Recently, both the CBS television show "60 Minutes" and ABC's "Good Morning America" featured Dr. Robert H. Lustig, M.D., a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Lustig has stellar credentials.
He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College.
After a residency at St. Louis Children's Hospital, and clinical fellowship at UCSF, he spent six years as a post-doctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University in New York.
In the vernacular, he's no slouch. If you watch his 90 minute YouTube video called "Sugar — The Bitter Truth" it may just change your life, and indeed prolong it.
Dr. Lustig wants people to avoid consumption of refined sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which he classifies as a toxin. He contends that the reason Americans are obese, and getting more so, is the result of a change that took place in our diets several decades ago.
In the 1980s, he says we were advised to reduce our fat consumption, which was probably a good idea. However, because fat free food isn't very appealing to the taste buds, companies, in an effort to sell product and remain competitive, replaced the fat with sugars! So, despite the fact that average Americans now consume 10 percent less fat, they are still fat.
Dr. Lustig claims that the liver metabolizes fructose, the main sugar that replaced fats in our diets, in a similar manner to ethanol (alcohol).
Natural sugars from food are metabolized differently. Lustig states that Americans consume 63 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. Because fructose is metabolized by the liver like a fat, it contributes to the development of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
One reason Americans were told, back in 1982, to limit fat in their diets was to reduce that risk. Did it?
Apparently not, according to Dr. Lustig, who says the low fat diet isn't really low fat, because of the way HCFS is metabolized, and he implicates HFCS in "metabolic syndrome." According to the Mayo Clinic, metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
HCFS is ubiquitous — it's in virtually everything. So, if you want to reduce your exposure, how do you do it?
Dr. Richard Besser, medical editor at Good Morning America, suggests that if you only do one thing, it should be to remove sugary drinks from the diet.
Dr. Ludwig, in his work with obese teens, agrees. Their therapy includes drinking only water and milk, and consuming more fiber in the diet. For every minute of "screen time" (TV, computer, etc.) he asks that they do an equivalent amount of activity, which is not to increase the burning of calories, but to increase the speed of metabolism.
He says the program works and obesity is reduced, and cites the prevalence of HFCS in our food supply as one critical reason why our diets don't work.
Watch the video yourself — it's had more than two million hits already and it may just make you want to stop eating anything that isn't natural food; www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM.
Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann's local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.