Category Archives: Diabetes

Why I Broke-Up With Stevia

***DISCLAIMER – I am sharing my story in the hopes of helping anyone else who may be in the same situation.  We are all bio individuals and our bodies react differently to different foods.  In NO WAY am I saying you need to avoid stevia because we are all responsible for ourselves and should never blindly follow anyone’s advice.  Do your research and make the best decision for you.***

On Monday, November 6th, I took a leap by making an announcement on my Instagram account (great for accountability) that I decided to cut stevia out for a week, which I knew wouldn’t be easy.  It was meant to be an experiment of sorts to see if I felt any different without it.  When it came to stevia I noticed a few things, the first of which was that as time went by I needed to use more and more stevia to satisfy my sweet craving and then about 6 months ago I noticed that I would feel a big blood sugar drop about 30 minutes to an hour after my morning smoothie which consisted of:

  • 2c spinach
  • 1 1/2c diced zucchini
  • 1 scoop Paleo grassfed beef protein powder
  • 2Tbs Valrhona cacoa powder
  • 1/2tsp vanilla bean powder
  • 1 overflowing scoop Pure Encapsulations L-Glutamine Powder
  • 3 dropperfuls of Sweetleaf liquid stevia (yes, that’s a lot)

My blood sugar would drop, I would feel light-headed, and ravenous hunger would set in.  I would have some nuts to try and quell the hunger (logically knowing that I had already consumed enough food), and would keep myself busy in order to keep my mind off the hunger.

For lunch I would make a giant salad and that would keep me full for quite a while.  When I made my salad dressing I would add about 1/4 dropperful of liquid stevia to cut the bite out of the apple cider vinegar.  My salads have always been epically big, so all of the fiber from the veggies would do a good job of keeping my belly full.

Dinnertime would roll around and I would eat a nutritious, well-balanced meal with my family which would satisfy me and then I would follow the meal with some sort of stevia-sweetened treat such as Plain Coyo yogurt (with some stevia, nuts, and wild blueberries) or a tea latte with stevia and coconut milk.  Sure enough 30-60 minutes later I would be ravenous.  Thinking back on my day I would know I had eaten enough, yet those hormonal urges were hard to suppress.  Sometimes I could get through it by making myself busy and other times I couldn’t help it and would go grab a snack.

Coincidentally for the past 3-6 months my hormones have been all over the place.  I can just “tell” when that is the case because I know my body really well.  Having experienced these sorts of issues for 20+ years I know what I feel like when everything is running along smoothly and I know when something is off.  I have been working with my Integrative PA ,Karen Callagy (she’s awesome), to try and figure out what is wrong.  The symptoms I went to her with were:

  • Intense hunger
  • Hypoglycemic symptoms
  • Light-headed / dizzy
  • Exhaustion
  • Sugar cravings – especially strong at night
  • Sleep disturbances
    • light sleep…get up in the middle of the night to use restroom 1-2x
  • High fasting glucose
    • between 95-105 while eating a ketogenic diet
  • Numbness in arms and fingers – occasional
  • Weight gain while eating same
    • I track macros, so I know my intake hadn’t increased
      • I even cut macros significantly to try and lose the weight and it just wouldn’t budge (12 weeks of dieting and lost 2 pounds)
  • Body composition changes
    • higher fat percentage
    • cellulite increase (even around knees)
  • Puffiness / water retention
    • I felt like my body was wearing an extra layer everywhere
    • i.e. the skin around my legs hurt when I would kneel down…they felt like overinflated balloons
    • puffy face
  • Super painful breasts during premenstral time
    • I actually thought I could be pregnant they hurt so bad the last two months (NOTE – I had a tubal ligation 14 years ago)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pulse would randomly race
  • Hard time getting into deep ketosis
    • blood sugar all over the place

Karen ran a slew of blood tests and nothing came back of note, which was good news and bad because we hadn’t found a reason/solution.  We decided to run another stool test (it’s been a while) as well as a full Dutch hormone panel (I will get both results at the beginning of December).

In the meantime my husband and I went to visit some friends out of town and I didn’t bring much with me in the way of food since we would be in Austin and I knew I would have access to a lot of great options.  That also meant that I did not use stevia while I was gone.  While we stayed up WAY too late most nights talking and catching-up, etc., overall I felt a ton more balanced and my appetite was totally normal (no ravenous episodes).  A little birdie in the back of my head started chirping that maybe I should trial life without stevia.

