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Is Sugar the Next Tobacco? (psmag.com)
49 points by dcurtis 1575 days ago | hide | past | web | 88 comments | favorite



It's very bad, it's everywhere and addictive in ways you could never realise. Sugar addiction is very related to carbohydrates. When I cut carbs (and increased fat content) I also lost all interest in sweetness and sugar. Not even diet cokes.

When I was my fittest, I had totally cut sugar/carbs out. Even complex carbs (meh, not much benefit of "complex carbs anyway). I was running on ketone or whatever the terminology is. I was swimming everyday for two hours with no problems what so ever. I was basically running on fat. This takes a while, usually 2-3 weeks to get into.

Usually when I switched from carb loaded fuel to fat. It took a day of being tired and sleepy. That's it. But it takes a bit longer to completely exercise on fat than just running normal errands.

Most "low calorie" or "low fat" branded "food" products usually have high sugar content. The low fat version of the cremé fraiche we USED to consume at home had more sugar and/or carbs than the high fat one. We consume the latter these days and gain no additional weight. We're not as easy as thermo dynamics, it's more complicated than kcal in/out. Which is why most people prefer carbs/sugar instead of fat. Since the kcal per fat grams is higher.

EDIT; That being said, I've seen the opposite in my partner who happens to be of Chinese descent and others of similar background. The only explanation I have is that their bodies are more advanced than our primal vessels :-)


I thought this was satire until I got to the end. The human body needs carbs to run. I'm really skeptical that someone can exercise for two hours without any carbohydrates in their system.


No (or low) carbs is a pretty common dieting technique, originally made famous (at least where I am) by the Atkins Diet. My simplistic understanding of it is that when carbs are not available, your body burns fat instead, starting with the fat you consume and then if necessary the fat that your body has previously stored (hence losing weight). A colleague of mine does this for a month once a year to get a bit fitter ahead of his scuba diving holiday, and it works wonders for him.

Regarding long-term use of this diet, it would seem that opinion is divided and I've no idea which side is likely to be right - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-carbohydrate_diet is probably a decent place to start if you want to find out more. But certainly, while it's suggested that long-term use may not be a great idea, there's nothing to say that it would cause problems such as not being able to exercise for two hours a day.


I don't think his concern was wether or not it was doable for general use, just for exercise. It's very doable.


Please do more research. I've done it. That being said, I am sure I got VERY little carbs from cabbage, cucumbers, olives, avocado, and onions (the usual vegetables I got, and it was usually only for dinner)

A usual day would go like this

Breakfast: Eggs + Butter + Bacon and Coffe with either 40% fat cream or coconut oil and butter.

Lunch: Not hungry, if I am, I usually have some avocado.

Dinner: Beef with butter on top, spring onions and slices cabbage and some avocado

You sound either uneducated on the subject or educated with old data. Get some more recent studies under your belt. There are many swedish ultra marathon or tri-athletes who compete on LCHF. Not sure about foreign ones.

Please do more research, if you think I was joking.


I'm reading more about it now. I'm a runner and definitely interested in this. I would say that ultra marathon isn't impressive as everyone thinks and is more about finishing. I would like to see someone win a marathon on a low carb diet.

My concern is performance. But a lot of ultras aren't very competitive. It just depends who shows up.


It's not the competitiveness I am talking about. It's the pure performance in general. I took your scepticism being about how to "burn" on no carb (or extreme low < 50 g day) and I used tri-athlon and ultra maratons as an example.

That being said, I DO AGREE with carbs being rocket fuel. But 99% of the population does not need rocket fuel. 40x25 meter swimming works perfectly fine with no carbs. I did that for four weeks, just eggs and butter twice a day and vitamin shots for missing nutritional values.

5000 IU's of Vitamin D (as we have no sun in Sweden :-) )

Hit me up on Twitter if you want to do some more research, I'd gladly help you out.

There is this talk from a 50 year old ultra marathon runner where he just ran on cream. Unfortunately it's in Swedish.

But it debunks "carb loading" for long running performance, as he was just running on fat.


LCHF has a transition period and it's strongly discouraged to engage in exercise during this period as your digestive system is undergoing drastic changes.

