Is sugar the cause of the obesity epidemic?

Lecture On Sugar: By Dr Robert H. Lustig

Warning On The Dangers of High Sugar Drinks
Warning On The Dangers of High Sugar Drinks
Fruit and vegetables are the healthiest food we can eat.
Fruit and vegetables are the healthiest food we can eat.

Is Refined Sugar: the Main Cause of Obesity?

According to the World Health Organization, we are facing a obesity epidemic, with a billion people overweight as well as a large increase in diseases like, diabetes, hypertension, stokes, heart disease and cancer. This is nothing new as obesity has been growing since the 1970s.

Experts tell us that the reason why we have obesity is because people eat too much fat and sugars. They also claim that obese people have too little will power to resist these foods. As the result these people are not only suffering bad health they are also told it is their own fault that they are fat. But it also might be that the advice given to the public is completely wrong.

Although the food experts are willing to admit that sugars play a role in obesity, they emphasize the role of eating fat as being the main cause of being overweight. The problem is that they have also discovered that some fats are good for you and so they talk about good fats and bad fats, which only confuses the public. Another problem is that one of the most successful diets around, The Atkins Diet, is full of fat, and the wrong sort of fat as well, yet people successfully lose weight using this diet.

So could it be that all the experts are wrong? This has to be true, because if people have been following the advice of the diet experts since the 1970s and the rates of obesity has been growing all the time, then it strongly suggests that the advice from these food experts is not correct. It is not fat people’s lack of will power that is the problem, but the foods they are encouraged to eat and the bad advice they get from the media.

I have to admit I have been having problems with weight most of my adult life, and have mostly tried to overcome it by exercise. This does work, but if at any time I stopped doing exercises then the weight quickly returned. Though, I have known for a long time that sugars puts on weight as I had proof of this back in the early 1980s. At the time I was having three teaspoons of sugar in my tea, and didn't see that as a problem.

Then some women I knew began to nag me about this, and told me that sugar was bad. I didn't believe this, but to stop the nagging I began to slowly cut down on sugar until I was able to drink tea without it. Then to my surprise I lost a stone in weight, (14 pounds, 6 kilo). At the time I thought it a bit of a joke, but I began to take sugar more seriously, but even so, I still had the attitude that the odd chocolate bar, ice cream or cake wasn’t going to hurt me. This is also the attitude of most people I know, and as the result I still had problems keeping my weight down

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We live in a world where junk foods are heavily advertised and healthy foods are not.
We live in a world where junk foods are heavily advertised and healthy foods are not.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

More recently I noticed some people I knew, who had dramatic weight loss, were people with diabetes who had been put on a no-sugar diet by their doctor. So I did begin to wonder about the role of sugar in putting on weight. I then done some research on the internet and found a video called. “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”,(see the above video), which was lecture by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Paediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. This video is over an hour long, and is a bit scientific, which may put off some people watching it, but what he said, was a revelation.

One of the first things that caught my attention was Robert Lustig’s explanation of why the Atkin’s diet works. Atkin himself claimed that it was because it was high protein diet and other food experts agreed with him. But what Lustig pointed out was that the Atkin’s diet was also a non-sugar diet. He also made the point that it is only the diets without sugar that work. For instance, some diet experts, like Dr Atkins, claim that it is carbohydrates that are the problem, but Lustig points out that it is only simple carbohydrates like sugar, alcohol and white flour that cause weight gain. So a diet of complex carbohydrates, like fruit and vegetables is also very effective in losing weight.

Some people will point out there is a lot of sugar in all fruits and vegetables. So their idea of a sugar free diet is to eliminate these things. What Lustig says about this, is that sugar is a poison and the fibre in plants is the antidote to this. So eating sugar in plants is all right, providing you also have fibre with it. Unfortunately the more food is processed the more the fibre is taken out of it, so processed food is mostly high in sugar and very low in fibre. Cooking or juicing can also cut down on the fibre in fruit and vegetables, so eating raw food is the quickest way to lose weight. Though it can still be done, more slowly, with cooked vegetables.

