YTread Logo
YTread Logo

The Sugar "Fix": The Addiction and The Treatment

Apr 04, 2024
Thank you to the Commonwealth Club for recognizing that this is an issue that needs to be brought to the forefront. And nothing gives me great pleasure sharing the stage with Nicole. We have been, let's say, colleagues, friends and panelists for more than 15 years. And we're going to do the dog and pony show, not just here, but in New York in two weeks and then in London in a couple of months as well. So this is a hot topic and I can't think of anyone better. And me and Nicole are the founders of this

sugar

addiction

thing.
the sugar fix the addiction and the treatment
So tonight you will hear it from the source. Alright. Sugar, first of all, let's define it. What are we talking about? You know,

sugar

means different things to different people, like blood sugar, for example. Well, that's blood glucose, not blood sugar. It is glucose in blood. That's why we have some diabetes educators in the room today. When we talk about dietary sugar, we're talking about something different. We are talking about a compound called sucrose glucose. And sucrose is not the same as sucrose, cane table sugar, and beet sugar. What you put in your coffee, the crystals, is a combination of two molecules.
the sugar fix the addiction and the treatment

More Interesting Facts About,

the sugar fix the addiction and the treatment...

One is glucose and the other is this other molecule called fructose. Glucose and fructose together form sucrose. It also produces high fructose corn syrup. It also makes maple honey and agave syrup. All of them are considered dietary sugar. And that's what we're talking about tonight. And the problem is not the glucose molecule. It's this other molecule, the fructose molecule, because it does weird things, not glucose. So now everyone got their bearings. Alright. So, dietary sugar, dietary sucrose, dietary high fructose, corn syrup, that's what we're talking about. The things you put in your mouth. A hundred years ago, we consumed about 20 grams of sucrose, give or take.
the sugar fix the addiction and the treatment
And in the course of baked goods entering our standard dietary regimen in the 1920s with the addition of trans fats that allowed baked goods to live on shelves for a much longer period of time, like the ten-pack Twinkie years, We increased our dietary sucrose consumption to 54 grams around 1975. This is daily. And then came this thing called high fructose corn syrup. And that came into our world around 1975. And then in 1980, Hurricane Alan wiped out the Caribbean sugar crop and the entire food industry was looking for something homegrown to take its place and be cheaper. And so, high fructose corn syrup really made its entrance.
the sugar fix the addiction and the treatment
Everyone remembers New Coke from 1985, we rebelled against it and they returned to the cult classic. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you know, what you're drinking right now is New Coke. You know, they just changed the name. That's all. And by the time we got to 2004, we were consuming up to 120 grams of dietary sugar, meaning sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, per day. So we go from 2,100 years ago to 120. And the question is, what does it do to you? Does that have any effect? Now, the food industry will tell you, well, that just means you changed your calorie source.
The question is, is that all? Yes. Sucrose has calories. I agree. You know, each molecule, glucose, fructose, if you bought it in a bomb calorimeter, it's four calories per gram. That's true. And if you blow fat into a bomb calorimeter, that's nine calories per gram. So they said, well, less energy dense than fat, therefore less obesogenic weight loss. There were a lot of PR campaigns, TV commercials, that basically talked about using sugar to lose weight. By the way, in the 1970s, the company that released it was sued by the FTC the following year and shut down because it wasn't true.
Thus, in the last 20 years, due to the obesity epidemic, our sugar consumption has decreased from 120 grams per day to approximately 94 grams per day. So there's been a decline and the food industry is taking a lot of advantage out of that, saying, well, obesity is still going up. But, you know, sugar in the diet has actually gone down. It can't be that. Turns out it's much more complicated than that. And we can discuss the mathematical models that have been implemented to explain why this is the case. I think we can dispel that for the moment. The bottom line is that dietary sugar, i.e. sucrose, high fruiting is a problem, okay?
And it's a problem because of this fructose molecule. So why is this so bad? The toxicity of this molecule? After all, it's in the fruit. It should be OK. Good. Well, let's talk about it real quick. Fructose does three things. Not glucose. Number Three. And tonight we are going to talk at length about one of them. The first thing it does is turn into fat in the liver very quickly. It is a preferred lipogenic substrate. Sugar turns into fat. It is a process called de novo as Biogenesis, production of new fat. Now, when you consume glucose, it goes to every organ in the body because every cell in any animal can burn glucose for energy.
In fact, any cell on the planet can burn glucose for energy. That's how important glucose is. Glucose is so important that if you don't consume it, your body becomes a piece of cake. It can convert an amino acid to glucose, it can convert a fatty acid to glucose, it can convert glycerol to glucose. It has the ability to maintain a glucose level in all people. The TIs had nowhere to grow a carbohydrate. They had ice, they had whale blubber. They still had a serum glucose level because glucose is very important. So glucose is not a problem.
Fructose, different problem. So number one increases the liver's ability to convert sugar into fat and that fat then clogs the liver and that causes what's called fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which has now been renamed metabolic-associated static liver disease, but is still static. Who cares? The bottom line is that there is fat in the liver. Before 1980, if you saw fat in your liver it was because you were an alcoholic. But children don't drink alcohol. And now 25% of children have fatty liver disease and not children or obese children. Where did that come from? Number two, fructose causes the browning reaction, the caramelization reaction.
The reason you paint barbecue sauce on your ribs before you put them on the grill to get that nice brown, flavorful reaction, you know, is the reaction that occurs. Well, I hate to break it to you, but that's the cause of wrinkles. That is the cause of cataracts. And that is the cause of cardiovascular diseases. That is the cause of aging is the aging reaction. And the faster it goes, the faster you die. And fructose does it seven times faster than glucose when it comes to the stereochemistry of the molecule. And if I had a slide, I could show you why that is.
But believe me. This shows that this fructose molecule is what causes the aging reaction to occur. And finally, number three, and the reason we're here tonight,

