Is Refined Sugar Really Toxic? | Chris Kresser

Is Refined Sugar Really Toxic?

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refined sugar, refined white sugar
Is refined white sugar really as toxic as we've been led to believe? istock.com/YelenaYemchuk

So far in this series, I’ve covered a variety of ‘alternative’ sweeteners: natural sweeteners like honey and stevia; artificial sweeteners like aspartame; and sugar alcohols like xylitol.

But what about plain old white sugar? And what about the increasingly common industrial sweetener, high fructose corn syrup? These two get a pretty bad rap, even from mainstream media, and although much of their reputation is deserved, there are some misconceptions that I’d like to straighten out.

The sweet (and not so sweet) truth about refined sugar.

The Evidence

Most of you are probably aware that excess refined sugar isn’t great for your health. Sugar and HFCS are particularly detrimental when consumed in liquid form, because we don’t tend to compensate for calories we drink by reducing our calorie consumption elsewhere. (1) This can lead to weight gain from overeating, along with elevated triglycerides, insulin resistance, and other indicators of metabolic syndrome.

Refined sugar has also been implicated in reduced immune system efficiency. (2, 3) In one study, immune cells demonstrated a significantly reduced capacity to kill pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria) following sugar consumption (from sucrose, glucose, fructose, honey, or orange juice) when compared with fasting levels; starches didn’t have this effect. Unfortunately, this study was quite small and I haven’t found further evidence to corroborate or refute these results. I believe it’s a good idea to avoid sugar when your immune system is compromised.

Refined sugar is also thought to promote cancer growth by ‘feeding’ the cancer. While it’s true that cancer feeds on sugar, it actually feeds on the glucose in your blood; not necessarily the sugar you eat. (4) While those two factors are obviously linked, it’s more important to be aware of your own blood sugar control, and don’t consume more sugar (or carbs in general) than you can effectively metabolize. After all, you will always have glucose in your blood as long as you’re alive, so the goal is to avoid having high blood glucose over a prolonged period of time, not to eliminate glucose entirely.

But while there’s plenty of evidence that excess sugar or HFCS can be harmful to health, there’s  actually no evidence that small amounts of refined sugar in the context of a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet (and active lifestyle) is harmful. The problem is that limiting yourself to small amounts of sugar is often easier said than done.

Is Sugar Addictive?

Addictive properties of sugar have been observed in rat models where food is restricted for 12 hours, encouraging a binge-like pattern of consumption. (5) These rats experience dopamine and opiod release that resembles the neurological response to substances of abuse, although significantly smaller in magnitude. Additionally, these rats experience opiate-like withdrawal symptoms after being given an opiate-blocker, or after a period of fasting.

Most human studies, however, have not reproduced these findings in rodents. (6, 7) (As always, it’s worth noting that the second reference was partially funded by the World Sugar Research Organization.) At least one small study which interviewed obese individuals did find that, based on self-reported symptoms, some obese patients fit the profile for sugar addiction, particularly those who also suffer from binge eating disorder (BED). (8) But as of yet, there’s little to no rigorous evidence that sugar is chemically addictive in humans.

However, some evidence does indicate that sugar can interfere with the normal hormone signaling from ghrelin and leptin, both of which help control appetite and satiety. (9) So although this isn’t an ‘addiction’ mechanism, it’s another way in which sugar can encourage overconsumption in susceptible individuals.

Whether sugar is addictive or not, from a practical standpoint, it’s often easy to eat more sugar than you mean to. Certain people are going to be far more sensitive to these effects than others, so it’s really a matter of being familiar with your own eating behavior when it comes to potentially addictive foods.

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Really Worse Than White Sugar?

So far, I’ve been talking about white sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) somewhat interchangeably. But HFCS is without a doubt the more vilified of the two, both in the natural health community and in mainstream media. Foods and beverages sweetened with “real sugar” instead of HFCS are seen by many as ‘healthier’ and more ‘natural,’ and even big soft drink companies like Pepsi are trying to cater to the ‘natural’ crowd by offering “made with real sugar” sodas. If HFCS can make sugar look like a health food by comparison, it must be pretty terrible for you, right?

