Here are 15 lessons on sugar I pulled from Eve Schaub’s amazing memoir Year of No Sugar.
Imagine spending a year eating no sugar. Now imagine taking your family along for the sugar-free ride.
This is what author Eve Schaub did as she recounts in Year of No Sugar.
1 – Weight and Willpower
I needed to understand why humans (and the animals they feed) were the only species on the planet that required willpower to control their weight.
2 – Fat and Sugar
Once I got my head around the mind-bendingly arcane language, I discovered that scientists knew an awful lot about why I was fat. They knew that sugar was the cause. They knew that fat was the least worrying aspect of consuming sugar. They knew it caused type II diabetes and fatty liver disease and hypertension and chronic kidney disease and even Alzheimer’s. And worst of all, they knew it was highly addictive and (because of this) being added liberally to the food supply. It didn’t matter whether the sugar was made from corn (HFCS) or grass (cane sugar) or beets (the sugar they sell in Europe); it all contained the molecule responsible for the damage—fructose.
Watch the YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” I dare you.
3 – Truth Bombs from Sugar: The Bitter Truth
In the first seventeen minutes, Lustig calmly drops facts like precision bombs:
•As a society, we all weigh twenty-five pounds more than our counterparts did twenty-five years ago.
•The world is now experiencing an epidemic of obese six-month-olds .
•Even as our total fat consumption has gone down, our obesity has continued to accelerate.
•The combination of caffeine and salt in soda is purposefully designed by soda companies to make you drink more.
•Simply drinking one soda per day is worth fifteen and a half pounds of fat gain per year.
•Americans are currently consuming sixty-three pounds per person of high-fructose corn syrup per year.
4 – Fructose Unmasked
How Fructose Makes You Fat and Sick 1. All sugar contains fructose. 2. Fructose does not satisfy hunger, so you eat more food than your body needs. 3. Fructose may not be used by any of the cells in our body, except the liver. 4. In processing fructose, the liver produces bad things: uric acid and fatty acids. 5. Too much uric acid causes: Gout Hypertension 6. Too many fatty acids cause: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Insulin Resistance & Type 2 Diabetes Obesity 7. The clustering of two or more of the four conditions above is called Metabolic Syndrome. Virtually unheard of only a few decades ago, one in five Americans suffers from it today. 8. Additionally, circulating fatty acids have been proven to speed the growth of cancer cells. 9. Consumption of fructose has risen 341 percent in the last century and continues to climb. 10. So what do you call something that our body has no need for and that, when we take it in, creates toxic by-products in our bodies resulting in debilitation, disease, and untimely death? Well, doctors call that a poison.
5 – The Fructose Loophole
Fructose, as it turns out, exploits a loophole in your body’s carefully orchestrated ballet of hormones: fructose does not suppress ghrelin (the hunger hormone) nor does it stimulate insulin or leptin (the full-feeling hormone). You get the fructose’s calories, of course, but you are still as hungry as if you hadn’t eaten them. So you keep eating.
6 – Sugar and Obesity
Not coincidentally, a century ago, before sugar got cheap and our consumption went through the roof, a mere one in twenty-five people was clinically obese. Today in the U.S., one in three is. Not just fat, mind you; one third of the U.S. population is obese.
7 – Speaking Truth to Power
Now, if you’re like my mom, right about now you’re saying, with some incredulity, “So you’re saying everything my doctor has been telling me—everything all the doctors have been telling us—is wrong ? That heart disease isn’t caused by animal fats? That eating less and exercising isn’t the key to losing weight? That fruit juice isn’t health food?” Well…yeah.
8 – Sugar is Everywhere
Do you remember the days when taking medicine—any kind of medicine—was just awful? Like, gag-reflex-inducing awful? I’m not saying we should bring back the bad ol’ days when we had to compound feeling like crap with taking medicine which tasted like crap, but it is troubling to notice that standard medicine cabinet items, such as fever reducer and cough drops, have been essentially transformed into candy. Ask any mom: it’s to the point where kids beg to have additional unnecessary doses. Now that kind of scares me.
9 – Sugar’s Future
I imagine that one day, when the data has become so abundant as to be incontrovertible, having a buffet of sugar that rivals the actual food will be considered as socially unacceptable as smoking on airplanes or littering out your car window—things which we as a society once accepted as completely normal yet now we have come to realize the destructiveness of. Nobody is trying to say we can’t smoke or drink or throw things away; they’re just saying we have to be careful—much more careful—about how we go about it. Same with sugar.
10 – An Avalanche of Obesity
It’s beginning to seem like not a week goes by without another horrifying statistic being released about the obesity of Americans. Currently one quarter of young people in the United States now have diabetes or pre-diabetes! Seventeen percent of children and teenagers are now obese! By 2030 forty-two percent of all Americans will be obese! I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s hard to imagine worse statistics than these.
11 – Do as the Romans Do
So what’s up with that anyway? Italians have believed in fresh and local foods long before anyone ever dreamed up the term locavore. When I lived in Rome as a student, I had been amazed to attend the morning markets and find produce so fresh it still had dew and little bits of dirt on it. It took me a while to get used to the idea of going to so many different places just to compose a meal: the outdoor market for fruits and vegetables, the butcher for meat, the bakery for fresh bread and pasta. But after a while, the genius behind it made sense—get the foods from the people who are the experts in them, spend the extra time because, really, what could be more important? What, you have something better to do? Like what?
12 – Peer Pressure
I’m sympathetic with my friends who opt out, celebrating at home on Halloween. I understand it. But I really don’t want to stay home, on Halloween or any other holiday for that matter, because that feels to me like hiding. I want to be able to go out and celebrate with my friends, with my kids’ friends, with my community. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t seem to remember much about how you celebrate things without buying a bunch of unnecessary stuff and without consuming a bunch of unnecessary sugar.
13 – Food is Life, Good Food is a Good Life
More than anything, our no-sugar year had taught me how much I love food, how important it is, and how little attention our culture collectively pays to it. Food is the stuff of life—we are what we eat—feeding yourself well is caring for yourself—choose your favorite adage. It’s all truer than we could ever fully realize.
14 – Not Today
But to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, no, sugar isn’t going to kill you today or tomorrow, but someday it will, and for the rest of your life.
15 – The Anti-Saffron
“How did this thing, this spice, sugar, become a staple? How did something that ought to be like saffron, a rare thing to add, become the thing we build on? How did a whole way of cooking creep up from sweetness?” White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses
There you have it, the top 15 lessons on sugar that I found in reading Year of No Sugar. Just reviewing these notes reminds me what poor choices I make every day when it comes to my sugar consumption.
I know I won’t stop eating sugar tomorrow, but reading this book gave me plenty of reasons on why I should.