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The Sweet Road to Obesity

The Sweet Road to Obesity

I knew a guy many years ago who had this ritual of eating a half-gallon of ice cream and a bag of cookies virtually every night. It sounds kind of crazy now but he was consistent. This went on for some time. Well, I lost contact with that particular guy but I still think of him often these days. Why? Well, for two reasons. First, because I now work with clients around the world on weight and life issues. And, secondly, that guy - was me.

What about you? Are you hooked on sugar? I don't know, but there is a way to find out. If you can go a full week without it, then you may not be. However, if you experience a 'shakes', then you may want to re-think your sugar intake.

Obesity rates have risen since the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup around three decades ago. This was around the same time I was in the grips of the "sugar" years. I suspect it could have been worse during the 1970s. Or maybe not. Recently, I heard a story on the British Medical Journal that cited the organization's effort to have sugar considered a dangerous substance. I agree that we all should either severely limit or totally eliminate refined sugar and high-fructose products, especially for children who are obese or who are at high risk for becoming so.

At present, over 25% of U.S. children between 2 and 17 have a serious weight issue, either overweight or obese. Since my "sugar" binge in the 1970s, it is not surprising that consumption of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has increased over 1,000 %.
In today's modern society, we can and do find high-fructose corn syrup in all the usual suspects but also in many foods you might not think of as sugar-laden. For instance, breads (in some cases that brown bread is white bread colored with molasses), baby foods, many condiments (ketchup in particular), and beer to name a few.

HFCS is adored by the $900+ billion food industry. Why? Primarily because of cost. It is some 20% cheaper than sugar in part because of government subsidies of corn combined with the tariffs on sugar. HFCS also acts as a preservative, which increases shelf-life. The food industry contends there is no evidence that HFCS places consumers at risk for anything. However, some physicians believe that we should be wary of any product containing HFCS.

High-fructose corn syrup is essentially liquid sweetener. It is produced as the by-product of enzyme extracted starches of corn. Through this process, it is converted into half glucose and one-half fructose, which is about the same ratio as white or table sugar. It is important to make the distinction between these levels of fructose and the safe levels available in natural fruits and in honey. Calorically, HFCS and white sugar have about the same calories. Although much sweeter than glucose, fructose is not readily metabolized by the body.

There is a growing body of research that suggests there are negative effects related to fructose, yet very few studies have looked closely at HFCS. There are many serious chronic conditions that have been tied to resulting blood fats known as triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides have been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance (which has been linked to type 2 diabetes), and all have been linked to high-fructose diets.

Weight gain is the common theme that ties all of these factors together in a single bow. Thus, if we lose weight, then our risk factors begin to drop. If we severely reduce or eliminate refined sugars, we are more likely to begin to lose weight.

Children all over the world are focused, through advertising, on these types of products. For example, children in the U.K. now spend 61% more of their time each year in front of the television than being taught by a teacher in school. Advertising worldwide during children's programs continues to send a mixed nutritional message between the types of food promoted and an overall healthy approach to nutrition.

With overweight and obesity rates alarmingly high in both adult and child populations worldwide, it may be time to choose another road (a less sweet one).

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