According to a recent meta-analysis of research studies on the consumption of sugar, lowering sugar intake results in "a small but significant reduction in body weight for adults." I don't argue with the conclusions drawn by Dr. Lisa Te Morenga and her colleagues, which were published in the British Medical Journal. I merely believe it is discouraging to all those who are striving valiantly to reduce the extraordinarily high amount of sugar believed to be consumed annually in the average American diet: more than 150 pounds a year. That breaks down to nearly three pounds of sugar per person every week.
Statistics like that don't shock me anymore. As a bariatric physician and medical director of a wellness center in Naples, Fla., that is focused helping men and women who are struggling to lose and maintain their weight, I see the toll in human suffering every day.
All the studies and the findings don't go far enough. Sugar -- especially in soft drinks -- should be placed in the same category as alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. I can hear the moans from Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but it is a fact that reducing the amount of sugar in sweetened drinks can make a huge difference. It is a fact that 33 percent of the sugar we consume comes from beverages. That's more sugar from soda and other sweetened beverages than from any other source of carbohydrates.
Soda makers get it. If anyone doubts that those giant companies are not trying to make products with reduced sugar content, examine the shelves in your neighborhood supermarket. You will see every kind of "diet" soda, even one called "Zero." Clearly, they know that the tide is turning and their products are part of a very serious public health issue that is not going to evaporate.
After decades of working with seriously obese and overweight men, women and children, I know that decreasing sugar from the diets of children and adults is critical to controlling weight. The most insidious thing about sugar is that it makes one hungry. In fact, it acts as an appetite stimulant.
In 80 to 90 percent of the patients who come to me for help with weight loss, I have found irrefutable test evidence of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a metabolic condition that simply makes it easy to gain and hard to lose weight. Insulin delivers energy-producing sugar to the body's cells. For those who are insulin resistant, there's a problem with sugar transfer into the cells. The result is a false sense of starvation and my patients actually crave carbohydrates and sugars -- the exact foods their bodies have a problem metabolizing. It's like a vicious circle; they want more, but their bodies simply can't process it.
So perhaps you are wondering why insulin resistance is such a problem. Some experts believe that 1 in 3 Americans is insulin resistant. That's more than 100 million people who are generating more insulin than their bodies can process. Consequently, they get large abdomens. Their internal organs can have dangerous fat deposits. Left unchecked, ultimately, it leads to the metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes and a host of additional disorders and diseases.
However, successful weight loss won't work if the food doesn't taste good. I defy anyone to come up with a good-tasting diet meal that is filled with chemicals, preservatives and artificial sweeteners. They won't taste good no matter how popular the celebrity or the former professional athlete is. That's the fundamental reason why the short-term packaged foods that taste like cardboard never work. It becomes the classic yo-yo diet that fills the patient with false food, false hope and a bad taste.
There's no quick diet, silver bullet or single pill that will alleviate the problem overnight. But the good news is there's a scientific solution that has helped many people. That solution is a controlled carbohydrate and adequate protein diet with the protein spread out throughout the day. It is what I and my team of dietitians use to correct the metabolic issues, including elevated blood sugar and high triglycerides. This metabolism approach is not a fad or a yo-yo diet or the latest appetite suppressant. It is an evidence-based, thoroughly proven and highly effective strategy for overcoming excessive weight and obesity. However, it won't work if the food doesn't taste good.
The first step in achieving successful weight loss is cutting sugar consumption. I'm glad the researchers are finally catching on.
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