Sunday, August 14, 2005

Can Sugar Be Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle?

Andrew Briscoe believes sugar is not a 'causative factor' in obesity

This Reuters story which highlights comments made by the head of the Sugar Association at last week's American Sugar Alliance meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho perfectly illustrates why we have an obesity problem in the United States today.

Andrew Briscoe, the president and CEO of the Sugar Association, told his colleagues in the sugar industry that there is not a link between sugar and obesity as has been suggested. Instead, Briscoe blames obesity on people eating too many calories and not getting any exercise. He made these comments in front of a friendly audience at the 22nd Annual International Sweetener Symposium last Wednesday.

"Every major, comprehensive review of the total body of scientific literature continues to exonerate sugars intake as the causative factor in any lifestyle disease, including obesity," Briscoe contended. "We believe in calories in and calories out. Sugar is not a part of obesity issues."

That quote right there from the most powerful voice in the sugar industry is exactly why nearly two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese today. Pretending that this problem does not exist and that sugar does not play not a factor in it is just plain ludicrous. Not that I really expected to hear anything different from the head honcho behind the marketing of sugar in America, but Briscoe's ignorance about the very clear role that sugar has played in the obesity epidemic is either deceptive at best or intentionally misleading at the very worst.

Briscoe earnestly believes, or at least that is what he would have us think to save his hide, that sugar is a natural part of any healthy diet and lifestyle. He also contends that it does not matter how much sugar you consume, it will not harm your body in any way. At just 15 calories per teaspoon of sugar, how can something so innocent be so vilified? Awww, we should feel sorry for the poor little sugar industry because everybody's always beating up on them. How can something so all-American cause any harm to anyone?

That's the line of thinking Briscoe is promoting. He is attempting to display a public image that sugar is perfectly fine for people to consume without any consequences whatsoever. The recent marketing campaign for sugar has attempted to create this image in people's minds that sugar can and even should be consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Do you know what this sounds like to me? This sounds like a man who is desperate to see his fledgling industry resurrected from the significant downward spiral that has happened over the past three decades. While sugar consumption per capita was at 102 pounds in 1972, that number had fallen to a net 45 pounds per person in 2002. In other words, the sugar industry is hurting and hurting badly. The greater focus people placed on the role sugar has played in their own health and obesity problems has been credited with this decline.

You can probably even give some of the credit to Dr. Atkins and other low-carb lifestyle advocates for educating consumers about how harmful sugar consumption and sugar addiction is to their bodies. My new friend Connie Bennett recently finished writing a comprehensive book about this very subject entitled "SUGAR SHOCK!" (to be released very soon!) which will undoubtedly open a lot of people's eyes to the negative effects sugar has on people's health. I even devote an entire chapter on the subject of sugar in my upcoming book about my weight loss experience called "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" (available in early 2006).

But none of this sits very well with the sugar lobby. They will not go down without a fight either. Ever since I first started writing about how sugar, not fat is what has led to the obesity problem in the United States, I have received numerous hate mail messages from people in the sugar industry telling me how wrong I am about their product because it is "all-natural" and completely safe for anyone to consume regularly. That has been the primary argument sugar proponents have attempted to put forth in their vehement opposition to artificial sweeteners such as Splenda. This timeline of events chronicles the concerted effort that "big sugar" has undertaken to bring down their number one competition.

For the life of me, though, I can't get past this claim by Briscoe and the sugar lobby that their product does not contribute at all to obesity.

If you walk up to the average man on the street and ask him if eating a lot of sugar is either good for you or bad for you, I am confident that nine out of every ten people would say it is bad for you. This universally-accepted notion must be rooted in something that is substantively true or else people would not feel so strongly about it. Could it be that all those years of low-fat indoctrination by our government, media and health experts has actually led us to become more and more obese because we neglected to see sugar's role in this problem?

Another point to ponder is the fact that eating a low-fat diet generally means you will consume a lot higher amount of sugar than you would on a low-carb program. The reason for this is the fact that so many low-fat foods contain added sugars and salt to mask the disgusting taste once you remove the fat from the original product. This trade-off is marketed as "healthier," but all of that extra sugar is not good for you either. This always present, never publicized low-fat lie rears its ugly head once again. The inseparable connection between low-fat and sugar needs to be illuminated for all the world to see.

So, the root question of this article remains, "Can sugar be part of a healthy lifestyle?" With everything we know about sugar and its effect on our bodies, there is only one obvious answer to that question. No matter how much Briscoe and his fellow sugar cohorts attempt to put forth the notion that sugar consumption has no bearing on the obesity problem, I think it is clear to any rational thinking person that sugar is, has always been, and forever will be something that is not a regular part of someone who is living a healthy lifestyle. If you are livin' la vida low-carb, avoiding sugar and its evil twin high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is essential to controlling your weight.


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