The pushers told
conference organisers that Dr. Yudkin (a respected Professor of Nutrition at Birmingham University, UK) was ‘not qualified’, ‘not even a professor’ but ‘only a teacher’ who held bizarre and
unproven beliefs about their product.
All untrue, as his book shows. But the Pushers
know mud sticks.
Lustig tells of
one patient, a child who, because of a tumour, had her hypothalamus removed. This is a tiny but important part of the brain which regulates the release of many hormones, including those which
regulate sleep-rhythms, body temperature, sexual behaviour and some emotional responses.
As a result the child felt constantly ravenous,
regardless of how much she ate. She became obese, and also utterly listless, disinclined to move and without interest in anything.
Was this ‘her choice’? Her unregulated hormones
made her sensation of hunger never-ending. Her sedentary listlessness was due – not to psychological depression or laziness – but to her brain’s physiological determination to save energy because
it perceived her as starving.
Her constant eating raised her blood-insulin
level, thus ensuring that everything she ate was stored as fat – while her hormones continued to scream, 'Starving!' at her brain. None of this was remotely within control of her
Lustig treated the child with the hormone
leptin, in which she was deficient. Almost instantly, her constant food-craving stopped – what a huge relief – and she lost
weight. She became more interested in life generally, and did more, helping her mother about the house. Her mother was ecstatic. Probably not because of the dusting.
What has this to do with the rest of us, with
our functioning hypothalami?
Remember, the body is not a passive
receptacle for any old calorie. Lustig explains how our hormones act in complicated chain dances. We may label them, say, ‘sex hormones,’ but they are seldom responsible for one action alone.
Rather, they act in concert with different bio-chemicals, in different degrees at different times, to produce a whole range of results. The over- or under- production of one hormone
destabilises other body systems, resulting in ill health.
You may have a functioning hypothalamus. Your
body may produce leptin. But what if some imbalance prevents your body from recognising it? Or blocks its action?
Leptin ‘turns off’ hunger, but can be blocked
by insulin. If it is, you will crave food and over-eat. (One reason why a carbohydrate-rich diet can trigger over-eating.)
Perhaps you won’t crave to the extent that
Lustig’s patient did, but the craving will, nonetheless, be beyond your will-power – which is
why, Lustig says, 'will-power' always, ultimately, fails. It is no match for the body's hormonal insistence that it is hungry.
It’s well known that the body becomes
increasingly resistant to drugs, requiring higher doses to produce the same effect. The body also becomes resistant to its own productions, such as insulin.
Everyone knows that insulin regulates the
level of blood glucose, lowering it when it's too high. What’s less well known is that insulin works by converting the glucose to fat. It isn’t floating in your blood anymore – it’s neatly
tidied away into your fat cells
Refined carbohydrate and fructose is quickly
digested, triggering high blood-glucose and high insulin release. The more insulin is in your blood, the more likely it is that leptin release will be blocked – causing you to continue
Meanwhile insulin is busily tidying up. It's
much quicker to lower glucose levels by storing it as fat than to burn it for energy. It often tucks the fat away around the major organs. This is visceral fat: the most metabolically active
and dangerous kind.
Not all foods raise blood glucose levels
quickly enough to send insulin into a tidy-up frenzy. Protein – eggs, fish, meat, nuts – doesn't
trouble blood-glucose or insulin at all. Foods full of fibre – whole fruit and vegetables – release
their glucose so slowly over such a long period that they don't cause any problem either. Even whole grains cause little problem.
It's no coincidence that these are the foods
the human race evolved to eat back in the Stone Age. The body knows how to deal with them.
So all calories are not equal. It matters
what foods your calories come from.
A calorie plus low insulin equals energy.
A calorie plus high insulin equals fat storage.
When the body becomes resistant to its own
insulin, it’s possible to have both high blood sugar and high levels of insulin. Neither is good news. High insulin levels are a marker for obesity. And Diabetes II.
simple: the foods we didn't evolve to eat. The food and drink that has that poisonous additive, Pure, White and Deadly. Refined sucrose; aka fructose, or high fructose corn syrup. More and more
of the stuff has been added to our food, world-wide, in the past 30 years: corresponding exactly to the ‘obesity pandemic.’
This is what Yudkin said in the '80s, when the Pure White and Deadly
pushers tried so hard to discredit him.
Lustig and a colleague undertook some research on
figures for sugar-fructose consumption per capita, world-wide – allowing for age and income and even for the fact that not every kilo bought was necessarily consumed. They looked at figures not
only for the West, but for countries which have only very recently begun to eat our sugar-heavy diet. When compared with figures for obesity, they expected to find a correlation. Instead, the
figures matched so closely that they amounted, Lustig says, to ‘causation’.
