Many years ago, I watched a You Tube video about fruit juice and fructose that became a viral sensation. This medical school lecture can be technical at times, but it is perfect for a science nerd like myself. Dr. Robert Lustig became one of my personal heroes and remains one to this day. As a dentist in Armonk, NY in the 1980’s and 90’s, I pleaded with local pediatricians to cease and desist with recommending fruit juice for their patients. In my work as a food educator and school food activist, I fought the good fight against all sorts of sweetened snacks and beverages. It continues to be an uphill battle, which is why I created an online Sugar Challenge.
One thing I appreciate about Dr. Lustig is that he is also determined to change public policy on sugar. The USDA considers juice to be the same as fruit. As a result the school lunch program and WIC programs feed moms and kids plenty of fruit juice. Its not just teeth that are harmed by fructose without the fiber. Soda, sports drinks and healthy sounding “vitamin” waters are loaded with fructose too. As a result, kids are developing NAFL, Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver, at an alarming rate.
Sugar currently enjoys a GRAS, Generally Recognized As Safe, rating from the FDA. Perhaps it’s time to question that status. Also, why does the government subsidize sugar to the tune of $2 billion dollars annually when vegetable growers get zero subsidy?
Sugar is a public health crisis, we need to treat it that way. It’s not easy, we have so many holidays in which sugar plays a fundamental role. We’ve confused sweet foods with fun and happiness. And we are getting sicker as a result. Sugar is socially acceptable and highly addictive, a dangerous combination.
Lustig’s most recent book, The Hacking of the American Mind, takes it beyond sugar delving into the corporate takeover of our brains and bodies. Its a deep dark rabbit hole worth investigating.
Mainstream medicine has not yet caught on to the health and wellness benefits of home cooking. Lustig discusses the biochemical advantages of cooking in his hacking book. I intuitively knew that the cooking piece was key, spending many years teaching cooking classes and teaching my kids to be creative and competent in the kitchen. I will definitely be utilizing Dr. Lustig’s new book in my classes with NYMC medical students this spring. I’ve been teaching the “food” part of a Complementary Alternative Medicine elective for 8 years now. Food should not be considered “Alternative” and this course should be a semester long in freshman year, not an elective in their 4th year. But hey! I do what I can to plant seeds for a higher Food IQ with the future docs.
Upon looking at Dr. Lustig’s 2018 speaking schedule, I see he will be speaking to dentists connecting tooth decay, fatty liver and heart disease to sugar consumption. This is long overdue. Deep in my bones, I’m still a dentist. My work with food education is based on a core belief that that if we increase appreciation and love of vegetables, less children will be spending an uncomfortable hour in a dental chair.
Its time for dentists, physicians and all health professionals to connect the dots to our food supply and start looking at how we can use food to reverse and prevent chronic disease. Sugar is definitely low hanging fruit in the food system, creating massive harm to our teeth and our livers and much more.