Sugar Documentary

      55 Comments on Sugar Documentary

A reader sent me a link to this documentary produced by the CBC in Canada.  It’s 45 minutes long, but well worth it.

I only have a few complaints:

1. Despite all the recent research, a couple of the doctors interviewed just can’t help themselves:  they still have to lump fat and sugar together, as if they’re equally to blame for bad health.  They should know better by now.

2. The narrator mentions fruits, vegetables and grains as part of a healthy diet.  Head. Bang. On. Desk.  There’s nothing health-promoting about grains.

3. Since there’s a problem, then by gosh, we need a government solution, at least according to the producers.  No, we don’t.  We just need to educate people about what sugar does to their health.  If they still want to eat the stuff, that’s their business.  All those fat-free foods that hit the market during the anti-fat hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s were the result of consumer demand, not government regulations.

Let me know what you think.

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55 thoughts on “Sugar Documentary

  1. Jean

    The message that fat is not bad is way too hard for the mainstream media to swallow. However, the point that sugar is bad was made quite convincingly, and may lead people to at least take that one step, which will help. We can only hope that people figure it out.

    There’s always a family who needs help in these documentaries, isn’t there?

    Reply
  2. Aaron

    I watched the first 17 minutes. The mass media can’t even wrap it’s head around the fact that sugar is bad. Everyone thinks that “added sugar” and “natural sugar” are 2 different concepts. They’re not. If the energy came from a carbohydrate, it’s unhealthy. I don’t care what it is. Anything related to carbohydrate is unhealthy if not kept in check (i.e. at least under 100 grams per day).

    If by dramatic element you mean reality television, then yes. As far as I’m concerned, it’s inaccurate fluff. Including all sugars (not just added), I bet that family’s sugar intake is far higher than what they’re saying anyway.

    Knowledge of how unhealthy carbohydrate can be goes back decades, never mind the 1990’s. The research has already been done, seriously. All the evidence points to insulin being the prime culprit in the modern health crisis. In others words, all carbohydrates. Energy density is not the problem, it’s carbohydrate density that’s the problem.

    However, the profit of Capitalism is intimately interlinked with carbohydrate, as well as the modern health crisis. A population of [sugar] drug addicts is exponentially more profitable than a healthy population. The food & healthcare industries are 2 prime examples.

    This is why Capitalism = profits over people. This is why the system will always attempt to drag working class families into sugar addiction, no matter the circumstances. Regulations will not fix the root of the problem.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I disagree that capitalism is the root of the problem. We had capitalism long before we had a spike in diabetes and obesity. What we didn’t have was a government telling people to avoid fat and base their diets on carbohydrates. We also didn’t have a government telling farmers to grow massive amounts of corn and then subsidizing the stuff. That’s a big part of why high-fructose corn syrup is in everything: it’s dirt cheap, thanks to your tax dollars.

      Reply
    2. Bret

      No research proves that exceeding 100 grams of carb per day is unhealthy. That’s ultra-low-carb dogma, not sound science. If those >100 grams are comprised of wheat and sucrose and other frankenfood crap, that’s one thing. Tomatoes, bell peppers, bananas, potatoes, apples, beans, and other natural foods with all their fibers intact — whole different story (pun intended).

      As for politics and economics, you’re right about one thing: Regulation will not fix anything. Big corporations LOVE regulation, because it diminishes their competition. Can an already rich Monsanto afford to jump through all the hoops required to be “legal”? You bet it can. Can a poor upstart entrepreneur? No chance. Most people think capitalism means big corporations, but they could not be more wrong. Big corporations survive largely because of the advantages they get from government. Think Bank of America about six years ago, when they and others were begging for tax payer bailouts, and got them. That’s crony capitalism…not capitalism.

      Capitalism involves unfettered competition. You want corporations to compete with one another. You want an absolute minimum of regulation, so that smaller competitors and upstarts can innovate and upset the established businesses, who get spoiled by their success and become inefficient and raise prices. This will ultimately improve the experience and lower prices for the consumer. That’s exactly what Uber and Lyft are doing in the taxi business…but all the established taxi monopolies are trying to bully them into extinction, citing all this stupid regulation. That is not capitalism. Real capitalism is a win for the consumer every time. And ironically, most consumers seem to clamor for the same government interference that made things crappy in the first place.

      Reply
  3. Leanne

    Aside from the beefs you mentioned, Tom, I was not happy with the way they focused strictly on the damage caused by fructose when glucose is equally damaging with the way it “caramelizes” (glycates) blood cells, retinal cells, kidney cells, et al. There’s also the damage caused directly by excess insulin, but realistically there’s only so much you can cram into a single program. On the positive side, though, I really liked the research done with young healthy students that showed negative effects within 2 weeks – it makes it clear to any objective person with working brain cells that the stuff is bad for everyone not just diabetics.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I agree that too much glucose is a problem as well, but the upper limit for glucose is much higher than the upper limit for fructose. If we can convince people to stay away from excess fructose, it’s a huge first step.

