Is sugar really toxic?

Is sugar really toxic?

Regardless of where you sit on the hows and whys, I think most would agree that the collective health of people in our country is going pretty swiftly downhill: heart disease, childhood obesity and diabetes, cancers, kidney and liver disease, on and on.  Generally, the foods that are eaten in this country are nutrient poor, overly processed, and disruptive to natural systems of living (plants, animals, ourselves), which are some of the reasons behind the health issues.

This article from the New York Times magazine puts a new food issue into focus: SUGAR is a major culprit in a majority of diseases and health problems facing this country. The following points are taken directly from the article written by Gary Taubes to encourage you to check it out yourself!  It is very science-y but very smart and interesting!

  • Robert Lustig is a pediatric researcher and expert on childhood obesity, and his research indicates that, “our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. [His argument implies that] sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.”
  • Generally we’ve learned that sugars are simply “empty calories” or bad for our teeth, and that we should cut down on the amount we consume.  But here is why high concentrations (or any concentration, according to Lustig), is dangerous:  “The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches  (like bread or rice) is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar).”
  • In recent decades, research has agreed on the existence of, “a condition known as metabolic syndrome [which] is a major, if not the major, risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that some 75 million Americans have metabolic syndrome […] Metabolic syndrome is another way of saying that the cells in your body are actively ignoring the action of the hormone insulin — a condition known technically as being insulin-resistant […]  [Our bodies] secrete insulin in response to the foods you eat — particularly the carbohydrates — to keep blood sugar in control after a meal. When your cells are resistant to insulin, your body (your pancreas, to be precise) responds to rising blood sugar by pumping out more and more insulin. Eventually the pancreas can no longer keep up with the demand or it gives in to what diabetologists call “pancreatic exhaustion.” Now your blood sugar will rise out of control, and you’ve got diabetes. [And] having chronically elevated insulin levels has harmful effects of its own — heart disease, for one. What it means is that you are more likely to get cancer if you’re obese or diabetic than if you’re not, and you’re more likely to get cancer if you have metabolic syndrome than if you don’t.”

Whew.  Lots of information to think about right? Read the whole thing. This article is so fascinating. Here are 9 foods that will lower your blood sugar.

Eating Sugar photo via Shutterstock.

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About Andrea Bertoli 597 Articles
A vegan chef, cookbook author, wellness educator, writer, surfer, and yogi based in Honolulu. Follow my delicious adventures on Instagram


  1. Thanks for the link! I’m not about to cut out sugar altogether, but the article was pretty eye-opening. I think my sugar will be limited to the occasional good piece of chocolate, though. I’ve used it too much, and I always feel horrid after.

    • hello Celia-
      i feel the same. as i don’t drink sodas, eat candies, etc, i feel pretty good (righteous?!?) about my sugar consumption, and i am not worried, but it does make me want to reconsider the role of sugar in baked goods, etc. but yes! so eye-opening! I was so interested in all the science of the liver, insulin, etc. Such a good read!

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