This is an excellent resource on transitioning and coping: http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/low-carb-diet-side-ef...

Heed warning, two weeks is the minimum length for the transition.


We will end forbidding everything. Besides, taking sugar is a personal option wich doesn't kill anyone around you. Tobacco while you smoke you make smoke everyone the room, even on the street. We just need education to measure the excesses.


If it really does lead to obesity and the connected illnesses, treatment will indirectly take money away from all of the other people with the same insurance company.

Then again, you might not take back as much of your retirement fund :)

I guess ?once/if? insurance companies start charging premiums for people with a diet high in sugar/carbs, this will become a more interesting conversation.


f it really does lead to obesity and the connected illnesses, treatment will indirectly take money away from all of the other people with the same insurance company.

Socialists like rb2k claim that every individual action has some reprehensible act on "society".

The new (or maybe old) tactic of the fascist left.


I don't get these health related HN submissions. Salt bad, sugar bad, wheat bad, fitness is a lie... what's next?

I dont't troll. I just don't understand why all of our basic foods are now bad. Guess we made them bad as we put sugar and salt in everything...


I don't understand why a sizeable part HN is in thrall to nutjobs when it comes to food.

I don't mind the people saying "Food is probably complicated and we don't have much information about it"; but the amount of anecdote and pure nonsense that comes out on almost any thread about food is depressing.

> Salt bad, sugar bad, wheat bad, fitness is a lie

Hyperbole and link-bait titles. Too much salt is probably bad; too much sugar (a 2 litre soda is not a single serving and people who drink 64 ounce sodas should expect it to be harmful) is probably bad; doing no exercise[1] is worse than doing some exercise.

[1] Some people do remarkably little exercise - they have sedentary jobs; they don't move around at home; they drive everywhere and park close to where they need, etc.


> why a sizeable part HN is in thrall to nutjobs when it comes to food

A sizable part of HN worships at the alter of the pursuit of extreme efficiency. It seems to lend itself to jumping from one fad to another to squeeze out whatever iota of perceived benefit they wish to measure themselves by.

Another part is simply related to peoples superiority complexes, a complex that is strong in programmers but by no means limited to them. They've become better than you programming, so they see themselves as better than you in everything. People like that just can't stay away from secret knowledge that you don't know. In this case secret knowledge about the way the human body works.


You're probably reasonably healthy, and a reasonable weight. Therefore, these things don't prey on your mind.

However, there are a lot of really smart, capable people who can't lose weight, or they suffer from some ailment they can't understand, so these articles have a lot of power. Everyone wants an explanation!


Like back in the day my grandmother was cooking with lard. Lard from pigs that she kept in her own farm. Later lard also became bad (except bacon which is good...). Nowadays lard is coming back and do you know who uses it? Haute cuisine restaurants.


They also use lots of other fats, and lots of salt, and lots of sugar.

They use it because it's tasty.

"Supersize Me" on Haute Cuisine would have similar catastrophic results, but be considerably more expensive.


Nonsense, the problem with McDonalds and other fast food restaurants is that it barely qualifies as food -- it uses as few real ingredients as possible because real ingredients have a short shelf life.


What non-real ingredients do you think they use? Hamburgers are pretty simple. It's not like Kraft selling guacamole made with food coloring instead of avocados.


I've no idea what mcd.s does, but you can add all sorts of crap to hamburger before it becomes too obvious. Probably a lot of it is not ... so appetizing (the bits you don't want to know you're eating, etc).

My mom used to buy hamburger meat that was bulked up with soy protein, mainly because it was cheaper than pure ground meat. [I absolutely loved the taste of that stuff actually, much more than all-meat burgers! Wish I could find it as an adult...]


You can still cover real food in fat and sugar and salt.

Someone eating food bought only from Michelin starred restaurants is going to be in trouble unless they're careful about what they eat.


Haute cuisine isn't really relevant when discussing "bad" food where bad means not good for you, their job is to create tasty food, not necessarily healthy food.


That's because nut and seed based oils don't taste nearly as good as animal fats.

Margarine on the other hand is an abomination that isn't fit for consumption.


