By Dr. Mercola
According to soda companies like Coca-Cola, sugary beverages can be safely enjoyed as part of a "balanced" diet and lifestyle. But what kind of "balance" are they really talking about?
In essence, the "balance" referred to here is a balance between poison and nutrition. The idea they're promoting is that if you eat a healthy diet, you can safely indulge in a little bit of poison every now and then.
This is the only balance they can refer to, because when it comes to real foods and pure water — which is the only beverage your body cannot live without — maintaining balance is not really an issue.
When you eat real food, it is beneficial and you don't need to concern yourself with adverse effects like obesity and diabetes.
Even a Little Junk Food Adversely Impacts Health
Food either supports health, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, it shouldn't be construed as an acceptable part of a healthy diet. It should be accurately portrayed as a junk food to be consumed as little as possible, if ever.
The idea that junk food can be safely enjoyed in moderation was recently demolished yet again with the publication of a study1,2,3 showing that eating just one junk food treat per day for one month is enough to trigger metabolic syndrome in healthy people.
The treats, which provided an additional 1,300 calories per day, included an assortment of candy bars and pastries.
In people already diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar levels, indulging in one milkshake per day for one month exacerbated their condition.
Metabolic syndrome in turn can have deadly consequences, raising your risk for diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. As noted by co-author Suzan Wopereis:
"Acute affects of diet are mostly small, but may have large consequences in the long run.
Our novel approach allows detection of small but relevant effects, thereby contributing to the urgently needed switch from disease-care to healthcare, aiming for a life-long optimal health and disease prevention.'"
Snack Ads Dominate While Cost of Severe Obesity Now Tops $8 Billion
Medicaid spends $8 billion per year on severe obesity4 — an expense that is entirely avoidable. Obesity may also be a contributing factor to increased use of prescription drugs in the US.
Harvard researchers warn that 59 percent of American adults now use at least one prescription drug5 — a 50 percent increase from a decade ago. More people are also taking multiple drugs, which increases the risk of adverse drug interactions.
About 15 percent of adults now take more than five drugs, and the researchers suggest this rise in drug use may be related to an increase in obesity.
To prevent obesity though, people need to be told the truth about nutrition and processed foods. The food industry must be held accountable for its lies, and junk food advertising for kids needs to be minimized or abolished.
According to a recent report, 40 percent of the ads kids see on television are for sugary snacks, and research6 shows these early impressions can significantly shape their future food habits.
Since 2010, snack ads have increased by 18 percent. In 2014, preschoolers saw an average of 582 snack ads on TV, kids aged 6 to 11 saw 629 snack ads, an increase of 10 percent since 2010, and teens saw 635 snack ads, an increase of 29 percent.
Food companies are also targeting certain ethnic groups to a greater extent than others. As reported by CNN:7
"Marketing of savory snacks to black and Hispanic youth shot up 551 percent, whereas yogurt ads dropped 93 percent between 2010 and 2014. Black children saw 64 percent more snack food ads on TV than white children, and 129 percent more ads for savory snacks."
Adults are also seeing more ads for junk food. In 2014, adults saw 793 snack ads, a 32 percent increase since 2010. Millions of junk food ads were also placed on YouTube and Facebook in 2014.
Soda Linked to Increased Risk for Heart Failure
Swedish researchers are also warning that soda consumption may raise your risk for heart failure. The study8,9 included 42,000 men (aged 45 to 79) who were followed for nearly 12 years. Men who drank two or more glasses of soda or other sweetened beverages per day had a 23 percent greater risk of developing heart failure than those who avoided these types of drinks.
While the study cannot prove causation, lead author Susanna Larsson told Reuters10 that: "The take-home message is that people who regularly drink sweetened beverages should consider reducing their consumption."
Cutting Sugar Can Quickly Improve Your and Your Child's Health
Another recent and widely publicized study demonstrates just how quickly your health can improve simply by cutting out added sugars. The research11,12,13,14 was led by Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist who has long argued that added sugar is toxic when consumed in too-high amounts.
