Home » The Bitter Truth About Sugar by Robert Lustig (Full Transcript)

The Bitter Truth About Sugar by Robert Lustig (Full Transcript)

So why do I call it the Coca-Cola conspiracy? Well what’s in Coke? Caffeine. So what’s caffeine? It’s a mild stimulant, it’s also a diuretic, makes you pee free water. What else is in Coke? We’ll get to the sugar in a minute. What else? Salt – 55 mg of sodium per can, it’s like drinking a pizza. So what happens if you take on sodium and lose free water, you get thirstier. So why is there so much sugar in Coke? To hide the salt. When was the last time you went to a Chinese restaurant and had a sweet and sour pork? Everybody remember new Coke, 1985, more salt more caffeine. They knew what they were doing. That’s the smoking gun. That’s why it’s the Coca-Cola conspiracy.

Soft drinks – the cause of obesity?

Well it depends on who you ask. If you ask the scientist for the National Soft Drink Association, he will tell you there is absolutely no association between sugar consumption and obesity. If you ask my colleague Dr. David Ludwig, remember I’m Lustig, he is Ludwig. He does what I do at Boston Children’s Hospital. Someday we’re going to open a law firm. Each additional sugar sweetened drink increase over a 19-month follow-up period in kids increased their BMI by this much and their odds risk ratio for obesity by 60%. That’s a prospective study on soft drinks and obesity.

If you look at meta-analyses – a conglomeration of numerous studies subjected to rigorous statistical analysis – 88 cross-sectional longitudinal studies regressing soft drink consumption against energy intake, bodyweight, milk and calcium intake, adequate nutrition all showing significant associations and some of this being longitudinal, this came from Kelly Brownell’s group at Yale. I should comment a disclaimer – those studies that were funded by the beverage industry showed consistently smaller effects than those that were independent. Wonder why?

Now how about the converse – what if you take the soft drinks away? So this was the fizzy drink study from Christchurch England James [Adolph] British Medical Journal where they went into schools and they took the soda machines out – just like we did here in California. We haven’t seen the data yet but they went and did it for a year. So the prevalence of obesity in the intervention schools stayed absolutely constant, no change whereas the prevalence of obesity in the controlled schools where nothing changed continued to rise over the year.

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Soft drinks and Type 2 diabetes?


So how about type 2 diabetes? Are soft drinks the cause of type 2 diabetes? Well this study from JAMA in 2004 looked at the relative risk ratio of all soft drinks, cola, fruit punch and found a very statistically significant trends of sugared soft drinks, fruit aids etcetera causing type 2 diabetes and you know we’ve got just as big a problem with type 2 diabetes as we do with obesity for the same reasons. This was a sugar sweetened beverage (SSBs) against risk for type 2 diabetes in African American women, looking here at sugar sweetened soft drinks, just the downward arrow shows that there was a significant rise as the number of drinks went up. You can see that here whereas orange and grapefruit juice interestingly did not. So, two different studies, two different increases in type-2 diabetes relative to soft drink consumption.

So what’s in soft drinks?

Well, in America it’s this stuff, right? High fructose corn syrup. Everybody’s heard of it, right? It’s been demonized, something awful so much so that the corn refiners industry has launched a mega-campaign to try to absolve high fructose corn syrup of any problems which we’ll talk about in a moment. But the bottom line is this is something we were never exposed to before 1975. And currently we are consuming 63 pounds per person per year – everyone of us. 63 pounds of high fructose corn syrup. That’s America.

What is high fructose corn syrup?

Well, you’ll see in a minute. It’s one glucose, one fructose. We’ll talk about those at great length. One of the reasons we use high fructose corn syrup is because it’s sweeter. Here is sucrose. This is cane or beet sugar, standard-table sugar, you know, the white stuff. And we give that an index in sweetness of 100. So here is high fructose corn syrup. It’s actually sweeter. It’s about 120. So you should be able to use less, right? Wrong. We use just as much. In fact, we use more.

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So here is lab fructose over here, crystalline fructose, and they are starting to put crystalline fructose into some of the soft drinks. They are actually advertising it as a good thing. And that’s got a sweetness of 173. So you should be able to cut that way back, right? They are not.

Lactose down here, milk sugar, that’s not sweet at all. And glucose I should point out over here 74, it’s not particularly sweet and we’re going to get to that at the end and what goes on with glucose. But anyway there’s why we use it: it’s sweeter. It’s also cheaper as I’ll show you.

Here’s high fructose corn syrup. One glucose, one fructose. Notice the glucose is a 6-membered ring. The fructose is a 5-membered ring. They are not the same. Believe me, they are not the same. That’s what this whole talk is about. It’s how they are not the same.

And here is sucrose. And they are just bound together by this ether linkage. We have this enzyme in our gut called sucrose. It kills that bond in 2 seconds-flat and you absorb it. And basically high fructose corn syrup sucrose, it’s a non-issue. It’s a wash. They are the same. And they know that they are the same – the soft drinks companies and the corn refiners. Because here are their missives. This comes from the corn refiner association: “Obesity research shows high fructose corn syrup metabolizes and impacts satiety similar to sugar.” Indeed it does.

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