Sweet Poison Challenge


60 Minutes ran a piece last Sunday night about the “controversial new research” surrounding sugar. Basically, it indicated that sugar is the route of all dietary evil and quitting sugar would fix most of your health problems. Have a look at the footage or read the transcript here.

The research the report referred to is that done by Dr Robert Lustig  a Pediatric Endocrinologist. It is hardly “new” however as his lecture “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” was posted on YouTube in July 2009 – nearly three years ago. Not a big deal, I know, but little things like that do tend to get me thinking about what else might be being sensationalised by 60 minutes this time!

The report gives the impression that sugar is bad, and pretty much everything else is okay, as far as healthy eating goes, which is so patently NOT TRUE it makes my blood boil.

Too much of ANYTHING is not good for you. As Jennie Brand-Miller (the glycemic index pioneer) puts it, demonising sugar and concentrating too heavily on its evils gives the message that it’s okay to eat whatever else you like as long as it doesn’t have sugar in it. We run the risk of ignoring the health effects of overdosing on other macronutrients such as fats (especially trans fats) and protein.  She suggests a moderate intake of sugar of up to 10 teaspoons per day is fine. That 10 teaspoons per day includes all sources of dietary sugar – ie the pure white stuff you add to your coffee, as well as the hidden stuff in processed foods, fruit juice etc.

Also interesting was the brain scan which indicated sugar has the same addictive qualities as some drugs, which would kind of explain why we keep eating the stuff when we know it isn’t good for us.

Lustig’s lecture“Sugar: The Bitter Truth”  is well worth listening to, but make sure you have a sugar hit, or at least a cup of coffee handy, as it runs for 90 minutes. It can be found here . He is certainly entertaining, and certainly leaves some of my old uni lecturers for dead, but his use of emotive and headline grabbing language such as referring to sugar as “toxic” and “poison” shouldn’t get in the way of critically evaluating what he says.

David Gillespie is another anti-sugar campaigner.  He  was prompted to sing the praises of a sugar free diet by his own weight loss as a result of cutting sugar out of his diet. See an extensive interview with David Gillespie here   and the Nutrition Australia position statement in response to Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison here.


So, what’s the bottom line?

  • Yes, too much sugar is bad for you.
  • Yes, massive intakes of soft drink will cause you to gain weight
  • Yes, fruit juice does contain heaps of sugar and should be regarded as a treat, not an everyday healthy food
  • Yes, fruit should be limited to 2-3 serves per day, depending on your overall energy requirements
  • Yes, sugar can be addictive
  • No, sugar is not the only reason we get fat.


The Challenge

Will cutting sugar out of your diet make you feel better? Start cutting down on sugar over the next week or so, and put your hand up below if you’re willing to go sugar free for 4 weeks, starting on Monday 25th June. I am.

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