addiction

, because as Nicole will tell you and regale you with all the science involved, the reward center of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, does not respond to addiction. glucose. . The rest of the brain does, but the reward center does not. And in fact, glucose is not that interesting. You don't see people walking around drinking Karo syrup, do you? That's glucose. Well. On the other hand, fructose only activates the brain's reward center, and anything that activates the brain's reward center to the extreme is addictive.
So you can choose your addiction. Cocaine, heroin, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, or you can choose your behavior: shopping, gambling, internet, gaming, social media, porn, anything that activates the nucleus accumbens leads to addiction. And that's what we're going to talk about tonight. So. Well, that's a lot to start with. Rob, but I'm so glad you started telling the story of sugar use, because I think it's important when we look at this whole story that's unfolding about how sugar affects our health. History plays an important role in many different ways. So one thing you mentioned was that there were some ads that from the beginning promoted sugar as a way to help you lose weight.
And one of the parallels that I've noticed and that I talk about a lot when I teach and you know, I know you talk about this too, is the parallel between what's happening now with sugar and food and what happened in the past with tobacco. . , because we saw those same types of ads. If we go back to the 1940s and 1950s. I teach a class at Princeton called Health Psychology, and we were going over all these different conditions that affect our health and we ended up talking about smoking. And when I show my students these old pictures of, you know, dentists and doctors promoting in ads how, Smoke, Lucky Strokes, are good for you.
Four out of five doctors. Smoke camels. Exactly. And so we have these people who are authority figures that are gifted, you know, as people that you trust, saying these are things that you can use to feel better and help you lose weight. And then we all know what happened to tobacco. Good. Fast forward, you know, 50 years from there and we see that things are very, very different. But at the same time, you know, the sugar was able to sneak through the door a little bit. We began to see the amounts of sugar in our food supply slowly increase.
Smoking rates were starting to drop precipitously and the same types of tactics were being used. Hey, you wanted to lose. We used to smoke cigarettes. Now you want to lose weight? Hey, maybe you have some sugar. And then we take a look at history. I think it's really important. So I wanted to share for a few minutes my story, how I got here and how I got involved in this. So, Rob, I can say that it's been there from the beginning, from the beginning, because I was a graduate student at Princeton. I was doing my PhD. in neuroscience, and literally from day one I thought: What am I doing here?
What am I going to do for the next five years? I have to do this big project. And the advisor I was working with at the time was named Bart Zobel. Unfortunately he has already passed away. But he was a wonderful, wonderful man, very, very intelligent. Six foot seven. Yes, good. And he looked every inch the Ivy Leaguer. A lot. A lot of it is like that. But he's a really nice guy. Super nice guy. He always wore a suit and tie. Always pack too. Yes. Yes. A very, very charming gentleman. And we were talking about what I could work on for my thesis.
And then I had a kind of open mind. I wanted to learn about the brain and neuroscience. And then we started talking about how obesity rates were increasing. And I'll date myself. The year was 2001. Obesity rates were rising. But at the time, the mantra among the public in the media especially was that if you're overweight or obese, it's your fault. It's because you don't have willpower and you have to do something about it. And then the responsibility really fell on the individual. And then we started thinking, well, you know what? All these diet programs, all these tips, they are out there.
It's pretty easy to follow. Just don't eat a lot of things that aren't good for you and eat a lot of things that are good for you. But people still felt like they couldn't control their consumption of certain types of foods. And then we started thinking, well, maybe it's not the people, maybe it's the food, maybe it's all these processed foods that are coming on the scene and that we're seeing basically everywhere we go these days. . And that goes back to four years ago, right? So there were even fewer. But now, I mean, we see it even more.
