Increase immunity, reverse diabetes, minimize your risk of heart attack, cancer and dementia by eating safe healthy food. Living a compassionate life begins by taking compassionate, loving care of your health and your self. This is the 2nd Compassion. This weekly 11-part series excerpts and adapts Chapter 2 of the new book, The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World.
“An exceptionally well and persuasively written clarion call to personal and collective action, The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World is unreservedly and urgently recommended.”
— Midwest Book Review
“The ambitious book’s five chapters highlight compassionate approaches toward animals, self, the land, community, and democracy. Erickson’s writing displays passion, clarity, and a grasp of every topic he tackles.” — Kirkus Reviews
Brady and his mother realized how calorie rich, refined carbohydrate loaded, and sugar amped their accustomed diet was. They learned the benefits of eating whole foods and a plant-based diet. So, they made healthy adjustments.
What they didn’t realize is that something insidiously perverse has happened to the food we eat. The core ingredients in the vast majority of products on supermarket shelves, as well as in the meals you order in restaurants, have changed.
They are now significantly different in these ways:
- New sugars and a vast array of synthetic ingredients have been created in recent decades and, along with refined carbohydrates, are now contained in hundreds of thousands of processed food products that the food industry creates and markets. These have become leading drivers in our growing diabetes and disease epidemic.[i]
- Corn, wheat and other grains, vegetables, as well as meat and dairy products no longer contain the vitamin and mineral quantities, and consequently the nutritional value, they once did. Frequently, not even close.
- GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops — also known as GE (Genetically Engineered) crops — now dominate American agriculture and bring with them two other unique hazards.
. . .
Sugar has changed.
Sugars are a major cause of diabetes. Americans eat — on average — 152 pounds of sugar per person per year. In and of itself, that’s way too much sugar, but on top of that, sugar has changed.
Natural sugar, which is found in cane or beets, is sucrose, which when broken down yields a 50/50 mixture of glucose and fructose.
Mr. Beet and Ms. Cane have found that their family of sugars has grown. Rather than spawning genetically related sweet little offspring, they now have sugary siblings showing up at the door — hundreds of them — who bear little genetic or chemical resemblance to them but have been cast into their “adoptive” family. And these new sugars don’t affect your body in the same way.
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener that arrived at the door in the late 1960s. Glucose and fructose are digested, absorbed and metabolized differently in the body. “Whereas almost every cell in the body can use glucose for energy, no cell has the ability to use fructose… Once inside the body, only the liver can metabolize fructose.” Dr. Fung continues, “Excess fructose is changed into fat in the liver. High levels of fructose will cause fatty liver. Fatty liver is absolutely crucial to the development of insulin resistance.”[ii]
High-fructose corn syrup tastes even sweeter than sugar. Food manufacturers also like it because it extends shelf life, keeps breads softer, and also important from their perspective, it is a less expensive ingredient. Your body doesn’t like it because it breaks down more rapidly, spiking your blood sugar level and forcing your liver to work harder to metabolize it — all before it gets stored as fat.
Data from the American Society for Clinical Nutrition links the increase in high-fructose corn syrup consumption to the obesity epidemic.[iii]High-fructose corn syrup is found, in large amounts, in soft drinks and juices, sauces like spaghetti and barbeque sauce, commercial salad dressings and condiments like ketchup, and is common in significant quantities in processed foods.
Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in the United States increased 1,000% between 1970 and 1990.[iv] It has now become the biggest source of calories in our diet with Americans consuming more than 50 pounds a year on average.[v]
High-fructose corn syrup is especially dangerous as a driver of obesity, diabetes, cancer, liver and heart disease.
