Tag Archives: sugar

No Dentist Ever Told Me, “No Carbs, No Cavities”

But it’s true to a great extent. And the worst carbohydrates for your teeth seem to be sugars.

173 Years of U.S. Sugar Consumption

(Thanks to Dr. Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen for this sugar consumption graph.)

MNT on September 16, 2014, published an article about the very prominent role of sugars as a cause of cavities, aka dental caries. This idea deserves much wider circulation.

I’ve written before about the carbohydrate connection to dental health and chronic systemic disease. Furthermore, sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to 200,000 yearly worldwide deaths

Investigators at University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine think the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a maximum of 10% total daily calories from “free sugar” should be reduced to 3%, with 5% (25 grams) as a fall-back position.

Six teaspoons of granulated table sugar (sucrose) is 25 grams. That should be enough daily sugar for anyone, right? But it’s incredibly easy to exceed that limit due to subtly hidden sugars in multiple foods, especially commercially prepared foods that you wouldn’t expect contain sugar. Chances are, for instance, that you have in your house store-bought sausage, salad dressings, and various condiments with added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. Sugar’s a flavor enhancer.

tooth structure, paleo diet, caries, enamel

Cross-section of a tooth

The aforementioned “free sugar” as defined as any monosaccharides and disaccharides that a consumer, cook, or food manufacturer adds to foods. In the U.S., we just call these “added sugars” instead of free sugars. From the MNT article, “Sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrup, and fruit juices are also classed as free sugars.” Sugar in the whole fruit you eat is not counted as free or added sugar.

The London researchers found that—in children at least—moving from consuming almost no sugar to 5% of total daily calories doubled the rate of tooth decay. This rose with every incremental increase in sugar intake.

From the MNT article:

“Tooth decay is a serious problem worldwide and reducing sugar intake makes a huge difference,” says study author Aubrey Sheiham, of the Department of Epidemiology & Public Health at University College London. “Data from Japan were particularly revealing, as the population had no access to sugar during or shortly after the Second World War. We found that decay was hugely reduced during this time, but then increased as they began to import sugar again.”

I’m convinced. How about you?

Steve Parker, M.D.

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John Yudkin Wrote a Book About Sugar Called “Pure, White, and Deadly”

Sugar is poisonous according to John Yudkin and Robert Lustig, among others. Australia’s “The Age” had the details but my prior link is no good. A quote:

[Robert] Lustig is one of a growing number of scientists who don’t just believe sugar makes you fat and rots teeth. They’re convinced it’s the cause of several chronic and very common illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It’s also addictive, since it interferes with our appetites and creates an irresistible urge to eat.

This year [2014], Lustig’s message has gone mainstream; many of the New Year diet books focused not on fat or carbohydrates, but on cutting out sugar and the everyday foods (soups, fruit juices, bread) that contain high levels of sucrose. The anti-sugar camp is not celebrating yet, however. They know what happened to Yudkin and what a ruthless and unscrupulous adversary the sugar industry proved to be.

In 1822, we in the U.S. ate 6.2 pounds of sugar per person per year. By 1999, we were up to 108 pounds.

An occasional teaspoon of sugar probably won't hurt you

An occasional teaspoon of sugar won’t hurt you

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that added sugars provide 17% of the total calories in the average American diet.  A typical carbonated soda contain the equivalent of 10 tsp (50 ml) of sugar.  The average U.S. adult eats 30 tsp  (150 ml) daily of added sweeteners and sugars.

On the other hand, Fanatic Cook Bix found a study linking higher sugar consumption with lower body weight, which you might think would protect against type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Steve Parker, M.D.

h/t Jamie Scott

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Sugar

Is Sugar the New Fat?

Lumps of Death

Lumps of Death

In the 1950s, John Yudkin wrote a book, Pure, White, and Deadly (amazingly still available at Amazon), blaming sugar as the primary cause of heart disease (coronary heart disease).  The idea didn’t gain sufficient traction and the dietary fat theory of heart disease became the reigning dogma.  Now that the latter theory has been discredited, researchers are looking at sugar again.