And this got us thinking, well, maybe the common denominator between a lot of these processed foods is basically that they all have added sugar. And that's what led us down this path of saying, well, what sugar is is addictive, just like drugs and alcohol can be addictive. And in that moment Rob can attest that it was a ridiculous idea. The medical community and the psychiatric community did not want to hear that sugar was addictive. It seemed like a crazy idea. Because they were all addicts. To be honest. And it wasn't until years later that we could start to see some acceptance of this idea.
At first we were in the trenches. We developed an animal model basically to empirically test whether sugar could meet the criteria for being an addictive substance. What was the criterion then? Well, what are the criteria for other addictive substances? We used the American Psychiatric Association's DSM Five, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This is the book that is published by the American Psychiatric Association that basically catalogs the criteria for all the different mental health conditions that exist, including substance use disorder. Therefore, we have the criteria you must meet to be diagnosed with drug or alcohol addiction.
So we just designed a bunch of studies to see whichthose criteria could be met when the drug is sugar. And that's what led us down the path of doing these experiments and trying to establish whether it could be an addictive substance or not. And guess what? Was. And it took us a long time to incorporate other researchers. Rob was certainly an early adopter of this idea of ​​the addiction piece, and I can remember it clearly. But initially there was a lot of opposition because people didn't want to hear that drugs and alcohol were in the same category as food because it seemed like a very strange idea, because, you know, we hear these things all the time.
We need food to survive, right? We have all this and can analyze our responses to these comments in a few minutes. But it was really interesting to see how this plays out. And I will say that when I look back on my career, I like to feel like maybe I'm halfway through my career right now. Wait. I think it was interesting to see how initially there was pushback, but now I think we've come a long way and I think a lot of people agree with this idea. Rob mentioned that we have been able to show signs of addiction when addictive substances contain sugar in the brain.
We can see that in the nucleus accumbens, in the limbic system, the reward area of ​​the brain, dopamine is released in response to excessive sugar consumption. The problem is, you know, when we talk about sugar binges, we think, okay, well, I don't binge on sugar. Well guess what? If you're eating a chocolate bar, you're bingeing on sugar, because the amount of sugar in that chocolate bar is binge eating. A big bolus of added sugar. If you're eating Trader Joe's beef and broccoli, you're bingeing on sugar. Exactly. Our definition of binge eating is different. When we talk about sugar.
It is not the volume of food you are consuming, it is the amount of sugar that is in that product. And you might eat a very small amount of food, but it could still be considered a binge. We have been able to show the binge eating. We have been able to show these changes in the dopamine system. We have been able to show signs of withdrawal. I always think this one is really interesting because withdrawal is something that people tend to associate with things like drugs. But the reality is that withdrawal can look different depending on the type of drug you are addicted to.
Thus, for example, in the case of certain drugs such as cocaine, a physiological withdrawal syndrome does not even arise. When we look at sugar, I think probably mid-January was when most people, I think, who had a New Year's resolution to give up sugar or stop eating processed foods, started to really feel the effects of withdrawal. And I can seem like I have a headache, be irritable and in a bad mood, feel like, you know, I just don't feel like I'm myself, I'm slow. And I've had so many people over the years, and you've probably heard this say: I cut back on added sugar, and after about a week I was so exhausted.
It took me to lower my blood sugar level. So I took some sugar and said, Well, I'm sure your blood sugar is fine. What you are experiencing is withdrawal. That is, your brain compensates for no longer receiving this constant dopamine stimulation from all the sugar that it is used to receiving all the time because of the way you ate previously. So we have been able to know that we have not been able to feel cravings. Another one that, again, we have these food cravings that, you know, sometimes could indicate that you're a little bit low on iron.
