in Australia (−16%) and the UK (−5%), but increased in the USA (+23%)."
Lerner said…
Yogurt, you say? I remember seeing people pouring off the liquid on top, which turns out to be the whey that is ever increasing in price these days. (I've just heard the idea that Gatorade is driving up whey prices by putting it in their soft drinks for the masses.)
OnePointFive said…
I may have mentioned it here, I have elsewhere and as a result (I think from searching) the guy behind this website has shown up claiming that the
paper is a 'shonky' sugar study.
He's got publicity in the Aussie press and even forced a reply from the author's of the paper.
It would be interesting to see what others feel about his criticisms.
CarbSane said…
I'll have to give a closer look later if I can stomach it ;), but I did do what he asked and scrolled down to see for myself how: "the authors’ own charts (reproduced below) indicate that Australian sugar consumption has trended up not down." I dunno, the blue chart reminds me of the global warming hockey stick nonsense. The curve jumps up and down and picking two points you can see a down, an up, a flat. Clearly sugar was higher in the late 60's or does this guy not see that part as he focuses on connecting the dots for 80 to 2010?
"There is absolutely zero evidence that we cut fat at all." That's not quite right.

Stephan Guyenet has a TED talk on YouTube that covers macronutrient content of the US diet over a century. I bet it's based on USDA data. He says calories from fat rose from 31 to 41% of total calories between 1909 and 2006. (See graph at minute 9:54.) You'll see a particular increase in fat calorie percentage from about 1997 to 2006.

But from around 1987 to 1997, calories from carbohydrate rose as calories from fat diminished.

Of perhaps more interest is that carbohydrate calories fell from 57% of the total in 1909 to 49% in 2006. I imagine those carbs in 1909 were higher in fiber and certain micronutrients compared with today's carbs. For instance, we eat much more pure sugar today than we did in 1909.

This TED talk sheds much light on which dietary factors may explain why American have gotten fatter.


CarbSane said…
The NHANES data I posted about a little while back (maybe a month or so ago) showed that absolute fat consumption supposedly fell by a teensy amount for men (essentially flatlined) but increased for women. This doesn't coincide with fat phobia certainly taking greater hold in the female population. The % fat decreased slightly, but that's only because we are eating more. I have no doubt that SSB's have contributed significantly to this as we tend to not sense those calories very well. We added them to the diet, not substituted them!

Hubs and I were talking the other day as we passed the homestyle loaf of white bread on sale. It looked rather "hearty". I asked him when's the last time he even saw real Wonder white bread. Neither of us has seen it in ages. That's the 100 on the glycemic index scale in many tests, and it's what every other kid in my school had their sandwiches on in the 60's (meanwhile poor me had it on thousand sprouted grain bread). Fiber plays a role, but it is also fairy tale land to think my generation (when kids weren't obese) ate a lot more fiber than today's kids.
CarbSane said…
Yep, pour off the water and then stir it up!
Chris said…
Just watched the programme and it was interesting. The usual shots of fat bottoms walking past with people clutching brown bags of burgers and big cups of coke.

Lustig was a key character telling us that food industry has made everything sweeter so we will buy more.

Ancel Keys got a mention as a bad guy. Lustig talked about him and is work on k rations, which had lots of sugar. Apparently he got his heart disease / sat fat idea from uk (because of our fish and chips?!). He blamed sat fat and then tried to prove his assumption.

John Yudkin disagreed. Blamed sugar. Sucrose is a late comer to our diets. Y|udkin Made enemy of food industry who discredited him. Lustig says Yudkin was a prophet.

There was a fair discussion of the reward theory / hedonic response to food including a guy called Tony Goldstone from the UK and David Kessler formerly of the FDA.

The McGovern report was mentioned and Taubes interviews - he was described as a "food historian"!

Finally they talked about removing fat and adding sugar instead and how that was the big problem - reward plus calories.

There was some history of how we moved away form 3 meals a day at home into more snacks. Also the introduction of frozen food ..... which again was engineered for reward.

Probably some stuff to argue with but the attention given to the reward theory was good.
ItsTheWooo said…
Yea, that statistic sounds made up as hell.

There is NO WAY australians are eating 16% less sugar today than in 1980. I remember what it was like in the mid 80s... you bought a tiny can of soda for 65 cents (wit yo' slice of pizza for $1 ;D ). Today, hardly anyone sells cans of soda and a 20 oz bottle is the norm.

In 1980, no one drank enormous disgusting starbucks/dunkindonuts lattes full of sugar. You bought a 12oz cup of coffee from the deli, and you put a packet or two of sugar in it.

There is NO WAY people in any westernized country are eating less sugar in 1980 than in 2012. It would not surprise me if the data was entirely fictional.
CarbSane said…
Thanks for the summary Chris. I can't watch BBC here, and didn't get a chance to see if I could watch online. Food historian, eh? LOL!

I don't understand why so many are resistant to the idea of "passive overeating". It's most definitely how I got truly obese after LC stint 1. Take-out way too often = lots more calories than similar foods prepared at home. Junk food around house gets noshed on. It's super easy to eat 1000 calories of Doritos without "binging" or even feeling like you're stuffing yourself. Don't get the visceral reaction to food reward a.t. a.l.l. either. It's just such a no-brainer to me that food scientists have been engineering foods to be most palatable, rewarding, whatever. I also think the use of emulsifiers and stabilizers is huge where fats are concerned. Most people do not like greasy food -- ever reheat alfredo sauce? But you can buy alfredo in a jar or frozen alfredo entrees that don't separate. I absolutely adore this tortellini carbonara from a local restaurant. We get it like 3X a year and I generally eat lightly if at all the rest of the day. Why? Well, the first time we got it, I reheated left overs and found a puddle of butter at the bottom of a small bowl. Leaving aside the calories in the pasta and tortellini filling and remaining sauce, that small bowl contained at least 200 cals of butter that separated out. But nobody on this planet would consider that little bit of pasta "overeating". Sigh.
CarbSane said…
Do you live in Australia?
bentleyj74 said…
My recollections from 1980 consist mainly of swinging my feet in my stroller while knoshing my cheerios necklace in Hawaii not Australia so...