The latest incipient ban: sugar

Apparently fructose is terribly bad for us.

I have to admit, it\’s the first time I\’ve come across a \”health\” campaign that wants to ban fruit and root vegetables.

42 comments on “The latest incipient ban: sugar

  1. “Sucrose contains 50% fructose” ?

    The sucrose MOLECULE structurally is a combination of glucose and fructose. Even Wiki manages to get that right:

    “The molecule is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose with the molecular formula C12H22O11”

    Facepalm.

  2. Well, it’s my old favourite, Calvinism. Anything enjoyable, ban it.

    Nice to see the reeling out of the latest justificatory narrative- “addiction”. It would probably be churlish to point out that all this “addiction” research really does is find the mechanism of humans being drawn to repeat pleasurable behaviours and avoid unpleasurable ones; in other words, decision making in the brain.

    Puritanism will never be satisfied until society is reduced to universal misery and a diet of gruel.

  3. Oh, and there’s a bit more science fail too. Sucrose is reduced to glucose and fructose by the action of reducing enzymes in the intestine, not the liver. Both glucose and fructose are then absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The liver does metabolise most fructose – but that’s its job, innit. It also metabolises complex carbohydrates, and she isn’t suggesting those are dangerous, is she? Although they are, of course, if you eat too much of them….

    So as long as the total amount of sugar intake doesn’t exceed your energy needs, it doesn’t matter what form it takes . If there are excess sugars in the bloodstream the liver converts them into fats for storage. So if you eat too much of ANY sort of sugar you can get fat. Sucrose and fructose are no more or less dangerous than glucose. Her argument that fructose is more dangerous because it has to be metabolised by the liver is simple nonsense.

  4. I’m going to swim against the tide and agree with the premise that fructose is bad for you, in anything other than small amounts. It makes you fat for sure. I had to change my diet for digestive reasons (don’t ask) and eliminated most complex carbs (apart from potatoes which are metabolised to glucose not fructose). I lost weight rapidly, despite eating large meals of red meat with all the fat, butter, cheese etc. I had my cholesterol tested the other day – total 4.90, Total cholesterol to good cholesterol ratio 3:1, which is in the excellent range, despite eating more saturated animal fat than you can shake a stick at.

    I am convinced that the human digestive system evolved to eat meat, plants and a few berries. Not huge amounts of complex carbs from grains and sugars. The professor mentioned in the article has a lecture on Youtube that details how the body metabolises fructose in the same manner it metabolises alcohol, with all the accompanying problems. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM&feature=player_embedded)

    I showed that lecture to my old family doctor, now retired, and he was so impressed he changed his entire eating habits as a result. He couldn’t fault the scientific arguments in it.

  5. Jim.
    It may be true that fructose and loads of carbs are bad for you, pulls the rug out a bit from under the veggies, that isn’t the point though. By all means distribute this information so that we can make our own decisions about diet, always accepting that at some point the info may turn out to be bollocks but of course that’s never enough these days. If something is bad for you there are a whole swathe of the population out there who are quite convinced it should be regulated and preferably banned, the health questions are simply a way of smuggling the bans past what’s left of our tattered concept of personal liberty. So I wouldn’t give these people an inch, bad for me they say ? Couldn’t care less, not listening.
    Ian B is slightly wrong there, the puritans won’t be entirely happy when we’re all miserable and eating gruel, some pervert might actually like gruel. They won’t be happy until we’re all dead and past being able to enjoy ourselves.

  6. I am convinced that several years ago fructose was heralded as a wonder sugar because it is much much sweeter per gramme than glucose, so to sweeten foods required far fewer calories.

    Now excuse me while I go and remind myself whether it’s safe to eat bacon this week and whether I am allowed red wine this evening.

  7. There certainly is enough in the scientific literature to suggest that fructose is bad for you.

    its the nature of fructose intake that may be the issue. honey is relatively benign, but HFCS sweetened industrial drinks? itself a by product of corn subsidies.

    as with trans-fats, evidence will out, consumers will vote with their feet and producers will react. no need to worry about the calvinists/puritans under the bed

  8. Jim,

    Sugar is metabolised in exactly the same way as alcohol, yes. That’s because as far as the body is concerned, alcohol IS sugar. It goes directly into the bloodstream in the same way as simple mono- and di-saccharides and is metabolised by the liver in the same way. An ethanol molecule resembles a truncated glucose molecule, so it isn’t surprising really that the body treats it similarly.