By replacing refined sugars and processed fructose with starches, obese children saw significant improvements in biomarkers associated with health in just 10 days, even though their overall calorie intake and the overall percentage of carbohydrates remained the same.
The study reduced the amount of added sugars from an average of 27 percent of daily calories down to about 10 percent, which is in line with the most recent recommendations by the federal government's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, issued in February.
As noted by Dr. Lustig:15
"Every aspect of their metabolic health got better, with no change in calories. This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight. Rather, sugar is metabolically harmful because it's sugar."
On average, the children (aged eight to 18) saw the following improvements in their lab work and disease markers after this short intervention:
- LDL cholesterol fell by 10 points
- Diastolic blood pressure fell five points
- Triglycerides were reduced by 33 points
- Fasting blood sugar dropped by 53 percent
- Insulin levels also significantly improved
Refined and Processed Sugars Are Different from Sugars Found in Whole Foods
From a health standpoint, the children were not placed on an ideal diet — they were fed hot dogs and baked potato chips for example, but this was done specifically to demonstrate the impact of added sugars on metabolic health.
Refined sugar and processed fructose such as high-fructose corn syrup is FAR more harmful than glucose and other sugars found in whole foods. Even fructose in whole fruit is less harmful than processed high-fructose corn syrup due to the presence of fiber in the fruit. Dr. Lustig notes this difference in the featured interview.
Soda Politics and the Energy Balance Scam
The video above was produced by the Global Energy Balance Network, a front group secretly funded by Coca-Cola.16,17,18,19,20 The chief aim of this group appears to be to confuse consumers about soda science, and divert attention away from the mounting evidence showing that sweet beverages are a major contributor to obesity and diseases associated with insulin resistance, such as diabetes.
As reported by The New York Times,21 which exposed the ties between Coca-Cola and the Global Energy Balance Network back in August of this year:
"Coca-Cola, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new 'science-based' solution to the obesity crisis: to maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise, and worry less about cutting calories. The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing this message in medical journals, at conferences and through social media...
'Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, 'Oh they're eating too much, eating too much, eating too much' — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks, and so on,' the group's vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, says in a recent video announcing the new organization. 'And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.'"
To claim that evidence is lacking is beyond ludicrous, and in support of the New York Times' exposé, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote a Letter to the editor22 signed by 36 leading researchers, scientists, and public health officials, noting that Coca-Cola is blatantly ignoring the "well-documented evidence that sugary drinks are a major contributor to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes."
My recent interview with Marion Nestle about her new book, Soda Politics, goes into extensive details on how the soda industry manipulates and distorts the truth on this issue to protect their business. I've included it again below for your convenience.
Download Interview Transcript
Food Companies Should Stop Fighting the Obvious, Obesity Expert Says
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed adding "added sugar" to the Nutrition Facts panel on processed foods, set at 10 percent of total energy intake for a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The total amount of added sugar would also be listed in grams. With few exceptions, food companies are aggressively opposed to the proposal, claiming it will only add confusion,23 as they believe all sugar calories are metabolically identical.
In an article24 titled "Food Companies Should Stop Fighting the Obvious: Sugar is Ruining Our Health," Dr. Lustig blasts the food industry's outdated view that all calories are created equal, and that there's insufficient evidence demonstrating that added sugars are different from sugars found in whole foods.
He also notes that U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala) has even introduced a House bill that would restrict federal nutritional guidelines to those backed by "robust scientific evidence" only. This means any nutritional guideline would have to be proven through randomized controlled trials.
"The problem is that clinical nutritional data almost never reach robust proof, because you can't change the diets of people for 50 years to see if they develop more diabetes or heart disease; it's expensive, unethical, and unlawful," Dr. Lustig writes. "Scientists have shown that adding extra sugar to people's diets worsens cardiometabolic risk factors, such as high triglycerides, blood pressure, glucose and insulin levels, or low HDL — all components of what is called 'metabolic syndrome.'"