Well, first, let’s talk chemical composition. White sugar, or ‘table sugar,’ is simply sucrose, a disaccharide composed of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule bonded to each other. This means that table sugar is always 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

Contrary to popular belief, HFCS has about the same amount of fructose as white sugar. It’s also the same level of sweetness. (10) The two most common forms of HFCS in our food supply are HFCS-42, which is 42% fructose, and HFCS-55, which is 55% fructose. This is certainly “high fructose” compared to regular corn syrup, which has no fructose, but most people hear “high fructose” and think ‘mostly fructose,’ which is definitely not the case.

The main difference is that the fructose and glucose in HFCS exist primarily in their free monosaccharide form, instead of as the disaccharide sucrose as in table sugar. And given the similarities between the two sweeteners, it should come as no surprise that HFCS does not have significantly different metabolic effects from sugar. (11, 12)

I know many of you are also concerned about GMOs in HFCS. Genetically modified varieties of both sugarbeets and corn are grown and consumed in the US, with corn much more widely so. (13) Overall I’d say you’re probably better off with table sugar rather than HFCS from a GMO perspective, because it’s produced from crops that are less commonly GMO. It’s also pretty easy to find organic, non-GMO sugar.

So, How “Toxic” Are Sugar and HFCS?

White sugar and HFCS are not “toxins” in the sense that even small amounts are highly undesirable and potentially harmful. Excess refined sugar can have undesirable health effects, but its addictive power is not comparable to a drug, and HFCS isn’t that much different from table sugar. Some people may be highly sensitive to even small amounts of sugar, often due to severe gut dysbiosis, and in this case they’re justified in avoiding it vigilantly.

But barring extreme sensitivity, there’s no evidence to indicate that refined sugar (or HFCS) is actually toxic in moderate amounts, and most people would be better off avoiding the stress that comes from being unnecessarily fearful of any food that has even a trace amount of refined sugar in it.

I’d even go as far to say that intentionally consuming sugar on occasion shouldn’t be a problem for most people. If every now and then you decide to indulge in a piece of dark chocolate or have a scoop of real ice cream made with refined sugar, you shouldn’t mentally and emotionally beat yourself up or force yourself into a week-long “detox” to make up for your dietary transgression. The stress that comes along with excessive food restrictions can be much more harmful than having a bit of refined sugar here and there.

Sugar is neither a toxin nor a replacement for real food. Ultimately, small amounts of sugar can fit into a whole foods, nutrient-dense, healthy diet, as long as you recognize it for what it truly is: a treat.

Now tell me: What’s your philosophy on refined sugar? Do you avoid it like the plague or happily enjoy it on occasion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

164 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. If sugar is not addictive then why do I think about eating it EVERYDAY! It is hands down the only ‘food’ I crave eating absolutely everyday, sometimes more than once a day. It is also the only consumable that I have not been able to quit consuming. If it’s not addictive then I must be broken.

    • HI Etai,

      “Addictive” is a medical term that implies certain physiological mechanisms at work. A food (or other substance) can be highly rewarding—another scientific term with a specific meaning, i.e. a food that is rewarding makes you want to eat more of it—without necessarily being addictive in the true sense of the word.

      There’s no doubt that sugar is a slippery slope for many people, which is one of many reasons I don’t recommend regularly consuming it. Some people (like myself) are able to eat it occasionally without going down that slippery slope. For example, I might have some ice cream once every few weeks, and that doesn’t increase my sugar consumption outside of that brief excursion. But others have trouble eating sugar occasionally, because even a little bit tends to lead to more. In this case it’s best avoided entirely.

  2. I enjoy small amounts of sugar in sweets and ice cream periodically, as a treat, and have always believed in moderation as a general rule for all things; although some excess is very good for the soul! However: I refer you to this lecture by Dr. Lustig of UCSF, WITH WHICH I WOULD THINK YOU ARE FAMILIAR! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
    You seem to disagree with him! I don’t! He shows specifically how sugar reacts in the brain exactly the way drugs of abuse and addiction do!

