What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

It’s a pretty popular saying. It’s quite often used to justify not informing someone about a problem or a misdeed.

The idea being, if because you don’t know about an event or a situation, you can’t make yourself unhappy by worrying about it.

It would be nice if “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” applied to nutrition as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way.

Because when it comes to food and drink “what you don’t know can kill you.” For example, if you don’t know that:

1) A 12 ounce (355 ml) can of Mountain Dew contains a whopping 46 grams of sugar and;

2) The recommended daily intake according to the United States government guidelines, men should consume no more than 37.8 g (9 tsp.) of sugar a day; women no more than 25.2 g (6 tsp.).

…you could be perfectly happy drinking one or two cans of Mountain Dew (or another soda brand) each day.

But over time, chances are, your soda consumption will play a big role in your premature departure from this planet.

Welcome to Part 2 of my three-part series about the 2014 documentary Fed Up, produced and narrated by American journalist Katie Couric.

Fed Up is meant to be a wake-up call to people everywhere. It’s a call-to-action about the need to educate yourself about nutrition so you understand exactly what you and your family are putting in your bodies. So you can both improve your quality of life and the length of your life.

Here are some more interesting takeaways from Fed Up…

How America’s (and the rest of the world’s) “love affair” with sugar started – Back in 1977, the senate special committee on nutrition looked into the connection between diet and heart disease. The committee was headed by Senator George McGovern. Experts told the committee that obesity would soon be the number one form of malnutrition in the United States. In addition, concern was voiced that the American diet, which had become overly rich in fatty meats, saturated fats, cholesterol, and sugar, would send medical costs skyrocketing. They put all this into what was to be known as The McGovern Report. “Not so fast,” said the egg, sugar, dairy and beef associations who feared the publication of the report would result in a drop in sales. “We demand a re-write,” they screamed. And they got their way. The dietary goals were revised and the words “reduced intake” were removed from the report. Instead, they encouraged Americans to buy leaner products and buy more food with less fat. The 1980’s began with a new health doctrine and a brand new market every food product imaginable reengineered to be low in fat.

Low fat? No problem. Just add sugar – “When you take the fat out of the food, it tastes nasty. It tastes terrible. It tastes like cardboard. The food industry knew that. So they had to do something to make the food palatable, to make it worth eating. So what did they do? Dumped in the sugar,” says Dr. Lustig. Fed Up informs us that between 1977 and 2000 Americans have doubled their intake of sugar.

Children and young adults are now having serious health issues – “We’ve seen strokes in eight-year- olds. We’re seeing heart attacks in twenty-year-olds. We’re seeing kids at 30 – by their 30th birthday – needing renal dialysis for kidney failure because of these problems,” states Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine.

Too much sugar in any form is dangerous – Besides cutting down on consuming an excess amount of sugar, your focus should also be on reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates. “White Bread, white rice, potato products, prepared breakfast cereals are digested into glucose literally in an instant in the digestive tract. You can eat a bowl of corn flakes with no added sugar, or you could eat a bowl of sugar with no added corn flakes. They might taste different, but below the neck, they’re metabolically the same,” says Dr. David Ludwig, Professor of Paediatrics, Harvard Medical School.

Artificial sweeteners are not the answer – A lot of people think that they can just switch from sugar to artificial sweeteners and everything will be ok. “Diet this, diet that… Splenda… aspartame, but it triggers hormonal responses that cause you to produce more insulin. They make you crave more. They make you hungry. You think sugar’s on the way. Your brain’s like, “Wait a minute. I think sugar’s coming. I tasted it.” So, low sugar, low fat, diet foods, they’re dangerous and they’re actually disease producing as well,” says Dr. Hyman.

Is this seemingly benevolent substance lurking in your fridge? – Soda has been pretty much demonized for the empty calorie sugar-laden substance that it is…so are you ahead of the game if you buy fruit juice instead? Not according to Dr. Lustig. “When you consume sugar naturally, that is as, in fruit, you’re getting the fiber that you need to mitigate the negative effects. Am I worried about fruit? No. But am I worried about fruit juice? Oh, you bet. Because when you take the fiber out, you might as well be drinking a coke,” he says.

That’s it for Part 2. In Part 3, I’ll take a look at, among other things, how specific politicians have put the profits of companies in their district ahead of you and your children’s health.

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