Robert Lustig, M.D. is a terrific and insightful doctor who knows, and who has quantitatively proven, what the rest of us refuse to confess: Sugar is killing us by fattening our livers from the inside. We all know alcohol is bad for our bodies, and since alcohol is sugar, Dr. Lustig argues in his new book — “Fat Chance” — that the regular sugar we eat in our food can adversely affect our livers because of metabolic disease, just as if we were boozing it up all day long.
Here’s a major argument from his book:
Of course, the major difference between alcohol and sugar is alcohol’s intoxicating effects; the brain does not metabolize fructose. People don’t get arrested for driving under the influence of sugar. But the liver’s metabolism of fructose is remarkably similar to that of ethanol. Fructose isn’t the only cause of obesity, but it is the primary cause of chronic metabolic disease, which kills… slowly. Fructose can fry your liver and cause all the same diseases as does alcohol. We know we must limit our ethanol consumption or face the consequences. But sugar flies under the radar. No wonder Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes on the planet. No alcohol, but they’re drinking soft drinks like they’re going out of style.
We are killing our kids with sugar. In 2001, six million American kids were obese. A decade later, we’ve tripled that number. Heart disease, high cholesterol, liver and kidney disease, orthopedic problems, sleep apnea, gallstones, depression and even polycystic ovarian syndrome are all on the rise over the last 30 years and, Dr. Lustig argues with scientific proof, all of those health scourges are now found in children as young as five years old: “We have an epidemic of obese six-month-olds!”
Since 2005, we have evidence that, even though we have better overall healthcare today than we did a generation ago, children today will be the first generation of Americans who will die earlier than their ancestors. Teenagers with type 2 diabetes used to be an anomaly. Today, a third of all new diabetes diagnoses are under the age of 18.
The USA are not alone in this metabolic misfit. The World Health Organization documented 1.5 billion obese adults in 2008, and that number is predicted to rise to 2.3 billion by 2015. The UN General Assembly declared, “non-communicative diseases (diabetes, cancer and heart disease) are now a greater risk to world health than are infectious diseases, including the developing world.”
Dr. Lustig isn’t arguing that just being overweight kills you. He’s terrified of what happens to our organs even when we are thin because a fatty liver can kill anyone. Chronic insulin resistance is up 40% for average weight people — indicating severe metabolic disease — and 20% of those with insulin resistance show liver fat in an MRI of the abdomen.
We are in trouble — not as a nation, or a world, or a people — but as a species. We are overindulging in sugar that our bodies compose into fat storage, and that sort of ongoing, chronic, over-saturation of sugar in our bodies leaves us no escape. The body cannot effectively burn enough sugar against the amount we take in every day, and so that sugar gets stored as deadly fat that then sits inside us waiting to slowly kills us with a fatty metabolic disease that creeps the life out of all our vital organs.