Carbs are evil?

Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF has been on a mission to advocate for the reduction of processed food consumption. He particularly targets simple carbohydrates — specifically the sugar fructose. Fructose is a pentose sugar that is found abundantly in nature. In fact, it’s the major form of sugar found in fruits. We all know that fruits are good for you, right? It’s true! But Dr. Lustig argues that the consumption of fruit is beneficial due to the more complex and less digestable carbohydrates that come in the form of dietary fiber. Well what’s the difference? Absorption of nutrients during digestion is regulated by the environment of the food. Fiber regulates the rate of simple carbohydrate absorption and entry into the bloodstream. So why specifically fructose? The common sugar that is utilized by cells is the hexose sugar glucose. Why doesn’t he think that is bad? He does think it is when not moderated. Just as we don’t simply consume pure glucose even though that is what our cells utilize, he argues that too much sugars –glucose, fructose and the disaccharide sucrose– is the major source of disease risk in this country. It all stems from obesity.

Recently on NPR Science Friday, Dr. Lustig spoke about his advocacy for a “Soda tax” to recoup revenue used to combat illnesses brought on by obesity (Download the Podcast here). The logic is that obesity can be combated through inducing moderation fo sugar intake. He likens it to taxes imposed on cigarettes and nicotine products and assures the public that people will learn to accept increased prices for these products. So why is there an increase of obesity in this country? Food prices in the United States are relatively low. Additionally, products that are made from corn (as well as other crops) are highly subsidized by the federal government in an effort to reduce food costs. The side-effect is the abundance of corn syrup found in many food items that are high in fructose.

Carbohydrates versus Lipids

Sugars are carbohydrates. Plants typically store simple sugars in polymers for temporary storage of energy in the form of starch. Animals will store energy in sugar form as the polymer known as glycogen in the liver and muscle. What does any of this have to do with fat? Fat is a type of lipid composed of a glycerol molecule and 3 fatty acid chains. We refer to them as triglycerides. As we can see, carbohydrates and lipids are quite different. Fats are used to store energy for the long-term. When there is an abundance of energy that is not immediately needed, it is converted into long-term storage as fat. Sugar does not equal fat! An abundance of it will eventually lead to fat deposition if that energy is not utilized immediately.

The opposing view

Those who oppose Dr. Lustig often cite the fact that sugar is sugar, no matter what the source. Corn syrup is still just sugar. The corn lobby will constantly remind you of this in televised commercials. Here is a summary of an opposing view at Science Daily. The study focuses on the caloric value of fructose. This isn’t exactly what Dr. Lustig argues about. He merely suggests that the abundance of sugar is so great, that it is too easily consumed. He often states that sugar is a luxury (of yesteryear) that should be moderated. How does the Science Daily article change your views on the argument?

Food for thought

Think about the questions below. If you do the assignment, please post it in the appropriate place in the comments for the assignment.

  • Weigh in on your opinion in this debate and refer to specific arguments from the podcast and the Science Daily article
  • Do you feel that having excessive amounts of sugary products is deleterious towards your well-being?
  • Do you think taxation will make a difference in the habits of consumers that will effectively reduce obesity?
  • What are the alternatives to taxation that would/could be implemented instead of a “soda tax”?
  • What are your opinions regarding food subsidies and the abundance of low cost food of questionable “quality”?
    • Compare a high quality and balanced meal versus a “McMeal”

2 thoughts on “Carbs are evil?

  1. I believe that taxation on soda is a good idea. Just as they raise the price for cigarettes in NYC when they raise the price of soda is will not completely stop soda drinkers but they will consume it less often and look for alternative drinks to consume. Maybe even something healtier.

  2. Both sides of this debate can be supported well with evidence. I’m in favor of what Dr. Robert Lustig talked about. Added sugars is becoming toxic such as alcohol. we are consuming 450 extra calories of added sugars a day! Thats 3150 extra calories a week! Dr. Robert Lustig stated that its not the food thats bad nut what we do to the food. The addition of sugar and the removal of fiber. Our main goal is to keep our liver healthy. When we fail to do this it can lead to many chronic metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. the reason why we consume so many added sugars is because we are not properly informed on product labels. Even with the labels where it says sugars it could be one of the following six glucose, galactose, fructose, maltose, lactose, or sucrose. Food supply is so glutted with fructose. Food industry purposes of pallet ability and shelf life. All this is causing a toxic side effect on our lives.
    Having excessive amounts of sugary products is a great problem in todays society. I dont think that many people realize how big of a problem this is becoming. Most importantly i dont think people know the products they’re buying every time they visit the grocery store. The food industry doesn’t care about ones health their main goal is profit.
    taxation will help to decrease the obesity rate. If products become more expensive a majority of the people will notice the change. Although it doesn’t mean people will stop buying these products. When you like a product it becomes an addiction you have to have it.The products that are cheaper usually have more added sugars which is also a problem because most people buy the cheapest they can find.
    alternatives to taxation could be providing educational efforts. in the podcast it mentions that there are no educational efforts being done. i think all schools should provide nutrition classes. These classes could really help kids understand how important nutrition is and all the dangers and diseases one could get from malnutrition.
    Having a balanced meal meaning having the appropriate portions from each food group is very important when planning your every day meals. choosing fresh products and vegetables is important as well. you dont want to buy poor quality food. Mcmeal never convinces me no matter how healthy they say it is now a days in commercials and everything. if you go to mcdonalds they have the number of calories in each meal. Mcdonalds should be the last option to eat at. its actually cheaper to buy fresh ingredients and cook something fresh.

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