Toxic Sugar

In the February 2nd, 2012 edition of the prestigious scientific journal Nature pediatrician and obesity researcher Robert Lustig of the University of California at San Francisco summarizes increasing evidence regarding the harmful effects of excess sugar on public health.

…around the world, people are consuming an average of more than 500 calories per day from added sugar alone.

Now, let’s consider toxicity. A growing body of epidemiological and mechanistic evidence argues that excessive sugar consumption affects human health beyond simply adding calories. Importantly, sugar induces all of the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome. This includes: hypertension (fructose increases uric acid, which raises blood pressure); high triglycerides and insulin resistance through synthesis of fat in the liver; diabetes from increased liver glucose production combined with insulin resistance; and the ageing process, caused by damage to lipids, proteins and DNA through non- enzymatic binding of fructose to these molecules.

It can also be argued that fructose exerts toxic effects on the liver that are similar to those of alcohol. This is no surprise, because alcohol is derived from the fermentation of sugar. Some early studies have also linked sugar consumption to human cancer and cognitive decline. Sugar is cheap, sugar tastes good and sugar sells, so companies have little incentive to change

Robert H. Lustig, Laura A. Schmidt and Claire D. Brindis. Nature; 2 FEBRUARY 2012 | VOL 482 |

Dr. Lustig and his colleagues argue that similarities in biological effects, patterns of misuse and societal costs exist between sugar, alcohol and tobacco, and that the same strategies used to limit consumption of tobacco and alcohol should be used to limit consumption of sugar. Some argue that this is asking government to go too far. However those who argue that these are issues are strictly matters of personal choice ignore the larger societal costs of these behaviors.

What do you think?


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3 Responses to Toxic Sugar

  1. Sheila O says:

    Instead of regulating sugar, we need to do a better job of educating people on the consequences of their choices. As a doctor, there is so much info out there on prevention I should have been learning instead of the latest toxic drugs we can give our patients. Knowledge is power. We need to get over the partisan BS re healthy lifestyle recs. Educate.

    • I agree that education both of the public as well as those in health care is essential. The glycemic index of high fructose corn syrup is nearly twice that of common table sugar ( sucrose) since sucrose, a disaccharide has to be cleaved by sucrase a rate limiting step in absorption of the resulting glucose and fructose. GI is what ultimately determines the stress that carbs place on the pancreas for insulin production. Who knew? They never mentioned this in medical school!

  2. I agree that education – beginning with the medical establishment -is key. However, in the case of high fructose corn syrup is so toxic. HFCS has a glycemic index nearly twice that of sucrose – common table sugar – and is essentially a toxic and defective product in my opinion.


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