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Posts Tagged ‘Fructose’

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Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Gary Taubes, author of, “Why we get fat” and “Good calories, bad calories” has a nice piece out in the NYT Magazine, which poses the question, “Is sugar toxic?” The question is an interesting one to ask and the article is worth reading in it’s entirety. However, as a faculty member in a Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, there were a couple of statements that caught my attention.

1. A former FDA administrator who now consults with the Corn Refiners Association is quoted as saying that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup might be toxic, but so might any substance that is consumed in ways or quantities that are unatural for humans and that the key question is at what point does a substance go from being harmless to harmful.

This is a great point. A basic principle in pharmacology and toxicology is that you must study the entire dose-response function to really know what you are dealing with. It is always risky to draw strong conclusions from simply comparing two points or two doses to each other. As such, studies that examine a range of acute and chronic “doses” of fructose relative to sucrose or complex carbohydrates could be quite telling. A related point pertains to relative toxicity. It is true that all sorts of substances such as water or salt can be acutely toxic (i.e., fatal) in large enough quantities. So, we must ask how wide a margin of safety we can expect for various substances. Lastly, it is also important to define what we mean by acute and chronic “harm” or “toxicity,” especially when discussing biochemical measures such as glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, or LDL levels.

2. Robert Lustig, of YouTube “Sugar: the bitter truth” video/lecture fame, is quoted as saying that sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are certainly not acute toxins of the kind that FDA typically regulates, but are rather chronic toxins in which the detrimental effects occur over months to years.

This makes me think of cigarettes, which for a long time were regarded as different from the “intoxicating substances” such as alcohol and illicit drugs because of the relative lack of acute impairment from tobacco/nicotine. Typically, the predominant harms from cigarette smoking (cancer, emphysema, heart disease, COPD, etc. ) come with chronic exposure over months to years. And, guess what? FDA just got regulatory authority over tobacco products (about 45 years after the first major report on smoking and health from the Surgeon General). Could the regulation of fructose be in our future?  


Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The FDA just released a report on the potential connection between color additives in food and hyperactivity (ADHD) in children. This is not necessarily a new story, but it has been getting attention and was highlighted yesterday in the NYT.

I think the concluding remarks in the FDA report are interesting and bear repeating here:

“Based on our review of the data from published literature, FDA concludes that a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established. For certain susceptible children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and other problem behaviors, however, the data suggest that their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives. Findings from relevant clinical trials indicate that the effects on their behavior appear to be due to a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties.” (Italics added)

So, I think this raises at least two important issues:

First, might it simply be the case that products that tend to contain more synthetic colors and additives (think Jell-O, Froot Loops, Cheetos, etc., etc.) also contain a lot more sugar and other junk that we shouldn’t be eating? That is to say, that the “number of other substances in food” to which the FDA refers might actually be the high amounts of (gasp) sugars or grains?

Second, there seems to a whole host of interesting questions that can be raised regarding how ingredients or additives (e.g., colors, preservatives, gluten, etc.) might differentially impact a subset of the population or a susceptible group of individuals. Are these things bad for everyone? Are they only bad for some people? Does it just depend on the dose? If any of those answers are yes, we can also begin to think about what the regulatory or policy implications should be.

Food for thought… (sans additives of course)


Thursday, January 6th, 2011

No, it’s not what you might think – we’re not talking about squeezing an avocado to tell how ripe it is, we’re talking about new products from Pepsico called Tropolis Squeezable Fruit.

Here is a passage from the company’s press release:

“With challenges in mind that moms and kids face when it comes to consuming enough fruits and vegetables, Tropicana worked with moms, kids and health experts including dietitians and pediatricians to develop this healthy, delicious, lunchbox and grab-and-go snack. Price, availability and convenience are the three main barriers for moms when it comes to squeezing fruits and vegetables into everyday routines, leaving Americans, including children, short on the five to 13 fruit and vegetable servings recommended for everyday consumption.”

We can agree that price, availability, and convenience are three main barriers for people when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption; however, like Nestle, we question the value of this new “drinkified snack” or “snackified beverage” (Note: I am not making these terms up, they come from the CEO of Pepsico herself).

This is how Nestle breaks it down:

There are 3 flavors: grape, cherry, and apple. The ingredients of each are below.

Grape World: apple puree, filtered water, banana puree concentrate, maltodextrin, grape juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, natural flavor, and vitamin C.

Cherry World: apple puree, filtered water, banana puree concentrate, maltodextrin, apple juice concentrate, cherry juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, natural flavor, and vitamin C.

Apple World: apple puree, filtered water, banana puree concentrate, maltodextrin, apple juice concentrate, lemon juice concentrate, natural flavor, and vitamin C.

Notice any similarities?

Nestle concludes that this stuff is no more than watery apple and banana sauce, artificially thickened, sweetened with fruit sugars, flavored with additives, and with added vitamin C. We agree. These products appear to offer a lot of concentrated sugars with very little diversity of ingredients.

Hmm, you know what are also widely available at relatively low prices and are pretty convenient to carry and eat? Right, apples and bananas.

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