Sunday, June 23, 2019

Retrospective #128: Sugary Drinks and Added Sugars

Twenty-five years ago my doctor employed a dietitian to help his patients lose weight. Her ‘prescription’ was to eat less and exercise more. Needless to say, it didn’t work. But one thing she said still sticks in my memory: “Don’t drink orange juice. It’s just empty calories.” Of course, she was not saying don’t eat fruit (even though she knew I was then, as now, a Type 2 diabetic). She was saying that I should eat the whole fruit instead of fruit juice. That way I wouldn’t eat as many calories as I would drink. And I would get extra benefit from the fiber. That advice (eat vs drink) was novel. In my thinking now, perhaps it was the tip of today’s iceberg about liquid sugar calories.
I remember that it all made sense to me at the time. But that was before my doctor discovered Very Low Carb dieting to lose weight, and not incidentally but also not anticipated, control my blood sugar. Today, I avoid all fruit and many other foods that contain fructose because of the effect that cane sugar (sucrose) has on liver health.
Somehow this message about fruit juice has escaped our nation’s food policymakers. The recommended portion, although it’s not mentioned in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is 6 ounces, or about 72 grams of carbs. The message from the Dietary Dictocrats, though, is that added sugar in sugary drinks – “soda, energy drinks and sports drinks” and “fruit drinks” – should be avoided. But fruit juice is alright? Even though the Guidelines admit, …the body’s response to sugars does not depend on whether they are naturally present in food or added to foods”?
The Guidelines do include a fairly comprehensive list of added sugars: “Added sugars include high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, raw sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, and crystal dextrose.”
But wait, where is “organic malted barley”? What’s that? How is that an “added sugar”? Well, it is, although well concealed I must admit. It is the third ingredient listed, after “organic sprouted wheat” and “filtered water” in Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grains bread. This “healthiest” bread has added sugar as its 3rd listed ingredient! Do you feel snookered? Join the crowd. That’s Agribusiness for you. You walk the straight and narrow, and you get sandbagged.
What is “malted barley”? It’s a malted grain. According to Wikipedia, “Malting grains develops the enzymes required to modify the grain's starches into sugars, including the monosaccharide glucose, the disaccharide maltose, the trisaccharide maltotriose, and higher sugars called maltodextrines. It also develops other enzymes, such as proteases, which break down the proteins in the grain into forms that can be used by yeast. Malt also contains small amounts of other sugars, such as sucrose and fructose, which are not products of starch modification but were already in the grain.” And just in case I am not being clear: Every one of those chemical compounds (except protease) in the “malted barley” will quickly digest to a single-molecule sugar, pure and simple.
What’s the point of this? Well, Chapter 3 of the Policy Document from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans points out that of the “Refined Grains in the Diets of the U. S.  Population,” “yeast breads” are by far the largest category (25.9%). According to the NHANES study (2005-2006) footnote, “yeast breads” constitutes 2.1% of the “Added Sugars in the Diets of the U. S. Population.” Yet, nowhere in the Dietary Guidelines are we guided not to eat bread. I guess this refined grain with added sugar is just too engrained (sorry) in our culture to be shunned. But I challenge you to find any loaf of bread in your supermarket that does not contain some form of sugar as the 3rd ingredient, after flour and water. Even Pepperidge Farm, Arnold or any other so-called “whole grain” (flour) bread.
I don’t mean to pick on Food for Life or any processed or refined food manufacturer. I mean to pick on all of them. If you want to avoid becoming a victim of clever and deceptive marketing, take a chemistry class…or just eat whole foods: grass fed and grass finished meats, eggs from free-range pastured chickens, wild-caught seafood (both fin and shell), especially sardines, wild salmon and other cold water fish, and non-starchy vegetables. Avoid all wheat, excessive fructose, and excessive Omega 6s from processed seed (vegetable) oils. Eat butter, olive oil and coconut oil. Pay no attention to your government or to the media. They are hopelessly misinformed, misled and misguided. 

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