Maybe if you're in the mood for a burger, you know, maybe you need a little bit of something that, you know, you could get from an animal protein. But if you crave ice cream because you walk past the ice cream shop, it's a hedonistic craving. That is simply craving pleasure, not craving the food itself. And to make a long story short, it's an evolving story. We are still doing research in this space, but we have been able to demonstrate that addiction is real and the criteria are met. And now the question is what are we going to do about it?
Because sugar is in the same category as drugs and alcohol. So there are animal criteria and there are human criteria. Sugar meets animal criteria, without a doubt. And Nicole did the job. Well. So it's a binge, a longing. Withdrawal. Withdrawal and cross-sensitization with other drugs of abuse, meaning you addict an animal to sugar, then you expose it to, say, amphetamine and it shows the addictive response to the amphetamine because it's already addicted, because there's only one reward system. And if you make someone addicted to one and take that away from them, then they will be addicted to something else.
That's called addiction transfer. So you can demonstrate the transfer of addiction in animals and, wow, we can demonstrate it in people. All you have to do is go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and see, you know, the rock stars and the brownies in the back. Well. And basically, you know, they traded a socially unacceptable addiction for a socially acceptable addiction. And, you know, for the most part, we've gotten away with it. I mean, why is there a Starbucks on every corner? And by the way, if you take away my Starbucks, I'll kill you. I mean, that's my favorite addiction.
And, to this day, it is still non-toxic and socially acceptable. And I'm staying with it. But I recognize it. I know. The point is that there are a lot of people who say, "I have a very sweet tooth." That's sugar addiction until proven otherwise. And if you take away their sugar, they start drinking and all you have to do is talk to anyone who has had bariatric surgery and find out that there are now alcoholics, like Carnie Wilson, for example. Well, does anyone know that story? The point is that Nicole demonstrated this in animals and then it was our turn to demonstrate it in humans.
Now, as Nicole said, in humans we were looking for tolerance. That is more and more, less and less and withdrawal, that is the withdrawal syndrome and the symptoms that accompany it. And sugar is a little harder to withdraw. I admit it's not like heroin. You know, you don't go out and steal a car because someone took your cupcake. You know, it's not that bad, but it's close. Is near. And the animals would steal the car because rats prefer sugar to cocaine. Think about it. The issue is when they changed the DSM criteria from withdrawal to dependence, so that you could have tolerance in withdrawal or tolerance and dependence.
So all the criteria aligned. And it is very clear that sugar is addictive under tolerance and dependence. I learned it the hard way. Well. Personally and professionally at the same time, my good friend, colleague and diabetes nurse educator, Colette O'Brien, is in the audience. And Collette will tell you that every day she had to eat a cookie at four in the afternoon. and this was a problem. And I'm not saying it wasn't, it was. But, you know, I basically collapsed at 4 p.m. every day and I had to cross the street to tell you that you're not getting a cookie because, you know, I felt like I was out of energy at that point.
At the same time, I was doing a study with obese children with metabolic syndrome, where we removed sugar from their diet and replaced it with additional starch. Then it was the ISO fructose calorie restriction. We took out the sugar, put in starch, and found that every aspect of his metabolic health improved. Their blood pressure went down, their glucose went down, their insulin went down, their lactate, they had a lactate level. They should not have a lactate level. They did it. And that fell. All aspects of his metabolic health improved and his pancreas began to produce insulin properly.
In fact, we reversed your metabolic syndrome without changing calories and without changing weight simply by getting rid of this fructose molecule. The thing is, we prepared meals for them for ten days to do this. We chose the food to be sugar-free, high in blood starch and sugar-free. Okay, so it's not that the food was good, the food was bad. It was food from Safeway. Well, you can buy it at Safeway. We don't prepare the food. It was, you know, food. You know, you can know that you can shop at Safeway today. But there were no foods with added sugar.
