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Mainlining Sugar and Salt: How Sucrose/Fructose Poisons World Diets


Would you buy your infant a Bud?  How about your toddler? When you feed your infant formula with purified fructose, or your kid sucks down a Coke or a Gatorade filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or sucrose, which is a 50/50 blend of glucose and fructose, it’s the beer without the buzz. It’s just as much a poison for them, and you, as alcohol, particularly in excess.

If our food supply was loaded to the eyeballs with booze, poisoning the food supply, you’d be crying foul, if you could stand up straight.

It is.

We have a sugar epidemic in the world food supply, and it’s killing us.

So says Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. He is the David to the food industry Goliath. He fired two big shots across the synth-sugars special interests bow in a YouTube video with more than 3M hits, and his new book “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease“.

Both blow the lid off of the food and diet industries, and speak serious truth to power.  He is not alone though. In 1972, British scientist John Yudkin first proved that the highly refined sugars that we consume was bad for our health. He wrote Pure White and Deadly, which was largely ignored by the scientists of the day. Thanks to YouTube, greater health awareness and the articulate Dr. Lustig, purified sugar is finally “on the radar.”  HFCS is super-purified, the crack cocaine equivalent of the “bad” sugars.

How can fructose be unhealthy? It’s fruit sugar!

Sugars in nature are in balance with the fiber of the plants that create them.  Fructose has been sold by the industry as a “healthy” sugar because, after all, it comes from fruit. Fructose found in natural foods is in limited quantities and balanced with a lot of fiber that helps your body absorb less of it.

When you extract fructose from the fiber, and purify it, it becomes dangerous. A toxin.

“High fructose corn syrup and sucrose are exactly the same,” says Dr. Lustig. “They’re both equally bad. Ok? They’re both dangerous. They’re both poison. Ok? I said it. Poison.” [1]

Fructose is fat.  Your body processes ethanol (the alcohol that we drink) and fructose in the same way: It turns them to fat. “Beer belly” is also fructose belly.

Your body processes glucose, the sugars commonly found in starches and other foods really well, but alcohol and fructose end up being more poorly processed and cause more stress and toxic damage to your body.  They can damage your liver, and the byproduct of their consumption is generally waste fat.  You can’t exercise it away either. There is simply too much of it in our diets, including in many “healthy” foods that sneak it in for both flavor and its addictive qualities.

Profit in the food biz is about consumption and HFCS has the same addictive qualities that alcohol does, without the buzz.

So it’s no coincidence that the introduction of HFCS in the mid-1970s and the rise of obesity over the last 35 years are linked. HFCS is in everything from the obvious sodas to the less obvious spaghetti sauces and scalloped potato dinners.

HFCS is a business boon because it’s far cheaper than sugar, which means more profit on the bottom line of the companies that heap it into American food. Not the world food supply. Most of the same products we buy with HFCS are made with sugar in Canada, Mexico, and most of the developed world that has more common sense, and less lobbyist influence.

Several events happened in the 1970s that came together to create the problem with our dietary system that we have exported around the globe.

The Birth of HFCS

High Fructose Corn Sweetener was developed in theory by Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi in 1957, but they couldn’t develop a way to mass produce it. A Japanese scientist, Dr. Yoshiyuki Takasaki at the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of Ministry of International Trade and Industry, figured out how to use an enzyme to change the glucose in corn into 42% fructose cheaply between 1965 and 1970. HFCS was rapidly introduced to many processed foods and soft drinks in the U.S. from 1975 and was prevalent by the mid 1980s because of the other major factor… politics and public health.


Richard Nixon tried to depoliticize food prices. Cheap food was a mantra of Nixon’s war on poverty.  Prices of several commodities, most notably sugar and corn, were all over the map.  The introduction of HFCS stabilized the price of sugar and corn and took two key staples out of the political arena, at least for a time.  The other politics of food though are in our world export of it. We need to make the world believe it’s not only tasty, but safe.

The Flawed Seven Country Study

The other big push during the 1970s was for improved health. Regulations limiting tobacco, and also trying to curb dietary fat when into effect at the same time that HFCS came into mass production.  When the government told food manufacturers to limit the fats in our foods, they switched to HFCS, which is both sweet, which appeals to our primal senses of satisfaction and safety, and is in effect a substitute fat.

In 1972,  British scientist John Yudkin first proved that sugar was bad for our health. He wrote Pure White and Deadly, which was largely ignored by the scientists of the day.

What did get a lot of attention was a study by Ancel Keys started in earnest in the 1950s called the Seven Country Study.  The study tracked groups in seven countries for decades and concluded that fat was a principal culprit in coronary disease.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Keys’ work became the seminal thinking on coronary disease, and the back-bone of medical and public health regulations that exist to this day. High fat diets cause disease.

To get his data, he performed a multi-variate linear regression analysis (MVLRA). It’s used by scientists to determine the causal relationships between multiple different factors. Keys science was flawed, though.  He forgot to account for sugar as a cause of heart disease.

