Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lustig QnA
"Q. Dr. Lustig, I heard you on KQED and was quite impressed by the information regarding sugar. I am wondering, are more "natural" or less processed forms of sugar such as maple syrup or honey a more healthy way to sweeten things? Or are they equivalent to white sugar?
"A. White sugar is sucrose, which is half glucose and half fructose (fruit sugar). Although glucose generates an insulin response (and therefore promotes deposition of energy into fat and weight gain right after a meal), fructose is the really bad actor. Fructose is like "alcohol without the buzz." It poisons your liver, and makes it insulin resistant; therefore, your pancreas makes even more insulin to make the liver work properly. This forces energy into fat all the time. Maple syrup and honey are just glucose. While caloric and insulin generating (therefore obesogenic), they don't have fructose to damage the liver and promote insulin resistance. So, although not perfect, they would be better than sucrose.
"Q. You've been quoted as saying that juice, even "100% natural" is no better than soda, because they contain the same carbohydrates. Would you recommend drinking diet soda, then, as an alternative to either juice or regular soda? What about coffee or tea, sweetened with sugar (I mean here brewed and then sweetened, as opposed to bottled teas and coffee drinks, which I assume are as bad as soda and juice)?
"A. Diet sodas don't have calories, although some sweeteners can still generate a small insulin response. So, on balance, diet sodas are better than sugared ones, if you like percolating chemicals through your bloodstream. Sweetened coffees or teas are no better than soda, as they still generate an insulin response, and they are sweetened with sucrose (which is half fructose, which is bad for your liver). My question to you is, why do you need sweet drinks at all? What's wrong with water? The human race had no sweet drinks until 1915, when Coca-Cola went national. Until then, we had water and milk, and we did just fine, thank you. Juice was invented in the 1950s. We didn't have obesity in the first half of the 20th century. But we have seen both soft drinks and juice sales rise astronomically, at the same time the obesity epidemic started to build. There is some suggestion that the earlier you expose an infant to "sweet", the more likely they will crave it later. We need to get America off its "sweet habit". Water has everything you need, and nothing you don't. And it's cheap."

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