“Sugar starts to fry your liver at about 35 pounds per year, just like alcohol would at the same dosage,” reported Dr. Robert Lustig in a Los Angeles Times Opinion piece in March. “This is because fructose — the sweet molecule of sugar — is metabolized in the liver just like alcohol. It’s not because of the calories. Alcohol is not dangerous because it has calories; alcohol is dangerous because it’s alcohol. It’s the same with sugar. And we’re at 100 pounds per year, triple our limit. That is why children now get the diseases of alcohol consumption — type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease — without ever drinking alcohol.”
Dr. Lustig, the author of books like “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease,” has been trying to wake people up to dangers of over consumption of sugar for years. He is a professor of clinical pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, where he directs the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health Program.
In an interview with KQED radio he noted: “Only the liver can metabolize the sweet part of the molecule called fructose, which causes liver fat to build up. We now have an epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that is actually bigger than the obesity epidemic because 33 percent of all adults in America currently have fatty liver: 45 percent of Latinos, 33 percent of Caucasians, 25 percent of African Americans.
“Considering that this phenomenom, non-alcoholic fatty liver, hadn’t even been diagnosed in anyone until 1980, the fact that one third of all America has it right now, that is actually the biggest epidemic. How did the liver fat get there? The answer – sugar.”
As the only organ in the body that can metabolize fructose, instead of generating energy, it ends up generating fat. When your liver generates fat, it becomes insulin-resistant (hepatic insulin-resistance). So, if you’re eating a high-sugar diet, you’re on a high-fat diet.
As much as the sugar industry tries to downplay research about sugar’s disastrous impact on health, research indicates that – daily sugar-sweetened beverages have been linked with increasing the risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a new Tufts University report in the Journal of Hepatology. “Regular sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was associated with greater risk of fatty liver disease,” said study author Jiantao Ma, Ph.D.
A report in the January 2014 issue Today’s Dietitian warned: “Growing evidence suggests that the epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is closely related to the Western dietary pattern and an increased intake of simple sugars, especially fructose.”
A landmark study, reported in Contemporary Pediatrics, that examined the incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in 742 autopsy specimens of children who had died of an accident, found that 17% of the children aged 15 to 19 years had the disease.
An alarming Macleans (Canada) 2014 article, “Death By Sugar,” highlighted how food and drink companies try to dismiss these findings. “The industry is responding to obesity exactly how tobacco responded to concerns about lung cancer,” says New York University dietician Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. “Attack the science, undermine the critics, (pay for) industry-funded studies.”
The same article warns about a possible link between sugar and the rising Alzheimer’s epidemic. “Suzanne de la Monte, professor of neurosurgery at Brown University, suggests that Alzheimer’s might be a form of insulin resistance in the brain—a “Type 3 diabetes,” as she calls it. “You can’t really explain this soaring increase in Alzheimer’s disease on the basis of genes alone,” de la Monte says.”
For more information on what Dr. Lustig has to say about sugar check out his YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which has more than 5 million views.
“Sugar in excess is a toxin,” he says. “We have to do something about it, or there will be no healthcare.”
After a pertinent comment on this piece, I need to add Lustig is most concerned about processed food and added sugars. He’s not talking about fructose in whole fruits, which is not a problem. But too much fruit juice is an issue.
Here’s a quote: “When you take the fiber away (by juicing) there is nothing to slow the absorption. So you are getting that sugar (load) directly to your liver, the same way Coke does. But when you eat a piece of fruit you are delaying the absorption of that sugar. I have nothing against fruit, because it comes with its inherent fiber, and fiber mitigates the negative effects.”