So I was reading something on Facebook mentioning Dr Robert Lustig, so I thought I would look him up in my local library. In terms of my two interests – weight loss and health, I hit the jackpot with this book:-
– Beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity & disease.
Right up my alley.
It was written with a little humour and case studies, which always makes it more interesting however don’t be fooled, this was a pretty heavy going book with lots of scientific terms and explanations of biological processes which made my eyes glaze over a few times. Cup of tea time!
However I wanted to highlight a couple of key points as it applies to us, as it’s pretty important stuff when it comes to obesity and weight loss. It features everything I learned myself by the way it felt for me, but now it was an endocrinologist explaining the how and why.
Straight to the meaty stuff… (but if you were reading the book you would have to plough through half of it first to get to this part – more tea required!)
Key point – “a calorie is not a calorie.”
Mentioned often in the book and detailed explanations about how your body handles each different food stuff and guess which one unnecessarily taxes your liver and is converted directly to fat?
That seemingly benign sweetener that’s in your fruit and other things, which everyone regarded as more or less the same as any other sweetener. But it’s not so.
Seems as though it’s been outed as a nasty piece of work where over-consumption can lead to all kinds of issues kind of lumped together under one term – Metabolic Syndrome. This is basically a collection of risk factors like excess fat around the stomach, raised blood pressure, low levels of the good cholesterol and a few other things, which all together point to increased risks of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
So all the disease stuff is pretty scary but did you see the last part…”converted directly to fat?”
OMG! Straight to fat!
How’s that for those of us trying to lose weight or keep it off?
Your ‘healthy’ fruit juice – straight to fat.
Your smoothie made with bananas, mangoes, berries and pineapple – straight to fat.
Your ‘healthy’ desserts made with a bucket load of dates – straight to fat.
So let’s be clear here, eating one or two pieces of whole fresh fruit a day complete with its fibre and other nutrients is not the problem. It has it’s own mechanisms to slow down the delivery of the fructose to the liver and aids digestion and assimilation.
It’s the concentrated stuff without the complete fibre that’s the problem. Just when everyone thought they were being healthy with their fruit juices and fruit smoothies, turns out it just dumps more on the liver to process too quickly and adds to the problem. And that’s even before you get to the high sugar levels in processed foods!
Here are a few things it gets up to:-
- Fructose…”inactivates a key messenger of insulin action, leading to liver insulin resistance.”
2. The above means glucose goes up, potentially leading to diabetes
3. The liver insulin resistance causes the pancreas to release extra insulin potentially leading to obesity.
4. High insulin may also drive the growth of cancer.
5. High insulin blocks leptin signalling, this is the ‘I’m full’ hormone and thus causes you to eat more.
6. Fructose may also compromise the small intestine lining and lead to leaky gut
7. Fructose may also directly damage cells and contribute to aging
8. Insulin resistance has a direct causation for dementia
9. “Ghrelin, a peptide produced by cells in the stomach, is the ‘hunger’ signal… However, fructose intake does not decrease ghrelin; therefore caloric intake is not suppressed.”
So there are all kinds of issues it causes and two different ways it keeps you eating more of it. There was way more technical information on how exactly the fat cells react and keep wanting to fill themselves up, thus working against you in your efforts to lose weight.
Robert said it best – “every successful diet in history restricts sugar.”
So how much is too much?
Opinions vary, some say 50g of fructose is ok (9 tsps), others say 25g is the healthier level while others citing low as 15g per day the limit for anyone presenting any of the symptoms outlined above.
I say be mindful of it and see how you are feeling. Lots of processed foods have it, like sauces and packaged foods, watch the fruit consumption and added sweeteners. This is why I stick to stevia and rice malt syrup mostly because neither of those have fructose in it. I like a bit of organic maple syrup every now and then because it has a different flavour and it is about 35% fructose. If you are making a smoothie, make it mostly veggies and add only one piece of fruit.
Reducing your sugar intake may just be your next life-changing step.
Sunshine & stevia.