Captain's Log: What's for lunch?
If I'm making lunch, it'll be something quick. Leftovers if we have any. Maybe peanut butter and saltines with string cheese and a beer. If there are any hard boiled eggs, those are always good. Mashed up with salt, pepper, hot sauce and olive oil and you have a fast, and really good, egg salad. Not too long ago, I would've just ripped open a power bar or a granola bar.
But then I read a book by David Gillespie called Sweet Poison. He's a lawyer in Australia who became interested in why so many of us were over weight, and why that trend is accelerating. Lawyers aren't trained in science or nutrition, but they know how to research a topic and build a case, and he proceeds to build a case against added sugar in our diets that is hard to refute. I was convinced, and I convinced Janie we should stop eating any foods with added sugar. No soft drinks, no power bars, no granola bars ... you get the idea. When you start reading labels, you end up eliminating most processed foods. We ignored the nutritional information on the label and went right to the list of ingredients. If sugar, sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, any other kind of syrup, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, agave, "natural sugars" or the like was there then it had sugar added. What all these sugars had in common was: they all contained fructose, a simple sugar found in fruit and (to some extent) vegetables. Our bodies can tolerate small amounts of fructose but it is essentially metabolized by the liver as a toxin. Glucose is the sugar we need, but it doesn't taste as sweet as fructose so most added sugar contains some fructose also. The exception is dextrose, or maltose, which is just another name for glucose. If dextrose is the only sugar in the list of ingredients, then that's good. Eat all you want. Maltose is the sugar used in brewing beer, so beer is good. But we already knew that. Of course fruit contains fructose also, but you can (and should) eat the whole fruit. Fruit juice, however, is not allowed because it concentrates the sugar (nobody will eat five apples in a single sitting but it's easy to toss down a small glass of apple juice containing the juice from those five apples).
So eliminating added sugar wasn't going to be easy, or convenient, but it was doable and necessary. There was also another gotcha: sugar is addictive. For some reason, your brain is wired for a positive pleasure response to sugar, another reason why the food industry loves adding it to whatever food they want you to buy and consume. Withdrawing from sugar is not unlike withdrawing from other addictive substances. We decided to just go cold turkey and get it over with. It took a couple of weeks, but I no longer miss my granola bars.
I love all the stuff I can still eat and drink. Although alcohol is another toxin metabolized by the liver, Mr. Gillespie maintains it is ultimately less harmful than fructose and does suppress your appetite as real food would (fructose doesn't affect your appetite because your body doesn't recognize it as food, so you still feel hungry). Excessive fructose in our diets has been shown to have a clear link to heart disease in many studies, unlike saturated fats and dietary cholesterol, which have never been shown to have any correlation to heart disease. Not one single study. But how is that possible? Everyone knows you should trim the fat from your steak, that you shouldn't even be eating steak, that skim milk is better for you than whole milk, that margarine is better for you than butter, that you should limit the number of high cholesterol eggs you eat. How could we have been so wrong for so long without any supporting evidence?
For that you would have to go back to the seven country study shortly after World War II that showed a strong correlation between the increase in the consumption of meat with a significant rise in diseases of the heart. The study was compiled by Ancel Keys of the University of Minnesota. After the war he had nutritional data from twenty two countries. Had he used all twenty two countries, he would have shown there was no correlation between eating meat and heart disease. So he selected seven countries, including the US, that showed both a rise in meat consumption and a rise in heart disease and concluded that meat and saturated fats were responsible. Had he included only the fifteen countries he eliminated, it would have shown a reverse correlation: the more meat consumed the lower the incidence of heart disease. But he was popular enough from his work during the war (he invented the K ration used by our troops) that he was able to persuade many people. It was enough for Procter and Gamble to promote their (new) Crisco shortening as a healthier alternative to saturated animal fats. Low fat became a new industry, and as fat came out, sugar went in because removing the fat meant removing the flavor and sugar helped replace that. It set up the perfect storm we have yet to recover from.
It's not my intent to convince you, just to say that I'm convinced and I would encourage you to do your own research. There is a free video on YouTube called: The Bitter Truth by Dr. Lustig that inspired much of this. Sweet Poison I've already mentioned, but there's another book by the same author I would also recommend: Big Fat Lies. So have a beer with your bacon cheese burger and don't worry, your body will tell you when to stop.
Captains's Mate (Janie):
When John first started talking about this I had all kinds of rebuttals but then I watched the video "Sugar: the Bitter Truth" and I had a change of heart. If there is one place you need to start it is here. Dr. Lutsig is the head of the Obesity Clinic for children at the University of California at San Diego. Don't take our word for it but instead listen to those who know much more. I got a little lost in the biochemistry and if you are not science literate you may too but please just hang in there because what he has to say is so worth listening to. You can make your decision from there. If it intrigues you then go on and read Sweet Poison by David Gillespie and his newer book Big Fat Lies. The video is what spurred David Gillespie to dig into the research and it may be the same for you.
Just so you know, I definitely went through withdrawal at the beginning of this journey, much like the times I gave up caffeine (during pregnancy), lots of headaches for the first week, then it got better and passing up those sweets has become much easier. In a months time, John has lost 8lbs. and I have have lost 4 lbs. We expect this to be a slow process so it was encouraging to have these results but even if it had been less we would have been ok; this is a change in the way we live and so we expect a slow steady progress. I definitely know I get full faster than previously. I've linked all the info so you can easily find it if it trips your curiosity. As a side note Katie Couric is releasing a documentary on the subject of sugar and much of this same info is in that report. She is a little late to the game but it looks like more people are becoming aware of this issue.
Thanks for reading.