The fact that sugar is the main cause of obesity has been known for a long time. Lustig points out that back in the 1970s there was a big scientific debate whether it was the eating of sugar or fat that was the cause of obesity. At the time it seems that the fat camp won this debate and in the 1980s, food manufacturers were told to produce low-fat food. This only increase the case of obesity in the population, so why was this? When the food manufacturers tried to reduce fat in their food, they ended up with food tasting like cardboard, so to overcome this problem they simply increased the amount of sugar in the food, to give taste to it. As the result, nearly all low fat food is also high in sugar.

To make matters worse, food manufacturers have ended up having a sugar war. What they have discovered is that if they make their products sweeter, than the products of their competitors, they will sell more of them. So to gain a bigger market share, food manufacturers need to keep their products the sweetest on the market. As the result, the amount of sugar in processed food has been increasing over the years.

Sugar as a food preserver

Food manufacturers use sugar, to preserve food.
Food manufacturers use sugar, to preserve food.

Why do food manufacturers use so much sugar?

So if sugar is the main cause of obesity why are the diet experts not saying this? Probably because, most of them are employed or sponsored by the food industry. What food manufacturers want for their food is a long shelf life.

This is because, if the food spoils too quickly, then there is a lot of wastage if the food is not sold quickly enough. For this reason preservatives are put into food, and in spite of modern food technology, the two main preservatives are still sugar and salt. The reason being that both are good to taste, and therefore food manufacturers can put a lot into food.

Sugar is the ideal product for food manufacturers, it is good to taste, it preservatives food and is cheap. For this reason they would resist any attempt to cut down or ban sugar in food. Salt could partly replace sugar but doctors have said that too much salt is bad for us, so the amount of salt in processed food is being reduced. Though it is questionable whether salt is worse for our health than sugar. (Table salt is dug out of the ground and has a lot of sand in it, some doctors are saying that it is the sand in table salt is the problem for our health and sea-salt is better for us because it hasn’t got sand in it.)

The problem is that media like TV, newspapers and magazines depend on advertisers for their revenue, and one of the main advertisers is the food industry. So the media is not going to upset their clients by promoting anyone who says that sugar is the main cause of obesity. For this reason the only way you can find out about this, would be to read scientific papers or to find it on the internet. As the mainstream media will only state, whatever their food manufacturer clients want them to say.

One of the shocking things about this, is childhood obesity. The reason for this, is that food manufacturers put high levels of sugar into baby food and milk. Legally they are not allowed to put sugar into formula milk for breast feeding babies, but they get around it by putting in other types of sugar like, lactose, fructose, glucose and maltodextrose in it. To make matters worse, according to Lustig fructose is worse for our health than normal sugar.

They then also do the same with baby food, which again is full of different types of sugars. So it is no wonder that we now have babies and small children who are obese. Mothers are not told about the dangers of these formula milks and baby foods by the mainstream media, and even more educated mothers can be fooled by the labelling. Food manufacturers are very clever in calling sugars by many other different names, so a mother looking at the ingredients of baby food may not even see sugar on it, but this is because the sugars has been called many different names that people are not unaware off.

Then as the child grows up it is bombarded by adverts on TV, in children programs, all promoting high sugar drinks and food. The mother may also buy ready made meals from the supermarket and again all these will contain a lot of sugar in them. The irony of this, is that if she is a health conscious mother she may buy low fat foods, not knowing that these foods are very high in sugar. Some people are beginning to notice that if they stop eating low fat meals, they actually lose weight

Is sugar toxic?

Sugar in Processed food

This is what has happened to me. After watching Robert Lustig’s lecture I became strict about not eating any sugars, but I found this difficult as I had to find out about the hidden sugars in manufactured foods. I had to read the labels of processed food more carefully as I learnt more about the tricks food manufacturers use in calling sugars by very many different names. I found that it is very hard to find any processed food that is not full of sugar.

The only processed food I found that didn't have sugar in it was shredded wheat, porrage oats and some natural yoghurts. So it became difficult not to eat sugar, after all if you go somewhere and you are offered cake or some processed food it is not polite to refuse. Yet in spite of this, I have found that by cutting down on the sugar I consume, I am losing weight easily. Another bonus, is that Lustig claims that sugar can actually make us feel even more hungry, and this is what I have discovered. I find that if I can eat a meal without any sugar in it, it will easy satisfy my hunger. As the result I am now finding I am eating less without any effort.