Dr. Lustig goes on to discuss the findings of his latest study, in which biomarkers for health were significantly improved in obese children in just 10 days by trading added sugars for starches. Both are carbohydrates, but his short-term experiment clearly shows that all calories are NOT created equal when it comes to their health effects. As noted by Dr. Lustig:
"Our study... establishes a direct relationship between added sugar and these chronic diseases, unrelated to its calories or its effects on weight... [E]very aspect of their metabolic health improved... all without changing the children's calorie intake or weight and without exercise.
We simply substituted starch for sugar in their processed food and watched their health improve. This is not correlation. It's causation — the most robust evidence of all... To turn our epidemic of metabolic syndrome around, the food industry must reduce the sugar it surreptitiously adds to processed foods... Science should drive policy, but the politics get in the way.
And politics is based on money. The food industry nets about $450 billion per year, yet America wastes at least $830 billion per year caring for diseases linked to metabolic syndrome... This is unsustainable, and a major reason why Medicare and Social Security will be broke by 2030. The USDA must do the right thing and curb Americans' consumption of added sugar, rather than kowtowing to the processed-food industry."
Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?
The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend limiting your daily added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women. The average American, however, consumes around 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and this is quite clearly far too much for your body to handle. A meta-review25 published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes.
I strongly recommend limiting your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less from all sources, including natural sources such as fruit — regardless of whether you're male or female. That equates to just over 6 teaspoons of total sugar a day. If you're insulin resistant, which applies to about 80 percent of Americans, you'd be wise to limit your total fructose to 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance is resolved.
You don't have to become another disease statistic... The power to get healthy really is in your hands, and one of the most powerful strategies to improve your health is to cut down (or eliminate) refined sugar and processed fructose (corn syrup). A good place to start would be to cut down on soda and juice if you're currently drinking it on a regular basis, until you get to zero. Then, start working on trading out processed foods for whole foods. It's not rocket science to figure out what a healthy diet is. In short, it's REAL FOOD — food in its unadulterated state, or as minimally processed as possible.
The following chart will provide a few more clarifying details:
|Foods that promote weight gain
||Foods that promote healthy weight
| Processed foods of all kinds
||Whole, unadulterated (ideally organic) vegetables, fruits, and berries
| Added sweeteners, regardless of whether they have calories or not. This includes all forms of added sugars, especially processed fructose (such as high-fructose corn syrup), but also artificial sweeteners, which confuse your metabolism and trick your body into storing fat
||Unprocessed, unpasteurized traditionally cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, kambucha, natto, kimchee, and fermented vegetables of all kinds
| Meats from confined animal feeding operations, as they're typically fed genetically engineered grains contaminated with glyphosate instead of plain grass, plus antibiotics and other growth promoters to fatten up the animals as quickly as possible.
Farmed fish are also fed an inappropriate diet that reduces their nutritional quality
|Organically-raised grass-fed meats, pastured chicken, and wild-caught fish that are low in contaminants
| Processed grains of all kinds, including organic ones, as they all break down into sugar in your body. Unless organic, grains may also be contaminated with glyphosate even if they're not genetically engineered. Such is the case with most conventional wheat for example
||Fresh sprouts, which can be easily grown at home. A wide variety of seeds can be sprouted, which maximizes their nutritional value.
For example, once sunflower seeds are sprouted, their protein, vitamin, and mineral content will typically provide you with 30 times the nutrient content of organic vegetables
| Trans fats, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as margarine, canola, corn, and soy oils
||Healthy fats, including organically-raised grass-fed meats, fatty fish like wild caught salmon, coconut oil, olives and olive oil,26 avocado, raw nuts,27 organic pastured egg yolks, and butter made from raw grass-fed milk.
For cooking, tallow and lard are ideal. Since they're saturated fats, they do not oxidize when heated. And, since saturated fats do not have double bonds that can react with oxygen, they also cannot form dangerous aldehydes or other toxic oxidation products.
Coconut oil is another healthy option, as it too resists oxidation when heated