The USDA, AMA, and AHA are not our guardians. They are branches of the government. In 1970’s Richard Nixon began implementing cheap food policies, perhaps under the guise of “the war on poverty”, but truly to remove unstable food prices as a factor in his reelection. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was introduced in 1975, with its market price half of sugar’s. Today, Americans consume 63 pounds of HFCS per person annually. In the 25 years prior to Dr. Lustig’s lecture, each American gained an average of 25 pounds of fat. The low-fat diets that have been instituted under the recommendation of the AHA have not only failed to lower heart disease, but increased obesity, type II diabetes, and hypertension (the metabolic syndrome). Why? Because low fat means low flavor—alas!—High fructose corn syrup to the rescue! Dr. Lustig claims that all Americans and foreign consumers of American-made food commodities are being slowly poisoned, inevitably suffering from the metabolic syndrome.
Now, its pertinent to consider a clear point made by Dr. Lustig: sucrose and HFCS inflict the same negative effects equally: Sucrose (table sugar) is exactly 1 glucose to 1 fructose, while HFCS is merely composed of 10% more fructose, thus both sugar molecules are biochemically similar. This is the main point of contention under critique from other scientists, who do believe there are key differences between sucrose and HFCS, as the consider other aspects than glucose and fructose contents. Dr. Lustig, rather, focuses on these because of the drastic differences in how they are metabolized.
Glucose, a 6-membered ring, can be directly taken up by major organs throughout the body such that only 20% of any consumed glucose is taken up by hepatocytes, where it stimulates the pancreas to make insulin and then is released as fatty acids then eventually deposited into cells as triglycerides. Fructose, a 5-membered ring, can only be metabolized by the liver such that 100% of any consumed fructose enters the liver. Fructose not only does not stimulate insulin release, but also must be activated via phosphorylation, such that the regeneration of the large amounts of lost phosphate in the liver creates the byproducts of uric acid (which can cause hypertension). All of the consumed fructose is then released as VLDL’s into the blood to become LDL’s then triglycerides. It’s notable that ethanol’s metabolism is almost identical to fructose’s except that 20% of all consumed ethanol is metabolized by the body (including the brain) such that Dr. Lustig calls fructose “alcohol without the buzz”. Fructose is just as poisonous to the body as is alcohol, yet it is a chronic rather than acute toxin, hence the ability of major health associations to ignore the negative effects, especially when blinded by monetary gain (the FDA only regulates acute toxins).
Another main point of Dr. Lustig’s, where he argues that a calorie is indeed not always equal to a calorie (debunking the diet myth of calories in, calories out), is that fructose does not initiate satiety signals at all, in addition to its lack of the ability to stimulate insulin. Fructose does not only not suppress grehlin (a hunger signal) but also does not stimulate the production of leptin (a satiety signal). This obviously may attribute to the “American” stereotype of gluttony, though some scientists don’t agree with Dr. Lustig, claiming that there is always enough glucose accompanying glucose that the hunger and satiety signals are properly signaled. Other factors are also in play, such as the fact that soft drink manufacturer’s actually add sodium and caffeine to their drinks such that consumer becomes thirstier and drinks more—the insane sugar content is simply to mask the salt! Yet Dr. Lustig does present strong evidence for his war against fructose, citing a study where the culprit of a generation of obese 6-month olds were found, where all were being fed formula with HFCS. In addition, Dr. Lustig proscribes the following program to children at his obesity clinic: No sugared drinks, eat carbs with fiber, wait 20 minutes for seconds, and buy screen-time minute for minute with physical activity (not for burning calories, but for reducing cortisol and increasing the speed at which the TCS cycle runs). In a meta analysis, it was found that the strongest factor which negatively affected success, even with strict adherence to the other instructions, was the sugared drinks. So regardless of some points of contention, there is no imagination or fabrication in Dr. Lustig’s lecture: the increase in fructose consumption, especially to flavor low-fat foods, is causing American’s to suffer from more symptoms of the metabolic syndrome.