I see it more as a manifestation of the fact that things are never as simple as they appear. As we start to look deeper into how our bodies work we're finding that the situation with regards to sugar/salt/fat/gluten/<anything else> is more complex than we realised. These things aren't inherently _bad_, but if we abuse them then we end up with side effects that can be disastrous. The key, as ever, is understanding the effects and treating everything we eat with appropriate respect.


Because the group that says sugar and wheat is bad is different to the group that says that bacon is bad.

In fact, the group that says that sugar and wheat is bad says that bacon is very good for you.


It's not that sugars (or other nutrients) are bad per se, just the balance in one's diet, i.e. excessive amounts leading to health problems.


There's an easy fix for that: a shift from sugar to artificial sweeteners. Same as there's an easy fix for cigarettes: move to electronic cigarettes.

But i guess we're more afraid of the unknown chemicals(although limited tests have shown they are much safer) than the original poisons, And we're stuck on trying to teach ideals than implement practicalities.

Such a shame.


There are other reasons for not switching as well. As an overweight smoker... I drink normal soft drinks rather than diet (sweetener) drinks partly because of vague things in the back of my head about them being carcinogens, but largely because I'm not a fan of their taste.

Regarding smoking - well I've cut down lately, I was smoking 20-30 a day and in November/December, with the exception of two trips abroad where I smoked fully, I cut down to about 20 cigarettes over the two months, due to a challenge from a friend's kid - I simply don't want to move to electronic cigarettes. I love smoking, if it wasn't unhealthy I'd do it forever. I don't love smoking an electronic cigarette, I don't even like it. I'd genuinely prefer to spend a day without nicotine than a day with electronic cigarettes, or nicotine gum/patches.


I switched to sweeteners due to too many trips to the dentist and loving sweet things. I started by changing my coffee from sugar. There are many types of sweetener to choose from , so i've experimented until i found something i liked.

But you do have to have a strong enough reason to switch, not something abstract that will happen in 20-40 years.



At least according to the wikipedia , there's not much scientific basis for the controversy. And there are many other artificial sweeteners.

But again, compare this to the possible harms of sugar and especially fructose. It might look quite good.


This works fine for e.g. sodas, but sadly all foods heavy in carbohydrates (pizza, pasta, bread, ...) will be broken down into sugars :(

That being said, there are tons of paleo/keto blogs out there offering alternatives (e.g. coliflower pizza http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/08/the-astonishing-...). The sad part is that things like lettuce wrapped burgers are still hard to find when not cooking at home.

Also: I'd love to see more stevia-sweetened things rather than aspartame sweetened ones


From the little i know(mostly from lustig's youtube video ,and from some googling) sugar is composed of glucose and fructose ,and fructose is the main culprit in metabolic syndrome(which causes/increases diabetes, heart disease, hypertension) and also increases cancer risk and creates liver inflammation and fatty liver disease. Glucose generally is much more harmless than fructose.

And carbohydrates are broken to glucose.


You seem to have confused sugar with sucrose, also known as table sugar. First off, a carbohydrate, also known as a saccharide, is a molecule composed of one or more monosaccharides. Sugar includes both monosaccharides (e.g glucose, fructose, galactose) and disaccharides (e.g sucrose, lactose, maltose). Sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose, lactose is composed of glucose and galactose, and maltose is composed of two glucose molecules.

Starch, composed of glucose, is the only polysaccharide digestible to humans.


Just to mention a test I did, sweeteners decreases your ketone levels. Your body is expecting sugar. That's why most people who drink (diet) cokes usually want chips and other carb food as well.


fear of never before consumed substances which have no history of safe use seems like the wisest thing to me. Limited tests can miss a lot, right?


"You want to get As and As? Eat breakfast."

"I don’t have time to eat breakfast," the [13 year old] girl said.

"She'd rather put on makeup than eat breakfast," the girl's mother interrupted.

I'm a Lustig fan, but the people who deserve an overwhelming about of the blame here are the parents.


Sugar is bad. I'm trying hard to quit using it, but it's EVERYWHERE! I bought some smoked salmon the other day and the damn thing had sugar put in it! Why?! The same goes for a lot of supermarket sold crap. Sugar, sugar, sugar.


