Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sugar Addiction, Obesity, And Low-Carb Living

This St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by their Health & Fitness Editor on the subject of sugar just about made me gag as she attempted to extol the virtues of this menace to your waistline.

Amy Bertrand, who regularly writes on issues of health and fitness, goes out of her way to point out that sugar is not necessarily your enemy when you are trying to lose weight. Can you believe that?! Here is another so-called "expert" giving extremely poor advice to would-be dieters trying to figure out how to get rid of those extra pounds.

Let's examine some of her positive claims about sugar and see if they stand up to reality:

"Sugar isn't necessarily bad for you."

Quoting a dietitian and nutrition author in the story, Bertrand writes "in moderation, you can have sugar" so you can keep your cravings at bay and keep your diet from backfiring. "I see that so often: People try to take an all-or-nothing approach, and it backfires."

I devote an entire chapter in my upcoming book to the subject of sugar because it is that important for people to understand its impact on your weight. Sugar addiction can be just as dangerous as a drug addiction for some people. Sugar had a very strong hold on me before I started livin' la vida low-carb. I am thankful I have been able to overcome that addiction because it put my health and ultimately my life at risk.

Eating sugar in "moderation" is so vague, what the heck does that mean? Moderation to one person might be a teaspoon a day, but moderation to someone else might be a pound! Who decides what amount of sugar is moderate enough? If you want to keep your sugar cravings at bay, then you need to use any of the wonderful sugar subsitutes on the market today.

Splenda, which has been the subject of several posts in this forum over the past few days, is the preferred artificial sweetener of the low-carb lifestyle as well as an up-and-coming sweetener called Stevia. Many sugar-free products are sweetened with these sugar substitutes and I bet most people could not tell the difference between them and sugar-laced products. The improvements that have been made in sugar substitutes since the disgusting days of saccharin are enormous.

"Sugar may not even be our biggest culprit."

Quoting another "expert," Bertrand writes, "Most people in Western countries are fat because they eat too much fat, and not because they eat too much sugar."

If you've read my blog for very long, then you know I beg to differ. I wrote this blog post about the subject of fat and sugar in relation to weight and I still contend there is a very distinct and inseparable connection between sugar consumption and obesity. It's undeniable based on the statistics correlating sugar intake and expanding girths. Maybe that's why the Sugar Association and their allies are in such a tizzy over products like Splenda!

Interestingly, Bertrand says that regardless of which weight loss method you choose, sugar is "pretty much the one thing all of them want you to limit."

That's not true, Ms. Bertrand! When you are on a low-fat diet and eating all those disgusting fat-free versions of foods, guess what the food manufacturers put in lieu of the fat to make it taste somewhat like its regular counterpart? It's SUGAR!!! Don't give me this line that there is some universal understanding that sugar limitation is inherent in every diet plan. That's just not true.

She correctly points out that sugar is a "simple carbohydrate," which is the most basic form of carb there is because it goes right to the bloodstream. Bertrand remarks that sugar provides you with "a quick form of energy and has its value in our daily lives."

What value, Ms. Bertrand? Sure it tastes good, but what added value does sugar bring to people's lives? I have lived without it for the most part for 1 1/2 years and my life could not be greater from a physical standpoint. The fact is that the average American consumes nearly 150 pounds of sugar per year in the form of table sugar and its dangerous little cousin high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which this article notes consumption has risen by 4000 percent since they began adding it to nearly every food we eat since the early 1970s.

Another "expert" dietitian in the story states: "Sugar isn't bad. It's part of our society, so don't try to run from it."

WRONG-O! Not only should you run from it, but run away from sugar at every chance you can. Even in the diet foods you buy, be careful about those hidden sugars. Sugar is difficult to avoid, but it can be done for the most part as long as you are a conscious consumer when you buy your food.

Another dietitian in the article agrees: "I wouldn't say sugar is something we should avoid. We shouldn't be on a hunt to eliminate sugar altogether. ... Low-carb fad diets have played a role in this phobic fear of carbohydrates. And that's not healthy."

How do you deal with this kind of ignorance? Sugar should be avoided like the plague because it has caused more harm than good. I'm telling you, ever since I eliminated sugar from my diet entirely, my quality of life has drastically improved and I can feel the difference in my body. That "low-carb fad" program she complains about in her quote may have saved my life. Is she really trying to tell me "that's not healthy" compared to the 410 pounds that I used to weigh before I started livin' la vida low-carb? These dietitians have it backwards!

Towards the end of her pro-sugar column, Bertrand proclaims that nutritional scientists "balk at the idea of a sugar addiction."

Okay, if you don't believe in sugar addiction, take this test. Don't eat anything with sugar in it for an entire month. No sugar whatsoever! Come back in 30 days and let's talk about all those feelings like you wanted to die, withdrawal symptoms and your apology because you knew I was right!

Finally, another "expert" (man, she got a lot of these for this story -- good journalism, but bad health advice!) said that you need a little bit of sugar to help with cravings.

No you don't. I've even had people tell me that sugar substitutes make you crave sugar. No they don't. If you can get in the mindset that sugar is not what you need on your low-carb lifestyle, then eliminating it can be a piece of cake (made with Splenda, of course!).

You can write an e-mail to Amy Bertrand at


Blogger DietKing said...

Sugar, even in its natural state, (fruits, vegetables) can get many a person (overweight or not) into a world of trouble. Even in moderation. While fruit and vegetables do have wonderful fiber and anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory qualities, processed, refined sugar is absolutely and totally of no value whatsoever. So what if (according to the dietician you quoted) "sugar is a part of our society"? So is toxic waste and murder. We all try avoiding those things, don't we? How about a little toxic waste in moderation?

This anti-low carb thing sure is a tough fight.

7/13/2005 9:39 AM  
Blogger Levi said...

I swear, some nutritionist/dietician self-proclaimed experts say the most idiotic things! They are just as much at fault for vilifying a red herring like fat and yet turn around and say people are overreacting to a substance that has some solid science backing up its risks.

But I would take one exception to what you wrote, Jimmy. Or at least clarify it a bit. "I've even had people tell me that sugar substitutes make you crave sugar. No they don't." Well, I think it's not so much that they make you crave sugar, but rather they make you crave 'sweet'. At least for some. If you can manage to stick only with sugar substitutes, that's fine, but for some people when such substitutes aren't available but they are seriously craving something sweet, it may be a lot harder for them to resist cracking and eating something with real sugar. This isn't true of everyone of course, but I think it's unfair to suggest that people who've had a different experience than yours visa vis sugar substitutes are wrong. Just because some people can't handle sugar substitutes that you have found so helpful for your own transformation doesn't make them critics of low-carb in general, nor does it make them proponents of real sugar (or high fructose corn syrup). Sugar substitutes a great tool for many people including yourself, but for some people their usage comes with some downsides as well...

7/13/2005 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found the easiest way to deal with sugar cravings is simply to not buy sugar or any of the processed &%$* that contains it. The only urge you have to resist then, is the one to fill your basket full of garbage at the supermarket. Usually when you are buying food you are more rational and less impulsive than when you are hungry. Just don't shop when you're hungry ;)

1/05/2009 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Karly Pitman said...

Jimmy, You are spot on about the dangers of sugar. As you and I have talked about before, sugar can cause all sorts of health problems - including the pain and suffering that comes with sugar binges and out of control eating. I speak from personal experience. Giving up sugar changed my life, and I'd love to help others on the path to give up sugar. At, you can download my free ebook, Overcome Sugar Addiction, as well as take my course to give up sugar for good:

11/06/2009 3:01 PM  

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