If you’ve among the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese, read this first before blaming yourself for being short on self-control when it comes to those tempting, refined carbs that entice you just about everywhere you go.
Instead, our heavily processed, "poisoned," sugar-loaded food supply may be altering your biochemistry and driving you to eat more and more–and making you less inclined to get off your butt and exercise.
So hypothesizes nationally renowned obesity expert Robert Lustig, M.D,, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, in the most recent issue of Nature Cliinical Practice: Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Folks, this is really big news for those of you who’ve been having challenges saying no to all those sugar-filled, highly refined carbs that you’ve been consuming — like crackers, cookies, yogurt, and white bread.
Basically, Dr. Lustig believes that eating large amounts of sugar makes your body produce more insulin, which, in turn, blocks vital hormones that should normally tell your brain to stop eating.
What’s more, he theorizes, all that excess sugar makes your brain switch into starvation response mode. That then triggers more eating and activates lethargy (you know, the post-sugar "blahs") so that you can conserve energy. And then those extra unused calories are stored as fat. .
According to Dr. Lustig’s hypothesis, "sugar in large quantities drives up insulin secretion," reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.
In one of the more fascinating, well-researched articles I’ve seen recently about this subject — and I’ve seen probably thousands while working on my upcoming book SUGAR SHOCK! — Chronicle staff reporter Erin Allday explains:
"This insulin floods the brain, and in particular the hypothalamus, which regulates energy use in the body. As a result, leptin, a hormone that tells the brain when the body needs more or less energy, can’t get its signal to the hypothalamus because the insulin is blocking the way."
"The result is that the body is thrown into starvation mode — the brain thinks it isn’t getting enough energy, so it needs more calories and it needs to save energy, he said. People end up feeling the symptoms of starvation, including malaise, depression, a lack of motivation and, of course, hunger."
Sound familiar? And guess what — all those tempting, culprit carbs sold by major corporations could be what’s driving your poor body into confusion and obesity. That’s right.
"It’s because of the toxic environment that the insulin rises and the problem behavior ensues," Dr. Lustig told Allday.
"That’s why all of these diet programs don’t work. That’s why telling people to diet and exercise alone won’t work, unless you improve the toxic environment as well."
Dr. Lustig contends that it’s vital to break the pattern of sugar consumption, one that he compares to nicotine addiction. (Hurrah, Dr. Lustig! You’re so onto something here! In fact, you just have to read my upcoming book SUGAR SHOCK!, because I discuss some of these same things.)
Folks, I can’t tell you how exciting this is to have a cutting-edge pediatric endocrinologist putting forth these fascinating theories. (As you can see, Dr. Lustig’s training is impressive and includes a bachelor’s degree is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a medical degree is from Cornell University Medical College, a pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and and a clinical fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at UCSF.)
To his credit, Dr. Lustig maintains that the only way to help consumers to lose weight is to make drastic changes in our food supply. He thinks that what’s needed is, as Chronicle reporeter Allday put is, "a grassroots effort of doctors, community leaders and consumers to force the government and the food industry to get those sugary foods out of mainstream American diets."
Writer Allday continues:
"That means, he said, targeting major food companies that add sugar to everything from hot dog buns and barbecue sauce to potato chips and energy drinks. Even juice, he noted, isn’t a healthy option — the natural sugars in fruit juice cause the same reaction in the body as the high-fructose corn syrup in soda."
Just as an aside: This poisoned food supply to which Dr. Lustig refers is why I just don’t buy or eat any nutrient-deprived processed foods at all. And that’s why I recommend to my clients to just eat tasty, nutritious fresh vegetables and fruits (preferably organic), as well as whole, intact grains (such as quinoa, millet, and brown rice), nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Ludwig’s theory wasn’t greeted warmly in all circles. For instance, Peter Havel, Ph.D., a researcher at UC Davis (who I interviewed for my upcoming book SUGAR SHOCK!), was skeptical but nonethless intrigued, even if some of the ideas are "fairly speculative."
And, predictably, a researcher with the American Beverage Association blastered Dr. Ludwig’s hypothesis, claiming that less physical activity is to blame, not sugar. (FYI, about the only problem I found with Allday’s story–and again, let me say that it is a truly fabulous article–is that she failed to explain the nature of this organization.)
Basically, the American Beverage Association is the face of the soft drink industry. In fact, it used to be more appropriately called the National Soft Drink Association. Come on, just look the members of the board of directors, who come from just about any soda corporation you can think of. (I love the fact that the ABA scientific consultant reporter Allday quoted made a reference to his Kool-Aid and lemonade habit as a kid!)
Anyhow, you simply have to read this intriguing San Francisco Chronicle story by Erin Allday.
By the way, you’ll certainly hear more on this SUGAR SHOCK! Blog about Dr. Ludwig’s fascinating hypothesis. In fact, I’ll try to land an interview with him to post here soon.