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By Jillian Kubala
A new year often signifies a fresh start for many people. For some, this means setting health goals, such as losing weight, following a healthier diet, and starting an exercise routine.
One of America's already widespread health issues is projected to worsen over the next decade, as new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that almost half the adult population in the U.S. will be obese by 2030.
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By Kristen Fischer
Though the science has shown sugary drinks are not healthy for children, fruit drinks and similar beverages accounted for more than half of all children's drink sales in 2018, according to a new report.
By Ginger Vieira
Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes may be as simple as changing what's in your glass.
Recent research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reports that people who drink increasing quantities of sugary beverages (including soda and 100 percent fruit juice) face a "moderately" higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
By Dawn Undurraga, Nutritionist and Nicole Ferox, Manager Foundations Relations and Sydney Swanson, Associate Database Analyst
Parents are trapped in the Halloween guilt vortex: going full-scale green mom, handing out whole walnuts or pennies or dental floss to avoid loading kids with sugar and additives but thereby making their kids cringe and giving them stories to stockpile about their ridiculous hippie childhood.
By Katie O'Reilly
Just two months after a tax of $0.015 per ounce of soda, energy drinks and other sugary beverages went into effect in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphians were already reaching for the sweet stuff significantly less often than their counterparts in nearby cities. A study published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows a 40 percent decrease in Philadelphians' consumption of soda, and a 60 percent drop in that of energy drinks.
By Genna Reed
It might not shock you to know that the sugar industry doesn't have our best interests in mind. But would you be alarmed to find out that they consciously manipulated science in order to increase sugar consumption? And that they did so in the face of scientific evidence that sugar consumption was associated with chronic disease?
Next year will mark 50 years since the sugar industry initiated and funded a literature review absolving sugar of its association with chronic heart disease, without disclosing the industry's role in the study.
What we now know as the Sugar Association began as the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) in 1943. Researchers Cristin Kearns, Laura Schmidt and Stanton Glantz of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) combed through hundreds of SRF documents and found evidence that the sugar industry had manipulated the science to exonerate sugar as a dominant cause of heart disease—an action that shifted the direction of scientific research for decades.
One particularly jarring quote they found was from the president Henry Hass's 1954 speech to the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists in which he said, "if the carbohydrate industries were to recapture this 20 percent of the calories in the US diet (the difference between the 40 percent which fat has and the 20 percent which it ought to have) and if sugar maintained its present share of the carbohydrate market, this change would mean an increase in the per capita consumption of sugar more than a third with a tremendous improvement in general health."
The sugar industry was interested in increasing sugar consumption by funding science that would urge Americans to decrease calories from saturated fats and hopefully replace them with sugar.
The UCSF analysis reveals that SRF employed the following tactics the Union of Concerned Scientists previously identified in Added Sugar, Subtracted Science in order to undermine public health policy on sugar. Our work shows that SRF's successor the Sugar Association and its counterpart in the corn syrup industry, the Corn Refiners Association, took pointers from SRF:
Attacking the Science
Just as the Corn Refiners Association planned to "bury the data" when it was inconvenient, when the sugar industry got word that researchers like John Yudkin at Queen Elizabeth College were challenging the maxim that sugar calories were more desirable than fat calories, the SRF's vice president and director of research called on the organization in 1964 to "embark on a major program" to counter the science coming from Yudkin and others representing "negative attitudes toward sugar."
This program would include issuing a public opinion poll to find out what messages would resonate with consumers and decision makers, opening up a venue to publicly call out scientists for their undesirable results regarding sugar, and finally, pushing out studies funded by the sugar industry that look at the causes of chronic heart disease.
Similar to the sugar industry's recent misinforming in order to fight labeling policies, as a part of its campaign to increase sugar consumption in the 1960s, it began to fund its own literature review on sugars, fats, and chronic heart disease in an obvious attempt to dispel the rumors that calories from sugar were at least part of the problem. The SRF paid Dr. Mark Hegsted and Dr. Robert McGandy, under the supervision of Harvard University's Fredrick Stare, a total of nearly $50,000 (in 2015 dollars) for their work. And the SRF was heavily involved throughout the review process, urging the scientists to focus on the perils of fat consumption.
The SRF vice president and director of research, John Hickson, emphasized in 1965, "Our particular interest had to do with that part of nutrition in which there are claims that carbohydrates in the form of sucrose make an inordinate contribution to the metabolic condition, hitherto ascribed to aberrations called fat metabolism. I will be disappointed if this aspect is drowned out in a cascade of review and general interpretation."
