Is sugar toxic? Yes said pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Lustig believes that the amount of sugar in the American diet is killing us and has plunged the nation into a health crisis.
The two doctors had the following interaction on '60 Minutes' Sunday:
Is sugar toxic? asked Gupta.
I believe it is, said Lustig
Do you ever worry that that's-- it just sounds a little bit over the top? said Gupta.
Sure. All the time. But it's the truth, replied Lustig.
Whether it comes in crystal or powder form, sugar poses serious issues for your health. Besides weight gain, sugar can cause a myriad of health issues, including heart disease and cancer.
Lustig treats sick and obese children. He said the health issues they face, including obesity, Type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are due to their sugar intake. 75 percent of it is preventable, he said.
Lustig said the raging debate about the nutritional value between sugar and high fructose corn syrup is useless.
They are basically equivalent. The problem is they're both bad. They're both equally toxic, said Lustig.
Americans ingest 130 pounds of added sugars per person, per year, the program revealed. Sugar isn't only in desserts and sodas - it's also in common foods you wouldn't suspect sugar to be in, like yogurt, sauces, bread, and even peanut butter.
When you take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard. And the food industry knew that, so they replaced it with sugar...and guess what? Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and death are skyrocketing, Lustig said.
Gupta also spoke with Jim Simon, a member of the board of the Sugar Association, who refuted those claims, saying the science is not completely clear on the matter.
To say that the American consuming public is going to omit, eliminate sweeteners out of their diet, I don't think gets us there, Simon said.
Eric Stice, a neuroscientist at the Oregon Research Institute, found a surprising link to how our brains respond to sweetness.
Sugar activates our brain in a special way. That's very reminiscent of, you know, drugs like cocaine, Stice said on the program.
Lustig believes that Americans need a balanced diet that has a drastic reduction in sugar consummation. The American Heart Association said men should only have 150 calories of sugar a day, and woman just 100 calories -less than one 8 oz. can of soda.
Ultimately this is a public health crisis, said Lustig. And when it's a public health crisis, you have to do big things and you have to do them across the board. Tobacco and alcohol are perfect examples. We have made a conscious choice that we're not going to get rid of them, but we are going to limit their consumption. I think sugar belongs in this exact same wastebasket.