Had bit of a sweet weekend. By which I mean my sweet tooth bugged and nagged at me a lot. So I gave in. A little. But by Monday though I still had some cake in the house, I no longer wanted it. By going with my strong sugar desire, just a little, I managed to kill it off.
So it was with some relief that I tuned into Robert Lustig on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme: Sugar: Pure, White and Deadly? Lustig said some sugar is fine. Just not very much.
Sugar causes obesity – not fat
Lustig is a neuro-endocrinologist which means he studies how the brain controls hormones and vice versa. He’s a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and claims contrary to received wisdom for the past three decades it’s sugar, not fat, that causes obesity and a wide range of other conditions including Type 2 Diabetes. Though this is disputed by some, he’s capturing headlines and gradually winning more people over.
“The final frontier is obesity,” he told the programme. Sugar is responsible for the worldwide increase in Diabetes rates. “This is the tobacco fight all over again,” added Lustig.
Hormone driving weight gain
It’s the hormone insulin that drives weight gain. High levels of insulin occur in our bodies when we eat too much sugar. And the insulin blocks the receptor in the brain called leptin that tells us when we’re full. Cut down on sugar and you reduce this blocking, your insulin levels stabilise and you feel heaps better.
Is sugar actually addictive though? Thus hard to “come off”. Lustig says not everyone is addicted to sugar in the same way that not everyone who drinks is addicted to alcohol. “Sugar is weakly addictive. But you can’t go cold turkey as it’s in all the processed foods.”
So best way to cut down on sugar is to stop eating processed foods where so much of the sugar in our diet comes from. And that’s savoury foods as much as sugary ones! Trying to stop food manufacturers putting so much sugar into food is going to be a huge battle. Which is why Lustig likens it to tobacco. Pure white and deadly indeed!
The programme featured a lovely cake-baking family that gave up sugar when one of their children was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. They all feel a lot better for it.
A little not a lot
For those who don’t wish to be quite so drastic, what should our relationship with sugar be? It’s been used for many years as way of celebrating. And that’s fine says Lustig. Just don’t celebrate too much! “A little sugar is okay,” he says. Phew!
The biggest culprit is the sugar in soft drinks. For me that’s a waste. Why not have a diet drink? Or take your sugar from something more obviously pleasurable and enjoyable? I suppose I am fortunate in that I’ve never been one for coke drinks and the like – what Americans call “sodas”. I’d rather drink water when I’m thirsty. And what’s the point of a coke without Bacardi in it anyway?
Outside the mainstream
We’re outside the mainstream, those of us following this type of eating and cutting out as much sugar as we can, including bread and other starchy carbohydrates.
But it’s nice to be outside the mainstream. Why go with the flow when you can swim against the tide? Isn’t it nice to be different? Be in the vanguard of a new movement? For make no mistake, this way of eating broadly based on how our ancestors ate is the way of the future. If we want to survive, as individuals and as a species.