We came home and the next day I was right back into stevia mode, starting with a smoothie….and the symptoms began returning.  I went about my normal stevia-filled life for another week and then decided the following Monday I would do an experiment and forgo stevia for one week.  Normally I would ask myself to try something for a month, but when you have an addiction of sorts to sweets, the idea of 7 days seemed more manageable for me to tackle.

The first few days were hard, but within two days something interesting started to happen; I was losing weight eating the same exact macros.  In addition, I wasn’t experiencing the light-headed episodes, and wasn’t having episodes of intense hunger.  Hmmmmm.  By day 5 I checked my fasting glucose and it was 70!!!  It went from 95-105 to 70 in 5 days.  By the end of the week I had slept through 2 nights without waking.  Now that’s thought provoking.

These changes led me to doing some more research and got me thinking about the digestive process which we have been studying in depth in my NTP program.  I want to give you a quick run-down on carbohydrate metabolism to help you understand some possible reasons why I was experiencing some of those symptoms as a result of stevia consumption.  If you are not into science, feel free to skip forward, however I find that understanding the “whys” can sometimes help us push forward with behavioral changes (If that is what you decide to do):

When we consume something sweet, as soon as the sweet taste touches our tongue our body begins responding hormonally and releases insulin.  Normally, when we taste sweet that means that we will be ingesting carbs that will eventually turn into glucose.  Once the glucose enters our bloodstream insulin is there to shuttle it into our cells.

What do you think happens when our tongue tastes sweet, releases insulin, and then no glucose appears due to the ingestion of zero-calorie sweeteners?  We are in a situation where our body has been flooded with insulin, but insulin can’t do it’s job because there is no glucose there to shuttle into our cells.  When this happens our body has two choices; one, induce hunger (thus the increase in appetite) to encourage the consumption of calories resulting in glucose in the bloodstream or, if we are in a fasted state, the body realizes that it needs to correct this insulin imbalance, so the adrenal glands fire (stress in the body) and tells the body to form glucose by converting lean muscle tissue into glucose.  LIGHTBULB…perhaps this is why I have been experiencing body composition changes and muscle wasting despite continuing my healthy diet and exercise routine.  According to an article Naturopath Dr. Bruce Fife wrote on the subject,

Sugar stimulates metabolism immediately after eating, non-caloric sweeteners do not. So after eating a meal containing non-caloric sweeteners, more of the calories are converted into fat and packed away in storage.

Apparently our body cannot produce glycogen and ketones at the same time.  When you consume a zero calorie sweetener and the cascade of events follows necessitating the conversion of muscle to glucose, you cannot make ketones.  LIGHTBULB…perhaps this is why my ketones were all over the place.

While doing my research I happened upon a podcast (which I have really been enjoying) called the Ketovangelist and on episode 114 Dr. Bruce Fife makes the case against stevia.  Dr. Fife found that his patients who were using stevia had a very difficult time losing weight and also struggled to get into ketosis despite following the ketogenic diet parameters he gave them.  He began to research stevia heavily and ultimately wrote the book, “The Stevia Deception,” (which I have on order).  The episode really made me think about the possible links between zero calorie sweeteners and the symptoms I have been struggling with. Within the podcast they discuss how stevia extract is produced, the addictive nature of stevia, stevia and weight loss, stevia and digestive health, and stevia as it pertains to reproductive / hormone health.

I appreciate the fact that a few episodes later  (episode 118) the host, Brian Williamson, has Thom King (the founder of the company Steviva) on to make the case for stevia.  I always want to hear both sides of a story and both episodes made some compelling arguments.  Perhaps the strongest argument made during this episode was for the fact that quality matters.  For example, while Dr. Fife sites some influential studies on rodents, this episode mentioned the fact that we do not know whether or not the studies used pure stevia or stevia mixed with malodextrin and other fillers, etc.

I think we can all agree that the stevia we are able to purchase in the store is not the same as the unrefined stevia leaves that the Indians in South America use. That being said, Thom’s company produces their stevia sweetener using a natural water extraction process whereas many companies that produce stevia do so with the use of petrochemicals and bleach agents and then add a slew of fillers resulting in a substance that our body does not recognize.  In the episode Thom mentions a study published on the National Institute of Health website (click HERE for the study) that supports his claim that stevia does not have the same effect on the body that aspartame and sucrose do.  He also mentions experiments he has done on himself (he follows a ketogenic diet and tracks his ketones and insulin) where he has tested his ketones and consumed a diet soda and that kicked him out of ketosis whereas consumption of stevia had no effect on his ketones.

