It Wasn’t the Fat… It Was the Sugar! Who Knew?

Turns out fat was never the culprit that was causing heart disease… it was sugar. No way! Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but really, come on. How is it only now being divulged that we are finding that the sugar was the true bad guy behind heart disease (not saturated fat)? In an article in today’s NY Times (1), we learn that recently discovered documents in the sugar industry suggest that ‘five decades of research into the role of heart disease and nutrition, including many of the dietary recommendations we still hold to be true have been largely shaped by the sugar industry’. According to the piece, a group now known as the Sugar Association paid Harvard scientists the equivalent of $50,000 in today’s economy to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease, minimizing the link between sugar and heart health and demonized the role of saturated fat in the diet. It didn’t stop there. As recently as last year, Coca Cola funded research to downplay the role of sugar on obesity while the Associated Press reported candy makers funded studies showing that kids who ate candy weighed less than those who didn’t (2)! There is no everything in moderation when it comes to sugar, any more than there’s everything in moderation when it comes to illegal drugs (because, actually, sugar is a legal drug (3)). We can convince ourselves that a little something sweet now and then is no big deal, and maybe at one point in time, it wasn’t. If we look back to a time not that long ago when people were cooking at home, eating real meals as a family which were primarily actual food (versus today, where over 60% of what we’re eating is coming in a package or box (4)), as well as moving (from the 1970s till now, the number of global households with TVs, VCRs, computers, Internet access and video games has soared (5)), having the single homemade cookie during a birthday party or a small ice cream from the local parlor on a Sunday afternoon may not have been a big deal. And in that case, the idea that a special treat now and then may indeed have been an acceptable part of a healthy diet. But that’s not the world we’re living in now. 75% of every packaged food item contains added sugars (5), so it’s remiss to think that simply because we’re not putting white sugar in our coffee or eating candy that we’re eating a low-sugar diet. It’s everywhere. Even in places we tend to think of as being healthy, like fresh juices. One popular franchise offers a juice cleanse which includes a flavor that contains 24 grams of sugar, but the bottle contains two servings! (6) So where do we turn? And upon who can we rely to dole out nutrition advice that is actually valid? Go back to basics. Veggies really are something we should be eating everyday; not just at one meal and not as a garnish. Wild proteins that come fresh without labels really are the superior choice compared to a protein powder ‘supplement’ (since when is one of the three macronutrients a mere supplement anyway?). And fat- good old fat, just like our grandmothers kept when they’d reuse bacon fat to cook, or like Tibetan monks would drink by adding yak butter to their tea, real, unadulterated fat is actually, hands down, not only good for us, but good to eat. Make no mistake: a food pyramid or a diagram of a plate or whatever the current shape might be can be trusted blindly, Who’s behind the recommendations? Who stands to profit? We see the state of subclinical illness in our country as well as the obesity, the diabetes and the general trend of where we’re going and it’s not good. Do yourself a favor and rip off the sugar band aid. It’ll hurt for a couple of days, but once you’re over it. you’re putting yourself in an excellent position to simplify how you approach whether or not a food is a good option or not. Eat food. And move. (1) O’connor, Anahad. “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2016 (2) CHOI, By CANDICE. “AP Exclusive: How Candy Makers Shape Nutrition Science.” The Big Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016 (3) Avena, Nicole M., Pedro Rada, and Bartley Hoebel G. “Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2008. Web. 13 Sept. 2016 (4) “You Won’t Believe How Much Processed Food You Eat.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016 (5) @sugarscience. “Hidden in Plain Sight.” N.p., 09 Dec. 2014. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. (6)