Humans VS. The Sugar Monster

This is the biggest epidemic in the history of the world and you can stop it!

By Judith Stapleton

people kayaking

In their 2,700 mile Fat Chance Row from California to Hawaii last June, mixed-pairs couple Meredith Loring and Sami Inkinen helped demonstrate to the world that Type II Diabetes is not a disease of fat people. It is a sugar overload of the liver, and it is happening to everyone.

Fabulously fit, Finnish-born, farm-raised Inkinen had been a competitive athlete most of his life, and trained with the Finnish military before moving to California as a Tech entrepreneur. Yet, despite 10+ hours a week of endurance training for world triathlons in multiple Ironman races, he became pre-diabetic, due to a low-fat-high-carb diet typical of such elite competitors.

Before he was stunned by this diagnosis, Inkinen said, “I was eating the typical ‘healthy’ low fat and consequently high carbohydrate and highly processed, grain and sugar-infused diet. In fact, despite being a top amateur triathlete, I was pre-diabetic just a few years ago.”

Inkinen and his wife, Loring, who grew up as a competitive gymnast, are the definition of a fit couple. They spent their first overnight date climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. Before breakfast, Loring has typically done a 5-mile bike ride or a 3-hour run, or both.

It was the sudden awareness that his training diet had been overloading his liver and giving him a constant struggle with his weight and sugar levels that made Inkinen dive into research on the effects of sugar on the liver. His research brought an immediate halt to the blame-game applied to fat  people, and especially to obese people, even when those people are children.He says, on his website: For years we’ve been told that people are obese and diabetic mainly because they’re lazy, eat too much and exercise too little. It’s just ‘Calories-In vs. Calories-Out’. Just eat less, exercise more. It’s your own fault!

But solid scientific evidence shows that sugar and processed carbohydrates actually change the biochemistry in our bodies, so that we crave more, eat more, gain fat and develop insulin resistance and diabetes because of our over-exposure to sugar.

And sugar is everywhere. For example, a breakfast meal of juice, cereal and skim milk, and a bagel is essentially four cups of sugar! What foods we have been in the habit of thinking are good for us, are actually killing us, according to Dr. Robert Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist and UC professor whose investigation into the effects of sugar in our diet was motivated by a mystifying number of very young patients suffering from obesity!

In his UCtv lecture from 2009, called “The Skinny on Obesity,” Dr. Lustig makes the case that too much fructose and not enough fibre are the lynchpins of the obesity epidemic through their inf luence on insulin. This YouTube presentation ought to be on everybody’s intake list. Even if you don’t have a background in biochemistry, the process and effect of fructose consumption is both comprehensible and irrefutable.

Glucose can be processed by all the organs of the body, and hence, does not cause us health problems. But it is the fructose in soda and juice, bread and cakes and cereal, and everything processed and packaged by the grocery industry, that can only be metabolized by the liver. That is where the diet buck stops.

In Lustig’s new documentary called “Sugar Coated”— 2016 CSA winner of the Donald Britain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary, and available now on Netflix— he sounds the alarm: obesity is the biggest epidemic in the history of the world!

And this, it turns out, is not hyperbole. This year, on World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a world-wide call for action on diabetes in light of the fact that it has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults. This dramatic increase in disease is largely due to the rise in type 2 diabetes, and those factors driving it include overweight and obesity.

WHO reports that, in 2012 alone, diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths. The complications that arise from diabetes lead to heart attack, stroke, hypertension, blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation. When we include children, one out of every three Americans is obese.

Even in the developing countries diabetes and obesity are on an exponential rise. Unaware that things go worse with Coke, parents have developed the sugar habit, and make sure it is part of their children’s diet. We celebrate a baby’s first birthday with cake! Everywhere on the planet, homo sapiens suffer from the highest exposure to sugar in history.

In 1000 CE, few Europeans knew of the existence of sucrose, or cane sugar, and in the tropics, where sugar cane grows, people had to work very hard to suck any sweetness out of a stick of cane, because it is mostly fibre. But by 1650, English nobility and the wealthy had become inveterate sugar eaters, and it figured in literary imagery, medicine, and social rank. By 1800, it had become a necessity, and by 1900, it supplied nearly one-fifth of the calories in the English diet.

After WWII, even the Okinawans of Southern Japan, renown for their excellent health and flexibility into old age—the longest longevity in Japan—have not only lost this precious status, the teens here consume fast food with an astonishing average sugar consumption of 30 to 41 teaspoons per day!

Publisher’s Note: Judith Stapleton is a writer in the fields of science and medicine.