The study authors discounted research showing sugar's impact on chronic heart disease in a number of ways, focusing especially on possible bias within individual studies instead of looking at the consensus across studies. The conclusion of the literature review was that there was "no doubt" that the one way to prevent chronic heart disease was through a reduction of dietary cholesterol and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. And the SRF was content with these findings, telling the lead authors, "this is quite what we had in mind."
Deploying Industry Scientists/Influencing Academia
Just as the Sugar Association and Corn Refiners Association today work with academic scientists to advance their talking points, when the literature review was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, the authors did not disclose the funding or close involvement of the SRF in the review. Dr. Fredrick Stare, the founder and chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, had an extended history of funding from the sugar and food industry: over 30 papers authored by members of his department were funded by the SRF just between 1952 and 1956. Stare's department at Harvard is a key example of how industry funding can influence academic science, with dangerous consequences for public discourse and public policy.
The manipulation of science doesn't happen in a vacuum. Often, it serves to change the conversation and impact policy, as well. Similar to today's efforts by the sugar industry to undermine public health policies, in 1986, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Sugars Task Force assessed the scientific evidence around sugar, leaning heavily upon the industry's 1976 review, titled "Sugar in the Diet of Man." The FDA report said that "no conclusive evidence on sugars demonstrates a hazard to the general public when sugars are consumed at the levels that are now current." The agency's study was influenced by industry sponsorship, as the chair of the study later went on to work at the Corn Refiners Association, a trade group that represents the interests of high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers.
This agency study, which had clear influence form the sugar and food industry, has been responsible for the determination of GRAS status for several added sugars, and has largely set the precedent for the resulting years of denial about the health impacts of sugar-laden diets.
The Sugar Industry's Role in Today's Chronic Disease Epidemic
It is no wonder that even today, our food policies are only just beginning to adequately address the association between added sugars and chronic disease. The sugar industry has magnificently managed to delay the inevitable knowledge about the dangers of excessive sugar consumption for a half century. And they are still employing this same behavior. Just last month, the American Heart Association released added sugar consumption guidelines for children, recommending that children under two consume no added sugars and that all other children consume less than 10 percent of calories from sugars, because "there is minimal room for nutrient-free calories in the habitual diets of very young children." The Sugar Association responded by accusing the American Heart Association of a lack of scientific integrity.
Luckily the tide is beginning to turn in spite of the industry's best efforts. FDA's label will soon include added sugars information on food packages. More and more local resolutions are popping up to place taxes on sugary beverages. School meal policies are adding variety and improving the nutritional quality of kids' diets. And exposés like this one are revealing the truth about how the food industry has manipulated science to influence our diets for the worse.
Still, the aforementioned research points to some interesting scientific integrity issues that remain today, including the rigor of conflict-of-interest policies at scientific journals and the ethical questions involved with the ability of decision makers to use industry-funded research to shape policies. My colleague, Gretchen Goldman, explains more about how we should be dealing with conflicts of interest in science funding here. We need greater transparency around the sugar industry's role in scientific studies, including funding but also identification of the nature of the relationship between the industry and the science. Independent science should inform policies that protect public health from the adverse impacts of added sugar.
Genna Reed is a science and policy analyst in the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
By Michelle Schoffro Cook
The neon-colored Gatorade loved by many sports enthusiasts will soon be available as an organic option. PepsiCo Incorporated announced that it will soon launch its new organic Gatorade throughout the U.S. The company's strawberry, mixed berry and lemon beverages have already been tested for consumer interest in some Kroger Co. supermarkets.
But how healthy will it be? Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification, the beverage will definitely be a step up from its additive-laden counterpart, but it still won't be a healthy beverage option for anyone looking to fuel up after a workout … or for anyone else for that matter.
Gatorade has long been criticized by nutrition experts because of its less-than-healthy ingredients, which in a traditional bottle of the beverage include:
"Water, Sugar, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Monopotassium Phosphate, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium and Color"
The organic Gatorade ingredients include:
"Water, Organic Cane Sugar, Citric Acid, Organic Natural Flavor, Sea Salt, Sodium Citrate and Potassium Chloride"
The move away from sucralose, which goes by the brand name of Splenda, is definitely an improvement as sucralose has been linked to many serious health concerns, ranging from anxiety and allergies to headaches and weight gain. Sucralose is a chlorinated artificially-created sweetener, despite what the manufacturer may claim. So, PepsiCo Inc. gets one star for removing this undesirable ingredient.
