The Great Sugar Debate

 

 Most people understand that sugar is not good for you. But how many people would agree that sugar is a toxic substance is a controversial and interesting question. If you asked Robert Lustig, a specialist in pediatric hormone disorders, he would agree that sugar is most definitely toxic, and he himself avoids it at all costs. Lustig is featured in the article “Is Sugar Toxic?” in this month’s New York Times, and has recently posted a youtube video of his lecture that has been viewed over a million times.

His research, as well as that of others is starting to show a very interesting trend in the association between sugar and something we have known for awhile: obesity and diabetes, as well as something we have not known for awhile: an association with cancer.

An excerpt from the article states: “In 1984, Canadian physicians published an analysis of 30 years of cancer incidence among Inuit in the western and central Arctic. While there had been a “striking increase in the incidence of cancers of modern societies” including lung and cervical cancer, they reported, there were still “conspicuous deficits” in breast-cancer rates. They could not find a single case in an Inuit patient before 1966; they could find only two cases between 1967 and 1980. Since then, as their diet became more like ours, breast cancer incidence has steadily increased among the Inuit, although it’s still significantly lower than it is in other North American ethnic groups. Diabetes rates in the Inuit have also gone from vanishingly low in the mid-20th century to high today.

Now most researchers will agree that the link between Western diet or lifestyle and cancer manifests itself through this association with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome — i.e., insulin resistance. This was the conclusion, for instance, of a 2007 report published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research — “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer.”

This also poses an interesting question for women affected by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is widely recognized now as a metabolic disorder associated with insulin resistance. In this case reducing sugar is not only important to improving fertility, as this evidence shows, but to possibly preventing cancer.

The question of sugar being dangerous is a touchy one for many people. Our instinctual preference for its sweet flavour, its widespread availability and its social acceptance makes it difficult for people to accept it as a toxic poison. But we also have to look at how far we’ve come from a natural ingestion of sugar. It was not that long ago when human beings had to eat seasonally because the world was not the global market it is today. If you lived in Europe or North America, the sweetest food available in the winter would have been a starchy root vegetable, and in the summer some stone fruit and berries. No one was eating bananas, mangoes, pineapples and tropical fruit in these areas. Before humans figured out how to refine sugar cane and trade it all over the world, sugar consumption was only a tiny fraction of what it is today. Diabetes was not an epidemic. And neither was cancer.

What do you think? Is sugar toxic?

Here's the link to the New York Times Article

 

Blog Post by Julia
 

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