And the thing was, the parents would come back after ten days when we studied them and tell me, you know, for the first five days, I thought I was going to lose my mind with this kid because they were so fucking obnoxious. And then it was like the veil was lifted and these kids started acting appropriately and they stopped being irritable and they were able to concentrate and they were able to do their school work. And the teachers noticed and said: Is this the same child? And the children said: This is the first time that my head is not in the clouds.
And it took him five days to get over it. So at the same time I'm telling myself this, I'm saying that maybe I should give up the chocolate chip cookie. So I did it. And I thought I was going to lose my mind for about a week. And then I haven't looked back. So I lived it myself and I learned it from my patients and I learned it from the cook. So he is there. He is there. You know, one of the things that I think is interesting now as we look at how to move forward, you know, one of the questions that I get asked a lot is, okay, food addiction in sugar addiction is real.
How are we going to diagnose it? And I think when we look now at what the DSM is doing with almost most of the psychiatric conditions that exist, they are moving toward a spectrum model. So now, for example, if you have a problem with alcohol, you could be diagnosed with a mild, moderate, or even severe substance use disorder, depending on how many criteria you have. And so, I think this has really opened the door to helping a lot of people who maybe are at risk for, you know, maybe they're not full-blown alcoholics yet, but maybe they're exhibiting some characteristics that suggest that they're headed toward. there if they don't get help.
It's a good strategy. And I think when it comes to food and sugar, it's certainly an amazing strategy because we're all at risk. People often ask me, well, who are the people we should worry about? They are children? Are people of a certain age perhaps at greater risk? We are all at risk of developing sugar addiction due to its omnipresence in our food supply. I mean, if you had, you know, some cocaine hidden in your salad dressing and then you had some cocaine in the coffee that you were buying at the store, you wouldn't realize that there was cocaine in it and then you had it in your beef teriyaki seasoning, a resource that you're putting on chicken or whatever.
Again, you will eventually become addicted to cocaine because it is just injected into your diet and you don't even realize it, the same thing happens with sugar. And I think one of the things we're facing right now is how to deal with this pervasiveness and how to deal with hidden sugars and how to hold food companies accountable for these hidden sugars. So you may think you are avoiding it so you can avoid sweet pastries, ice cream, you think you are avoiding it. That's only 49% of dietary sugar. Well. The rest are all the things you didn't know they had.
Well. 73% of American grocery store items have sugar intentionally added by the food industry. For their purposes, not yours. They will tell you that it is there as a preservative. It's there as a moisturizer. It's there to conserve or take spicy risks. It's there for, you know, the browning reaction because it gives flavor, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. There are many reasons why the food industry uses it. The main reason they use it is because it brings you back. That is the reason. Hey, it makes you want more because it's addictive and they know it and it's cheap, right?
That's what did this and they learned this basically when we reduced fat. So when we reduced fat in 1977, because the original dietary guidelines for Americans from 1977, the McGovern Commission said to eat less fat. Well, when you take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard or dishwater, you know, I mean, ask any kid what they think about whole milk versus skim milk. Well. They removed the fat from the milk and it tasted like dishwater. Well, you know, the school dietitians said, well, we can't allow that. We can't let them waste their milk. Then what they do is add the chocolate and strawberry.
Good. So they took something that was actually good for them, fat, because dairy fat is actually cardioprotective. People think there is too much saturated fat, like red meat, saturated fat, and dairy. Red meat, saturated fats are not the same as even chain fatty acids that are neutral cardiovascular, neither good nor bad. And the saturated fats in dairy are strange. Chain fatty acids metabolized completely differently in mitochondria actually help form mitochondria and have a phospholipid signature that is actually associated with cardiovascular protection. So we took the good out of milk and put in the bad. Do you want to know why we have thisproblem?
