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Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Last month, I shared two great videos which busted the Cholesterol Myth. After writing the post, I got a flood of emails. The typical comment? “If saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease, what does?”

I’ve answered that question here at Food Renegade often enough, so I didn’t feel immediately compelled to write a separate post answering that good (but beaten to death) question. But today (thanks to blogger Ed Bruske @ The Slow Cook) I discovered a video presentation that answers the question quite nicely.

It’s a talk given by Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, a UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” The reasons I love this talk? First: the man’s a doctor at a prestigious university teaching and doing research in the field of endocrinology. If anyone is qualified to speak authoritatively on this subject, it would be him. So, if your friends or your family don’t want to hear it from you, other bloggers, science journalists like Gary Taubes, or those in the alternative medicine community, perhaps they’ll actually listen to him. Second: He tackles not just heart disease, but diabetes, obesity, and high-blood pressure. In other words, he shows the connection between dietary intake of sugar (specifically acute fructose) and the root causes of these diseases of industrialization.

Someone truly on the Real Food bandwagon wouldn’t stop at fructose. They’d start discussing dietary ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats and point out the protective quality of pre-industrial, traditional foods. They’d make a case not just for a high fat diet, but eating quality fats gleaned from a natural banqueting table (i.e. wild-caught seafood, grass-fed meats, raw & pastured dairy). They might even point out the dangers of consuming grains, particularly improperly prepared grains. They’d emphasize the need for eating living and fermented foods to support proper digestion and mental health.

Dr. Lustig doesn’t do any of that. And maybe that’s another reason I like this talk. The man is not on the Real Food bandwagon. He’s on the Science bandwagon, basically asking “what does the science really show?” So to listen to his talk, you don’t have to have a completely different food worldview. His science is accessible even to those in love with the Standard American Diet, those who have no objection to the industrialization of our food supply. It’s just plain old science, debunking the cholesterol & saturated fat myths, pointing out the dangers of our excessively high sugar consumption.

Hopefully, it can serve as a wake up call that can start others on the journey to eating Real Food. But, in the very least, it can answer that singular question, “Well, if it’s not cholesterol and saturated fat, what does cause heart disease?”

(photo by dbjorn)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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29 Responses to Sugar: The Bitter Truth
  1. WholeMind
    July 6, 2010 | 12:44 pm

    Sugar: The Bitter Truth | Food Renegade http://ow.ly/27Gpc

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. Ed Bruske
    July 6, 2010 | 12:52 pm

    Nice follow-up, Kristen. I’m definitely sensing some momentum here, though Lustig’s lecture is already a year old. Duh. Where was I?

    Sorry I’ve been a bit out of sink with Fight Back Friday lately. I’ll try to do better.
    .-= Ed Bruske´s last blog post …Making America Fat- It’s Not the Burger- it’s the Bun =-.

    • KristenM
      July 6, 2010 | 6:19 pm

      I’m always finding old videos on YouTube and marveling that I haven’t seen them before. :) Thanks for pointing this one out!

  3. Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
    July 6, 2010 | 2:24 pm

    Lustig also did an amazing interview with Jimmy Moore that I listened to yesterday. A great follow-up to the video.
    .-= Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life´s last blog post …Detox Month Post Round-Up- 10 Exciting Posts on Detoxification =-.

    • KristenM
      July 6, 2010 | 6:18 pm

      Oh, I’ll have to look that up and listen to it!

  4. bellylaughbaker
    July 6, 2010 | 4:30 pm

    Reading @foodrenegade Sugar: The Bitter Truth and watching amazing video http://tinyurl.com/3xpxbwl

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  5. ThomasMSmith
    July 6, 2010 | 5:49 pm

    Sugar: The Bitter Truth:
    Last month, I shared two great videos which busted the Cholesterol Myth. After writing t… http://bit.ly/cttOvA

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  6. Karen
    July 6, 2010 | 7:20 pm

    Great video! I watched the first half of it a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to go back and finish due to the fast pace of life. Thanks much for posting about it. I’m scheduling a time to finish watching it.
    .-= Karen´s last blog post …Rachel’s Meatloaf =-.

  7. Rebecca
    July 6, 2010 | 7:58 pm

    Oh thanks for sharing. I am always looking for easy ways to explain this stuff to people, because my mind works like such a jumbled mess that I usually end up confusing people more :^?.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog post …Two for tuesday- Compound butter and a roast chicken that will blow your socks off =-.

  8. David Brown
    July 6, 2010 | 9:21 pm

    “Well, if it’s not cholesterol and saturated fat, what does cause heart disease?”

    I used to think that excessive sugar intake was largely responsible for heart disease. But after hearing Dr. William Lands discuss the connection between the omega-6/omega-3 tissue ratio and heart disease, I’m not exactly sure sugar is the major culprit. http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?live=8108 You can drag the timer button slightly to the right to the 12 minute mark where Dr. Lands begins speaking.

