WASHINGTON – Most of us love things that are sweet, but many wonder if sugar consumption is part of the reason why America’s obesity rate continues to rise.
Sugar is directly causing multiple growing health problems, according to Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco and author of “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease.”
He says sugar is the major culprit contributing not only to weight, but to weight-involved diseases.
“There are many, many different things than can make you obese. In fact, the thing that is correlated with the most rate of weight gain is actually potato chips and french fries,” he says citing a recent study by the Harvard School for Public Health.
Sugar-sweetened beverages come in a distant third, Lustig says.
“The reason why I focus on sugar as opposed to say potato chips and french fries is not because of its effect on weight, but its effect on chronic metabolic disease — the diseases that go along with obesity.”
Diseases caused by obesity
Type 2 diabetes
“Those [diseases] very specifically are driven by sugar, irrelevant to the amount of weight gain. In fact, the total calories there are not the issue. The actual issue is the amount of sugar. And that’s where all the money is going,” Lustig says.
Lustig says he’s helping file a class-action lawsuit against food manufacturers for misbranding and mislabeling when it comes to sugar.
“The specific issue is for evaporated cane juice. ECJ is not a sanctioned sweetener by the Food and Drug Administration, yet every health food manufacturer uses ECJ as its method for sweetening their products. Because people don’t know it’s sugar and they seem to be able to get away from it,” Lustig says.
He takes issue with food that consumers think are healthy but are loaded with sugar, like yogurt for example.
“If you knew how much sugar was in your yogurt, you might think otherwise. Usually a 6-ounce yogurt has about as much sugar as a bowl of Cap’n Crunch,” Lustig says.