Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Technical fixes gang aft agley

As I keep repeating, reiterating, and saying multiple times, about the worst substance large numbers of humans put into their bodies these days is the solution of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. These are mass marketed, heavily advertised, ubiquitous, and they are deadly poisons. Examples of these very dangerous, toxic products, are Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, etc. Now, there's nothing wrong with having some sugar in your diet but if you eat, say, a piece of fruit, you're getting it with fiber, which means a much lower glycemic index; you're getting vitamins and minerals and other good stuff; and you'll feel satiated because you've just eaten some real food. You won't be putting yourself at risk for diabetes, obesity, malnutrition, heart disease and stroke the way you are by drinking soda. If you're thirsty, you can drink water, or you can drink fresh orange juice or grapefruit juice or a smoothy . . .

That's easy enough, it seems to me, but what a lot of people do instead is drink "diet" soda, sweetened with non-caloric substances such as saccharin. David Ludwig, in a JAMA commentary which unfortunately is so much in your interest that you aren't allowed to read it, is not so sure this is a great idea. No, it's not about cancer -- that's been pretty much disproved. It's about nutrition, obesity and diabetes after all.

The problem is that these drinks mess up your bodies hunger and glucose regulation systems. They can habituate people to prefer sweetness, and they sever the connection between tasting sweetness and ingesting calories. Says Ludwig, "One concern is that the dissociation of these physiological events might disrupt the hormonal and neurobehavioral pathways regulating hunger and satiety." It turns out that rodents fed saccharin, compared with those fed glucose, actually got fatter. In another experiment, rats came to prefer saccharin to cocaine. Studies in people have found the same thing -- drinking 21 diet sodas per week, in one study, doubled the risk of developing overweight or obesity over 7 years. In another study, daily consumption of diet drinks increased the risk of diabetes by 2/3.

This is the law of unintended consequences. The right question to ask was not, "How can we make soda taste sweet without calories," it was, "Why does a drink need to taste like 4 ounces of sugar in the first place?"

Give your body what it needs: actual food.

1 comment:

C. Corax said...

I can access the articles from on campus. I'm passing the commentary on to a coworker who likes soft drinks a tad too much.

Thanks for the Robert Burns reference. You can't have too much Burns!

Do you imagine that our society will ever care enough about public health to actually ban the use of corn syrup and artificial sweeteners in drinks? Is the disease epidemic they cause too "silent" to inspire action? Or are we simply a bunch of addicts who like our addiction too much to "just say no"?

This reminds me of reading an article about some people who ran a meth lab who were busted. They'd been giving the meth to their six-year old daughter. Children don't really have much choice--they acquire the addictions their parents choose to give them.