    I absolutely agree with you that we are not designed to eat very large quantities of either refined or naturally-occurring sugars. And processed foods do tend to contain a lot of sugars. But to target some types of sugar as intrinsically more damaging than other types is just silly. Potatoes may be metabolised to glucose, but too many of them will make you fat, too.

  9. Jim,

    Err, and while I’m about it…..grains are from plants, and fructose isn’t a complex carbohydrate, it’s a simple sugar. Sorry.

    The weight loss associated with extreme carbohydrate reduction is controversial. If it worked for you, fine – but when I tried it, it made me terribly tired. I need carbohydrates or I don’t have enough energy.

    Did you give up alcohol, too, or just sugar?

  10. Got me thinking why someone hasn’t started a high-end cupcake shop (say, on Marylebone High St) which uses l-glucose as a fancy sweetener as opposed to fructrose or dextrose.
    Anyone know the cost of l-glucose?

    Tim adds: Good idea. From Wiki “L-Glucose was once proposed as a low-calorie sweetener, but was never marketed due to excessive manufacturing costs.”

    It’s also a laxative…..

    http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2004/ch_4.html

  11. This article is 50% old hat.
    The other 50% is the usual statistical sample of 1 rubbish as to how the writer’s whole life was changed and, therefore, the rest of the world, us, should be forced to do as she thinks we should.

  12. I, for one, will be happy to get rich in the illegal sugar production/distribution networks of tomorrow. I will have lots of help since no amount of bullshit will convince the public that sugar is a deadly danger.

  13. @Frances Coppola: fructose is metabolised like alcohol, but glucose isn’t. Thats the point. All sugars are not equal. There are completely different digestive and chemical pathways for each in the body. Thus anything that contains sugar (sucrose) is 50% fructose, once the simple bond between the two molecules (one glucose, one fructose) that make up a sucrose molecule is broken by the digestive system. Thus sweet stuff makes you fat, but sweet stuff made from HFCS makes you REALLY fat and gives you all the problems (heart disease etc) that heavy drinking does. The rise in obesity in the Western world can be linked to the rise of the use of HFCS, particularly in manufactured foods and soft drinks. I have continued to eat potatoes in my diet as they are metabolised to glucose not fructose, and therefore don’t have the negative effects of fructose.

    I’m a teetotaller for my sins so didn’t have to give up alcohol when I gave up sweet stuff.

    I don’t want to ban anything, but that doesn’t mean that if things like fructose and HFCS are not good for you one should just keep quiet about it. I believe in the freedom for people to put whatever they like in foods, and the freedom for me to say its terrible stuff too.

  14. Jim

    OK, so glucose can be metabolised in muscle as well as the liver, unlike fructose and galactose. And the metabolic pathway for glucose is different from that for fructose, which is different from that for galactose. That doesn’t mean that too much fructose is worse for you than too much glucose, or too much galactose. Too much of ANY type of sugar is bad for you.

  15. Can anyone think of a way of combining all three isomers in one pudding? If I’m going to die of sugar poisoning, I’d like to do it comprehensively (and deliciously, of course).

  16. It looks as if the U.K. is going the way of the U.S., where I am now, and where it seems eating has become pathologised.

    People here don’t eat steak or eggs, they consume ‘protein’; they don’t have toast for breakfast, but ‘carbs’; they obsess about their intake of various fats, consume industrial quantities of supplements in aid of something…immortality, perhaps…and the shops are full of weird products like ‘no fat cream’.

    Nevertheless, people are fatter than ever and the weight loss industry is making a fortune. Madness.

  17. roym – “There certainly is enough in the scientific literature to suggest that fructose is bad for you.”

    I object to the word “scientific” in that sentence.

