Sugar, fructose and obesity: a national public health crisis

Published in the Leicester Mercury newspaper on 9 July 2014

Sugar is toxic and highly addictive. If the latest medical science is correct – and I firmly believe it is – we are sleepwalking into a monumental public health crisis.

I am not a medical expert; I am a lawyer. This article is based on the work of Professor Robert Lustig, a scientist and doctor whose research has been internationally acclaimed. My analysis of his findings shocked me into drastically reducing my own sugar intake. As a public servant I feel duty bound to raise awareness of this issue.

26% of Brits are obese and a further 38% are overweight. By 2050 more than 50% will be obese. Most of today’s primary school children will be obese adults.

Obesity is dangerous because it causes metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure etc. Average weight people get sick from these too, but obese people are at far greater risk.

There are different types of sugar such as lactose, maltose, glucose and fructose. At a molecular level, regular sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Aside from sugar, fructose is found in honey, agave, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and fruit juice. It is also in fruit but fruit’s perfectly safe to eat as it comes with fibre and other nutrients.

Glucose sugar is the ‘energy of life’ and an essential nutrient. Fructose sugar on the other hand, according to Professor Lustig, is the root of all evil.

The research indicates fructose is bad for several reasons. It is not properly processed by the body and mostly stored as dangerous internal fat. Fructose does not supress the hunger hormone ghrelin, leading to overeating. Chronic fructose exposure reduces the impulse to burn excess energy. Fructose is also extremely addictive, activating the same area of the brain as morphine, cocaine, nicotine and alcohol.

In summary, sugar and fructose in particular is a major contributing factor for obesity, which in-turn leads to metabolic diseases.

To me the logic and science is pretty clear. Millions of British people may be overweight or obese because they have been hoodwinked about the dangers of sugar, with tonnes of it having been added to everyday food and drink, over many years.

It is too simplistic to blame individuals. This isn’t about personal responsibility. That’s what everyone said about smoking until it became a public health disaster. The reality is that the sugar industry is the new tobacco industry.

Parliament needs to act because the industry will not. I urge every reader to demand action from their MP. I also sincerely recommend seeking medical advice with a view to reducing personal sugar intake.

Sugar is an addictive poison

Stop eating sugarI recently watched two fascinating lectures on YouTube by the world-renowned academic Professor Robert Lustig. The first video dates back to 2009 and has more than 4.3 million views. The second lecture is from 2013 and links directly to the one he gave four years earlier. Both YouTube videos are included below.

Firstly by way of background: there are many different types of sugars. Examples include: fructose; lactose; glucose; and sucrose (which is actually 50% fructose and 50% glucose). Conventional table sugar is sucrose, i.e. 50% fructose and 50% glucose, and it is the fructose half of sucrose that is the major cause for concern.

Sugar (sucrose) – and fructose in particular – is an addictive poison that is incredibly harmful to human health. This is because: a) it cannot be properly processed by the body; b) it is addictive and fools our brain into thinking we’re not full, leading to overeating; and c) it is more quickly converted and stored as fat by the liver.

Sugar causes disease in the human body

Dangerous sugars such as sucrose and fructose should not to be confused with other sugars like glucose and lactose, which are useful nutrients in a healthy diet. In other words, food items such as chocolate (sucrose) or fruit juice (fructose) are bad; whereas foods like bread (glucose) and milk (lactose) are fine in moderation.

In summary, sugar makes you fat and it makes you sick, and sugar poses the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. Unfortunately modern society is naïvely unaware of the dangers of sugar, in much the same way that society in the 20th century was unaware of the dangers of smoking.

Learning the truth about sugar has been a real eye-opener for me and that’s why I want to help spread the word. I would urge everyone to watch these lectures to really understand the science behind sugar. This article published in January 2014 is also helpful in understanding the sheer gravity of the situation.

It would seem logical for the purpose of improving one’s health, and avoiding diseases like diabetes, to quickly and permanently remove sugar from our diets. And that is precisely what I myself am now trying to do.

Update – Here’s another very useful video but this time only 15 minutes long, which summarises a lot of what Professor Lustig is talking about in the above lectures:

Update – Follow up article here on my month-long experiment without sugar and subsequent decision to give it up almost entirely.