The company also gets another star for eliminating colors which have been linked to many diseases and for the move from "Natural Flavors" to "Organic Natural Flavors" since the latter is much more restrictive. Both of these ingredients can include many less-than-desirable components, such as dried beaver's sac, sheepskin excretions or insect excretions, but the term "organic natural flavors" at least minimizes possible unwanted ingredients like solvents and pesticide residues.
And, while Monopotassium Phosphate and Acesulfame Potassium may sound like harmless minerals—they are not. While the study results have been controversial, the latter substance has a dubious reputation as being linked to cancer. So PepsiCo gets another star for making the switch to potassium chloride.
But, organic Gatorade falls short when it comes to the amount of sugar found in each bottle. That's because every 16.9-ounce bottle contains a whopping 29 grams of sugar. No health expert or nutritionist could claim that this constitutes a safe amount of sugar because it is excessive, particularly for any beverage company that claims it is a healthy post-workout option for rehydration.
Out of a possible 5-star rating, I couldn't give organic Gatorade more than 3 stars due to its high amount of sugar. While there are definitely some improvements to the product over its predecessor, it's still not a healthy option and is best avoided.
By Beth Buczynski
A very good friend recently confessed to me that sometimes her subconscious sugar cravings are so powerful, she gets out of bed in the middle of the night to eat sweets.
This is what sugar—dubbed "sweet poison" by NY Daily News—does to us. We've become a generation of zombies that seek sugar at any cost, even if it means interrupted sleep, expanding waistlines and poor emotional health. The worst part is, we don't even realize it's happening.
Cookies and candy get a lot of criticism, but at least these sugary foods are honest about what they contain. The real danger lies in foods that hide their sugary nature behind fancy monikers and mile-long ingredient lists.
These hidden sugars make it possible for the average American to consume 152 pounds of sugar each year, despite filling their grocery carts with savory staples and so-called health foods. Once ingested, sugar affects the brain almost exactly like another powdery white substance we know and fear—cocaine—triggering an intense addiction that compels us to seek more.
The first step to getting off the sugar addiction roller coaster is exposing hidden sugar. There are literally thousands of foods that conceal this sweet poison behind savory labels, but these 10 are the worst and most surprising.
Grilling a hamburger? Mixing up a batch of your grandma's potato salad? Prepare for a sugar bomb.
Ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, steak sauces, salad dressing and, yes, even mustard all contain sugar. Some styles of BBQ sauce contain 13 grams of sugar—approximately three teaspoons—for every two tablespoons of the condiment!
Photo credit: Jim Benton / Flickr
Yup. This is one of those "I thought it was healthy!" foods that is probably sabotaging your weight loss plans. An eight ounce serving of the average fruit variety non-fat yogurt contains a staggering 47 grams of sugar—11 teaspoons!
Photo credit: Rebecca Siegel / Flickr
Pasta with marinara sauce is a delicious and savory meal. Too bad the hidden sugars make your body treat it like dessert. Store-bought pasta sauce contains around 12 grams—around three teaspoons—of sugar for every half cup.
Unlike pasta sauce, we expect dried fruit to be sweet. Those trying to keep a healthy diet will often opt for this snack instead of candy, but it makes no difference to your body. Just one-third of a cup can have 24 grams of sugar—eight teaspoons—and it's not all naturally occurring. Most food manufacturers add a healthy dose of the refined stuff—as if fruit needs to be sweeter?!
For some reason, we've been duped into assuming granola is healthy. With 12 grams, or four teaspoons, of sugar—and sometimes much more—hiding in most conventional brands, you might as well be eating a Payday.
You don't have to be a nutritionist to know that Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes contain added sugar, but it's hiding in "healthy" cereals, too. Just look at the labels of Raisin Bran—20 grams or 5 teaspoons, Kellogg's Smart Start—14 grams or 3.5 teaspoons—and Kashi GoLean Crunch—13 grams or 3-plus teaspoons.
It doesn't matter whether you prefer crunchy or creamy, if you're eating any of the popular peanut butter brands, you're getting a big dose of sugar—to the tune of three grams—a teaspoon—in each two tablespoon serving. And just think, most of the time we slather it on bread—sugar—with jelly—sugar—and then feed it to our kids!