The first thing I noticed about American food is that all their bread has sugar in it. I've absolutely no idea how anyone can stand eating the stuff.


This is so true. I spent tons of time in US supermarkets searching for bread that is not sweet. The regular sweet bread is only good for toasts with honey, or sandwiches with Nutella or something similar, I couldn't stand eating it with ham or cheese.


It's been a while since I was making bread regularly, but I don't think I've ever seen a bread recipe that didn't include sugar. I was under the impression that yeast must eat _something_ in order to make the dough rise.

edit: It looks like my mother has found some, but neither one of us really understands how rising works in these cases.


Technically, the only ingredients required to make bread are flour, yeast, salt and water.

Active dry yeast will proof just fine without sugar, just a little more slowly. But sugar does increase the yeast's activity. This can be useful when you are trying to revive common active dry yeast from its freeze-dried stupor.


Amazing ... I used to make bread weekly (and my flatmate was a downright bread maniac), and none of the recipes I ever saw included sugar.

Bread is really simple -- the only things you need are flour, yeast (or sourdough starter), and water; optionally maybe salt or eggs (but these are definitely not necessary). Everything else is decoration.

[You don't even need a bowl or utensils! Just make a simple bowl shape on the counter with flour and mix in the liquid stuff from the center. Of course you do need an oven of some sort (but the bread can be cooked on a simple metal plate)... :]


I make my own pizza dough and other breads that rises quite happily with no sugar in the mix. There's really no need for sugar, though I don't know enough about yeast to tell you how it works.


AFAIK, the yeasties will eat lots of stuff, including flour, etc.

[I vaguely recall adding not sugar, but corn starch to warm water to get the yeast going. It's been a long time though ...]


My old German teacher said the same thing about American food. Everything has sugar in it.


I tend towards hypoglycemia and have diabetes in my family, so I've always been weary of sugar. I try to avoid it during a work day and in the evenings, so I don't 100% avoid it, and I manage fairly well but it means getting to know what products contain sugar and what doesn't.



Add wheat to that list, perhaps even gluten too. The body just runs better without gluten.


This got some downotes. If you're skeptical, have you bet TRIED to quit wheat?

It's incredibly hard. I stopped, but it took months of cravings. Very easy to stop eating almost anything else, usually.


Don't know about wheat, but are you implying that something's bad simply because it's hard to quit?


If you're interested to learn more relating to wheat, there's a book that recently has gained a lot of popularity called Wheat Belly. It goes into the biology of it all.


I have tried quitting wheat, did so for 2 months. Did not see any benefit and it was incredibly hard. Even though I pack my lunches, it's still almost impossible to avoid it as it is in almost everything.


Tried quitting wheat for 2 months, meaning you didn't eat any wheat (or anything regularly 'hidden' in it) for 2 months? It'll take 2-3 weeks minimum, maybe longer depending on how reliant you are on it, without having any put into your system. It's okay to "re-lapse" too. Best way to get over it is days that you crave something, tell yourself that Friday (or pick a day) will be your pigout day. And then plan to not have it again.


Very good point. Having any at all can slow down the benefits. The major effect I noticed is that I NEVER feel groggy after a meal. Used to happen all the time.


Yup, I've been wheat-free for 7 years. It caused me life-long problems that made my body get in worse and worse shape, including leading to developing hyperacusis (hypersensitivity to sound); It was an audiologist I found, also a naturopath, who told me to stop eating it.

And yes - it wasn't easy. ~20%+ of the population is actually addicted to wheat - so you could literally be going through withdrawl. I believe the book Wheat Belly goes into the biology of this.


Robert Lustig, while having great science to back up his claims, is very alarmist and has been derided for some of his outright demonization of fructose. Which, when you think about it, is opposite to many demagogues out there; they'll talk up a big storm with very little to back it up. Here, Lustig has plenty to back up what he's saying, but just does it in the wrong way unfortunately. I also thoroughly disagree with his legislation ideas. Legislating society's habits rarely ever works. This is an incredibly complex societal problem that won't be solved by removing sugar from the Generally Recongnized as Safe list.


