The cover issue of the journal Science, March 23rd 2001 irrevocably changed my view of health and disease. It illustrates the cell membrane and the macronutrients that compose it: natural fats, proteins and sugars. Inside, one of the best scientific journals in the world published several articles on “Glycobiology,” or the profound effect that sugars have on cellular function. Embracing such groundbreaking concept has brought me both grief and fulfillment in my professional life. Naively, I bought into what the idealistic (I resemble that remark) researcher wrote in one of the articles in that issue: “Carbohydrates and Glycobiology: Cinderella’s coach is ready.” Well, it was not ready. In order for cells to function optimally they must be fed the right proteins, fats, and sugars. If we eat processed foods (trans-saturated fats, processed proteins and refined sugars like HFCS,) our cell membranes are more rigid, plasticized and have trouble communicating with other cells. Even toxins in the environment and emotional stress have a negative effect on the cell membrane, which also creates new receptors to deal with any new substance or chemical it comes in contact with. It has been shown that receptors for HFCS are almost identical to receptors for Heroin, Alcohol, Valium and Endorphins (H. A. V. E.) Yes, we H.A.V.E. an addiction to refined sugars. In 2010 I published my book “LICKING SWEET DEATH; energy and information to stop sugar coating your addiction to processed foods.” Therein you may find all the references you no doubt want to review. Needless to say, it was not a best seller. I am sure my writing was not the best, but I believe that the public and professionals have not been ready to accept the sad fact that we are addicted to refined sugars. No program to lose weight will work until we tackle this addiction with a national public health effort, much like we addressed tobacco. Speaking of tobacco, consumption never decreased until we taxed the hell out of cigarettes. Would you tell an alcoholic to drink milk instead?
Why would you then tell children to eat more broccoli instead of Twinkies and pizza? It has been shown that “Lifestyle intervention in preschool children has little effect on obesity.” (British Medical Journal 2012;344:e714)
On February 2nd 2012, another top tier scientific journal, Nature, published the article “Public health: The toxic truth about sugar,” (Journal Nature 2012;482:27) adding to the mounting evidence seen in several other medical journals. Pediatricians from USF School of Medicine write in Nature about the toxic and addictive character. They feel we must tax it to decrease consumption and increase awareness. Practically all media outlets commented on this article. But, will it make a difference on how we address its profound implications? Is Cinderella’s coach finally ready? You be the judge. Even though I remain idealistic, after many discussions with patients and colleagues, I am convinced that the psychological roots of ANY addiction are so profound (as are the politics and economics of sugar) that all we can hope for is to raise awareness for those ready to tackle such addiction. Perhaps then we will see that programs to measure our BMI and encourage people to eat more broccoli only make ourselves feel good about this serious addiction.