    “its the nature of fructose intake that may be the issue. honey is relatively benign, but HFCS sweetened industrial drinks? itself a by product of corn subsidies.”

    And the evidence for this is what precisely? Given this looks so much like Hippy rubbish – lovely natural product vs. nasty industrial one – it is only sensible to treat it with skepticism. Why should anyone believe a word of it?

    “as with trans-fats, evidence will out, consumers will vote with their feet and producers will react. no need to worry about the calvinists/puritans under the bed”

    There being bugger all evidence trans-fats are bad for you either.

    This is, as IanB says, about puritanism. The people involved in diet are too closely related to the usual anally retentive religious weirdos for my liking. Future generations will laugh we ever listened to a word they have to say.

  18. Frances Coppola – “Can anyone think of a way of combining all three isomers in one pudding? If I’m going to die of sugar poisoning, I’d like to do it comprehensively (and deliciously, of course).”

    Plum Pudding? With custard if you want to be sure.

    24 Frances Coppola – “Ohh, and if alcohol could somehow be included too, that would be even better.”

    Pour brandy all over it.

  19. Frances,

    I do a pudding I call “baked Siberia”. It’s just baked Alaska but with a layer of kirsch-soaked cherry halves on the base and using your choice of chocolate ice-cream with chocolate bits in it, rather than vanilla.

    Should cover your requirements.

  20. Ian: Can we find someone else to pick on on the religious thing? As a Calvinist (yes, really, an actual live Calvinist) who enjoys port, Brie, Stilton, real ale, cream, Yorkshire curd tart and just about anything else which comes under the category of ‘finer things in life’, I’m unsure why it’s we who are meant to be pinched of face and sour of attitude. It’s the Scots and the Dutch who give us a bad name: but that’s because they’re Scottish and Dutch, not because they’re Calvinistic!

  21. So M…..blathererd:
    “I object to the word “scientific” in that sentence.”

    Why? HFCS has been well researched. The stuff gets you fatter and iller than sucrose. We are increasingly obese because of its roll out. Jim has it right. Same as trans fats. There’s no ‘hippy’ in any of the science.

    But then you are all knowing, as is Tim, so anyone else can fuck right off, yeah?

    Tossers.

  22. Philip:

    Ian: Can we find someone else to pick on on the religious thing?

    Sadly, we can’t pick on somebody else, because the root of this madness is directly descended from radical Protestantism, particularly Calvinism, which led through the Puritans to the Dissenters to the 19th Century Milllennialists to the Progressives to whatever we call this latest mob.

    Descriptions of particular group characteristics are always imperfect; but the general popular linkage between Calvinists/Puritans with pinched faces and sour attitudes is a valid one.

  23. Arnald – “Why? HFCS has been well researched. The stuff gets you fatter and iller than sucrose. We are increasingly obese because of its roll out. Jim has it right. Same as trans fats. There’s no ‘hippy’ in any of the science.”

    Because it has been well researched. And no problems have been found. It does not get you either fatter or iller than sucrose. This is a lie. At best we simply do not know. There is a whole Wikipedia page on the health effects of HFCS and the result of those studies is that by and large there is no issue. Except for one small scale study in rats. That was poorly designed.

    But, hey, don’t listen to me. Take the Mayo Clinic’s word for it:

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588

    For trans-fats there is at least some evidence. But it is hardly strong or compelling. It is just a correlation. Given the medical profession has been consistently wrong about most things, it looks like “trans-fats” is just their way of quietly admitting they were wrong about fats. So they can admit that fat doesn’t kill, it is those nasty (and poorly defined) “trans-fats” wot done it.

    “But then you are all knowing, as is Tim, so anyone else can fuck right off, yeah?”

    I am only all knowing compared to you Arnold. But then so is slime mold.

  24. “I have to admit, it’s the first time I’ve come across a “health” campaign that wants to ban fruit and root vegetables.”

    Kava?

  25. All you need to do, you bansturbators, is direct me to a couple of competent Randomised Controlled Trials that show that HFCS, or sucrose, or transfats, or whatever has lately seized your attention, leads to shorter lives. If you can’t, lay off.

