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.

17 Comments

  1. I can understand where he is coming from .- I have stopped drinking ALL sodas – either full leaded or diet and I do not eat proceessed foods at all now I am living in Portugal. I will still take sugar in my tea and coffee , but that amount is reducing gradually. I do however drink slightly more wine than I did – 3/4 glasses a week.

    My probelm in the UK was that manufactured foods were cheaper than fresh vegetables and fruits and real food and compared to most I was not poor.

    How do we change two/three generations of bad eating /laziness/ lack of cookery and nutritional education?

    1. Soda is deadly — even in the diet form. It really just sucks the life out of your innards, and yet, it is extremely popular among the dieting set.

      Processed foods is the key to our deaths. Sugar and fat are such a part of the food that you cannot escape the ills. Fast food is the absolute worst.

      Eating fresh fruit is also vital to a proper diet, and Dr. Lustig says, “Eat the fruit, don’t drink the juice.” We are fast becoming a “fiber-less” society and fiber in our diet is what keeps us healthy because it helps push out all the toxins and old junk in our gut.

      The only way to turn everything around is for the kids to start dying young — and when we prove what they eat killed them — then, perhaps, new parents will start to pay attention and do the right thing. I think we’ve lost a generation or two to extreme sloth and obesity.

      1. Soda and juice rot teeth too ………………..

        I cannot believe how much healthier I am for eating fresh foods. I still have to manage how much fruit and veg I eat – some still are too quick in transit after my surgery and give me a lot of problems – but it is usually fairly easy to balance – I know which ones cause the problems and which combinations to avoid.

        Jamie Oliver tried a mass intervention in schools with Jamies school dinners – in the end I think he gave up.

        The cooks cooking school dinners could not cook – they were used to reheating frozen/processed foods.
        Kids would not eat vegetables
        Mothers would bring Big Macs for their kids to eat at lunch time and pass them over/through the gates.
        He even went home with some of the kids to see if he could change the habits at home ………….. parents could not cook either.

  2. Wow, David. That’s some pretty sobering news. Makes me reconsider that second cup of coffee with sugar — or is it really a cup of sugar with coffee?

    1. Sugar is so tempting. The “Raw” sugar movement and replacements like Truvia and Splenda have us fooled that sugar substitutes are fine, but they still sweeten and the body still has to process the aftereffects of the momentary high. We can’t fully escape sugar, but we can choose not to pick it up and add it to anything we put in our mouths.

      1. My understanding of Truvia, which is Stevia, or a plant extract, is that it has a sweet taste without actually giving you that high because it just tastes that way without any fructose or sucrose to muck with your system.

        1. Sweet, to me, is sweet — and creates cravings and conditions in the body when absorbed. Is one sweetener safer than the other? Perhaps, but why risk something your body doesn’t really need or want? Only the mind wants sugar. The rest of the body has no real use for any sweetener other than the tiny bit necessary for the function of the day.

    1. I would think honey would be just as bad because it’s still a form of sugar. It doesn’t matter what sort of sugar it is — glucose is the enemy in every form because the body needs very little of it every day, and we overindulge on that carb and our body has no clean way to remove the overflow without just storing it as fat in our organs.

  3. I think you posted this JUST FOR ME. (going to a closet to hide)
    These things I think I knew, but seeing it in writing….. UGH!
    Must adjust (again)
    Thanks David. You’re always the one with the plain (if not uncomfortable) truth.
    Kudos.

    1. There you are, Lillian! We have missed you! Glad to have you back. NOW STICK AROUND! SMILE!

      Sugar is a tough enemy because it appears in basically all processed foods — in large amounts. Unless you’re cooking for yourself from scratch, you’re going to get lots of sugar every day that you don’t realize and can’t quantify. It’s a big problem!