      Reply
      1. Walter Bushell

        Besides no one gets excited about glucose or complex carbs, albeit there are bread and pasta addicts, but in America bread is usually full of sugar and probably the pasta sauces. Only a few fanatics eat whole grain anything, but they may think they are. Real 100% whole grain wheat without sugar is kinda hard to swallow even if the flour is fresh ground and eaten in a day or two.

        Reply
  4. PhilT

    The fat-free foods may not have been the result of regulations but surely were a product of dietary guidance and publicity of “science” saying fat was evil. I would have said the companies responded to Govt pressure and prevailing wisdom, or at best the consumers responded to that if I buy into the view that it was consumer demand.

    Consumer demand doesn’t seem to work when it comes to getting low carb foods on the shelves quite so well.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Lots of low-carb products hit the shelves awhile back. Many of them are now gone because so many low-carbers shifted their focus to real foods, not low-carb packaged products. I see that as consumer demand working quite well.

      Reply
  5. Ulfric Douglas

    Our telly docs are still being wilfully devious as the tide turns. They are now against “added sugar” but still against “saturated fats”. The masses still have nothing good to eat if they obey all the messages.

    Reply
  6. Kristin

    For a couple of years prior to my own epiphany about the value of fat I felt backed into a corner. Fat is bad. Starch and sugar is bad. What am I going to live on? Pure protein? That seems extreme. I think it was living with that unresolved dilemma that got me researching more.

    So I’m with Jean. If we can get across the idea that sugar is a bad idea that is a good first step. The numbers of people who are eating saturated fat again and finding themselves healthier for it are growing. I think there will be a tipping point where the “experts” are going to be overwhelmed. And frankly I’m okay with it not happening too fast because societal changes that move too quickly wind up relegated to the dustbin of fad whether or not it was a good idea.

    Reply
  7. Nick S

    I had the same reaction as point #3 to Fed Up – I was like, “Yeah, this is great! I’m so glad this is getting such thorough coverage!” and then their conclusion was to summon the government-bot to fix everything.

    Surely they noticed that the government is as big a part of the problem as anyone! Why would anyone look at the history of the fat hysteria fiasco and conclude that the government is the right actor to fix the problem?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’m forever mystified by exactly that phenomenon: people who are fully aware of badly the government screwed up our food and nutrition policies nonetheless have faith that the government can fix the problems it helped create.

      Reply
      1. Jim Butler

        add taxes, post office, military, climate research, health care, and the list goes on and on.
        I find it such an incredible dichotomy that “faith” in government is at an all time low, somewhere around 10%, yet there are people that continue to push “government” as a solution.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          That just proves what I’ve said many times: people who vote for the big-government party are driven by emotions, not logic. There’s nothing logical about big-government liberalism.

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          1. Walter Bushell

            Both the mainstream parties are big government parties at least when in power.

            I expect the most libertarian of politician will turn big government if elected.

            Reply
  8. robert

    Stop subsidizing the sugar(crops) and lower taxes accordingly or use the money for something truly useful (social services, education, infrastructure, healthcare…). The skewed marked will normalize, not without growing pains, but HFCS, breakfast cereals etc. will become less attractive for the manufacturers (much less mark-up, currently several 100s of %) and for the consumers as well, too expensive to gobble them down indiscriminately.

    Assuming that people are not completely stupid all the time, some of the health-halo of these products will go away as well. As time goes by, industry will have to shift their focus or perish.

    Now, the only problem is the ‘extended’ government…

    Reply
  9. Cheesy

    I haven’t seen the program but I think that one misleading aspect in nutrition is to partition foods into their different macro-nutrients. The _real_ problem by far in nutrition is the idea that we can just eat anything so long as we respect some (rather arbitrary) macro-nutrient ratio. No. One has to eat real whole foods when truly hungry. No processed crap. If you have not made it yourself, you take the risk that you are not in control of what ingredients there are in the food you are eating, unless you buy single ingredient natural whole foods, and this regardless of their macronutrients.

    Throw in an occasional fast like 1 to 2 days without eating every few weeks, just to detox and not think about foods, move your butt some every day with occasional high intensity bursts, sleep well and have fun in good company, and enjoy nature as much as you can. That’s all there is to it.

    Reply
    1. Troy Wynn

      I eat 70% fat;25% protein;5% carbs on most days. Some days 60% fat; 25% protein and 15% carbs.

      It’s not hard to do if you eat real food. Higher carbs are from resistant starch prepared potatoes a few times per week. If you carry a lot of body fat, then it may be wise to cut back on the fat and let your body burn it’s own. So you’d be good with 50% fat; 45% protein; 5% carbs.

      Ratios allow you to make well formulated meals that work to achieve your body comp goals as well as maintain good biomarkers. My 2 cents.

      Troy

      Reply
  10. Stephen

    The programme implies that food manufacturers “hide” sugar in products like Lucky Charms. Who didn’t know that?! Even 8 year old kids know they’re not just “magically delicious”. Otherwise, there was too much scary music in the show for me to evaluate it’s claims rationally.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The scary music bugged me too. They put that nonsense in negative political ads all the time, and it drives me up the wall.