Dr. Hyman writes, “In the late 1970s, in concert with Big Ag (the likes of Cargill and Monsanto) and fueled by new agricultural subsidies that promoted massive increases in the production of corn and soy, Big Food poured high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats into 600,000 industrial processed foods, 80% of which contained added sugar. These high-sugar, high-glycemic foods are highly addictive and spike insulin, which in turn leads to fat storage, hunger, a slow metabolism, and the cholesterol profile most linked to heart disease.”[vi]
Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at U.C. San Francisco, is a leading expert on childhood obesity. In his lecture, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, he states, “Fructose is a carbohydrate but fructose is metabolized as a fat… A low-fat diet isn’t really a low-fat diet. Because the fructose or sucrose doubles as fat, it’s really a high-fat diet. That’s why our diets don’t work… Fructose is also a toxin… Glucose is good carbohydrate. Glucose is the energy of life. Fructose is poison.”[vii]
A research team at Princeton University demonstrated that rats drinking high-fructose corn syrup, at levels well below those in soft drinks, gained significantly more weight than rats drinking sugar water, even when calories consumed were the same. The rats drinking the high-fructose corn syrup exhibited signs of metabolic syndrome, a dangerous condition in humans, including abnormal weight gain, especially visceral belly fat.[viii] Bruce Blumberg, Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, says, “Crystalline fructose doesn’t exist in nature, we’re making that. Fructose is not a food. People think fructose comes from fruit, but it doesn’t. The fructose that we eat is synthesized. Yes, it’s derived from food. But cyanide is derived from food, too. Would you call it a food?”[ix]
The documentary feature Fed Up reveals the power of the food industry with its dominant corporations (Big Food) leading the charge. In the 1980s when a Congressional panel examined the dangerous health risks to Americans from consuming increasing amounts of sugar, the sugar industry moved decisively to attack their report. U. S. Congressman Tim Ryan, in The Real Food Revolution, writes, “In 2003, when the World Health Organization (WHO) published dietary guidelines suggesting that no more than 10% of an adult’s daily calories should come from ‘free’ sugars (those added to food, as well as natural sugars in honey, syrup, and fruit juice), the U.S. Sugar Association pressed the federal government to withdraw funding for the WHO if the organization did not modify its recommendations.”[x] The WHO withdrew them.
Eleven years later in 2014 the WHO finally overcame industry pressure and published an updated report — one that, based on new health data, went even further and recommended cutting the sugar percentage of an adult’s daily calories to 5%.
Congressman Ryan cites, “One example of the strength of the corporate lobbying dollar is the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), a trade association that is made up of six giant corporations including Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. In recent years the CRA has been spending tons of money to promote the positive image for high-fructose corn syrup. Between 2000 and 2013, the CRA spent approximately $5.2 million in federal lobbying. It was also revealed that the CRA spent more than $30 million on a private PR campaign, including $10 million to fund a four-year research project by a cardiologist that disputed the contention that there are any negative health consequences from corn-based sweeteners!”[xi]
In your supermarket, you may notice that, on the Nutrition Facts labels appearing on food product packaging, on the line for the ingredient Sugar, there is no percentage listed. The percentages of daily value based on a standard calorie-a-day diet appear beside the other itemized ingredients, but not next to Sugar. Food manufacturers are not required to list the sugar percentage. If it had to be revealed, it would most likely be scary-high. The sugar industry has fought very aggressively, and successfully, to be exempted from having to reveal that information to you.
A modeling study, Cost-Effectiveness of the US Food and Drug Administration Added Sugar Labeling Policy for Improving Diet and Health, published April 15, 2019, projected that adding a sugar label can, “Prevent or postpone nearly 1 million cases of cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” and “Save $31 billion in net healthcare costs and $61.9 billion in societal costs over 20 years.”[xii] [xiii]
At long last, this sugar labelling exemption is scheduled to end in 2020.
There is another reason why the food industry prefers synthetic sugars and has developed so many of them. This is another way to hide how much sugar is in any given food or beverage. Processed and packaged foods like yogurt, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings often contain large amounts of multiple sugars.
If sugar is one of the main ingredients by volume in a food product and you want to mask that, one way is to mix in several different types of sweeteners, which, while adding up to the same overall amount of sugar, can now be listed as separate ingredients, and each one, now constituting a lower percentage of the ingredient total, will appear further down the list. And since most sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, do not contain the word “sugar” in their names, most consumers glancing at an ingredient list on a package won’t be able to spot them.
Huge food corporations like General Mills, Nestlé and Coca-Cola create products for a competitive market that are hugely profitable. Part of their popularity is their taste and appeal, which comes in no small part from the amount of sweeteners they add. Of primary concern to these corporations is their market share and the relentless pursuit of profit, rather than consumer health and wellbeing.
As Brady and many of us have realized, the labels the food industry adds to these products such as “natural,” “healthy,” “low-calorie,” and “low-fat,” are misleading. Manufacturers have also been reducing suggested portion sizes on packaging. If a cereal box contains 12 servings and its manufacturer decides that same amount of cereal in the same box actually constitutes 16 servings, the amount of calories and sugar per “serving” listed on the packaging can now be reduced 25%.
