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Sugar: Love me or Hate me?

May 4, 2011

A spectacularly long article in the New York Times magazine, titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” which had some interesting tidbits.

Like:

But marketing aside, the two sweeteners are effectively identical in their biological effects. “High-fructose corn syrup, sugar — no difference,” is how Lustig put it in a lecture that I attended in San Francisco last December. “The point is they’re each bad — equally bad, equally poisonous.”

It’s a long read, but worth it. The summary of it, however, is:

So the answer to the question of whether sugar is as bad as Lustig claims is that it certainly could be. It very well may be true that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, because of the unique way in which we metabolize fructose and at the levels we now consume it, cause fat to accumulate in our livers followed by insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, and so trigger the process that leads to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. They could indeed be toxic, but they take years to do their damage. It doesn’t happen overnight. Until long-term studies are done, we won’t know for sure.

So imagine my surprise when today a positive article about sugar came out in the NYT, “How Sugar Affects the Body in Motion” about how sugar may not have the same effect on people who exercise vs. those that don’t.

Over all, Dr. Johnson said, the “current science suggests that exercise exerts a positive physiological influence” on some of the same metabolic pathways that sugar harms. “Exercise may make you resistant to the undesirable effects of sugar,” he said.

Not that any of us should live on sweets. “Sugar is not all bad,” Dr. Johnson concluded, “but it’s hardly nutritionally good, either.” The best sweet option, he added, is fruit, which comes prepackaged with a small but satiating dose of all-natural fructose.

So what have we learned today?

  • All things in moderation
  • And exercise, yes.
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