The British Medical Journal has a pertinent article you’ll undoubtedly enjoy, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys these things.  I quote:

“In recent years, and slowly, the sugar hypothesis has been making a comeback, driven in part by the emerging perception of heart disease as a consequence of what’s now described as the metabolic syndrome: obesity, dyslipidaemia, raised blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Although there is still no consensus about the causes of the syndrome, an excess of fat in the liver—a response to dietary sugar—is one of the acknowledged possibilities.  Fructose, found in large quantities in nearly all added sugars, is known to increase lipogenesis in the liver and the synthesis of hepatic triglyceride.”

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Sugar and Carbohydrates Linked to Impaired Brain Function in Elderly

 

Note the sugar cubes

Note the sugar cubes

The Mayo Clinic recently reported that diets high in carbohydrates and sugar increase the odds of developing cognitive impairment in the elderly years.

Mild cognitive impairment is usually a precursor to dementia.  Many authorities think dementia develops more often in people with diabetes, although some studies refute the linkage.

Mayo investigators followed 940 patients with normal baseline cognitive functioning over the course of four years. Diet was assessed via questionnaire. Study participants were ages 70 to 89. As the years passed, 200 of them developed mild cognitive impairment.

Compared with those eating at the lowest level of carbohydrate consumption, those eating at the highest levels were almost twice as likely to go to develop mild cognitive impairment.

The scientists note that those eating lower on the carbohydrate continuum were eating more fats and proteins.  Whether the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet prevents cognitive impairments remains to be seen.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Does Cutting Out Sugary Drinks Help With Weight Loss?

Are you obese, love sugary drinks, and want to easily lose four pounds (1.8 kg) over the next six months? Simply cut a couple of sugary drinks out of your daily diet, replace them with water or diet soa, and you may lose the pounds.  Or so say University of North Carolina researchers.
Down 4 pounds in 6 months. I’ll take it!

In the U.S., our consumption of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) almost doubled between 1965 and 2002, now comprising 21% of our total calories.  (I’ve seen lower estimates, too, such as all added sugars accounting for 17% of total calories.)  Remember that our overweight and obesity rates started rising around 1970.  Any connection there?

Some have speculated that cutting back on SSB consumption would lead to loss of some excess weight.  But it’s never really been tested until now.

By the way, your typical sugary carbonated beverage has 145 calories of pure carbohydrate, most often high fructose corn syrup.  That’s equivalent to 10 tsp (50 ml) of table sugar.  Soft drinks are liquid candy.

Methodology

UNC investigators recruited  about 300 overweight and obese folks (average BMI 36, average weight 100 kg (220 lb), 84% female, 54% black) who drank at least 280 calories daily of caloric beverages (sugar-sweetened beverages, juice, juice drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, sweetened milk, sports drinks, and alcohol).  In other words, they all drank at least two soft drinks or the equivalent daily.  Participants agreed to make a dietary substitution for six months.

The participants were randomly assigned to one of three study groups with a hundred participants per group. For the next six months…

  • Group WA substituted at least two of their SSBs daily with water (WA), any type as long as it was calorie-free.  Bottled water was provided.  This reduced sugary drink calories by 230/day.
  • Group DB substituted at least two of their SSBs daily with calorie-free diet beverages (DB).  Beverages were provided.  This reduced sugary drink calories by 230/day.
  • Group AC (attention controls) made no changes in baseline beverage consumption.  Investigators made a point not to talk to them about beverages.

All three groups had monthly group meetings.  WA and DB group meetings were focused on adherence to the beverage substitution guidelines.
The AC group meetings will involved a weigh-in and general weight loss information (e.g., read food labels, increase vegetable consumption, portion control, and increase physical exercise).

“All … groups had access to a group-specific …website, where they recorded the beverages (water and DB only) they consumed, reported their weekly weight, received feedback on progress, viewed tips, and linked to group-specific resources.”

Results

All three groups lost statistically significant amounts of weight, but there was no difference in amount of weight lost among the groups.  In other words, the folks who substituted water or diet beverages for  sweet drinks didn’t do any better than the AC (attentive control) group.

