While out running errands the other day, I caught the last couple of minutes of an interview on the Diane Rehm show. Yes, I'm an NPR geek who also enjoys learning about food: how to cook it, where it comes from, how it got to be the way it is, what food is (versus food products/processed foods)... you name it. So the tail end of this interview caught my interest. A registered dietitian called in and asked the guest to talk about how much better off we'd be if folks would just understand calories in/calories out and how calories are calories. The first part of his response - clearly agitated - was, "I could not disagree with you more."
The guest was Dr. Robert Lustig, whose new book is called "Fat Chance: Beating The Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease." He is a child obesity specialist, an endocrinologist, and professor at UCSF, and on the Diane Rehm show's website was a link to a talk he gave called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth." It was about 90 minutes and I watched it all. Twice. He debunks myths about nutrition that we as a nation have bought into for decades. He explains it in great (easy to understand) detail, even going into biochemistry if that's your thing, why a high sugar diet IS a high fat diet and that fructose is actually poison. Not just empty calories. Poison.
My teenage eating practices were pretty bad. Today, say the stats, 25% of adolescents are getting 15% of their total caloric intake from fructose (not total sugar, but fructose) alone. Not good. And worse, there is an epidemic of obese 6-month olds. Yeah, that's happening, and he shows why. What are we feeding our kids?? And why don't we realize what we're doing? Answers: sugar & it's everywhere! Fructose doesn't release the hormone that tells us we're full. So, as in the example Lustig gives, those 150 calories in the soda drink your little sunshine gets on the way to the fast food joint stop the brain from registering that there are calories coming in, so guess who wants to keep eating?
We've all heard this, but it is worth repeating. If we consumed one 20-ounce bottle of soda per day for a year, we would gain 26 pounds of fat. And that is before the other 'poisonous' effects. Lustig goes on to talk about the different ways our bodies metabolize ethanol (our favorite Saturday night sugars) versus glucose and fructose. Did you know that your liver metabolizes fructose? I didn't. Your liver's job is to deal with stuff that the rest of your body doesn't know what to do with. The results are gout, uric acid, high blood pressure, blocking brain signals that say you're full despite new fat production, type II diabetes, and on and on. Sexy, no?
I know I'm nerding out with one of my hobbies, and that I'm requesting a chunk of your precious time, but I ask you to watch it. Your health and wellness start in your kitchen. You don't have to listen to me. Let the good doctor explain it. Watch it to understand why we shouldn't eat things that advertise how good for you they are on the box, or advertise at all. He's even kinda funny. Most importantly, he tells you what you can do to make changes, the same advice he gives his patients and their parents. Watch. Watch with your kids who are in health class. Tell me what you think. If you agree or not. If you're going to change what you eat or feed your kiddos or eat while pregnant. And please, if you think it's good info, share it with someone you love so they can see it, too.