    You can be oh so careful about not consuming too much added sugars and refined grains but still ruin your health if you’re not aware of the omega-6 component in food. Here is some more info about the omega-6 hazard:

    http://omega-6-omega-3-balance.omegaoptimize.com/2009/01/30/the-american-heart-associations-agendait-sure-aint-science-or-public-health.aspx
    http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/04/do-seed-oils-cause-multi-generational.html
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/p026nn0763664424/
    http://180degreehealth.blogspot.com/2010/01/david-brown-on-omega-6-fats.html

    • KristenM
      July 7, 2010 | 9:38 am

      David,

      Thanks for the links! This is certainly a topic I’ve discussed at length here at Food Renegade, as I pointed out in the article above. I believe there are actually a lot of connections between the skewed nutrient profile of industrial foods and CVD. The biggest, of course, are sugar and Omega 6:3 ratios. But there’s also a lot to be said about our digestive system, the havoc that grains wreak, the protective nature of quality animal fats, and the need for healthy gut flora (promoted by eating raw & fermented foods, etc.)

  9. LoverHealthFood
    July 6, 2010 | 11:14 pm

    Worried about sugar? Have a look at this video on @foodrenegade blog! http://tinyurl.com/3xpxbwl

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  10. Barbara
    July 7, 2010 | 1:20 am

    Fascinating…thankfully we don’t have much HFCS here in New Zealand but I’m seeing more of it than I used to…glad I’ve limited the kids to water and milk…never could take to juices and fizzy drinks!

    Thanks for sharing…

  11. flaminandromeda
    July 7, 2010 | 1:25 am

    Reading @foodrenegade Sugar: The Bitter Truth http://tinyurl.com/3xpxbwl
    Fascinating video about what fructose does inside us…!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  12. JCwellness
    July 7, 2010 | 7:07 am

    If saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease, what does? Sugar: The Bitter Truth http://shar.es/mUN8W

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. Gaelen2
    July 7, 2010 | 1:45 pm

    Reading: Sugar: The Bitter Truth http://shar.es/mQf6Q

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  14. CosmicRainbow
    July 8, 2010 | 5:07 am

    > Sugar: The Bitter Truth | Food Renegade > http://www.foodrenegade.com/sugar-the-bitter-truth/

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  15. Coleran
    July 9, 2010 | 6:25 pm

    Sugar: The Bitter Truth
    http://j.mp/aEmp8Q
    Interesting presentation. Food for thought… Badaboom

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. wangmo
    July 11, 2010 | 6:20 pm

    Sugar: The Bitter Truth – http://j.mp/aEmp8Q – interesting presentation #diabetes (via @Coleran)

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  17. TerraSano
    July 14, 2010 | 8:26 am

    If you really believe that fructose is the same as sugar, please, please….watch this: http://bit.ly/bEXhZz

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  18. Giovanni
    October 12, 2010 | 2:55 am

    I also like this talk because, like you said, it doesn’t hop on the “Real Food bandwagon.” I think that the main reason why diet is such as hot and sensitive topic in America, and why so many of our friends are resistant to change, is because nobody likes to be told that it is “common sense” to eat “real.” To them, the food that they have been eating has been “real,” and it takes a radical shift of personal word-view to discover otherwise. People do like, in contrast, to hear that the latests advancement in technology has proved that there is much more to sugar than just their calories printed on the labels. They don’t like to hear that the “hippies” had it right all along. Maybe this is the approach that people need to take to educate the others–not with a “we’ve-told-you-so” attitude but with a science-backed argument that people might trust more.

  19. Alejandra
    October 14, 2010 | 8:54 pm

    It’s amazing how our society has been geared towards so many sugary drinks and that government policies are actually aiding the problem. The issue is that through beverages alone, most Americans go over their daily caloric intake. Don’t drink your calories!!! The truth about sugar and how our bodies respond to it is truly frightening. Who knew that this is the single highest contributor to obesity. I definitely think that our government, through public policy should make it a priority to protect their citizens from these dangers to our health instead of exacerbating the problem with corn subsidies.

  20. Tony
    January 10, 2013 | 7:16 pm

    First of all I’m so glad I came across your website. This is an awesome video and thanks for sharing.

  21. Linda Collins via Facebook
    June 30, 2014 | 10:26 pm

    You might be interested in this, too. Dr Lustig is mentioned. Cereal Killers Movie it can still be viewed for free on Dr. Joseph Mercola ‘s website

  22. Ken Patty Seifert via Facebook
    July 1, 2014 | 3:16 pm

    This was the best lecture in a long time. I knew fructose was bad but now can actually explain why.

  23. Food Renegade via Facebook
    July 1, 2014 | 6:23 pm

    Ken Patty Seifert, so glad you found this helpful!

  24. Batsheva Br via Facebook
    July 1, 2014 | 9:19 pm

    i loved this lecture. it turned my life around last summer when i stumbled across it. so happy you shared it Food Renegade

  25. Food Renegade via Facebook
    July 1, 2014 | 11:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Batsheva Br! I’m glad you found it helpful.

  26. Diane
    July 9, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    I heard Dr Lustig being interviewed on the BBC in the UK today – his message – cut out the added sugars and !

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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