Posts Tagged ‘Insulin’

But now they’re adding sugar?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

We've removed the HFCS

A few days ago I re-read Taubes’s July 2002 article in The New York Times and the November 2002 “Nutrition Action Health Letter” article from CSPI that looked at his claims that refined carbohydrates are the problem and contradicted many of them. I have 40+ years of personal experience of reading articles critically. I fully understand that all one sees in print may not tell the entire story or may be slanted toward a particular view of the truth.

But I was still surprised to see a Wall Street Journal article (“Personal Journal, Wednesday July 7, 2011 pp. D1-2) titled “Sweet Revenge, Chefs Pour on the Sugar.”

The story of high-fructose corn syrup dates back to the aftermath of WWII. Two major war-time industries needed to continue employing large numbers of workers, especially with all the GIs returning. So toxic chemicals became pesticides and gunpowder morphed into fertilizer. Corn was felt to be the most efficient crop in converting sunlight to food energy, so it became the most favored crop. Soon there was the question of new uses for all that corn.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was first introduced by Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi in 1957.  The industrial production process was developed by Dr. Y. Takasaki in Japan from 1965 to 1970 and Takasaki is known to many as the creator of HFCS. HFCS was rapidly introduced to many processed foods and soft drinks in the U.S. from about 1975 to 1985.

High-fructose corn syrup is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processing that starch to yield corn syrup, which is almost entirely glucose, and then adding enzymes that change some of the glucose into fructose.

The problem of course, is the rapid absorption of both HFCS and table sugar leading to a surge of insulin levels, resultant lowering of elevated blood sugar levels and, perhaps to hunger and subsequent over-eating. Taubes may have that part correct.

Now however, many high-level chefs are turning away from HFCS and substituting sugar. That’s also been true for food-producing companies; you can now purchase Wheat Thins or Pepsi sweetened with sugar instead of HFCS.

But these are better for you

But my copy of Harvard’s School of Public Health “Nutrition Source Update,” led me to their new Healthy Eating Pyramid (link below) which puts sugary drinks and sweets at the small end with a comment to use them sparingly.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/index.html

The chef’s in the “Sweet Revenge” article have it wrong; they think HFCS is worse for you than sugar (many scientists think both have negative effects on health) and are surprised to find it in so many commercial foods, e.g., oyster crackers.

The American Medical Association and the American Dietetic Association both urge all of us to restrict our intake of all caloric sweeteners. The research director of the University of Cincinnati’s Diabetes and Obesity Center says HFCS and table sugar are biochemically identical.

So I believe it’s time to cut down on HFCS, table sugar, honey, brown sugar, golden syrup (made from cane sugar) and even agave nectar.

Your dentist will be happy and in the long run I think you’ll have better overall health.

Will this work and is it safe?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

The ultrasound said 9 pounds

I’m still digesting Taubes’s work with mixed feelings, but his concept that insulin is central in the obesity epidemic took on a new meaning today. I was reading the “Health & Wellness” section of The Wall Street Journal and came across an article titled “Programming a Fetus for a Healthier Life.” I was intrigued and read further, finding the U.K. government is backing a research effort in the realm of “fetal programming,” changing the uterine environment during pregnancy in an attempt to better a child’s health for the better in later years.

This is new turf for me and normally not an area I would have written about; in this case, however, the experiment, thus far only in its early stages, hopes to prevent obesity.

The underlying concept is the work of Dr. David J. P. Barker, who published a theory in 1997 termed the “thrifty phenotype,” saying that in poor nutritional conditions, a pregnant woman can modify the development of her unborn child such that it will be prepared to survive in a resource-limited environment. The extension of this says reduced fetal growth is associated with a number of later-life chronic conditions.

Barker is now both Professor of Epidemiology at an English university and Professor in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University. In 1995 his theory was renamed as the Barker hypothesis by the British Medical Journal. Now it’s being applied in a very different setting.

a model of human insulin

The study is attempting to enroll obese pregnant women, 400 of them, in a trial of an oral agent called Metformin, normally utilized to treat type-2 diabetes, to lower their blood sugars, which tend to run higher than normal. The thought is that glucose is passed on to babies in utero and they then end up larger than normal birth weights and elevated insulin levels, setting the stage for lifelong obesity.

Dr. Jane Norman, a maternal-fetal health specialist at the University of Edinburgh is a lead investigator. A prominent US specialist, on the board of the 2,000-member Maternal-Fetal Medicine Society and not involved in the study, says he’d have no qualms about his patients joining the Metformin-taking moms-to-be.

I searched the literature and found the following

“Does metformin cause birth defects? Is it safe to take it during the first trimester?

Most studies suggest that metformin is not associated with an increased risk of birth defects. Some early trials suggested that the use of metformin during the first trimester was associated with an increased risk of birth defects. However, it is not clear whether these were caused by metformin or poor control of the mothers’ diabetes. More recent trials studying the safety of metformin during pregnancy, mostly when used to treat insulin resistance in women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), did not show an increased rate of birth defects or complications at birth.”

So the concept appears to be a reasonable test of whether the uterine environment can be safely altered with a drug to prevent obesity.

Wow!