Dr. Robert Lustig - Sugar is Toxic

We’ve all heard time and time again that high levels of sugar in your diet is harmful to your health–with many studies suggesting a link to diabetes–but is sugar toxic to your body? According to research led by Robert Lustig of the University of California, sugar is toxic.
Dr. Robert Lustig Sugar is Toxic
Is Sugar Toxic?

On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which was posted on YouTube the following July. As of today it has been viewed well over 2.2 million times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.

A handful of scientists have recently been suggesting that sugar is actually the worst thing in the American diet, on some levels even more unhealthy than trans fats. According to Lustig and his team of researchers, sugar can be blamed for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even some form of cancers.

According to the research, the average American person consumes roughly 130 pounds of added sugars–which includes sugar and high fructose corn syrup–every year. And while high fructose corn syrup is often vilified more often than sugar, Lustig says that, metabolically, there is no difference.

Taking the idea of the toxicity of sugar even further, Lustig, in an interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CBS’ 60 Minutes, goes as far as to say that sugar should be treated no differently than alcohol or tobacco.
“Ultimately, this is a public health crisis…you have to do big things and you have to do them across the board,” Lustig told Gupta. “Tobacco and alcohol are perfect examples. I think sugar belongs in this exact same wastebasket.”  The interview with Dr. Gupta on 60 Minutes can be seen here.

Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.

The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”

Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

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