  3. Michael — your comments are interesting but I am confused.
    Should we eat less fruit, less grain, starchy veggies or what?
    If you know the answer, I would love to hear it – particularly in reference to diabetes and cancer. I can’t understand the whole pyruvate, P13K and other serious metabolic information.

  4. Jut got a message fro Tom explaining how he couldn’t take one drop of sugar without losing his whole food health plan. I am the same I put 10 lbs on just be increasing my fruit every day and a few extra carrots and onions. What a chore this is .

  5. What about substituting organic stevia powder or extract for sugar in drinks and snacks? I have done this quite a bit in the past couple of years and it helped me lose A LOT of weight and lower my triglycerides (I used to drink a lot of soda and sugary tea)! I’ve also noticed that raw unsweetened cocao powder or nibs help in managing sugar cravings. At least for me.

  6. About two years ago I had a blood test and discovered I had “high blood sugar”.

    I’m a firm believer in the power of my mind.

    I told myself……” Cat, you don’t like sugar.”

    Now, I don’t like sugar. I really really don’t like the taste of anything sweet …………..even fruit is a bit of a must do.

    It didn’t take any long period of adjustment. Just that simple directive. The mind obeys orders!!!

  7. I understood that HFCS was stored in the liver as fat. And that it had the ability to raise TG in the blood and LDL. So, it reacts differently in the body that other forms of sugar. Thus, promoting more of the likelihood of gaining weight. Is that accurate? Thanks. J

  8. you can look at scientific studies and say everything is ok with hi fructose corn syrup but you don’t see the more important research that goes on in black operations. you don’t have access to their covert scientific studies.

    the other consideration is that by itself it may not be harmful but with other toxic substance, it could. It could be part of a binary weapon.

    also scientific studies are not the end all or be all either. the results can be rigged. the integrity and motive of the ones doing the study are as important as the study.

    one needs to use their intuition also.

    the basic analogy is this …

    would you eat a meal prepared by someone who you knew was a serial killer who poisoned people … wouldn’t you note any odd ingredients that were not commonly used before

    Here are disturbing facts about the forces that have colluded in poisoning the food supply …

    The fact that the government went out of it’s way to subsidize hi fructose corn syrup raises a lot of suspicions

    The fact that companies stampeded into putting it into products across the board for frivolous savings raises a lot of suspicion.

    HFSC is guilty just by association.

    The cost savings makes no sense. People don’t decide whether to buy or not buy a product based on a couple pennies.

    The cost of organic or sugar based products is way to exorbitant. they sell the contaminated products the cheapest.

    if one takes heinz ketchup, they use to sell one kind of ketchup but then expanded to a whole bunch of ketchup. imagine the additional costs to do that. they mark it up by at least a dollar or more for better ingredients when the ingredients are dirt cheap. if that’s not enough, the taste of the ketchup is still the same.

    they could streamline all their different ketchup products with healthy ingredients and cut costs but they don’t because it’s about hidden agendas.

    they intentionally poisoned their products. the low income people can buy the poisoned variety.

    it is estimated that 1 pound of HFSC was eaten by people in the 1960s and the estimate now is 50 pounds. i don’t think most people need to completely avoid it but just minimize it.

    I also watch out for gmo sugar. it needs to say pure cane sugar or else it is gmo sugar.

  9. Chris, if it is physical, psychological, emotional or just by Habit, some people are indeed addicted to sugar and carbs. Because of that, they can’t keep up with their diet. They have some, binge, feel guilty, start over full of hope, have a little slip on sweets, quit, binge and the vicious circle starts over. A little sugar may not be a harm for people that have total control of their impulses. But would you recommend a beer once and a while in a AA meeting? No, and thats the answer for several people like me. No sugar, no cheat day, no cheat meal.. Unfortunately.
    Regards from Brazil (and we just won another game in the World Cup)

  10. Hi Chris,
    Any comment about using dextrose / glucose syrup instead of sugar.
    I substituted dextrose for sugar and removed my sugar addiction / craving.