He should have run tests holding fat constant and showing that sugar intake does NOT cause heart disease. Next he should have run a test holding sugar constant and showing that fat intake DOES cause heart disease.  He didn’t do it though. He only ran the experiments to prove his hypothesis, not to test for sugar as another possible cause.

On page 262 of his own work, Keys even admits that sucrose that fructose/glucose blend, is part of the incidence rate of heart disease.

“The fact that the incidence rate of coronary heart disease was significantly correlated with the average percentage of calories from sucrose in the diet is explained by the intercorrelation of sucrose with saturated fat.”


Keys also forgot to mention that the change downward in health patterns in other countries comes from the fact that we export our diet to other parts of the world. Food is one of the few things American that everyone wants to buy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not only in charge of keeping our food safe, but of making sure it is an exportable product. That is a huge conflict of interest, and it causes a few lies.

GRAS – Generally Regarded as Safe, is a catchall that the FDA uses for stuff that they frequently have not tested to validate that claim. Refined fructose, stripped from its fiber, is one of them.  The only reason that they don’t test is because telling the world that the majority of our export packaged foods are horrible for you counters their commercial-protection mission.

HFCS production in Europe is limited because of production quotas and exclusion of its import from the US, but its low price is attracting increasing attention.

Refined Fructose Kills

Refined fructose is better than a gun because it will hit your heart and liver in a one-two punch.

Of the 2011 top ten killers in the CDC list, number one, heart disease (599K deaths), number four, strokes (129K),  number seven, diabetes (69K) and number nine nephritis (49K) all have ties to the amount of sugar in our diet. The quantities which we consume are the biggest killers. A helpful brief is on Scribd.

“Refined sugar and H.F.C.S. don’t come with any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber, and so they either displace other more nutritious elements of our diet or are eaten over and above what we need to sustain our weight, and this is why we get fatter,” says Gary Taubes a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator [2].

The food industry’s choices in sugar overload are changing of our personal biochemical systems at the core. As Dr. Lustig points out in his book,  excessive sugar and over-processed foods overwhelm of our body’s ability to metabolize what we eat, no matter what size and shape we are.  In most cases when HFCS was introduced, it increased the sweetness of products and less could have been used, but the substitutions for cane or beet sugar were usually 1:1. Why? It’s more addictive.  Your body processes HFCS like alcohol.

“In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat,” Taubes notes. “This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.

“If what happens in laboratory rodents also happens in humans, and if we are eating enough sugar to make it happen, then we are in trouble.”[4]

HFCS is also a major culprit in hypertension.

Salt is the most common flavor enhancer.  It also makes you thirstier. An average Coke can has 55mg of sodium in it.

“It’s like drinking a pizza,” notes Dr. Lustig [1]

Why is there salt in a Coke? It makes you thirsty, and it’s a flavor enhancer. It makes us want more of everything, which sells more product, and makes soft drinks and sport drinks taste better. The sugar masks the salt.  Sweet and sour Chinese food is loaded with salt. The sugar makes the salt more palatable.

New Coke, introduced in 1985, had more salt and more of the mild stimulant caffeine. Even when it was rebranded as “Classic Coke” in the 1990s, the salt and caffeine stayed.

Wired into human DNA is the notion that sweet things aren’t poisonous.

Sugar is addictive.  HFCS is more so. Sugar is 100 on the sweetness index. HFCS is 120, and fructose, primarily found in fruit, is 173. Why fruit isn’t as bad, again, is because the amounts of it locked up in the fiber make you full, and the acids like citric acid could upset your stomach if you eat too much, so you stop.  There is no brake on highly refined sugars or HFCS.

We pass on the craving for sugar to our unborn children when pregnant mothers consume too much.  Even infant formula uses HFCS to sell more as it feeds less.

In Isomil baby formula, for example, the next largest ingredient after water (87%) is corn syrup (6%) and 1.7% is refined sugar (sucrose) which is half fructose as well. Fats make up 6.9% of the formula, proteins 4% and starch 1%.  So the vast majority of the “nutrition” in this baby formula are sugars that the body does not recognize as a food. Glucose, found in carbohydrates, the body processes really well, and is recognized as a food. The starch (1%) is the only place where there is that genuine nutrition. So most of the formula’s energy is HFCS,  junk sugar that won’t inform the baby’s body that it’s full and happy. Babies get hungrier more often, and consume more formula.  The manufacturer gets richer, and the baby converts a lot of that waste fructose into stored body fat that can lead to childhood obesity.[3]

The primary reason, with fat consumption on the decline, that obesity is increasing is that our food is loaded with processed fructose.  We have consumed 63 pounds of HFCS per person in America each year alone since 1975.[3]  The New York Times Magazine visualizes it this way:


Leptin is the Key

We eat a few hundred to a few thousand calories more than we should every day. Leptin, the thing in our body that makes us stop eating and say “enough” is under attack.  We took fat 10% down and our calorie count went up.

A 1915 Coke contained enough sugar to have added 8lbs of fat the person drinking it regularly at the rates that people back then consumed soda. The daily consumption of a Big Gulp today loaded with HFCS can add up to 45lbs of fat!

