Sugar high, it’s everywhere!

Photo Illustration by Kenji Aoki for The New York Times; Prop Stylist: Nell Tivnan. Source: U.S.D.A. 2009 Estimates

A Life-Changing Article:

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about sugar and its pseudonyms: sucrose, lactose and fructose. In the April 13 New York Times Magazine Article, “Is Sugar Toxic” Gary Taubes describes studies by Robert Lustig examining sugar and how it’s processed in the body. Read the article. It’s long, and at times hard to decipher, but it will change the way you think about what you’re consuming. In the article, Lustig defines “sugar to mean both sucrose — beet and cane sugar, whether white or brown — and high-fructose corn syrup.”

What’s the Difference?

I didn’t know the difference between beet sugar, cane sugar or high-fructose syrup. It’s my understanding that cane and beet sugar are both pure-ish sugar (still processing involved), and high-fructose syrup is a group of syrups that are processed and manipulated to achieve a specific level of sweetness.  One of the most striking paragraphs in the article is this:

The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.

Life-Changing Visuals, to Supplement the Article:

Image from NYC Department of Health

This reminded me of the disgusting subway ads (above and below) from the New York Department of Health asking New Yorkers to cut back on beverages with sugar by showcasing the “Are You Pouring On the Pounds” campaign. The ads and videos highlight the startling fact that drinking a day’s worth of sugary drinks can add up to 93 packets of sugar a day, or an extra 1400 calories per day. WOW. Check out the videos here.

Image from NYC Department of Health

At the end of the day:

We all have to eat. People say “you are what you eat,” and if that’s true, I certainly don’t want to be high-fructose syrup with two arms and legs. Is anyone else as disturbed as I am? I would love to hear from anyone who saw the article!

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2 Responses to Sugar high, it’s everywhere!

  1. Erica Hicks says:

    I remember those ads on the New York subway, how could I forget! I like the “Are You Pouring On More Pounds” campaign because it was educational and engaging- it made you to look! It was a creative way to capture the attention of their target audience yet introducing a real issue. Fortunately for me, I don’t drink soda. Sugar is so tricky though, I have the hardest time trying to cut back on some delicious treats just thinking about it. Now, you inform me on the different types of sugars- who knew? Thanks for this post; it definitely helped me rethink what I eat, especially while dieting!

  2. Cecile says:

    I read the New York Times article as well, and it made me realize how little we actually understand how food affects our body. We have a general idea when things are good or bad for you, but I think for the average person, it doesn’t go far beyond that. We learn about chemistry and biology in high school. Perhaps it’s time for educators to consider adding nutrition courses where people can learn how their bodies are really processing food (i.e. starch and sugar are processed by your liver in different ways).

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