  11. I have seen Dr. Lustig talk about the bio chemistry of sugar and his opinions on the matter. I do find all of it fascinating.

    I do not necessarily have an aversion to sugar in general but in the last year I have been undergoing a couple nutritional ketosis experiments, the latest overseen by a medical doctor. Though, in between my cycles of NK, I was happy to eat plenty of fruits, add a teaspoon of sugar to my coffee, etc. I didn’t notice any distressing effects or mind altering binges. I can see the ability to overeat sugar, which I suppose is the main point here. Finding a way to manage sugar intake.

    A note to that is, now going through NK, where I really want to manage glucose, I am much more aware of the foods and foods substances that have much more added sugar than you need, further blowing my mind about its presence in nearly everything processed.

    Thanks Chris for tackling the subject and look forward to more.

  12. I use date sugar in my baked goods and coconut candy. It is a whole food (just ground dates) and metabolizes as a whole food. I use ripe, mashed bananas occasionally too.

    My feeling is that whenever you can, eat whole foods. But, the bigger issue is to reprogram the sweet tooth most of us developed in childhood not to expect “treats” to be super sweet.

    That said, I do enjoy my piece of dark chocolate at the end of the day!

  13. I found organic raw sugar cane sugar not to be as sweet as refined white sugar. I do measure the amount 3/4 tsp I put in my coffee…or I use organic honey that is grown on my place when I have that available. I don’t see a problem with small amounts of sweets if you can handle it or large amounts if you can handle it.
    I have found though the older I get the less tolerance I have for sweets and other junk so I have gone as simple as I can when it comes to the foods I eat.

  14. Over the years I’ve learned that when I crave something sweet, it means that I didn’t eat well earlier in the day. It’s just as easy for me to quell the craving by eating something fatty as something sweet.

    Also, as many people report, a desire for dessert right at the end of a meal goes away if you wait 15-20 minutes for the meal to start digesting.

    I’m not against sweets or desserts on occasion, but I’m trying to understand what my body is telling me. Eating refined sugar on a regular basis interferes with my ability to interpret my bodies signals.

  15. Interview
    Cancer, metabolism, fructose, artificial sweeteners, and going cold turkey on sugar
    Lewis C Cantley

    Correspondence: Lewis C Cantley [email protected]

    Author Affiliations
    Department of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065, USA

    BMC Biology 2014, 12:8 doi:10.1186/1741-7007-12-8

    The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/12/8

    Received: 28 January 2014
    Published: 31 January 2014
    © 2014 Cantley; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

    Interview
    Lewis Cantley graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in chemistry and took his PhD in biophysical chemistry at Cornell University where he worked on enzyme kinetics. He did his postdoctoral studies at Harvard University where he stayed as an assistant professor until he moved to Tufts University where he discovered phosphoinositide-3-kinase, the enzyme critical to the control of growth that has dominated his research ever since. He returned to Harvard as a Professor of Cell Biology and later as a member of the new Department of Systems Biology and is now Director of the new Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

    thumbnail . Lewis Cantley
    Quite early in your research career, you discovered the enzyme phosphoinositide kinase – usually known as PI3K – whose crucial activities are still central to your research. Can you briefly say what it does?
    PI3K generates a lipid – and a lipid that wasn’t known prior to our discovery. It’s a very minor lipid – that’s why it had been missed – that is the product of inositol phosphorylation mediated by PI3K. Even at the time of our discovery that PI3K makes this novel lipid, we already had evidence that high levels of this enzyme correlated with malignant transformation of cells: in collaborations with Tom Roberts, Brian Schaffhausen and Ray Erickson we had shown that viruses that cause cancers in mice and chickens often do so by activating this novel enzymatic activity. So we knew early on that well-studied viral oncoproteins such as Src and polyoma middle T activate this lipid kinase. We went on to show that the product of PI3K, phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3), was quite high in cells transformed by these viruses. Because of its correlation with cancer, we suspected very early on that PIP3 was an oncolipid – although we didn’t actually name it that.