I want to update you on how the last two stevia-free weeks have gone for me.  The following symptoms have either disappeared for me or have been greatly reduced:

  • Intense hunger – GONE
  • Hypoglycemic symptoms – NEARLY TOTALLY GONE
  • Light-headed – ONLY A FEW EPISODES (was usually multiple times per day)
  • Exhaustion – GONE
  • Sugar cravings – GONE
  • Sleep disturbances – SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT most nights
  • High fasting glucose – GONE
  • Numbness in arms and fingers – HAVEN’T HAD IT IN TWO WEEKS
  • Weight gain while eating same – LOSING WEIGHT
  • Body composition changes – CAN SEE CHANGES ALREADY
  • Puffiness / water retention – GONE
  • Super painful breasts during premenstral time – TBD
    • I have had my period yet since beginning this experiment
  • Shortness of breath – GONE
  • Pulse would race – GONE
  • Hard time getting into deep ketosis – HAVE BEEN CONSISTENTLY IN KETOSIS and a much deeper ketosis than before

Ultimately it is up to you to do your own research and decide for yourself whether or not you want stevia to be part of your diet.  Personally, I plan on eliminating the use of any zero-calorie sweeteners since it has become clear to me that my body does not respond well to them and because I understand the hormonal reactions that occur when we taste sweet and insulin is released.  If I do have something sweet it will most likely be sweetened it with dates or raw honey since they are whole food sources…some coconut sugar may make its way in there too.

I want to reiterate that we are all individuals and how valuable it is for you to learn your body and what works for you.  Be honest with yourself and if you have been experiencing similar symptoms there is no harm in trying a week without zero-calorie sweeteners.

Have any of you had any bad experiences with zero-calorie sweeteners or stevia in particular?  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

If you are interested in reading Dr. Fife’s article title, “The Stevia Myth” click HERE.

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Dr. Fife article source: 6. Yang, Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yale J Biol Med 2010;83:101-108.

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Filed under Diabetes, Digestion, Education, ketogenic diet, Metabolic Syndrome, Sugar, Weight Issues

Juvenile Diabetes – It Has Hit Close to Home

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AnniNever before have I written a post asking my readers to donate money, but for my niece I would do anything.  Last Christmas my sister’s youngest child was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes (Juvenile Diabetes).  I am so thankful that my sister recognized the signs and brought her in to the ER when she did…they said it was critical…her sugar was astronomically high.  They spent quite some time in the Pediatric ICU and have been working on regulating her situation since.

She sure has been a brave and tough little girl, but a diagnosis like this really does change your life.  My sister and brother-in-law found a Pediatric Diabetes Specialist at UCSF to handle her care (thank goodness for that!) and are there right now for another all day appointment as I type this.

Next weekend is the JDRF One Walk in Reno and my niece’s Girl Scout Troop decided they wanted to do something to show support for the friend that they love so much; they formed “Team Awesomeness” to rally around her and raise money for research to try and end this disease.  The research is so promising and it is possible to find a cure.

If you are able to make a donation, I thank you from the bottom of your heart.  If you are unable to, perhaps you could leave a comment with some words of encouragement for my little munchkin.

Click HERE to donate.

Thank you so much for all of the support you have shown me through the years…I am so grateful.

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Filed under Children, Diabetes, Education, Research

CALORIE RESTRICTION

I was recently alerted to the video, “Eat, Fast, & Live Longer” through a newsletter I receive from VegSource.  The concept of elongating lifespan through calorie restriction  or intermittent fasting is fascinating.

“The CRON-diet (Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition)[1] is a nutrient-rich, very low calorie diet[2] developed by Roy WalfordLisa Walford, and Brian M. Delaney.[3][4][5] The CRON-diet involves calorie restriction in the hope that the practice will improve health and retard aging, while still attempting to provide the recommended daily amounts of various nutrients. Other names include CR-dietLongevity diet, and Anti-Aging Plan. Several people, including the Walfords and Delaney, founded the CR Society International to promote the CRON-diet.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water and sometimes low-calorie drinks such as black coffee) and non-fasting.