I think for some things to gain attention being alarmist is needed, and then people will hopefully come to their own conclusions after researching it. Sugar is pretty much in everything we eat. It covers over a lot of other issues, mainly that we don't eat as much fresh food as we should - otherwise we wouldn't need sugar to make it taste good. This is profitable for business, not profitable for a person's health.


And for an alternate viewpoint - https://secure.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/sugar-health...

"So while fructose as an ingredient excessively engineered into processed foods is, indeed, a problem- I find it far-fetched at best to suggest the native composition of, say, berries is "evil." Lustig seems to be tossing out the the strawberries with the soda. You find me the person who can blame obesity or diabetes on eating strawberries, and I will give up my day job and become a hula dancer."


That article does not really disagree with Lustig's central thesis. That pull quote in particular is actually in accordance with what Lustig is advocating. The lecture focuses on the recent trend in the food industry of separating the fructose from the fiber in ways not found in nature.


I started the slow carb diet last year for new years resolution. At the time I was addicted to peanut M&M's. Took probably 3-4 months to completely rid myself of the temptations to eat a large bag of them. Anyways, in addition to that time period I can remember the first week of the diet feeling the need for a piece of bread. I was like feigning for it. But I resisted. Definitely surgars have withdrawal symptoms, but with so many different foods and drinks out there I do think its an easier addiction to cure than any drug like alcohol or tobacco or even heroine for that matter.


Why was this article suddenly de-ranked? It was on the front page, and literally 10 seconds later it is on page 3. Is there some kind of rule that this article violated? Who makes this decision? Why is there not any transparency on if an article is de-ranked and why?


There's an argument, though I don't want to put words into PG's mouth regarding his reasoning, that lack of transparency is a form of protection against voting manipulation, as it's harder to trick a system if you don't understand the system - security through obscurity really.

As it dropped only to page 3, not further, I would hazard a guess that it's more to do with timing, for example maybe a post that's <60 minutes old requires less votes to get a high position than a post that's 60+ minutes old, and it's a hard line rather than gradual? Pure speculation on my part, but if you're interested the answer may (or may not) lie within https://github.com/nex3/arc/blob/master/lib/news.arc


While it's a good idea to get people off sweet stuff beyond the level of healthy fruit intake, I think it would also help if people stopped demonizing sweeteners like aspartame.


How about we just kick the sweet tooth entirely instead of substituting it?


especially after he proposed in the journal Nature that sugar should be regulated like alcohol and that people who buy soda should be carded.

Another sick leftist that wants to regulate every human activity.


Let's be honest, from extremists to moderates on both sides, not just the left, everyone wants human activities regulated, we just disagree on which ones. Unless you're implying that non-leftists would remove minimum age of alcohol, sex, etc...?

Anyway, let's steer clear of politics. No need for a left vs. right argument, just wanted to point out that your issue with lefties is what they want to regulate, not that they want to regulate stuff.


Any particular reason you felt it necessary to make three vacuous top-level replies? Bundling everything you had to say into one post would have been some improvement, at least.


He got replies to each response which is vaguely disappointing.

I'm not sure how the HN "anti down vote rampage" works - if I downvote all three posts do all my downvotes count? Or is there something that detects I'm downvoting 'too many' posts by a single user and silently drops some of my downvotes?


At a guess it is to give us three chances to upvote him. There is a possible downside to that strategy.


I grew up on a no soda no candy diet enforced by my parents. Carob Easter Bunnies were a bit harsh, but otherwise I am better of for it. I was once forced to return some HoHos I had bought myself. While carding seems a bit extreme it is not far off and does not infringe on the civil liberties of a child. There are lots of rights children don't have because of the responsibility they require. I think sugar falls within the realm of a child being unable to make the right decision of it's proper consumption amount.


The suits against Big Food have largely been stalled at the failure stage.

Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and now Big Food. These socialists are sick in the head.


Really? You think the tobacco industry was doing nothing wrong and the evil socialist came around and attacked them for some socialist agenda?


Woosh right over your head. That certain political agendas prefix industries with "Big" doesn't make you think. Yeah, whatever


Easier to blame a non-existent entity than one's own poor habits!