The research study, Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research – A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents, revealed that the sugar industry was aware that consumption triggers poor health, and had evidence since the 1960s that linked sugar consumption to heart disease and cancer. It concludes that the industry “has spent decades manipulating, molding and guiding national research to exonerate sugar and shift the blame to saturated fat instead.”[xiv]
Sugar Industry corporations have also done an effective job in shielding themselves from legal responsibility for the adverse health consequences resulting from the consumption of their products. Corporate executive decisions throughout the food industry reveal an equally pervasive void in ethical responsibility as well.
The easiest way to make sure your diet is not too sugar-heavy, is to prioritize plant-based, whole, and unprocessed foods.
. . .
Refined carbohydrates have become omnipresent.
Refined carbohydrates from processed grains are a major cause of obesity, diabetes and chronic disease. In fact, refined carbohydrates such as white sugar and white flour stimulate insulin levels more than virtually any other food. Macaroni and cheese, pastas and pancakes containing processed grains — each of these is a highly refined carbohydrate. Most breakfast cereals and packaged white breads are made from ultra-processed grains.
In what is being described as a landmark study, Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial[xv], published May 16, 2019, found that the hormonal balance of participants eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods changed reducing their levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone. They ate significantly more carbs and fat, and they consumed food faster. After two weeks, their diet was changed to one consisting of minimally processed foods like stir-fried beef with vegetables, basmati rice, and fresh fruit, and their hormone levels returned to normal as did their eating habits.[xvi]
Dr. Fung makes an important distinction: “These foods are quite fattening, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all carbohydrates are similarly bad. ‘Good’ carbohydrates (whole fruits and vegetables) are substantially different from ‘bad’ (sugar and flour).”[xvii]
Whole grains protect you against obesity due to their natural fiber. Your body needs fiber daily to remain healthy. Fiber only comes from plants — and plant foods contain high amounts of it. Processed grains are grains stripped of their natural fiber. Processed grains are less nutritious in part because they are digested differently by your body.
Americans now consume, on average, 146 pounds of flour a year. Flour actually raises blood sugar more than sugar does.[xx]The vast majority of fast food, junk food and processed foods contain refined carbohydrates. Reducing them in your diet can vastly improve your ability to lose weight.
. . .
Wheat, corn, other grains and vegetables have changed.
Take a step back in the food supply chain, to food in the fields, to crop source. Food before “food manufacturers” have gotten their hands on it. There is a problem even here.
David Thomas researched mineral content in vegetables and determined that from 1940 to 1991 copper declined by 76%, calcium by 46%, iron by 27%, magnesium by 24%, and potassium by 16%.[xxi]
In her article, The Great Nutrient Collapse, Helena Bottemiller Evich writes about Irakli Loladze. Irakli is a mathematician, and like many mathematicians, he wanted to solve a mystery. The mystery perplexing him was this: Why, over the past 70 years, has the vitamin, mineral and protein content of our most important grains, fruits and vegetables been declining? He had a theory as to why, and in 2002 he set about to test and prove it. He suspected that the rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to global warming was the cause. And he was right.
Helena Bottemiller Evich writes, “As best scientists can tell, this is what happens: Rising CO2 revs up photosynthesis, the process that helps plants transform sunlight to food. This makes plants grow, but it also leads them to pack in more carbohydrates like glucose at the expense of other nutrients that we depend on, like protein, iron and zinc… Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average.”[xxii]
There is a correlation between the increase in chronic diseases and the diminished nutritional value in the foods we are consuming.
. . .
The Compassion For Self Series excerpted from The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World ©2020 by Stephen Erickson
Stephen Erickson is an author and a dedicated environmental and animal activist for 30 years. He is also a screenwriter, feature filmmaker, and former Home Entertainment executive. He lives in Los Angeles and has 3 children. The Great Healing – Five Compassions That Can Save Our World is his first book.
“Erickson’s ability to connect climate science, copious data, and public policies with the lived experiences of people and other creatures sets this book apart. His emphasis on humane and caring methods reminds readers that winning hearts and minds is a prerequisite to capturing carbon. An inspired synthesis of environmental, cultural, economic, and political calls to action.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A comprehensive entreaty to save a rapidly dying Earth with compassionateactivism… Emotional descriptions (often illustrated by vivid photos) of animal cruelty, oceanic dead zones, and Farm Bill subsidies for ‘Big Ag’ elicit compassion, outrage, and shame. Erickson takes care to balance his concerns with suggestions for solutions… This alarming but not alarmist work provides purposeful, accessible, and concrete ways to counter and prevent ecological damage.” — Book Life Review by Publishers Weekly
[i] “Compelling evidence shows your net carbohydrate intake is a primary factor that determines your body’s fat ratio, and processed grains and sugars (particularly fructose) are the primary culprits behind skyrocketing obesity, diabetes and chronic disease rates.”