There is evidence suggesting that intermittent fasting may have beneficial effects on the health and longevity of animals—including humans—that are similar to the effects of caloric restriction (CR). There is currently no consensus as to the degree to which this is simply due to fasting or due to an (often) concomitant overall decrease in calories, but recent studies have shown support for the former.[1][2] Alternate-day calorie restriction may prolong life span.[3] Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction are forms of dietary restriction (DR), which is sometimes referred to as dietary energy restriction (DER).

Scientific study of intermittent fasting in rats (and anecdotally in humans) was carried out at least as early as 1943.[4]

A specific form of intermittent fasting is alternate day fasting (ADF), also referred to as every other day fasting (EOD), or every other day feeding (EODF), a 48-hour routine typically composed of a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period.” – Wikipedia

While this is not a short video (clocking-in at around 1 hour), it is a very intriguing watch.

Have any of you tried intermittent fasting?  Any fasting experience?

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Filed under Cancer, Cholesterol, Cleansing, Diabetes, Education, Fat, Immune System, Metabolic Syndrome, Weight Issues

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE – Free Worldwide Online Premier

 

Hungry For Change, a movie from the makers of Food Matters, is hosting a FREE 10 Day Worldwide Online Premier MARCH 21 – 31 2012.  I just watched the movie trailer and am really enthused about how eye-opening this film promises to be.

“This inspiring film has the power to transform your health!” ~ Anthony Robbins

According to the producers:

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE exposes shocking secrets the diet, weightloss and food industry don’t want you to know about. Deceptive strategies designed to keep you craving more and more. 

Could the foods we are eating actually be keeping us stuck in the diet trap?

In this free online premiere event you’ll discover:

  • How to navigate your supermarket – what to buy and what to avoid
  • The real truth behind “DIET”, “SUGAR-FREE” and “FAT-FREE” products
  • How to overcome food addictions and cravings
  • Why fad diets dont work
  • What food additives to avoid and how to read labels
  • What is fat and cellulite and how do we get rid of it for good
  • The most effective detox and cleansing strategies, and
  • How to eat for clear eyes, glowing skin and healthy hair

I was really excited to see two of my favorite experts on the trailer, Kris Carr and Dr. Christiane Northrup.  This looks very promising…
Click HERE to sign-up for the premier.

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Filed under Alkaline, Cancer, Cholesterol, Cleansing, Diabetes, Education, Fat, General Vegan, pH, Research, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian, Video, Weight Issues

FORKS OVER KNIVES

It is an exciting weekend for being vegan and / or learning how to become vegan!

I am beyond excited that the documentary Forks Over Knives opens tomorrow!!!  This documentary has received so much critical acclaim as it brings together two giants in the field of medicine who have spent their careers studying the effects of nutrition on health, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn.

 

FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

I recently read an interview of the Producer of the film, Brian Wendel, conducted by The Plant Based Dietician, Julieanna Hever, and thought you would be interested in it as well…

In this interview, Brian tells us about his experience making Forks Over Knives and then watching it blossom into a huge success…

JH: You went from commercial real estate straight into producing one of the most important documentaries of our time, Forks Over Knives, as your first film. What inspired you to take the leap?

BW: The evidence that diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and sometimes cancer, can be effectively prevented, and even reversed, by a whole foods plant-based diet is compelling. For whatever reason, the information wasn’t getting to the masses, so only a few people were benefiting from it. I thought making a feature film was an opportunity to change that, and doing something that would have a positive impact on people’s lives was something I always wanted to do.

JH: How do you feel about the outpouring of support and enthusiasm for the film?

BW: The response has been beyond what I had imagined. It’s rewarding. I think people see the potential in the concepts brought forward in the film as a real way to make our lives better.

JH: What are your ultimate goals for Forks Over Knives?

BW: I hope that the level of education about food and its impact on health will increase, and that as a result, people will lead more healthful lives. It turns out that the same diet that is good for human health, is compassionate to animals and less taxing to the environment, so it’s important to see improvements in these areas as well.

JH: Can you describe the message you are trying to relay by creating such a critical piece?

BW: The message is that there is evidence that there’s something very specific we can do to greatly reduce our suffering from degenerative diseases. At a time when we’re trying to find solutions to difficult problems, it’s good to know that there may be one at hand—especially something that is simple.

JH: What was it like working with a healthy handful of the most innovative, influential scientists of our generation?

BW: Given my passion for the subject, there are no individuals I would have rather worked with than Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn. Getting to spend as much time with them as we did, and getting to know them personally, was an experience that is difficult to describe in words.

JH: What was your biggest challenge in making the film?