    So the connection with cancer was established very early on and then, in an overview of PI3K signaling that you wrote in 2002 [1], you predicted that studies on the PI3K pathway would lead to new targets for diabetes and cancer. Did you realize then that metabolic disturbances like diabetes and cancer might actually be linked?
    Well, we did because we published a paper in 1990 where we reported that not only was PI3K activated by growth factors like EGF and PDGF, but it was also activated by insulin [2]. In fact, insulin turned out to be the very best way to activate it. As we continued to pursue that finding through the very early 1990s, we and others found that virtually everything that insulin did required the activity of PI3K. In other words, inhibitors of PI3K or knockouts of PI3K in mice abrogated insulin signaling. Insulin-dependent glucose uptake, for example, required PI3K.

    And as we were doing our work in mammalian systems – on cell lines and mouse knock-outs – other labs were studying worms and flies, and the gene encoding PI3K popped up in genetic mutants of flies, in a pathway that was downstream of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor (IGF) receptor. While mammals have separate but related receptors for insulin and IGF1, flies and worms have a single receptor that is the ancestor of these two receptors. So PI3K showed up genetically in the insulin/IGF-1 signaling pathway that controls cell growth in flies. In worms, it popped up in a nutrient-dependent age-related phenotype. In fact, it was called ‘age-1’ before it was identified as PI3K because loss-of-function mutations in the gene dramatically extend the lifespan of worms. The genetic network for ageing turned out to be the insulin receptor, IRS-1, PI3K, AKT, FoxO network – the same network that we were uncovering in mammalian systems.

    So it was very clear by the late 1990s that PI3K evolved as a mediator of insulin/IGF-1 receptor signaling. And as full genome sequences of flies and worms became available it became clear that while the insulin receptor-PI3K-AKT-FoxO pathway was well conserved, other pathways for activating PI3K that we had found in mammalian cells were less conserved. And that led us to conclude that PI3K and PIP3 originally evolved to mediate insulin/IGF-1 signaling and to control nutrient uptake – particularly glucose uptake in response to feeding – and distribute it into the appropriate tissues for the organism to grow.

    What you are mostly focused on now is specific disturbances of growth-related signaling networks in tumor cells that might suggest new drug targets, and I’d like to ask you about one noticeable thing about these studies – the frequent discovery of apparently paradoxical results. Would you like to say why these studies so often throw up paradoxes?
    I think what we’re learning, of course, is that biological systems are far more complicated than we’d imagined. As we acquire tools that allow us to acutely knock out or knock down the expression of a particular gene, or have a drug that inhibits a particular step in a metabolic pathway or signaling pathway, we are finding that the system responds to these perturbations by attempting to reactivate the pathway. In other words, a lot of what we call robustness in nature comes about because biological systems have numerous negative feedback regulatory networks that sense when the system is out of balance and become altered to restore homeostasis. So some of the paradoxes come from the fact that whenever you inhibit a component of a signaling or metabolic network, you end up reactivating things upstream of it, giving a result that’s the opposite of what you expected to see.

    In metabolic networks particularly, it’s been known for a long time that there are all kinds of feedback control. One example of a paradox from our research was the observation that pyruvate kinase, which is the enzyme in glycolysis that synthesizes ATP, actually tends to get turned down in cancer cells. This is paradoxical because cancer cells are typically utilizing glucose at 50- to 100-fold the rate of the normal tissue surrounding it, so why would they want to turn down one of the steps in that pathway and make less ATP? In the end, we figured out that it’s because that allows the cells to use the intermediates in glycolysis for other purposes than just making ATP, such as making NADPH, or making ribose, or making serine or glycine [3].