The "poor fat people are just weak-willed" argument is SO despicable. Americans did not suddenly get poor habits in 1976 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States The obesity problem was caused by a change in the environment (and, yes, the increasing power of the food industry is one of those causes) and only a change in the environment will fix it.


As a fat person I, to an extent, disagree with you.

Yes you're right about environmental changes, and that new changes could solve, or help solve, the problem. That doesn't mean that my fatness isn't related to me being weak-willed. I absolutely have the ability to lose weight and get fit, but I'm too lazy to do this. I know people who love food just as much as me, but they chose either not to eat everything that they want to, or to do extra exercise to make up for it, or both.

Maybe there are people out there for whom it isn't about weak will. I know genetics play at least some part, and obviously environment as well (if you grow up with parents who only feed you fast food for example). But I'm confident that for a lot of people, weight issues are about being weak-willed.


Surely you must understand that the current obesity epidemic CAN NOT be caused by people suddenly becoming more weak willed?

If you had been born in Japan you would almost certainly be thin now. Why? The answer is not that Japanese people have more will power.


I'm not saying that we have become more weak willed - i.e. that this is the reason people are fatter than 100 years ago - just that weak will does play a very big part.

Maybe if I was born a century ago I would be skinny and fit, but that doesn't change the fact that my current weight is caused by my own lack of will as well. Will power is the reason on an individual level, but not the reason behind the cultural trend.


Rereading my comment, I don't like my tone. Sorry about that.

I think we basically agree.


Meh, you were maybe a little strong but didn't cause any offense.

On a side note, is it not also possible for different cultures to have different levels of self-control? Within the areas of society that I know there definitely seems to be correlation between how kids are brought up and how much self-control they have, so surely on a greater scale it would indeed be possible for entire countries to have more or less than other countries? (Not talking weight related now, just thinking out-loud.)


I always like to think of self control the same way as free will. A useful abstraction, but not something that really exists. It is obviously beneficial for a person to believe that he is in control of his choices, of his behavior, because that increases the chance that he will take action to improve his lot. But that it is useful does not mean that it exists.

Has a child of christian parents who have never heard anything but religious music, books, stories, people had the opportunity to make a free choice? I don't think so. Has an American child who has seen thousands and thousands of ads for garbage food taken an independent choice to eat that? I don't think so.

We humans have precious limited mental resources and can’t afford to spend the time considering every decision rationally; therefore, we automatically subconsciously make decisions based on salient features of the current stimulus. In normal words, we make shortcuts based on limited information.

Since people are so very irrational (See Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman) the idea that we are rational can be used as an excuse by those (advertisers, politicians) who want to manipulate us. So, it is in fact a dangerous idea.

I sometimes entertain the notion that it would be better to live in a totalitarian dictatorship where some benevolent dictator manages the information people are exposed to and thus makes people make better choices of their own free will. (I'm aware that such a society has some dystopian aspects as well, of course)


It's a difficult concept to really define or understand. I'm just about to pop down to the shop to buy a pack of cigarettes, but equally I could make a decision right not to never smoke again. Environment no-doubt played a role in my becoming a smoker in the first place, but am I not exercising free will by choosing to buy them today? And if not, how can you hold any person responsible for any action?


If free will does not exist, then it is ultimately not anybody's fault if they do something. That includes murder and buying cigarettes. But at the same time it is easy to see that as a society it is advantageous for us to punish criminals because that punishment is part of the environment that influences behavior for criminals and non-criminals in a positive direction.

So - nobody is responsible for any action, but it is useful to pretend they are.

Another reason why the concept of free will is so ingrained in western culture is the role it plays in religion - being saved/forever damned makes no sense without it. But like much of religion it is just an untruth that has (at least historically) proved useful for people. Since religion is so important to many people, they will also hold on to the idea of free will because understanding reality in a more accurate way wil undermine their religion.


At what point do we start talking about sanctions against leftist-statists like this guy and others who want to essentially enslave us.

At what point is enough is enough, and these people are held to account for infringing on civil liberties.


So, someone uses his civil liberty to state his opinion and you want to "held him to account" for "infringing on civil liberties" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony


Is it melodramatic in here, or is it just you?


What do you mean by leftist?




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