  26. Ian: The problem is that that is a partial reading of history. The general situation among Calvinists has been to enjoy, or at least permit, tobacco and alcohol consumption in moderation.

    For example, Spurgeon, a Calvinistic Baptist, smoked so prodigiously that he was featured on Player’s cigarette cards. Ralph Erskine, a Scottish Presbyterian, wrote a poem called Smoking Spiritualized, in which he used tobacco smoking as a picture of the Christian gospel. Calvin, famously, wrote, “It is nowhere forbidden to laugh or to eat one’s fill or gain new possessions or enjoy oneself with musical instruments or drink wine.” He went on, as all Calvinists would, to decry excess; but not the things in themselves.

    For sure, the Puritans banned some things. But the Puritans are *not* the majority report of Calvinism.

    If I were looking for Protestants to blame for this — and it is more likely us than the Roman Catholics, I’ll grant — then how about Pietism and Methodism? They are decidedly non-Calvinistic (Pietism being Lutheran in origin, and Methodism in some ways an anti-Calvinistic reaction), and were always far, far less happy with the idea of people enjoying tobacco, alcohol, music and the like. I suspect that what you identify as Calvinist is in fact pietistic or methodist in its provenance.

  27. Philip, fair comments.

    The problem with any movement (e.g. Christianity, Communism, Conservatism, Liberalism) is they are a sea of subgroups, and different analyses produce different historical narratives. If we take the Methodists, for instance, they’re Arminians. Arminians are not Calvinists, disagreeing about predestination, for instance. But they can also be seen as a subgrouping of the general Calvinism behind Puritanism, in the same way as Trostkyites can be seen as either oppositional to, or descended from, Leninists, depending on one’s perspective.

    So I think from my perspective, the important thing is to note Calvin and his writings as a primary driver of radical Protestantism, which infuse it all, whether overt Calvinists or other sects such as the Arminians. Calvin simply cannot be overstated in his importance. The Calvinist model of governance, the famed Geneva experiment, was central to the imagined utopias of subsequent Protestants; for instance the English puritans were in many cases protestants who had escaped to the Continent during Bloody Mary’s reign, where they became infused with Calvinist ideas and thought, “hey, let’s try that at home!”.

    We could argue til the cows come home over these relative groupings; Calvinists, Arminians, Pietists, Lutherans, Quakers. What really matters is that Calvinist model of the State, and ideas strongly inherited from Calvin, such as work as a “calling”, and the concept of Elect and Reprobates; it is these ideas which developed over time into moralist governance in the Anglosphere. With the rise of Millennialism with the Second Wave Puritans (in the First Wave, it was a fringe movement represented by the likes of the Fifth Monarchy Men, in the Second Wave it held centre stage, partiuclarly in the USA), the stage was set for modern oppressive governance on moralist principles.

    The second point is that Puritanism has changed in focus over the centuries; movements do this, as with Marxism or indeed Liberalism. The First Wave (or perhaps Zeroth Wave, before Cromwell) were primarily itnerested in religious purity; even so they showed clear signs of anti-fun-ism, ranging from smashing stained glass windows and organs in churches, to banning sunday entertainments and sports, to closing brothels and taverns. As the movement develops throughout history, it switches more and more to the “lifestyle puritanism” because it had been denied direct political hegemony- by the Restoration here in Britain, and by a principle of separation of Church and State in the USA. The only way forward was to concentrate on lifestyle- demon rum, tobacco, obscenity, etc etc. That gave us the Victorian Era moral system. So saying that 16th century puritans/calvinists liked a beer doesn’t help us much, any more than saying that Beatrix Campbell can’t be a Marxist because she’s more focussed on lesbian feminism that the Hegelian Dialectic and Dictatorship Of The Proleteriat. Movements evolve.

    It’s a complex history. I will accept that it is sometimes unfair to use the terms “Calvinist” or even “Puritan” in these contexts, but they are a reasonable shorthand for the social groups we’re discussing. Calvinists are not alone in being to blame; but it was John Calvin more than anyone else who started the ball rolling, and it was that heritage that got us to this point.