    These are for biosynthetic pathways?
    That’s right. The cancer cell of course needs to grow, and it needs to be able to control its oxidation-reduction potential. Those are typically a greater challenge for a cancer cell than just making ATP, which it can do through oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria. So if you turn down ATP synthesis through glycolysis because you’re using glucose intermediates for metabolic processes, you can make up for that in the mitochondria and the cell is fine.

    So would you conclude that you really need to know your way around metabolism before you can start to predict what will happen if you interfere with a particular step in the pathway?
    That’s right. It’s only now that we have the tools to acutely perturb metabolic systems and monitor what happens, and we can really begin to understand the wiring diagrams of these pathways.

    I’d like to ask you one last question, on fructose. You’ve written recently on the very topical issue of whether fructose is a particularly important cause of metabolic disease [4] and, as we now know, with possible very strong links to cancer. As I understand it, sucrose – and even other carbohydrates – in excess can be metabolized to fructose. So if we’re just eating too much carbohydrate generally, does it really matter whether it’s fructose or any other kind?
    It turns out that it does matter. Quite honestly, four or five years ago I was in your camp of assuming, you know – fructose, glucose, they have exactly the same number of calories per gram, they can be interconverted instantly inside most cells, so what does it matter? The answer is, it’s really important – and quite striking – because the liver differentially metabolizes fructose and glucose. This specialization is pretty much unique to the liver; in any other cell, the fructose and glucose are pretty much interchanged quite rapidly. But liver does not have hexokinase, so it cannot phosphorylate fructose at the six position. This is in contrast to glucose, which can be phosphorylated at the six position in the liver by glucokinase to make glucose-6-phosphate, which is then converted to fructose-6-phosphate. And that is then phosphorylated at the one position by phosphofructokinase (PFK), which is – and here’s the key point – the ultimate gatekeeper for entering glycolysis. In contrast, fructose that enters the liver is phosphorylated at the one position by fructokinase (also called ketohexokinase) to make fructose-1-phosphate rather than fructose-6-phosphate. The liver is almost unique in regard to the ability to differentially metabolize glucose and fructose.

    And that matters because…?
    That matters because once it’s phosphorylated at the one position, fructose can be a substrate for aldolase, and shoot down the glycolytic pathway, bypassing the gatekeeper PFK, which is the control step for going into glycolysis. In most tissues, if the cell finds itself with plenty of ATP and plenty of citrate (the building blocks for making fatty acids), it will stop all flux through glycolysis because ATP and citrate inhibit PFK – a classic example of a metabolic negative feedback control. So the glucose that enters the cell can still get phosphorylated but it doesn’t go down glycolysis and doesn’t get converted to fat but rather gets stored as glycogen or exits the cell.

    But in the liver, fructose bypasses that whole machinery, because it doesn’t need PFK; it gets phosphorylated at the one position directly, without phosphorylation of the six position first and, as a consequence, now becomes a substrate for aldolase, and it produces even higher levels of ATP and citrate that go on to make fatty acids. No matter how much you’ve eaten, you will still make more fat if you eat fructose.

    There are two other things about fructose that make it different from glucose. One is that all the fructose you eat is cleared on its first pass through the liver. In other words, the liver scarfs up all the fructose and immediately converts it to fat, while glucose stays in the bloodstream for some period of time. That’s why we call starches hyperglycemic molecules; they keep glucose levels in your bloodstream high for a long time. That is good for the brain – the brain loves to eat glucose. It’s good for the muscle. But fructose doesn’t actually supply any energy to your brain at all, it doesn’t supply any energy to your muscle; it only gets stored as fat. That’s really quite remarkable, if you think about it. You eat sucrose – one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose – that glucose is being used by your muscle and your brain – your brain loves getting that glucose – but the fructose is all just getting stored as fat.

    But does it also mean that you get hungrier – you want more sugar if you’re using fructose rather than glucose?
    Exactly. You would have to eat exactly twice as much sucrose as starch to get the same amount of energy supplied to your muscle and brain. The brain realizes that, it keeps relaying a feedback so that the more sugar you eat, the more it wants you to eat. Hence the addiction to sweetness. That’s the dangerous thing about this molecule.

