Being Happy With Sugar, The Atlantic, 5 June 2014
I’ve written a lot about sugar over the years. Sugar is not toxic, nor is fructose, a component of sugar.
“To say that fructose is toxic is a total misconception of the nature of the molecule,” Fred Brouns, a professor of Health Food Innovation at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, recently told me. “If you have too much oxygen, it is toxic. If you get too much water, you have water intoxication. That doesn’t mean we say oxygen is toxic.”
But wait. High-fructose corn syrup is a different animal than table sugar, you say. Its fructose is unbound; in sugar fructose is bound to glucose. Sugar is better!
“Others argue that HFCS is worse than table sugar because the fructose in table sugar is “actually attached to other sugars and molecules and needs to be broken down before it is absorbed, which limits the damage it causes,” as Mercola wrote in his popular anti-agave article. “In HFCS, it is a free fructose molecule, just as the glucose. Because these sugars are in their free forms their absorption is radically increased and you actually absorb far more of them than had they been in their natural joined state.”
Popkin told me that is not a well-substantiated claim. “Clinical trials haven’t shown that mattered one iota. People might make those arguments. But there’s no clinical trial showing a difference.”
But all this high-fructose corn syrup has to be responsible for all this obesity. Right?
High-fructose corn syrup can’t be a particular driver of the obesity epidemic in the U.S., Brouns says, “because obesity has grown just as quickly in countries that barely use HFCS.
Calories from sugar have sustained whole populations. You may be tired of hearing me say that the Cubans, during their Special Period, lost weight and reduced their incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer when they resorted to eating a low-fat diet of primarily rice and sugar. So, I’ll pass on this quote from the book I’m reading by Katherine Turner:
“Sidney Mintz has argued that white baker’s bread, along with jam, tea, and sugar, was the fuel that largely sustained the urban British working class from the eighteenth century onward.”
I think there are more nutritious foods to eat than processed sugar. But we are using sugar as a scapegoat for the cause of our chronic ailments. The real culprit is overnutrition, fueled by a diet high in fat and refined, industrially-produced food stuff.