BW: The biggest challenge was figuring out how to take a vast amount of information along with a significant number of stories, and making into a presentation of less than 96 minutes. There’s a lot of material that didn’t make it in. We realized that the film represents more the beginning of a discussion.

JH: Do you intend to continue making documentary films with a similar message?

BW: Right now I’m focused on releasing the film, an undertaking that is quite substantial. I do, though, like the idea of making another documentary film.

CLICK HERE for showtimes.

This film will change your life!

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Filed under Cancer, Diabetes, Education, General Vegan, Interview, Metabolic Syndrome, Osteoporosis, pH, Protein, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian, Weight Issues

IS SUGAR TOXIC?

I firmly believe that sugar is toxic…and addictive.  Gary Taubes has done an amazing job with this article.   It is LONG, but well worth the read.  I have given you exerpts from it below.  To read the article in full click here.  I also suggest you watch Robert Lustig’s lecture.  To do so click here.

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IS SUGAR TOXIC?

By GARY TAUBES

April 13, 2011

On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.

Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.

The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”

It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

This brings us to the salient question: Can sugar possibly be as bad as Lustig says it is?

If I didn’t buy this argument myself, I wouldn’t be writing about it here. And I also have a disclaimer to acknowledge. I’ve spent much of the last decade doing journalistic research on diet and chronic disease — some of the more contrarian findings, on dietary fat, appeared in this magazine —– and I have come to conclusions similar to Lustig’s.

Lustig’s argument, however, is not about the consumption of empty calories — and biochemists have made the same case previously, though not so publicly. It is that sugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, that may make it singularly harmful, at least if consumed in sufficient quantities.

The phrase Lustig uses when he describes this concept is “isocaloric but not isometabolic.” This means we can eat 100 calories of glucose (from a potato or bread or other starch) or 100 calories of sugar (half glucose and half fructose), and they will be metabolized differently and have a different effect on the body. The calories are the same, but the metabolic consequences are quite different.

The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.

In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.

If what happens in laboratory rodents also happens in humans, and if we are eating enough sugar to make it happen, then we are in trouble.

Th[e] correlation between sugar consumption and diabetes is what defense attorneys call circumstantial evidence. It’s more compelling than it otherwise might be, though, because the last time sugar consumption jumped markedly in this country, it was also associated with a diabetes epidemic.

In the early 20th century, many of the leading authorities on diabetes in North America and Europe (including Frederick Banting, who shared the 1923 Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin) suspected that sugar causes diabetes based on the observation that the disease was rare in populations that didn’t consume refined sugar and widespread in those that did. In 1924, Haven Emerson, director of the institute of public health at Columbia University, reported that diabetes deaths in New York City had increased as much as 15-fold since the Civil War years, and that deaths increased as much as fourfold in some U.S. cities between 1900 and 1920 alone. This coincided, he noted, with an equally significant increase in sugar consumption — almost doubling from 1890 to the early 1920s — with the birth and subsequent growth of the candy and soft-drink industries.

Emerson’s argument was countered by Elliott Joslin, a leading authority on diabetes, and Joslin won out. But his argument was fundamentally flawed. Simply put, it went like this: The Japanese eat lots of rice, and Japanese diabetics are few and far between; rice is mostly carbohydrate, which suggests that sugar, also a carbohydrate, does not cause diabetes. But sugar and rice are not identical merely because they’re both carbohydrates. Joslin could not know at the time that the fructose content of sugar affects how we metabolize it.

Joslin was also unaware that the Japanese ate little sugar. In the early 1960s, the Japanese were eating as little sugar as Americans were a century earlier, maybe less, which means that the Japanese experience could have been used to support the idea that sugar causes diabetes. Still, with Joslin arguing in edition after edition of his seminal textbook that sugar played no role in diabetes, it eventually took on the aura of undisputed truth.

Until Lustig came along, the last time an academic forcefully put forward the sugar-as-toxin thesis was in the 1970s, when John Yudkin, a leading authority on nutrition in the United Kingdom, published a polemic on sugar called “Sweet and Dangerous.” Through the 1960s Yudkin did a series of experiments feeding sugar and starch to rodents, chickens, rabbits, pigs and college students. He found that the sugar invariably raised blood levels of triglycerides (a technical term for fat), which was then, as now, considered a risk factor for heart disease. Sugar also raised insulin levels in Yudkin’s experiments, which linked sugar directly to type 2 diabetes. Few in the medical community took Yudkin’s ideas seriously, largely because he was also arguing that dietary fat and saturated fat were harmless. This set Yudkin’s sugar hypothesis directly against the growing acceptance of the idea, prominent to this day, that dietary fat was the cause of heart disease, a notion championed by the University of Minnesota nutritionist Ancel Keys.