    You might ask – well why did we evolve such a complicated system? Why does only the liver feed fructose straight into fat? I think it’s quite clear why this happens. We have a symbiotic relationship with plants. Plants want to spread their seeds around, so they surround them with fructose. High-fructose material surrounding the seeds gets us and other animals to eat them and this craving of fructose makes us eat them a lot and we end up carrying their seeds around and spreading them. But at the same time, it gives us an advantage because those fruits ripen just at the end of the growing season, which generally means, in almost all environments, that you’re not going to have much to eat over the next few months. So the best way to survive is to convert everything you eat at that time into fat. That is the long-term storage mechanism that allows you to survive until the next growing season. That’s why fructose was spectacular for us 10,000 years ago, getting us through these famines that we faced every year. But today we don’t have famines and so we just get fat.

    Does this put a whole new gloss on Eve and that apple?
    You’d probably have to eat about a bushel of apples to get the same amount of fructose as in a 40 oz Coke, which we’re trying to ban here in New York City unsuccessfully.

    And here’s an additional comment. The way we’ve attempted to avoid this problem is by using artificial sweeteners. The problem with those is that a disconnect ultimately develops between the amount of sweetness the brain tastes and how much glucose ends up coming to the brain.

    So the brain figures you have to eat more and more and more sweetness in order to get any calories out of it. The consequence of people eating lots of sweeteners, no matter what they are – whether they’re natural or unnatural – is that it increases the addiction for the sweetness. As a consequence, at the end of the day, your brain says, ‘OK, at some point I need some glucose here’. And then you eat an entire cake, because nobody can hold out in the end. The only way really to prevent this problem – to break the addiction – is to go completely cold turkey and go off all sweeteners – artificial as well as fructose. Eventually the brain resets itself and you don’t crave it as much.

    References
    Cantley LC: The phosphoinositide 3-kinase pathway.
    Science 2002, 296:1655-1657. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL
    Ruderman NB, Kapeller R, White MF, Cantley LC: Activation of phosphoinositide kinase by insulin.
    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1990, 87:1411-1415. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL
    Israelsen WJ, Dayton TL, Davidson SM, Fiske BP, Hosios AM, Bellinger G, Li J, Yu Y, Sasaki M, Horner JW, Burga LN, Xie J, Jurczak MJ, DePinho RA, Clish CB, Jacks T, Kibbey RG, Wulf GM, Di Vizio D, Mills GB, Cantley LC, Vander Heiden MG: PKM2 isoform-specific deletion reveals a differential requirement for pyruvate kinase in tumor cells.
    Cell 2013, 155:397-409. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL
    Lyssiotis CA, Cantley LC: F stands for fructose and fat.
    Nature 2013, 502:181-182. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  16. I am only a few months into Paleo, and feel so much better now. As for sugar and hfcs, that was taken out of my everyday eating plan a long time ago. I choose to use primarily stevia, and honey and occasionally maple syrup. There are still some sugar when I eat some dark chocolate, ice cream, etc., Worse than sugar for me, is wheat and most grains.

  17. I’ve never been a sugar fanatic (sweet tooth)… However, my passion being international cuisine, I have noticed a drawing towards Thai, Persian, Chinese, Korean and Moroccan cuisine with their sweet/”sour” cuisines… in ways making them “more interesting” in many ways… That said, I spent 4 years with a gourmet baking business in the capital of the Mexican state of Veracruz, since in Latin America sweet is what sells. If you read the Isabel Allende novel, “Portrait in Sepia” one of the wealthy Chilean main characters tells her nephew in San Francisco during the war between Peru, Bolivia and Chile, “invest in sugarcane; people suffering tend towards eating much more sugar…” Sugar may not be addictive. However, there must be something socio-psychological within our cultures that tells us that eating something sweet will make you momentarily feel better. At the moment (for at least 8 years now) my business here in Guadalajara, Jalisco is a travelling coffee bar. What sells are frappes. When I first became interested in a low-carb etc diet (and stopped drinking my wonderful frappuccinos), I read a publication by the American Heart Association stating that children shouldn’t consume more than 3 grams of sugar per day, women (18 grams) and men (40 grams)… That day I evaluated our 16 oz frappuccinos for sugar content. The Moka Frappuccino had somewhere around 60 grams of sugar and the Supreme (chocolate, Caramel with nuts) had at least 90 grams! I imagine that a typical Mexican will ingest the equivalent of upwards of 200 grams of sugar keeping in mind 2 22oz cokes per day, bread, cereal, sweetened yogurt, half liter of juice, a possible candy bar, cookies with Nescafe in the evening… Throw in white rice and flour tortillas at times… Corn tortillas every day… an occasional 16 oz frappuccino or a bowl of ices or ice cream… 200 grams of sugar…

