Friday, January 17, 2014

Sugar: A Calorie Is NOT A Calorie


Still Believe 'A Calorie Is a Calorie'?


Dr. Robert Lustig explains:

A calorie is a measurement of energy (a matter of physics), not a value judgment on where that energy goes (a matter of biochemistry). As my book Fat Chance explains, you get sick from inappropriate energy storage (in your liver and muscle), not defective energy balance (bigger love handles). Nonetheless, "a calorie is a calorie" continues to be promulgated by the food industry as their defense against their culpability for the current epidemic of obesity and chronic metabolic disease. But it is as dishonest as a three-dollar bill. Here are just four examples that refute this dogma:

Fiber


You eat 160 calories in almonds, but you absorb only 130. The fiber in the almonds delays absorption of calories into the bloodstream, delivering those calories to the bacteria in your intestine, which chew them up. Because a calorie is not a calorie.

Protein


When it comes to food, you have to put energy in to get energy out. You have to put twice as much energy in to metabolize protein as you do carbohydrate; this is called the thermic effect of food. So protein wastes more energy in its processing. Plus protein reduces hunger better than carbohydrate. Because a calorie is not a calorie.

Fat


All fats release nine calories per gram when burned. But omega-3 fats are heart-healthy and will save your life, while trans fats clog your arteries, leading to a heart attack. Because a calorie is not a calorie.

Sugar



This is the "big kahuna" of the "big lie." Sugar is not one chemical. It's two. Glucose is the energy of life. Every cell in every organism on the planet can burn glucose for energy. Glucose is mildly sweet, but not very interesting (think molasses). Fructose is an entirely different animal. Fructose is very sweet, the molecule we seek. Both burn at four calories per gram. If fructose were just like glucose, then sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) would be just like starch. But fructose is not glucose. Because a calorie is not a calorie.


Bottom line -- only changes in sugar availability explained changes in diabetes prevalence worldwide; nothing else mattered.

Robert H. Lustig, M.D., is Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF, and President of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, at which the Doctors' Food Project is the first campaign. He is currently getting his Masters in Studies of Law at UC Hastings College of the Law. His YouTube lecture, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" has been viewed over 3 million times. His book, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease (Hudson Street Press, 2012), is in bookstores now.
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