  28. Bah: The Kirk – which has a strong Calvinist strain in its background – approves of drinking whisky, but disapproves of getting drunk. It’s not the Calvinists who prattled about Adam’s Ale.

  29. Ian: Yes, so what you’re describing is moralism (as distinct from, say, morality). And moralists make themselves felt all over history, both within religious and without religious groups — and of course among Calvinists too.

    (To quibble, even the Puritan stuff you mention, and to which I alluded, was still *mostly* about religious purity rather than morality or entertainment. Brothels and the theatre are obvious exceptions — one in each category — but banning, e.g., sport from Sundays alone is a clear indication that it was about religion not entertainment.)

    It’s good that you raise ‘liberalism’. I would say that your sense of the term Calvinism is something to be resisted as much as the American dilution of the word ‘liberalism’: there’s a perfectly good word in ‘moralism’, which doesn’t need half a page of historical background checks before we can be sure that we’re talking about the same phenomenon.

  30. Arnald, how delightful to see that you are as illogical as ever.

    Since sucrose metabolises to fructose and glucose, how can fructose make you “fatter and iller” than sucrose? Unless, of course, glucose is not simply another form of sugar but is a Wonder Food That Protects Against The Evils Of Fructose.

    I would venture to suggest – YET again – that it is not the FORM of the sugar that matters, it is the QUANTITY. If you are consuming far more products containing fructose than products containing other forms of sugar, it will be mostly fructose that’s making you fat and ill, won’t it? Or, rather, ALL the sugar will be making you fat and ill, but fructose will be the largest contributor, simply because there is more of it in your diet.

    Amazing, isn’t it, the difference it makes rearranging the same set of atoms in three different shapes……

  31. Thanks for the pudding suggestions, folks. SE, your Siberian Alaska (apart from sounding absolutely yummy – shall have to make that! ) seems to be distantly related to Schwarzwaldkirschentorte. Are you sure it is Russian – not even slightly German?

    My solution was sherry trifle. Or Tiramisu, since both glucose and fructose would be contributed by the breakdown of sucrose. The pudding has to be cold, you see – or the alcohol volatilises.

  32. FC
    We’re talking about HFCS, and its pernicious distribution in the western diet, not fructose.

    Fructose is metabolised differently.

    Is there, or is there not, a relationship between the rising number of obesity cases and the rise in adding HFCS or sucrose to foodstuffs?

    However you like to dress it, fructose serves no other purpose other than to tickle pleasure centres.

    A bit like the booze argument, at what stage does there need to be an intervention to stop people killing themselves with greed?

    I dunno. What does need to happen, though, is for people to be educated. I think most are blissfully ignorant about what they stuff in their faces.

    Let alone doing acid under your eyelid.

    Tim adds: No Arnald, we are not talking about HFCS here. This dippy hippy woman actually wrote her article about *fructose* not HFCS.

    Thus why we are discussing fructose, not HFCS.

    And please do note: HFCS is used in vastly larger amounts in hte US than it is elsewhere. Yet obesity rates are converging in those places which use cane sugar and those which use corn sugar. So it’s most unlikely to be to do with HFCS either.

  33. Arnald – “We’re talking about HFCS, and its pernicious distribution in the western diet, not fructose.”

    Are we? Since when?

    “Fructose is metabolised differently.”

    To what? HFCS? Well the hint is in the name – High Fructose Corn Syrup. How is fructose metabolised differently from …. fructose?

    “Is there, or is there not, a relationship between the rising number of obesity cases and the rise in adding HFCS or sucrose to foodstuffs?”

    Not that we know of. There is just as good a relationship between the Government’s food advice – more carbs, less meat and fats – and rising obesity. Indeed the more we listen to this sort of advice, the fatter we seem to get.

    “However you like to dress it, fructose serves no other purpose other than to tickle pleasure centres.”

    And that is what is wrong with you Arnold. What the f**k is wrong with that? What other purpose is there is life except to tickle our pleasure centres? And perhaps those nearest and dearest to us. A good bowel movement?

    “A bit like the booze argument, at what stage does there need to be an intervention to stop people killing themselves with greed?”

    Except you would have to show people are being hurt by eating HFCS.

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