So a buddy of mine posted a clip from the movie Fed Up. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm sure I agree with the majority of it. However, the bit my friend put on his page showed the effects of sugar on the brain and compared it to the effects of cocaine on the brain. Coming to the defense of this poor maligned substance, I posted:
Another sensationalist (and, thus, interesting to watch) demonizing of sugar. Glucose is the body's preferred source of fuel and, in the presence of quality nutrition, is therapeutic. I agree that most of the processed crap can be a problem. But if your caloric needs warrant it, and your overall diet is supported by appropriate levels of nutrition, even some of these "foods" can be well tolerated. Also, your brain's pleasure centers activate/light up when exposed to other stimuli like sex or exercise, so I'd take that clip with a grain of salt. But that's probably another nutrient that's being bashed by filmmakers who understand more about what makes good entertainment than what makes for good nutrition.
Somebody else, let's call him--well, let's call him Josh, because that's his name--Josh chimed in with "those are a lot of if's [sic], Andrew. Processed sugar (what doesn't appear naturally in food) is a key ingredient in obesity, cancer, and heart disease in in the world."
Known for my brevity, I replied with: Think PUFAs primarily. Sugar is a red herring.
To which Josh with his knack for exhaustive research responded: "Polyunsaturated fats exists in all kinds of natural foods and there's zero evidence they cause anything. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/sugar-and-salt/. Processed sugar (and all its refined carbohydrate relatives) on the other hand, cause the body to go into starvation mode, despite the presence of food and fat in the body. And salt causes people to eat more than they otherwise would."
and then added: "coincidentally, herring also contains polyunsaturated fats"
I hadn't written a blog post in a bit, so I thought this particular subject might make for an enlightening discussion. So here's what I wrote:
You’re right, Josh. There’s nothing in Nature which occurs in isolation. For example, coconut oil is 92.1% saturated fat. The remainder is made up of a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid (6.2%) and a polyunsaturated fat called linoleic (1.6%). Thus, I find it funny that you support such a reductionist approach to health/disease. Since the body is an integrated system of systems, don’t you think it’s a bit of a (precarious) leap to blame health/disease on any one factor?
I know you probably don’t study nutrition. You likely have a much more exciting job like practicing law—one which keeps you so busy you cannot do your own research. So I don’t blame you for regurgitating the misinformation you’ve been fed by the diet demigods. I’m actually quite impressed that you didn’t quote Wikipedia during your rebuttal. However, lipid science is quite clear on the subject of PUFAs.
They oxidize quite readily and are very heat sensitive due to the incomplete saturation of the carbon bonds with a hydrogen atom. Specifically, they are immunosuppressive, pro-inflammatory, and down regulate the thyroid. In the body they are known to kill off lymphocytes and block thymic cells (immunity). Prostaglandins are made from linoleic acid and arachidonic acid—both types of PUFAs—and are involved in inflammation. PUFAs decrease Vit E in the body. They also increase the development of alpha cells (which produce glucagon) while preventing the development of beta cells (which produce insulin). Oh, and they inhibit the body’s ability to use glucose for fuel. Can you say diabetes? I knew you could. Additionally, PUFAs interfere with the production of proteolytic enzymes—that’s a problem if you want to digest your food or dissolve any clots in the blood. PUFAs liberate estrogen from serum proteins (SHBG), too. This emancipation, however, is one you’d probably want to avoid. Increased availability/activity of estrogen is a precursor to many types of cancer (as well as PMS, endometriosis, etc). And in the form of vegetable oils or nut/seed oils, they are highly processed and VERY unnatural/unhealthy. In fact, since you love to quote somebody else’s research, here are a few studies you can check out:
Cancer can't occur, unless there are unsaturated oils in the diet. [C. Ip, et al., Cancer Res. 45, 1985.] Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver cannot occur unless there are unsaturated oils in the diet. [Nanji and French, Life Sciences. 44, 1989.] Heart disease can be produced by unsaturated oils, and prevented by adding saturated oils to the diet. [J. K. G. Kramer, et al., Lipids 17, 372, 1983].
And here’s a very detailed bit of research you can find on my website: http://triumphtraining.com/blogs/blog/14885549-the-fallacy-of-fish-oil-part-1
And here’s a bunch of others:
Cancer Res. 1998 Aug 1;58(15):3312-9.
Dietary omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids promote colon carcinoma metastasis in rat liver.
Griffini P, Fehres O, Klieverik L, Vogels IM, Tigchelaar W, Smorenburg SM, Van Noorden CJ.
Nutr Cancer. 1998;30(2):137-43.
Effects of dietary n-3-to-n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio on mammary carcinogenesis in rats.
Sasaki T, Kobayashi Y, Shimizu J, Wada M, In’nami S, Kanke Y, Takita T.
J Lipid Res. 2005 Jun;46(6):1278-84. Epub 2005 Mar 16.
Role of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cyclooxygenase-2 metabolism in brain-metastatic melanoma.
Denkins Y, Kempf D, Ferniz M, Nileshwar S, Marchetti D.
Clin Exp Metastasis. 2000;18(5):371-7.
Promotion of colon cancer metastases in rat liver by fish oil diet is not due to reduced stroma formation.
Klieveri L, Fehres O, Griffini P, Van Noorden CJ, Frederiks WM.
Am. J. Epidemiol. (2011) doi: 10.1093/aje/kwr027
Serum Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk: Results From the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial
Theodore M. Brasky, Cathee Till, Emily White, Marian L. Neuhouser, Xiaoling Song, Phyllis Goodman, Ian M. Thompson, Irena B. King, Demetrius Albanes and Alan R. Kristal
I have probably a couple hundred more if you’d like me to give them to you as I think your "zero evidence" statement was a bit over the top. It’ll take some time to read. But maybe by then you’ll be able to answer a question I’ve been wondering about since you threw sugar and salt under the bus with the link you posted. If sugar/salt are so bad for you, why is it the first thing physicians give you when you’re rushed into the emergency room? Since the brain’s only source of fuel is glucose, we may both might want to lay off the PUFAs while we ponder that last one.
Do I believe sugar is abused? Most definitely. But I'd encourage everyone, including those with books or diets to sell, research to publish, or agendas to push, to consider a more holistic view when it comes to nutrition. After all, like the chaos found at the edges of a hurricane, extreme views are often more destructive than they are helpful. Somewhere in the calm of the center is where the truth is often found.