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Real Food For Families

Is Sugar Toxic??

on April 6, 2013

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Robert Lustig, M.D. is a pediatric endocrinologist who works in the area of childhood obesity. He studies the effects of sugar on the central nervous system, metabolism, and disease. I read his book on the train to and from our vacation to New York City this past week (where, somehow, my children convinced me to buy 3 pounds of M&Ms at the M&M store) and I think that anyone who eats or feeds others needs to read it. The rest of you can skip it.

From the book: “Everyone blames everyone else for what has happened. No way is it their fault. Big food says it’s a lack of activity due to computers and video games. The TV industry says it’s our junk food diet. The Atkins people say it’s too many carbohydrates; the Ornish people say it’s too much fat. The juice people say it’s the soda; the soda people say it’s the juice. The schools say it’s the parents; the parents say it’s the schools. And since nothing is for sure, nothing is done. How do we reconcile all these opinions into a cohesive whole that actually makes sense and creates changes for the better for each individual and for all society? That’s what this book is about.”

We all know that sugar is not good for us and that it is basically empty calories, but Dr. Lustig explains the science behind how too much of it affects our system. He shows how sugar contributes to the diseases which accompany obesity, namely diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. He goes so far as to describe sugar as a toxin that should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. Pretty interesting stuff! He also challenges us to reconsider blaming the people who are obese. It’s very popular to say that we all need to take personal responsibility and just “eat less and exercise more”…but this solution has not been very effective for our society as a whole. Even if you are lucky enough to have maintained a healthy weight…obesity affects you…everyday. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors…they are all getting heavier and having more health problems because of it. We are all going to pay more as our health care system strains under the burden of caring for more and more of us. After sorting through all of the science and research, the take home message of the book is that we are eating too much sugar and not enough fiber. Robert Lustig offers advice for the individual trying to improve their own eating habits and he also offers important suggestions for how we as a community can make changes that will help pull our society out of this black hole of obesity that we seem to be falling into.

This book has really scared me. In a good way. In a way that has made me take a closer look at how I am eating and feeding my family. In a way that has me rethinking how and why America (and the rest of the world) has become so overweight and so ill. It’s easy to just say “Everything is fine in moderation” and ignore the information about sugar. But the problem is that the vast majority of us are no longer ingesting sugar in moderation. Most of the processed food that we buy either has sugar added to it, fiber removed, or both! This book has simultaneously saddened me and given me hope. There is a way out of this mess…and it starts with you and me. This is me…asking you to read this book, and if it makes sense to you…share the information with your family, with your friends, with your communities. As Robert Lustig says in the book, “Public outcry is a powerful force for change.” Let’s help change things.

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4 responses to “Is Sugar Toxic??

  1. Julia says:

    But it’ll be a boring book! Anyways, then I can just live off of food from this blog then. Better get back to my Anne Boleyn Research!

  2. I can definitely see the point of this book – sugar isn’t good for us!! But I also live by the mentality ‘everything in moderation’ and I’m confident I have found that good moderation and balance for my family…and our weights/BMI/active lifestyles prove that to be true.

    I don’t feel bad about giving my son a homemade cookie for dessert if he was running around in the yard and at baseball practice for three hours prior. If he had been sitting inside playing video games? Well, thats another story 🙂

    • Debbie says:

      You are right…many families have figured out the right balance, but I think many are not really tuned in to just how much sugar is added to processed food. And I know that I often lose track of just how much my kids are getting in terms of birthday celebrations, snacks at extracurricular activities, juice etc. If I can get a handle on all of that…then bring on the homemade cookies😊…yum!

      • For sure! Some days are scarier than others (i.e. Halloween – yikes!) but we try to go sugar free or severely reduced the rest of that week, etc. All about finding that right balance that works for your family, right? 🙂

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