A common assumption at the time was that if one hypothesis was right, then the other was most likely wrong. Either fat caused heart disease by raising cholesterol, or sugar did by raising triglycerides. “The theory that diets high in sugar are an important cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease does not have wide support among experts in the field, who say that fats and cholesterol are the more likely culprits,” as Jane E. Brody wrote in The Times in 1977.

At the time, many of the key observations cited to argue that dietary fat caused heart disease actually support the sugar theory as well. During the Korean War, pathologists doing autopsies on American soldiers killed in battle noticed that many had significant plaques in their arteries, even those who were still teenagers, while the Koreans killed in battle did not. The atherosclerotic plaques in the Americans were attributed to the fact that they ate high-fat diets and the Koreans ate low-fat. But the Americans were also eating high-sugar diets, while the Koreans, like the Japanese, were not.

Another question still needs to be asked…[W]hat are the chances that sugar is actually worse than Lustig says it is?

One of the diseases that increases in incidence with obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome is cancer. This is why I said earlier that insulin resistance may be a fundamental underlying defect in many cancers, as it is in type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004 in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is not controversial. What it means is that you are more likely to get cancer if you’re obese or diabetic than if you’re not, and you’re more likely to get cancer if you have metabolic syndrome than if you don’t.

This goes along with two other observations that have led to the well-accepted idea that some large percentage of cancers are caused by our Western diets and lifestyles. This means they could actually be prevented if we could pinpoint exactly what the problem is and prevent or avoid that.

One observation is that death rates from cancer, like those from diabetes, increased significantly in the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th. As with diabetes, this observation was accompanied by a vigorous debate about whether those increases could be explained solely by the aging of the population and the use of new diagnostic techniques or whether it was really the incidence of cancer itself that was increasing. “By the 1930s,” as a 1997 report by the World Cancer Research Fund International and the American Institute for Cancer Research explained, “it was apparent that age-adjusted death rates from cancer were rising in the U.S.A.,” which meant that the likelihood of any particular 60-year-old, for instance, dying from cancer was increasing, even if there were indeed more 60-years-olds with each passing year.

The second observation was that malignant cancer, like diabetes, was a relatively rare disease in populations that didn’t eat Western diets, and in some of these populations it appeared to be virtually nonexistent. In the 1950s, malignant cancer among the Inuit, for instance, was still deemed sufficiently rare that physicians working in northern Canada would publish case reports in medical journals when they did diagnose a case.

So how does it work? Cancer researchers now consider that the problem with insulin resistance is that it leads us to secrete more insulin, and insulin (as well as a related hormone known as insulin-like growth factor) actually promotes tumor growth.

As it was explained to me by Craig Thompson, who has done much of this research and is now president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the cells of many human cancers come to depend on insulin to provide the fuel (blood sugar) and materials they need to grow and multiply. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor (and related growth factors) also provide the signal, in effect, to do it. The more insulin, the better they do. Some cancers develop mutations that serve the purpose of increasing the influence of insulin on the cell; others take advantage of the elevated insulin levels that are common to metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Some do both. Thompson believes that many pre-cancerous cells would never acquire the mutations that turn them into malignant tumors if they weren’t being driven by insulin to take up more and more blood sugar and metabolize it.

But some researchers will make the case, as Cantley and Thompson do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that’s quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers. If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it.

“I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can,” Thompson told me, “because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.” Cantley put it this way: “Sugar scares me.”

Sugar scares me too, obviously. I’d like to eat it in moderation. I’d certainly like my two sons to be able to eat it in moderation, to not overconsume it, but I don’t actually know what that means, and I’ve been reporting on this subject and studying it for more than a decade. If sugar just makes us fatter, that’s one thing. We start gaining weight, we eat less of it. But we are also talking about things we can’t see — fatty liver, insulin resistance and all that follows. Officially I’m not supposed to worry because the evidence isn’t conclusive, but I do.

Gary Taubes (gataubes@gmail.com) is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy and the author of “Why We Get Fat.” Editor: Vera Titunik (v.titunik-MagGroup@nytimes.com).

Image courtesy health.howstuffworks.com

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