People have told me I must have a lot of will power to lose weight the way I am, but I say it is not will power, but only the fact I try to not eat sugar as much as I used to. Other people claim they cannot do as I am doing because they are addicted to sugar. It is true that when eating high levels of sugar, you get use to the taste and anything without sugar seems to be too bitter. But it is possible to re-educate your taste buds by gradually eating less and less sugar and keeping clear of high sugar foods. If you are willing to do this over weeks or months, you can slowly learn to enjoy food that is not oversweet. Lustig also points out that alcohol is simply fermented sugar and has the same effect on our bodies. Unfortunately, alcohol can be addicted, so that is going to be harder to give up than sugar. Though it is claimed that sugar itself is also addictive. (See video below, Sugar - A Sweet Addiction.)


Artificial Sweeteners

Some people try to use artificial sweeteners which are so sweet that far less of it is needed to sweeten food. Unfortunately although they have been around for some time they have failed to stop the obesity epidemic. The reason for this, is probably that they get people’s taste buds use to very sweet foods. So they find ordinary food without a lot of sugar in it, too bland or bitter. So it is better to re-educate your taste buds not to want highly sweetened food or drink.

Roberts Lustig’s lecture is probably too long and too scientific for many people, but he is the expert on obesity, and is not being paid by food companies to say something that suits their agenda. So all we need to know is that all the advice given out by “food experts” in the mainstream media is clearly not working, and it is sugar that is the main cause of obesity. This means do your best to cut down on sugar. Not buy low-fat foods and try as much as possible to cut down on processed foods and eat whole foods. That is to say, food that comes from farms and not out of factories

People are fat not because they lack willpower, but because they are brainwashed by advertisers to eat food that is bad for them. Then, even if they want to do something about it, they are given the wrong advice by the mainstream media. You can read more about this in my other Hub. How I Lost Weight By Not Eating Sugar.

© 2012 William Bond

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Comments 9 comments

Damiendarby profile image

Damiendarby 4 years ago from Seattle

As a physical trainer I can honestly tell you half of the problem if intellectual laziness mixed with unprecedented amounts of conflicting and confusing disinformation. To the modern health industry this is big business.


cloverleaffarm profile image

cloverleaffarm 4 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

No, I don't believe it is sugar. It is lack of good eating habits, and lack of daily exercise. Back in the late 1800's, a person ate 2000 calories a day, but burned it off working. Now, people who eat that much just become overweight, or obese. We don't need the amount of "empty" calories like soda, ice tea, amongst others.


wabond profile image

wabond 4 years ago from England Author

I've got not choice to believe it is sugar Cloverleaffarm, because that is what works for me. I kept away from junk food and exercised for years and have struggled to keep my weight down. But by simply being strict about not eating sugar I am now finding it very easy to lose weight.


Damiendarby profile image

Damiendarby 4 years ago from Seattle

Wabond, 80% of leaning down in food intake brother, 20% is movement. You're on a very good path, the ripples of which make this world as a hole a better place. Cheers


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Again I have voted up for this hub, William! I find I mainly agree with you here and I am annoyed that sugar is in so many things. Where I live it is very hard to find products without sugar in them, even bread has sugar in it and fruit juices do too. I do find that exercise burns it off though in me. I do a lot of walking but I am sure if I didn't I would get fat if I didn't avoid as much sugar as possible.


GoForTheJuggler profile image

GoForTheJuggler 4 years ago from Texas

Great read. I've been trying to cut out as much sugar as possible, but I haven't been very successful. I can't believe I didn't know alcohol was merely fermented sugar. Or, maybe I knew at one point, but drank the memory away....


wabond profile image

wabond 4 years ago from England Author

Yes, sugar can be very addictive. It can be done if you do it slowly, cut down on sugar over a period of time and get your taste buds use to food that is not too sweet.


Lee 4 years ago

Totally agree.

Removing sugar from the diet also significantly improves athletic performance as I have found by self-experimentation (10-20% power increase during cycling).

I've tried spreading the word but 95% of people are not interested. Of those, about a quarter are hostile to the concept.

I now use sugar intake to control the weight level I want to be at and eliminate it a week before I need an athletic performance boost.


wabond profile image

wabond 4 years ago from England Author

Thanks for the feedback. I am not an athletic but I have been on a sugar free diet over the last 6 months and I am losing weight all the time without eating less food.

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