The Dose Makes The Poison

When I started work as Public Health Toxicologist with the California Department of Public Health a little more than fifty years ago, the word “toxic” was seldom heard much less used as a topic of conversation. In recent years, the word has been discovered and become a fashionable adjective for a wide variety of undesirable things.

This has bothered me because ‘toxic’ has a very specific meaning that makes it an unacceptable adjective to use except when applied to harmful chemicals. Its use otherwise only confuses people and needlessly frightens them. I usually ignore the matter, but when specific foods are labeled as toxic, I can no longer remain silent.
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Lustig, the EFSA, Fructose, and Poison

Just a quick note to point to Robert Lustig’s recent article in The Guardian: Fructose: The Poison Index.

It’s typical Lustig. Written on the occasion of The European Food and Safety Agency’s (EFSA) ruling that allows food processors and mongers to make health claims about the fructose content of their foods.

And yet the scientific data on fructose says it is one of the most egregious components of the western diet, directly contributing to heart disease and diabetes, and associated with cancer and dementia. Nature magazine has just published a scathing indictment of fructose by Dr Lewis Cantley, one of the US’s leading cancer researchers. But the EFSA says it sees no harm, justifying its stance on the basis that fructose has a lower glycaemic index than glucose.



Robert Lustig’s ‘Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0’

Robert Lustig attempts to reprise his viral hit, Sugar the Bitter Truth with a new installment. This one borrows part of the title from his book: “Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0”.

As you might expect, it’s a pretty darn good view. Favorite quote? How ’bout this: “It’s never gluttony and sloth. It’s always biochemical. The question is, ‘Are you smart enough to figure out what the biochemistry is?'”

For those of you interested in Leptin, this is a must watch.


More On Sugar Toxicity

A new article on sugar toxicity is published in Scientific American (and syndicated in Salon) the other day. It starts off strong with a recapitulation of the familiar:

Today, we add sugar in one form or another to the majority of processed foods we eat—everything from bread, cereals, crunchy snacks and desserts to soft drinks, juices, salad dressings and sauces—and we are not too stingy about using it to sweeten many raw and whole foods as well.

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Research Finds Link Between Fructose and Pancreatic Cancer

Ashton Kutcher has been in the news a lot recently. Normally this is something well worth ignoring, but in this instance it’s interesting: He’s been promoting the new Steve Jobs movie (in which he plays Steve Jobs) by explaining how he was hospitalized after following Steve Jobs’ diet for some time. Steve Jobs apparently ate nothing but fruit.

So what happened to poor Ashton? Well, the details are quite thin: “I was doubled over in pain […] my pancreas levels were completely out of wack.” Media reports that he spent time in the hospital. The exact nature of his affliction and the treatment for it remain undisclosed.
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What’s So Bad About Fructose?

Lots of people write about fructose. From Lustig to Sisson and just about everyone in between. Currently, I’m reading Robb Wolf’s, “The Paleo Solution“, and was quite taken by this little quote that summarizes some of the problems with our infamous little sweetener:

Fructose preferentially fills liver glycogen. That means fructose accelerates the process described above in which liver function is destroyed due to carbohydrate overfeeding. This happens directly because the liver is the only tissue that can handle fructose, but it also happens indirectly because eating fructose increases the amount of glucose the liver absorbs. Fructose up-regulates the glucose transport molecules in the liver, making the liver “hungry” for sugar. This leads to increased Palmitic Acid production, which leads to leptin resistance. Oh, yeah, since we were talking about AGEs, fructose is seven times more reactive than glucose in forming AGEs…

So let’s recap. Fructose:
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