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

Hunger and satiety profiles, energy intake, following ingestion of soft drinks. Bottom line: research supported by the American Beverages Institute and the Corn Refiners Association. They are correct. There is absolutely no difference between high fructose corn syrup and sucrose. So much so that the Corn Refiners Association in attempt to capture market share came out with this entire ad campaign. You probably saw it on the back page of the New York Times. It was on TV. It’s everywhere.

“My hairdresser says that sugar is healthier than high fructose corn syrup.” “Wow? You get your hair done by a doctor?” I didn’t know I could cut hair. If you all want to see all of them there are a whole bunch and you can go to and see how you are being hoodwinked? But indeed this is true. High fructose corn syrup and sucrose are exactly the same. They are both equally bad. They are both dangerous. They are both poison. I said it: poison. My charge before the end of tonight is to demonstrate that fructose is a poison. And I will do it. And you will tell me if I was successful.

Nonetheless here’s Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Corn Refiners Association. Everybody remember last year when Gavin Newsom floated the soda tax last February? Governor Paterson of New York has since floated one and other people are starting to talk about it. So why are they saying this? Well, they are saying “Obesity is a problem. Kids are drinking soda. Let’s tax it.” So they are talking about soda like it’s empty calories. I’m here to tell you that it goes way beyond empty calories.

The reason why this is a problem is because fructose is a poison. It’s not about the calories. It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself. And I am going to show you that. Nonetheless I just want to read you this paragraph here: “We respectfully urge that the proposal be revised as soon as possible to reflect the scientific evidence that demonstrates no material differences in the health effects of high-fructose corn syrup and sugar.” I agree. Here is the important sentence. “The real issue is that excessive consumption of any sugars may lead to health problems.” I agree. That’s exactly right. Not “may”, “does”.

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So here is the secular trend in fructose consumption over the past 100 years. Before we had food processing, we used to get our fructose from fruits and vegetables and if we did that today, we would consume about 15 grams per day of fructose – not sugar, fructose. Sugar would be 30 grams, would be double. We’re just talking about fructose today.

Prior to World War II, before it got rationed again, we were up to about 16 to 24, about 20 grams. So a small increase from the beginning of the century to World War II. Then in 1977, just as high fructose corn syrup was hitting the market, we had increased that, we had basically doubled up to 37 grams per day or 8% of total caloric intake. By 1994 we were up to 55 grams of the stuff per day. Remember if you want to do sugar, then double the number. So that’s 10.2. So you can see that more and more of our caloric intake, a higher percentage is being accounted for by sugar every single year. So it’s not just that we are eating more. We are eating more sugar. And for an adolescent today we are up to almost 75 grams, 12% of total caloric intake. 25% of the adolescents today consume at least 15% of their calories from fructose alone. This is a disaster. An absolute unmitigated disaster. The fat is going down. The sugar is going up. And we are all getting sick. Now let me show you why.

Perfect storm

How did this happen? Why did it happen? This is where the politics comes in. This is the perfect storm. And it was created from three political winds that swirled around all at the same time to create this perfect storm. So the first political wind. Everything bad that ever happened in this country started with one man. And it’s still being felt today.

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So Richard Nixon, in his paranoïa back in 1972, food prices were going up and down, up and down and I’ll show you that on the next slide. And he was worried that this was actually going to cost him the election. So he admonished his secretary of Agriculture Earl Rusty Butz to basically take food off the political table, to make food a non-issue in presidential elections. Well, the only way to do that was to make food cheap. So he was out to find all methods to be able to decrease the price of food. Remember Nixon’s war on poverty? This we are suffering from it today. That’s what this is.

Second political wind: the advent of high fructose corn syrup. This was invented in 1966 at Saga Medical School in Japan by a guy named Takasaki who is still alive. As far as I am concerned, this stuff is Japan’s revenge for World War II. Except of course that they are suffering from it now themselves. Like everything, you know it always comes back to haunt you.

And it was introduced to the American market in 1975. So what do you think happened to the price of sugar when this thing hit the market? Here is what happened. The US producer price index of sugar going up and down and up and down…… this is not good. Stability is at 100%, if it stays nice and stable at 100%, that’s what you want, if you’re a politician, up and down.

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