    I’m incredibly immersed in trying to understand all of this nutrition/health stuff, investigations, publications… For instance I’m in the middle of reading “Fats that Kill/Fats that Heal” by Udo Erasmus and almost “threw in the garbage” “The Sugar Fix” by Richard Johnson due to his flagrant contradictions in the attempt of making us believe that Fructose is so bad for us… He may have a point about the negative affects fructose has upon our cells. But, exaggerating, contradicting or lying and writing incomplete ideas for moving people is scientifically and ethically incorrect. What bothers me greatly is that there is absolutely NO criticism against “the Sugar Fix” on the internet. Chris Kresser criticizes Lustig, but he does not allude to Johnson’s blatant contradictions… This is problematic, since creating such drastic dietary or nutritional lifestyle changes for the “lay people” requires clear understandable information.

    No, I don’t believe that sugar is toxic. I do believe that fructose may be risky or problematic. Johnson says that glucose (especially from starches) does not cause metabolic syndrome, raise blood glucose levels, cause insulin intolerance and the subsequent weight gain, doesn’t cause increase in triglycerides… I have 4-5 months of proof supported by weightloss and blood tests that show that he is incorrect… Considering that I am not a sweet tooth, nor a soda drinker, nor a fruit eater (due to problems with dietary fiber and not having a large intestine or rectum)… my triglyceride levels were caused by glucose (corn tortillas, flour tortillas, white bread and especially white rice). I’ve almost always drunk my coffee black without sugar. There are days I want it with milk and the equivalent of 8-12 grams of sugar… During the first month of my “paleo diet”, my triglycerides and VLDL cholesterol dropped exponentially. If the only thing I had decreased was my glucose consumption (removed pasta, bread, tortillas, corn, potatoes, rice from my diet; I eat apples, guavas, prickly pears, raspberries, pineapple), then it was the glucose that affected my levels and not fructose…

    • When I say I’m not a fruit eater, I mean that I am not a voracious fruit eater. I have a very low tolerance, meaning that one apple or a few pieces of papaya or 1 or 2 guavas (#1 in the world for vitamin C; #2 is Papaya, but the hystimines in Papaya reap havok on my J-Pouch)… It’s either/or. Pineapple is occasional blended for a pineapple water/tea used as a diuretic. Raspberries in a nut/fruit smoothy with natural unsweetened yogurt. Apples for their probiotics for controlling or removing “Pouchitis”… I use Prickly Pears for their Betalains and sugar directly after a run… But, I don’t generally have sugar cravings (less so removing the simple carbs). So, I don’t eat fruit for removing a sugar fix… The closest I come to a sugar craving is a craving for chocolate once in a while…

  18. I am so reactive to sugar that even stevia that I use makes me I think my liver things it sweetness and responds. One cherry and i have finished a bag of them in hours. Dangerous stuff to have any fructose even in the form of fruit for a fat person. I would avoid this sweet ness as much as possible even if you are not trying to be slim.I would personally warn all people who have native america blood to be careful as they seem more able to put weight on get to be diabetic and even a n alcoholic after one drink. They seem unable to find the right enzymes to digest or neutralize the toxic effects of these sugars.

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