You Can Also Add Sugar to the List of Things That Are ‘Toxic’

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There, there, sugar. Corbis

It seems that scientific inquiry wants to ruin our favorite foods this week. Yesterday, we learned that the World Health Organization considers processed meats like bacon to be carcinogenic (though that claim is debatable) and now today, separate research suggests that sugar is toxic — at least in obese kids. Cue sad trombone.

As Americans continue to choke down more sugar than ever, rates of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease have risen even as people are consuming less fat. Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, wanted to see if he could prove that sugar causes chronic diseases. For a so-called "proof of concept" study, Lustig and his team had 43 obese kids ages 9 to 18 fill out detailed food questionnaires to figure out how many calories they ate daily. Then, dietitians created plans that nixed most of the added sugar from their diets and replaced it with starchy, processed carbs. The change slashed their sugar calories from about 27 percent to 10 percent but they kept total calories the same. (This way, in theory, any health consequences observed couldn't be attributed to weight loss. If they started losing weight, which some did, they were instructed to eat more.)

After following these eating plans for nine days, the participants' fasting blood sugar was cut in half, their blood pressure dropped, they produced less insulin, their levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides went down, and they had less fat on their livers. To Lustig, this is definitive proof that sugar causes metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of metabolic risk factors that raises a person's risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and more. Critics of the findings point out that the study design can't prove causation because the participants reported their own pre-intervention food intake, which is often unreliable, while others say that we should instead focus on the amount of calories people are consuming overall.

We think it's great that scientists are trying to tackle to obesity problem but surely there's someone out there willing to fund research on how to make bad foods GOOD for us? This is America. If we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to figure out how people can eat cake without getting fat.