Fifth Food & Health Group Meeting – Sugar

30th March, 2:30pm – 40 attendees

The reason for covering the subject of sugar on this occasion was partly due to the recent visit of Professor Robert Lustig to England, and partly because it was Easter. Many countries have seen an exponential increase in sugar consumption over the last two centuries and researchers are now examining sugar’s role as a major driver of obesity and a range of chronic diseases. Worryingly, many of these diseases are increasingly seen in the young as daily fizzy drinks, fruit juices and sweet consumption becomes normal. 


 
Part 1 – Background and history of sugar production.
We started with a brief homage to Professor John Yudkin (who’s 1972 book ‘Pure White and Deadly’ I highly recommend) and to Prof Robert Lustig’s involvement in the recent reprinting of this prophetic book. We consider the history of sugar and its early association with ‘diseases of affluence’ such as diabetes that more recently have become diseases of poverty. We look briefly at the work of Weston Price who in 1930 observed rapid degeneration among primitive tribes as they became exposed to sugar and white flour. Those isolated people who were still subsisting on their traditional foods showing their robust build, health and fine teeth contrast with the same people once they had begun to use ‘the displacing foods of modern commerce’, and show their wrecked teeth, health and skeletal structures. These powerful images should have great significance for us all.


 
Part 2 – Metabolism of sugar – “It’s alcohol but without the buzz”
This quote about sugar by Professor Robert Lustig leads us into the metabolic processes by which fructose (sugar being 50% fructose and 50% glucose) damages the liver, just as alcohol does, and how it alters the ratio of blood fats, and contributes to weight gain. Some recent well-designed trials demonstrate these effects in older obese and younger healthy adults. However, there are opposing views in the literature, but a quick search uncovers the handywork of the sugar industry lobby. We are reminded of big tobacco’s tactics.


 
Part 3 – Addiction, appetite and other effects of sugar, and the contrary views

In this section we considered some of the excellent recent studies which demonstrate emphatically the addictive potential of sugar and how fructose interferes with hunger signalling to create a cycle of craving, bingeing, and overconsumption.


 
Part 4 – Good news: chocolate’s health benefits

As this presentation was given on Easter Saturday the good news about chocolate was welcome – and what a lot of good news there is! There have been many, many studies of late repeatedly demonstrating clear cardiovascular benefits from chocolate consumption. Unsurprisingly, plain chocolate comes out tops, whereas white chocolate was found to have none of the benefits as it does not contain any cocoa solids. So a good 70% to 90% dark chocolate can form part of a healthy low-sugar, low-carb, high quality diet!

We ended this section by sampling some high cocoa solid chocolates :o)

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