03/26/2015 05:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sugar, Maybe Not So Sweet

Back in 2013, a judge threw out a ban on super-sized sugary drinks that then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted to enact. Mayor Bloomberg was ridiculed and even photo-shopped as a nanny.


In February 2015 the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Council in its recommendations to the federal government called for a tax on sugary beverages to curb consumption of sugar by the American public.

On March 10, 2015 the NYC Board of Health voted to amend the rules governing consumption of fruit juices in day care centers administered by the City of New York. The current mayor Bill de Blasio approved the amendments, though he was critical of Mayor Bloomberg's former beverage initiatives.

In an effort to curb childhood obesity and improve health, the new rules state that a child must be 2 years or older before consuming fruit juices and that consumption should be capped at four ounces per day. This differs from the previous rule of a minimum of 8 months of age and a maximum of 6 ounces of juice per day.

While fruit juice may appear benign when compared to soda, it is, in fact, just as sugary. When the whole fruit is consumed, the fiber mitigates the effects of the sugar on the human body. Fruit juice is simple sugar water with some trace vitamins.

Of course the board also suggests limiting television viewing and increasing physical activity.

This shift in public health policy clearly indicates an increasing understanding of the hazards of sugar consumption.

Over the last 50 years there really have been contradictory nutritional recommendations. First we must limit fat intake. Then we must limit or even eliminate eggs in order to curb dietary cholesterol. Oh how many watery all-white egg omelets! Finally let us eschew butter for margarine. No, wait. The trans fat.

It is no wonder the public is thoroughly confused.

We did follow many of these recommendations. For example, butter decreased from a U.S. per capita consumption of about 18 pounds in 1910 to a low of 3.5 pounds 100 years later in 2010. What did increase in direct proportion, though, are the consumption of sugar and the rate of obesity of both adults and children.

This cautionary tale of sugar is not new. Late British physiologist and nutritionist Dr. John Yudkin warned in his work Pure, White and Deadly (Sweet and Dangerous in the U.S.), published in 1972, of the perils of the overconsumption of sugar. Dr. Yudkin, from his research, stated that sugar led to coronary thrombosis and dental caries. He hinted that sugar was probably the cause of obesity and Type 2 diabetes and possibly gout and some cancers.

This was an instance of dueling nutritionists. Ancel Keyes, the "Father of the Lipid Theory," disagreed with Yudkin. Keyes asserted that it was fat, not sugar, that was the culprit in modern diseases, particularly heart disease.

Keyes yelled the loudest. Invectives of quackery, shoddy research and pseudoscience were hurled at Yudkin. He endured ad hominem attacks. In short, he was thoroughly discredited.

We as Americans embarked on our low-fat, high-carbohydrate adventure.

Yet the science was always there. Nobel prize winner Otto Warburg, in 1923, discovered the metabolic pathway of cancer cells to be one of anaerobic respiration -- glucose fermentation. Thus, even then, sugar was implicated in the growth of cancer tumors.

Furthermore, there are essential fatty acids and essential amino acids for the human body. There are no essential carbohydrates, no essential sugars. We simply don't need them.

The shift in public health policy, as demonstrated by the recommendations of the DGAC and the NYC board of health, not only vindicates Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Dr. John Yudkin as well.

Some years ago the Corn Refiners Association attempted to change public opinion by changing the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar. It does not appear to have been successful. Of course it's all just sugar -- high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup and fruit juice. They are all metabolized the same way. Dr. Robert Lustig of the University of California Medical School, San Francisco details that metabolism.

How to allay confusion then? To begin, we need only pose a simple question: Is it good for human beings? Not, is it good for corporations, nor the sugar lobby, not even the dairy industry. Is it good for the human organism and the planet? That would be a start.

Then we could just follow the money.