Most European sugar is
produced from beet, and that isn't especially tempting in its natural state. Yudkin’s account of what the sugar industry does to its raw material is another jaw-dropping read. I'd forgotten just
how processed this ‘natural’ food is. First it’s mashed and pulped to remove all fibre, keeping only the juice. Already concentrated and calorific, the juice is processed still further, and
bleached, until the pure white crystals contain no trace of any nutrient whatsoever.
I’ll repeat that. No nutrient whatsoever. No minerals, no vitamins, no protein, no fat. You might as well eat cardboard -- except, of course, that cardboard isn't addictively
sweet and stimulating to the brain's reward centre.
Pure White and Deadly contains nothing except
concentrated carbohydrate in its most empty, refined and quickly absorbed form. It dehydrates and irritates the tissues and is implicated in Crohn's and IBS. It punches blood-glucose high,
triggering over-production of insulin – and what does insulin do, besides lowering blood-glucose? – It stores the excess as fat.
Constant repetition of this cycle plays Old Nick
with the body’s hormonal system.
Definitions of 'poison' from the OED: 'Substance
that when introduced to a living organism destroys life or injures health (emphasis mine)…substance interfering with normal
progression of chain reaction, catalytic reaction…'
Sugar is not a food. It is an unfood. An
anti-food. A poison. And it’s addictive. It’s an addictive, poisonous, anti-food.
You cannot win with the stuff. Say that an adult
woman needs 2,500 calories a day to survive and maintain her weight. Some of those calories need to be protein, some fat, and some unrefined carbohydrate, from vegetables and fruit or
wholegrains. These should supply everything her body needs.
If she eats Pure White and Deadly as well, she
must either replace some of the food above, to maintain the level of 2,500 calories; or eat the PW&D in addition to it.
If the PW&D is in addition to her healthy
diet, then she not only plays havoc with her hormonal system, but eats more than she needs. Her weight gain will be exacerbated by insulin's tidying up.
If she maintains her calorie level by replacing
some of her food with sugar, then she will not only play havoc with her hormonal system, but will be malnourished – which doesn’t necessarily mean thin. It does mean functioning at below full
health. Her body, in struggling to deal with a substance it didn't evolve for, will promote storage of visceral fat, even if she doesn’t appear overweight. (She will be secretly fat:
there's paranoia for you.)
It’s not guaranteed that she will become
diabetic. As with cigarettes and lung-cancer, much depends on individual genetics and luck. But diabetes is certainly in the cards, especially if it's already in your family. If we’re going to
take this gamble, shouldn’t we be made, all of us, fully aware of the risk?
Tobacco has its shocking warnings on every packet. Shouldn’t every
can of fizzy drink, every packet of biscuits, cakes, ready meals – and all the other foods loaded with PW&D – carry a large picture and history
of an obese person? Take just one member of my family, for instance, a morbidly obese diabetic. She went blind. One foot was amputated because damaged blood-vessels turned it gangrenous. She
suffered years of congestive heart-failure, had a stroke, and lingered for a month or so before finally dying. All these ills were complications of diabetes.
Us chubby men and women in the street are told
that the obesity epidemic is our fault because we 'choose' to ‘eat too much and do too little.’ While parroting this slogan, the Food Industry does all it can to persuade us to buy food and drink
crammed with sugar and fructose. It’s hard to avoid, even when you’re fully aware and check labels obsessively.
Feed your children healthily, and they're made to
feel deprived. Why can't they have chocolate and biscuits in their lunch-box, with a can of sweet, fizzy drink to wash it down? Look, that advert says that sweet sticky 'fruit-bar' is healthy,
and those chocolates are 'light'. And they don't like porridge, they don't want porridge. Why can't they have the chocolate cereal advertised by the cute funny animals, which is crammed full of
sugar to hide the natural bitterness of chocolate?
Like tobacco, Pure White and Deadly is a
substance that is only legal because it was first marketed hundreds of years ago. Like tobacco, it would never be passed for legal consumption today, in the light of modern medical
The Pure White and Deadly industry’s constant
claim is that we know what we’re doing when we buy food containing their poison; that we make a free choice. And they care so very much about our freedom.
Okay – let’s make their claim true. Please,
everyone, read these books. Inform yourselves – and then make informed, truly free choices about what you buy and eat.
Here’s Lustig’s conclusion: Sugar is
addictive and toxic.
And Yudkin's: Sugar is Pure. White. And