Another staple that most of us have eaten since childhood. Too bad there are 10 grams—more than three teaspoons—of sugar in the average half cup serving of canned tomato soup—usually high fructose corn syrup. Not to mention 400 mg of sodium. Blech.
Photo credit: Jeremy Keith / Flickr
Note: this list refers to the conventional and store brands many of us buy. Different rules apply to organic, artisan and homemade varieties.
A Sweetener by Any Other Name
The morals of this story are: Always read the label and avoid processed foods at all cost. However, even if you do these things, sugar can still sneak in. That's because it's not always called sugar.
Check out this helpful post to learn how to spot other names for sugar on food labels.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
"Dr. Hyman, I've heard so much contradictory information about omega 3 fats," writes this week's house call. "Some studies show they help everything while others argue they don't do much of anything. What's the real story here?"
As I often say, food is information, not just calories. Food influences gene function, hormones, your immune system and even your gut flora. Literally, food controls every function within your body.
This is especially true with the omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like wild fish, flaxseeds and walnuts.
These fatty acids play critical roles in cognitive development and learning, visual development, immune strength, fighting inflammation, pregnancy, brain health and preventing Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, cancer, mental illness and so much more. They affect every one of your hundred trillion cell membranes.
In fact, a recent and the most comprehensive review on omega 3 fats looked at 19 studies from 16 countries (including 45,637 participants) and found that those with the highest levels of omega 3 fats in their blood had lower risks of heart attacks.
Makes sense how not getting sufficient amounts of these crucial fatty acids can profoundly affect your health.
Do Omega 6 Fats Make Us Depressed and Violent?
At a nutrition conference once, I heard Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, the scientist in nutritional neurosciences at the National Institutes of Health, present some startling data about how omega 3 fats impact mental health.
Dr. Hibbeln said soy oils and seed oils contain high amounts of inflammatory linoleic acid that create inflammation and disease.
He noted 80 percent of the fats that Americans eat are inflammatory omega 6 fats, while just 20 percent come from the anti-inflammatory omega 3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). (For the record, I would suggest that even less than 20 percent comes from EPA).
In Japan, that number is reversed: 80 percent of their fats come from EPA, while only 20 percent are inflammatory omega 6 fats.
Over the last century in the U.S., we have witnessed a 1,000-fold increase in soy oil consumption. About 10 to 20 percent of our calories come from soybean oil rather than omega 3 fats and other, healthier fats we should be consuming.
The omega 6 fats aren't the ones our ancestors ate. Human evolution occurred in an environment where seafood and wild animal fat was the predominant source of dietary fat.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate no seed oils. Obviously, they weren't eating French fries, donuts and the zillion Frankenfoods products that contain these oils. These refined oils create and exacerbate inflammation, which contributes to nearly every disease and makes us fat.
Beyond that, the repercussions are dramatic and far-reaching. Disturbing recent research shows homicide in the United Kingdom increased dramatically with increased consumption of linoleic acid-rich soybean oil.
The same thing happened in the U.S., Australia, Canada and Argentina. Interestingly, homicide mortality rates become inversely related to seafood consumption, meaning societies who eat more seafood have lower homicide rates.
Equally dramatic, one study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry gave one prison group recommended daily amounts of vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats, while the other group maintained their regular diet and lifestyle. Researchers found reduced felony level violent offenses among prisoners who took omega 3 supplements.
In fact, providing vitamin and fish oil supplements reduced felony-related violent crime among the prisoners by 37 percent.
The Cure for Depression, ADD and Dementia—Is it More Fat?
More fat to cure brain maladies makes sense when you consider omega 3 fats affect how we think and behave. Research even shows omega 3s help treat depression, including postpartum depression.
The omega 3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a critical part of mother's milk, helps the fetus's neurologic development. Studies show women who have higher levels of omega 3 fats, specifically DHA, have lower rates of postpartum depression.
Omega 3 deficiencies also affect our children. Young kids with dyslexia, dyspraxia (difficulty writing), learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are often omega 3 deficient.
The neurotransmitter dopamine, critical for brain function in children, becomes higher when these children consume essential fatty acids. Controlled studies show fish oil improves reading, spelling and conduct because the nervous system depends on these fats to function.
