Summary by Lori Beard

In the Documentary, “Sugar: The bitter truth” by Dr. Lustig, he discusses the scientific evidence of sugar in our body system and how it has affected our health and weight. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Lustig is an American pediatrics endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco. As a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, he practices in the field of neuroendocrinology, with an emphasis on the regulation of energy balance by the central nervous system.

He also has a special interest in childhood obesity. Dr. Lustig’s careful researches and observations have led him to findings in which he has concluded that society is eating more because of the changes in our environment. He stated that we all weight 25 lbs. more than we used to 25 years ago. He observes that this is the case in countries that have adopted our nation’s way of eating as well, which involves high calorie intake that are not found in fat, but in carbohydrates.

At some point around the 1970’s, fat was known to be bad in America, but this message was misinterpreted substituting fat with carbohydrates, which then led to an obesity epidemic. US food industry saw this as an opportunity to create a whole new range of products. One of these creations was sweetened drinks. His studies prove that sweetened beverage intake with High Fructose Corn Syrup is the culprit for this obesity epidemic.

One of Dr. Lustig’s colleagues performed a study in which he found that after 19 months of soft drink consumption, individual’s health was obviously and drastically affected. High Fructose Corn syrup is a sugar made from corn. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process. It’s a low cost sweetener because of the farm bill corn subsidies ( HSCS products are not only cheaper, but sweeter as well.

It has been use because it adds palatability to foods and also as a browning agent. HFCS is affecting our health with inflammation, spiking up the insulin (the body’s major fat storage hormone) levels in the blood because is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, also causing a lot of damage to the liver. This problem in the liver, known as lipogenesis, produces high amounts of fats, like triglycerides and cholesterol that lead to all manifestations of metabolic syndrome causing an increase in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, among others.

High Fructose Corn Syrup promotes a vicious cycle of consumption, in other words it can be addicting. This causes what Dr. Lustig refers to as CNS leptin resistance. Leptin is known to be the “satiety hormone” or the hormone that helps you feel full. It is a hormone made by fat cells which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. And because fructose consumption changes the way brain recognizes energy in the body, the brain sends signals of starvation activating ghrelin, which is one of the main hormones to stimulate hunger.

Given all of these facts, Dr. Lustig moves on to explain fiber and its importance in the human diet. He shared a personal proverb of how he defines the purpose of fiber in regards to the HFCS context: “When God created the poison, He created the antidote”. He described the benefits of fiber with the following statements: Fiber increases the speed of transit of intestinal contents to the ileum, or the final part of the small intestine that helps with vitamin of absorption. Another way to explain this is basically that fiber keeps food moving through our digestive system.

It reduces intestinal carbohydrate absorption reducing insulin response. It also inhibits absorption of some free fatty acids which suppresses insulin. He even mentioned the evidence of Paleolithic diets curing diabetes within a week. Around a year ago I accepted to join in a 6 week sugar fast. I did a lot of research and it was a difficult challenge to embark on the search for foods without this additive. It was an eye opening experience in which I gain knowledge about figuring out what to eat and what not to avoid this toxic ingredient.

Since then, I have bugged my family about sugar being a poison. Watching this documentary opened my eyes to an even better understanding of how I define sugar. It was a confirmation to hear it from an expert on the field. Now I can say it and truly be better acquainted with what I am talking about. It is extremely important for me to have a clear understanding on the “differences”, or better said, similarities, between sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup. The example about ethanol exposure compared to the effects of fructose exposure is mind boggling. Looking at the beer belly, and then seeing the picture of the obese child is an evident visual of how they are causing the same effects.

Dr. Lustig also covered a great point about our body’s activity level. I appreciate his honest portrayal about what exercise really does to us. It does not burn calories. I like it when he said that if that is true, after eating a burger someone would need to exercise for ten hours to be able to burn that amount of calories. What exercise does is it improves skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity, it helps reduce stress, it elevates the metabolism in the body. He said that it helps burn food even before you eat it.

After the six weeks of sugar fast, I slowly went back to not being so cautious about the matter. One thing that I did not grasp then was that sugar was as bad as HFCS, so I was paying more attention to that ingredient than sugar. I am grateful that now I have the essential knowledge to implement the practice of avoiding sugar, HFCS, or its derivatives. I will continue reading labels to avoid it. I will continue using pure stevia as a sweetener, also honey, but being excessively careful with the source of the honey. The bitter truth about sugar did not turn out to be so bitter after all. Unveiling these real truths tastes sweet to me!