      Reply
    2. Boundless

      > The programme implies that food manufacturers “hide”
      > sugar in products like Lucky Charms. Who didn’t know that?

      The industry clearly thinks a lot of somebodies can be fooled by gaming the Nutrition Facts panels, and hiding the relative prominence of ingredients.

      I haven’t seen the show, and probably won’t, but a tactic I call “ingredient dithering” is often used, indeed mainly used, to attempt to hide the fact that sugar is the #1 or #2 ingredient in many products.

      Anyone who glances first at the Total Sugars and/or net carbs (Total Carbs minus Fiber Carbs), is of course not fooled at all, but apparently many people still focus on the Ingredients list, which is ordered by prominence. Perhaps these consumers have no clue what, say, 20 grams of sugar actually implies, so they ignore that data and focus on the I-list.

      I’ve seen products whose I-list shows 6 or more different kinds of simple sugars, and/or has sub-ingredients which list their sugars separately. Doing this makes it possible for a product that is over 50% sugars to not list a sugar until ingredient #2, or with some effort, #3. Anyone who thinks they’re being wise by skipping products whose I-list starts with “sugar”, but are instead buying products where the first sugar is #2 or #3, are usually fooling themselves (and falling for the ruse).

      When Twinkies went off the market briefly a couple of years ago, I took a look at the NF panel on-line just for amusement. Yep, it dithered sugars, and it appears that the goal of the game was to allow Hostess Brands to list wheat flour as the first ingredient. Apparently their target customer is concerned about sugar (but can be easily fooled), yet thinks wheat flour is OK. Both parties to that transaction have a LOT to learn.

      Ingredient dithering is not new. The practice predates the mandatory NF panel in the U.S. My opinion is that this ruse is intentional, and probably works with our largely nutritionally misinformed public.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        They actually demonstrated the dithering in the documentary. Several different kinds of sugars listed, only one named “sugar.”

        Reply
    3. Onlooker

      Yeah, the overdramatic music and other techniques are a staple of these documentaries (but not Tom’s!) and it really turns me off, to say the least. Just give us the facts; it doesn’t have to be hyped to not be boring.

      Reply
  11. Craig

    One popular program has gotten the fat isn’t bad for you and you should avoid grains message. Have you seen the recent “Gluten Free Ebola” episode of South Park? It had me rolling on the floor laughing and the final message was surprisingly right on target. Obviously watch it when the kids aren’t around. It has the level of crude humor one expects from South Park.

    Reply
      1. Cindy M

        Oh, you really should. It was a great episode! (Although I still can’t imagine walking around eating butter on a stick…. but maybe that’s just me).

        Reply
  12. Pierson

    Given Denise Minger’s assertion that isolated fat and refined carbohydrates can be unhealthy, perhaps there’s some merit to the assertion that fats and sugars (particularly when isolated and/or chemically refined) are unhealthy? Also, compared to standard junk, are properly prepared organic grains really on the same level, let alone worse? Not for nothing, they’re at least a minimally-prepared whole food which have been eaten for much, much longer

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If I had a choice between properly prepared organic grains or big spoonful of butter or coconut oil, I’m going with the fat — especially after reading Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis’ latest book.

      Minger made the point in her book that refined carbs and fats together appear to be the worst combination. That I’d agree with, so the takeaway for me is to skip the refined carbohydrates.

      Reply
    2. Onlooker

      The problem is that the finer point you make is lost on the average person. They just hear the old, misguided trope that “fat is bad; especially saturated and most especially that evil beef”, or something like that 🙂

      Reply
  13. Tomáš Bleša

    “We just need to educate people about what sugar does to their health. If they still want to eat the stuff, that’s their business.”

    I understand why you say this, but it would be right only if sugar wasn’t addictive (like coccaine, as many tried to demonstrate). I know from my own experience that it is often very difficult to say no to sugar in this environment. And I’m educated about sugar. I think there is a lot of people who are informed but still struggle to avoid sugar.

    Same logic: “We don’t need to regulate drug cartels. We just need to educate people about what heroin does to their health.”
    And one more metaphore (sorry for this one): Be in our current environment and then choose not to eat sugar is the same like watch porn in the room full of beautifull women and choose not to have sex.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Bringing up the drug cartels isn’t a good argument. All the violence and corruption surrounding the drug business is the direct result of those drugs being illegal. It’s exactly what we saw when alcohol was outlawed. The violence of the drug cartels is an argument for ending the drug war and legalizing the stuff as far as I’m concerned.

      I also don’t buy the sugar-as-cocaine argument. Yes, they may tickle the same part of the brain, but people don’t ruin their marriages, careers and finances to indulge their taste for sugar.

      Reply
      1. Walter Bushell

        The would if sugar were illegal with the draconian penalties we now have for some drugs. Remember in Germany people kept drinking coffee despite the death penalty.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          There was a death penalty for drinking coffee? I guess if you drank expresso, it was death by slow torture.

          Reply

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