Joseph Mercola, D.O., Obesity Takes Greater Than Ever Toll on Global Health, Mercola.com, Jun. 28, 2017, https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/06/28/obesity-global-epidemic.aspx
[ii] Jason Fung, M.D. The Obesity Code, British Columbia, Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2016 pg. 163
[iii] George A. Bray, et all, Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 79, no 4 (2004): 537-543
[iv] Department of Biology, University of Indiana, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Fructose, Aug. 24, 2010, http://www.indiana.edu/~oso/Fructose/Fructose.html(access via Safari)
[v] Mark Hyman, M.D. Eat Fat, Get Thin, New York, New York: Little, Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, 2016 pg. 49
[vi] Mark Hyman, M.D. Eat Fat, Get Thin, New York, New York: Little, Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, 2016 pg. 48
[vii] Robert H. Lustig, M.D., Current Controversies in Nutrition: Letting Science Be the Guide — Sugar: The Bitter Truth, University of California Television , Jul. 30, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
[viii] Hilary Parker, A Sweet Problem: Princeton Researchers Find that High-fructose Corn Syrup Prompts Considerably More Weight Gain, Princeton University, Mar. 22, 2010, https://www.princeton.edu/news/2010/03/22/sweet-problem-princeton-researchers-find-high-fructose-corn-syrup-prompts
[ix] Kristin Wartman, What’s Really Making Us Fat?, The Atlantic, Mar. 8, 2012 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/03/whats-really-making-us-fat/254087/
[x] Tim Ryan, The Real Food Revolution, Carlsbad, California: Hay House, 2014
[xi] Tim Ryan, The Real Food Revolution, Carlsbad, California: Hay House 2014, pgs. 39-40
[xii] Lisa LaPoint, FDA Added Sugar Label Could be a Cost-effective Way to Improve Health, Generate Savings, Tufts Now, Apr. 15, 2019, https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/fda-added-sugar-label-could-be-cost-effective-way-improve-health-generate-savings
[xiii] Yue Huang, Chris Kypridemos, Junxiu Liu, et al. Cost-Effectiveness of the US Food and Drug Administration Added Sugar Labeling Policy for Improving Diet and Health, AHA Journals – Circulation, doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.036751 Apr. 15, 2019, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.036751
[xiv] Cristin E. Kearns, DDS, MBA, Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research – A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents, American Medical Association, 2016, JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(11):1680-1685. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2548255?redirect=true
[xv] Kevin D. Hall, Alexis Ayuketah, Robert Brychta, et al. Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake, Cell Metabolism, May 16, 2019, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008 https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(19)30248-7
[xvi] Maria Godoy, It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain, NPR, May 16, 2019, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/05/16/723693839/its-not-just-salt-sugar-fat-study-finds-ultra-processed-foods-drive-weight-gain
[xvii] Jason Fung, M.D. The Obesity Code, British Columbia, Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2016 pg. 175
[xviii] Kyro C, Tjonneland A, Overvad K, et al. Higher Whole-Grain Intake is Associated with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes among Middle-Aged Men and Women: The Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Cohort, Journal of Nutrition, Sep. 1, 2018, 148(9):1434-1444. Doi: 10. 1093/jn/nxy112. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30016529
[xix] Good Medicine, Whole Grains Help Protect Against Type 2 Diabetes, The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine, Winter, 2019, Vol. 28, No. 1, pg. 5 https://p.widencdn.net/ayfskf/2019-No.-1-Winter-Good-Medicine
[xx] Mark Hyman, M.D. Eat Fat, Get Thin, New York, New York: Little, Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, 2016 pg. 48
[xxi] The Mineral Depletion of Foods Available to Us as a Nation (1940 – 2002) – A Review of the 6th Edition of McCance and Widdowson, research article by David Thomas, July 2007 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/026010600701900205
[xxii] Helena Bottemiller Evich, The Great Nutrient Collapse, The Agenda – Politico, Sep. 13, 2017 https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511