I could go on, but I hope you can understand evidence overwhelmingly supports that omega3 fats are critical to improve mood, mental functioning, metabolism and so much more.
If you're curious to learn more, please check out my book Eat Fat, Get Thin, in which I show you how to effortlessly incorporate more omega 3s and other healthy fats to lose weight and get healthy.
Thankfully, emerging research proves how vital healthy fats are. The outdated "eating fat makes you fat" paradigm has shifted to a new, more accurate understanding of dietary fat as evidence shows some fats are essential for optimal health.
Yet we're not quite there yet. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of Americans are deficient in omega 3s. We're eating too many omega 6s and not enough omega 3s. That imbalance of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats predicts your risk of:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Neurological problems
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Skin problems
- Autoimmune disease
Chronic disease will only increase as we move further away from the diet of our ancestors, which consisted of omega 3 rich protein (wild, grass-fed animals and wild fish), a healthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats and mostly plant foods.
We've gone way off course with the way our ancestors ate. Big food companies have hijacked our taste buds and our biology.
Yet there's hope. Science shows when you eat the right kinds of fat, you get thin, decrease inflammation and reverse heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many of the other chronic diseases that plague us. You can take control of your health and destiny, starting with your very next meal!
To do that, check out my Eat Fat, Get Thin Challenge, a revolutionary science-based eating program that focuses on healthy fats to reset hormones, take back your biochemistry, effortlessly allow you to end your cravings, lose weight and reverse disease.
For now, let's establish some key facts about fats:
1. Sugar, not fat, makes you fat. Sugar spikes insulin—the fat fertilizer hormone laying the foundation for belly fat. Sugar also slows your metabolism and is addictive and makes you hungry (all the time!). Fat actually speeds up metabolism, cuts hunger and increases fat burning. Boy, did we get this wrong during the low-fat diet era!
2. Dietary fat is very complex. We have saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. And we have subcategories within each group. Some fats are good and yes, some are bad. Remember that quality matters; that food is information. To learn more, check out Eat Fat, Get Thin.
3. Low-fat diets claim to be heart-healthy but aren't. Low-fat diets typically tend to be higher in sugar. Eating less fat and more sugar and refined carbs floods our system with insulin, creating inflammation, heart disease and many other problems. When you consume lots of sugar and refined carbs, your body produces dangerous, artery-clogging small, dense LDL cholesterol particles; drops your protective HDL and increases harmful triglycerides. That's a bad combo just begging to bring on a heart.
4. Saturated fat is not a "bad" fat. A review of all the research on saturated fat published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. I am not advising eating sticks of butter every day; however, saturated fat is not the boogeyman we once thought. The problem arises when we eat them with sugar and starch (sugar, flour, white rice and potatoes), because then they are deadly. Basically, think no sweet fat.
5. Some fats are unhealthy. Trans fats and inflammatory vegetable oils are bad fats that cause free radical damage and create a perfect storm for inflammation. Most restaurants cook with toxic oils because they're cheap and marketed as heart-healthy, low-cholesterol fats.
6. We all need more omega 3 fats. Most Americans are deficient in these health-crucial fats. The best ways to include them in your diet are to include wild or sustainably raised cold-water fish and pastured or omega 3 eggs and taking a quality, toxin-free omega 3 rich fish oil supplement.
7. Eating fat makes you lean. The right fats can nourish your cells to better utilize insulin. Healthy fats also help to stop your cravings, curb your hunger and reset your hormones to help your body burn fat more efficiently.
8. Your brain is made up of mostly fat. About 60 percent of your brain is fat, mostly as DHA, which your cells need to communicate. Quality omega-3 fats improve cognition, memory and mood. Research shows omega 3 deficiencies increase depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's and bipolar disorder.
To get and stay healthy, eat quality fat at every meal. The right fats improve your skin, hair, nails and mood. They protect against type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and inflammation.
Some of my favorite top-quality fats include:
- Seeds: pumpkin, sesame and chia, flax and hemp—all of which contain omega 3 fats
- Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, herring and wild salmon that are rich in omega 3 fats
- Nuts: walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; but not peanuts (One study showed a handful of nuts a day reduced death from all causes by 20 percent)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Grass-fed or sustainably raised animal products (which have more omega 3 fats than feedlot beef)
- Extra-virgin coconut butter, which is a great plant-based source of saturated fat that fuels your mitochondria, is anti-inflammatory and helps optimize cholesterol.