Average amounts of weight lost were in the range of 1.8 to 2.5% of total body weight.  For example, if you weigh 200 lb (91 kg) and lose 2% of your weight, that’s a 4-lb loss (1.8 kg).

Compared to the AC group, the WA group showed a statistically significant decrease in fasting blood sugar (down 3 mg/dl).  BTW, none of the participants were diabetic.

Sugar cane

Take-Home Points

Would the substituters have lost weight if they had simply cut out two sugary drinks a day, skipping the monthy meetings and website?  Don’t know.  But I bet that’s how the mainstream press will spin this.

If I were obese and had a sugary drink habit, I’d start substituting water.  Yesterday.

Substituting water for a couple sugary drinks a day could reduce risk of developing diabetes.

I was hoping to see a significantly greater weight loss in the water and diet drink substituters compared to the AC (Attention Control) group.  Presumably all of these AC folks would have stayed at their baseline weights if they hadn’t done any of this.  The substitution groups apparently didn’t receive the general weight-loss information given to the AC group.

One caveat: All groups had monthly meetings for six months.  What were the substitution groups  talking about other than adherence to the protocol?  Your guess is as good as mine since the researchers don’t say.  Perhaps something about those meetings led to the weight loss, not the act of substituting water or diet drinks for sugar.

So they lost an average of 4–5 lb (2 kg).  Big deal, right?  But remember this was just a six-month study.  Could that 4 lb turn into 12 lb (5.5 kg) over 18 months?  Maybe, but we don’t know.

Here’s the thing about averages.  Some of these people I’m sure lost closer to 5% of body weight, and some didn’t lose any, or gained.  Which group would you be in?  Only one way to find out.

Remember that many medical conditions linked to overweight and obesity improve with loss of just 5% of body weight.

The substituters cut out 230 calories a day of sugary drinks.  All other things being equal, they should have lost 12 lb (5.5 kg).  Problem is, all other things aren’t equal.  Numerous other factors are at play, such as activity levels, replacement of sugary drink calories with other calories, measurement errors, reporting errors, etc.

This was a female-heavy study.  Would this strategy work for men?  Even better in men?  We don’t know.  Why not try it yourself?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I did a sugar-free and wheat-free experiment on myself earlier this year.  Lost some weight, too.

Reference: Tate, Deborah, et al.  Replacing caloric beverages with water or diet beverages for weight loss in adults: main results of the Choose Healthy Options Conscioulsly Everday (CHOICE) randomized clinical trialAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 1, 2012, Epub ahead of print.  doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.026278

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Overweight and Obesity, Sugar, Weight Loss

Alec Baldwin Cut Out Sugar, Lost 30 Pounds

Mother Nature Network last January reported Alec Baldwin’s successful weight loss effort.  An excerpt:

“I gave up sugar,” he told Access Hollywood. “I lost 30 pounds in four months. It’s amazing.”
“(I do) Pilates, spin, not as much yoga as I’d like,” he added. “When we’re shooting (’30 Rock’) it’s tough…When we’re shooting and I can’t work out, I just have to eat less. So, I’m very conscious of that. But sugar was the real killer for me — that was the problem.”
 
 
 

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173 Years of US Sugar Consumption

US Sugar Consumption: 1822-2005

 Thanks to Dr. Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen for this sugar consumption graph.  I’d never seen one going this far back in time. 
 
Dr. Guyenet writes:
It’s a remarkably straight line, increasing steadily from 6.3 pounds per person per year in 1822 to a maximum of 107.7 lb/person/year in 1999.  Wrap your brain around this: in 1822, we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that added sugars provide 17% of the total calories in the average American diet.  A typical carbonated soda contain the equivalent of 10 tsp (50 ml) of sugar.  The average U.S. adult eats 30 tsp  (150 ml) daily of added sweeteners and sugars.
 
Note that added sugars overwhelmingly supply only one nutrient: pure carbohdyrate without vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, antioxidants, etc.
 
Do you think sugar consumption has anything to do with diseases of affluence, also known as diseases of modern civilization?  I do.
 
Was our pancreas designed to handle this much sugar?  Apparently not, judging from skyrocketing rates of diabetes and prediabetes.
 
 

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Causes of Diabetes, Sugar