February 6, 2012

Is Sugar Toxic?

One scientist thinks so.

Rochelle Birch: I was ignoring what my body was telling me.

Gary: Rochelle Birch was rushed to the hospital last year after a seizure. At 16-years-old, she weighed 250 pounds and she was told that it was because of how much sugar she eats.

Rochelle: You want that soda? You are basically killing yourself.

Gary: The man who told her that was Robert Lustig, a pediatrician at the University of California. And he is causing controversy because of his statements about sugar.

In the latest issue of the journal Nature, Lustig calls sugar a toxin deadly enough in high enough doses that it should be regulated just like alcohol.

Robert Lustig: Look, sugar is pleasure, sugar is energy, sugar is natural. Well, guess what? So is alcohol. And a little is ok, but too much is a bad thing.

Gary: The USDA recommends a sugar intake of the equivalent of a can of soda a day. But Lustig says Americans now consume nearly three times that much on average. And it is not just added sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup found on soft drinks, but all sugars, he says — even in flavored water — that are to blame for diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease, traditionally blamed on fat.

Lustig: It was never the fat. It’s not the fat, it’s the sugar.

Gary: Many disagree, including the sugar and beverage industry who release statements criticizing Lustig’s findings. The Sugar Association called it ‘irresponsible,’ accusing him of ‘instilling fear’ in consumers.

The American Beverage Association said Lustig’s conclusions are ‘without scientific merit.’ But Lustig is so convinced, he is saying if sugar isn’t regulated, it should at the very least be taxed, like tobacco.

Lustig: Nobody’s ready for $2 can of Coke. On the other hand, they weren’t ready for an $11.90 pack of cigarettes in New York City either.

Gary: As for Rochelle, she has lost 75 pounds by reducing sugar in her diet, something most health experts agree is important.

But most disagree with Lustig, saying it is not that simple to just blame sugar and sugar alone for a range of diseases that are much more complicated.

Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.


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