Category Archives: Sugar

High-Fat, High-Fructose Combination Worse Than High-Fat Or Low-Fat Alone

I’ve been saying this for years1,2 … a diet that is both high in fat and high in refined carbohydrates is worse (that is, leads to more metabolic disorders such as weight gain, diabetes, fatty liver, cancer) than a diet high in one or the other. The combination is particularly deleterious. (Although diets high in fat alone come with their own risks related to their higher levels of fat-soluble environmental toxins, increased systemic inflammation, and, as this study found, promotion of insulin resistance and fatty liver.)

This new study found that:

Fructose Supplementation Worsens The Deleterious Effects Of Short Term High Fat Feeding On Hepatic Steatosis And Lipid Metabolism In Adult Rats, Experimental Physiology, 27 June 2014

RatsHighFat2014Adult male rats were fed either a low-fat, high-fat, or high-fat/high fructose diet for 2 weeks. The high-fat/high-fructose diet was worse than the high-fat diet, which was worse than the low-fat diet. Another way of saying that … the low-fat diet was the healthiest.

Some significant bits:

“From our results, it appears that hepatic mitochondrial impairment is an early event induced by increased lipid content of the diet, since it is already evident after 2 weeks of dietary treatment, and that the presence of fructose does not have a further impact on mitochondrial function.

Significantly lower mitochondrial oxidative capacity but significantly higher oxidative stress was found in rats fed high fat and high fat-high fructose diet compared to rats fed low fat diet.”

During high fat feeding an increased lipid supply to peripheral organs, and particularly to the liver, arises mainly from dietary lipids.”

They say that mitochondrial impairment is linked to insulin resistance, and that it is dietary fat which initiates insulin resistance. It occurs because there is a reduced capacity by mitochondria to deal with the increased lipid supply. The extraneous fat is deposited ectopically or outside of the cell, leading to a fatty liver, which exacerbates insulin resistance. Adding fructose to this impaired state compounds the problem.

This is exactly what Dr. McDougall says happens. (Insulin Resistance Is A Normal Adaptation To A Rich Diet)

By the way, the rats fed a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet (from cornstarch) by the end of the study weighed less, had less body fat, less liver fat, fewer plasma free fatty acids, and lower plasma cholesterol than the rats fed a high-fat diet, even though they ate the same amount of food (in calories) as the high-fat rats.

1 High-Fat High-Sugar Dietary Pattern (“Meat & Potatoes”) Linked To Colon Cancer, Diabetes, Fanatic Cook, July 2010
2 “Meat And Potatoes” Dietary Pattern And Risk For Colon Cancer, Fanatic Cook, May 2010

Sugar Is Not Toxic

Sugars2I really like this article on sugar. It’s evenhanded:

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.

Proposed Warning Label For Meat: “Eating Meat Contributes To Insulin Resistance And Diabetes”

SodaWarningLabelThe California Senate just passed a bill requiring warning labels on sugar-sweetened beverages:

“Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

It’s a shame that sweetened beverages are being singled out. I would like to see a similar label on meat:

“Eating meat contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes.”

Why? Because meat-eating is a risk factor for developing diabetes:
Meat Consumption As A Risk Factor For Type 2 Diabetes, Nutrients, February 2014

Researchers evaluated studies that examined different amounts and types of meat consumption and the risk for developing diabetes. They found that meat-eaters had a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes compared with non-meat-eaters. Here’s a chart summarizing the results of one of the included studies, Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes, Diabetes Care, 2009:


Mechanisms for meat’s effect on diabetes risk:

  • Effect on body weight – “Nearly all observational studies comparing meat-eaters with those who avoid meat show higher body weights among the former group, a finding mirrored in the results of intervention studies using meatless diets.”
  • Effect on visceral fat (fat around organs in abdominal area) – “Visceral adipose tissue is associated with insulin resistance as a result of increased proinflamatory cytokines.”
  • Effect on intracellular lipid (fat inside cells) – Impairs insulin action. This would involve, in part, the glucose transporter (GLUT4), which I discussed here.
  • Effect on iron balance – “Meat provides a substantial quantity of heme iron … a prooxidant that encourages the production of reactive oxygen species, which may damage body tissues, including insulin-producing pancreatic cells.” Even moderately elevated iron stores are associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Nitrates in processed meats – Nitrites and sodium are both linked to elevated diabetes risk.
  • Systemic inflammation – “A 2014 Harvard study reported that as total red meat consumption increased, so did biomarkers of inflammation.”
  • One they didn’t mention was presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs): Animal Fat Is A Natural Reservoir For Environmental Pollutants. “There is now solid evidence demonstrating the contribution of POPs at environmental levels, to metabolic disorders … such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Do you think a meat label could come to pass? There certainly is enough justification for it.

Is Sugar Responsible For Obesity?

Sugars2The following graphs are from:

Challenging the Fructose Hypothesis: New Perspectives on Fructose Consumption and Metabolism, American Society for Nutrition, March 2013

The paper is not objective, but I found the data compelling.

Figure 1 shows that consumption of America’s top 2 sweeteners have either remained constant or dropped off as obesity rates continued to climb.

Figure 1
Historical trends in sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption (availability) versus rates of obesity in adults. After significant gain in market share at the expense of sucrose, HFCS consumption has been decreasing since 1999 and there is no correlation with obesity. From USDA Economic Research Service per capita consumption data, adjusted for loss and WHO Global Database on BMI.


Figure 1 may be misleading, because if you add refined sugar and HFCS, along with other caloric sweeteners, there is a trend that aligns with obesity,* at least to about the year 2000.


So, what happened in 2000 that might have contributed to increasing obesity rates, if it wasn’t sugar? Look at the blue line in the graph below.

Figure 2
Commodity group energy intakes, 1970–2010. Added sugars contribution to the 449 kcal/d increase in per capita energy intake over this period was small in comparison with flour-cereal products and added fats, accounting for less than 8% of the increase. Added sugars intake has been decreasing since 1999. From USDA Economic Research Service average daily per capita energy from the U.S. food availability, adjusted for loss.


I don’t think sugar is “toxic” as Gary Taubes claims, or a “poison” as Robert Lustig claims. Sugar is a carbohydrate; humans have evolved to eat carbohydrates.

I do think that “foods” that have been isolated, processed, and added to products in amounts not seen in nature can be detrimental. I feel this way about fats and proteins too. (And about supplements.) It’s not good to eat a salad swimming in oil, or to add protein powder to a smoothie, just as it is not good to consume a beverage with 20 spoonfuls of sugar.

* It’s important to note that this trend occurs against the backdrop of a high-fat diet.  You have to look at the whole diet.  Diets high in both fat and refined carbohydrates, including sugar, contribute not just to weight gain (“Wate-On” and “Ensure” and, of course, Wate-On’s Competition) but to increased risks for chronic diseases, notably diabetes and heart disease. Cubans lost weight and lowered their rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer by eating a diet of primarily rice and sugar, with very little fat, just 13%!