Diet drinks are no better. Their fake sugars not only mask the salt, but they also may make your sugar intake slightly higher.

When you taste a sugar, your body expects it. When what you’re eating doesn’t deliver real sugars, your pancreas still has made lots of receptors for them. Any other sugar, from bad sucrose and HFCS in other things you’ve consumed, to the glucose in, say, bread, become super absorbed until your body receives the sugar that your tongue announced as you were slugging back your diet drink.

We’ve gone from 15 grams a day of sugar consumption at the turn of the century to 57 grams by the end of the 20th century.  Our sodium intake levels have soared.

HamburgerHelperShotWhat can someone do to get themselves and their families healthier?

  • Drink water, milk (NOT chocolate milk) or unsweetened drinks like unsweetened tea or iced coffee. Get rid of all sugar sodas, and have them out only as an occasional treat;
  • Don’t drink diet drinks. They still have too much sodium and they cause your body to pull more sugars out of the foods that you eat.
  • Buy a few cookbooks, and eat less processed foods.  Convenience is killing you. A serving of Hamburger Helper (See photo, left) has a whopping 2400mg of sodium 63% more than the CDC recommended adult daily intake,  and has hidden corn syrup AND sugar. Roast your own meats for sandwiches so you can control sodium and preservative intake better. Use substitutes for sour cream and mayonaise like Greek Yogurt whose tartness substitutes well for salt.
  • Boycott the foods that are laden with HFCS, from breads to all-in-one dinners to fast foods.
  • Read the labels of the foods that you eat, and avoid real fats, hidden fats like corn syrup and all that salt. There are a lot of tricks, including dividing down serving sizes in packaging to make a product seem healthier.
  • Make better choices when you eat out, and demand to know more about what’s in the food that they serve.  Many restaurants have started to include calorie counts, but that’s not enough. Know if they use a lot of sugar or HFCS in their foods.  Tell the companies you’ve done business with in the past why you’re leaving them. Ask fine dining restaurants to challenge their chefs to produce healthier menus. If enough people do, it will have a big impact on their ingredients lists.
  • PORTION CONTROL. Split a plate at a restaurant where they over-portion meals while you ask them to downsize. Some restaurants have launched “small plate” meals which not only taste good, but are far better for you.  It’s total energy consumption.
  • Eat more fiber in your diet, even when you are at a restaurant.  Fiber is both good for your colon and your digestion, it makes you full so you stop eating, and it offsets some of the ill effects of our hyper-fructose-filled food system.  Ancients ate 100-300g of fiber a day. The modern American diet barely has 16g.
  • More natural fruits and vegetables are good.  A grape has enough fiber along with the fructose to offset the sugar’s effects, in moderation.
  • EAT as much energy as you are active enough to burn it off. If you are highly active you might get away with a bit more food energy intake than if you’re not as active. EAT LESS if you don’t burn off the energy you consume.

My shiny two.

Recommended Reading: 

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!

8 comments on “Mainlining Sugar and Salt: How Sucrose/Fructose Poisons World Diets

  1. thedrpete
    January 21, 2013

    Partly accurate. Eliminate wheat, barley, oats, any and all bread, high-fructose corn syrup, cured meats, sugar, nitrites and nitrates, nuts other than raw or roasted with nothing added, orange juice, and more.

    • Brian Ross
      January 21, 2013

      Mostly accurate and the foods you mention are largely fine in limited quantities, and there is nothing wrong with oats wheat barely and bread IN MODERATION. Glucose breaks down quite fine. They may not teach that at fake dr. school, Pete.

  2. shlianbooks
    January 23, 2013

    Excellent article. Interesting that many power bars have huge amounts of sugar e.g. 1 Balance Bars has about 18 grams of sugar when the daily recommended amount for women is no more than 20 grams/day. We really need to check labels.

  3. thedrpete
    January 24, 2013

    Pre-Norman-Borlaug wheat, etc. was fine. Today’s wheat, corn, barley, etc. is not. A heaping tablespoon of granulated sugar will increase my glycemic index from 1.0 to 1.2. A single piece of dry wholegrain whole-wheat toast will increase my glycemic index from 1.0 to 1.72.

    • Brian Ross
      February 5, 2013

      The KIND of sugar is the problem, but then you’d know that Dr. Pete, if you were a real doc. The glucose in wheat is easily and well metabolized. Your body can turn it into energy or fat, but it is what you were intended to eat. Highly refined fructose, of which sucrose (table sugar) is a 50-50 fructose-glucose blend is what your body can’t process well. When it came with fiber it was okay because you didn’t get much of it. Now you get high doses of it, and all it can do is turn into fat and tox out your liver the same way that alcohol does. Follow the science… Oh, what am I saying. You don’t believe in science…

  4. Henry
    January 26, 2013

    Just google ‘sugar counter’, there are lots of online sugar databases with fructose, sucrose, glucose, etc. contents of foods to use to evaluate foods. Reading food labels is too cumbersome.

  5. Pingback: Out of the Trans Fats and Into the Liars | Doohickey

  6. Pingback: Out of the Trans Fats and Into the Liars | Wonderful Tips

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