That's why we have problems with children, right? And we have to fix the food. I'm pleased to say that I am the Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder of a non-profit organization here in the Bay Area. Some of you may have heard of Eat Real and Eat Real's mission is to bring real food to K-12 levels across the country, and we are growing by leaps and bounds. Five years ago we had 50,000 students and now we have 5 million. Well, we're in about seven states. The first year we operated, we got £100,000 worth of sugar from one school, from one school district.
Last year we got £1,000,000 worth of sugar from the same school district. Well, you and we can find it online. Really eat, friend. You know, our I mean, think about it. I think this is a questionnaire. Test for you. Well. What is the largest fast food franchise in the United States? McDonald's. Our nation's public schools? Because if you add up the immediate locations, okay, that's more than McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Subway, Chick-Fil-A and Jack in the Box combined times two. Well. That is the largest fast food franchise in the United States. And our children are suffering for it.
And the problem is that all the food preparation machinery has been removed from the schools in place, you know, able to, you know, moved to Aramark and Cisco and Guggenheim and McDonald's and Pizza Hut and, you know, they laid off all the blue-haired women, you know, with hairnets. Do you remember them? Well. And now the schools are held hostage, you know, because how are they going to bring food to the schools while we do that? We have developed a business model that can be adopted by any school district. So we can do that, you know, at scale at school and basically reverse sugar addiction for at least 8 hours a day.
So the question is, what happens when they come home, especially if the parents are addicts? And this is the biggest problem: how do you solve it for parents? We've figured out how to fix kids, how do you fix parents? And this is where, you know, I think Nicole is kind of a world expert. How is sugar addiction solved on an individual level? And then we will talk about how to solve it on a social level. Yeah, you know, I'm glad I was so happy to hear about your participation in Eat Real. I have small children at home.
My youngest daughter is eight years old, so I can see this happening as a parent and it's scary. These kids are growing up where sugar has become so normalized and incorporated so much into their daily routine that it's just amazing and alarming to me. So I hear stories from my daughter all the time about how, you know, she was asked to go up and deliver an envelope to the principal's office to deliver the mail. And, you know, as a reward for just handing someone an envelope, the secretary gave him a lollipop. And so, you know, I think we're approaching this with our kids from the perspective that, because maybe they're not overweight, maybe they're active and they're running around, and we want to show them that we love them. , that we've adopted this idea that, you know, if you give your kids candy, then it's a sweet gift.
Well, the problem is that maybe a hundred years ago that might have worked when sugar was relatively scarce. And you know, it was a sweet gift. If you had it from time to time. But now, if you give sweets to your children, it is as if you are telling them that you don't love them because you are harming them, you are harming their health. But for some reason, the message has not yet reached school systems. And this is not something that is only happening in public or private schools. It is also happening in private schools. It does not show socioeconomic boundaries.
Even very, very wealthy private schools still have the same problem. Exactly correct. Just remember, every grandma is a dealer. Yes. That's how you have to look at it. Alright. Fix the grandmothers. Yes. So let's talk for a few minutes about what we can do about it. And I think this was one of the reasons I wanted to write my sugar-free book to look at the research, look at what's going on in our brain, and help people understand that this is a really addictive substance so that hopefully I can say , you know, I grew up in the '80s and that stuck in my brain.
I don't know if anyone remembers that Heisman ad with the guy with the fried egg when he cracked the egg in the frying pan and they said, this is your brain and this is your brain on drugs. Any question that was so powerful to me and stuck with me that I was petrified of ever thinking about trying drugs because I just didn't want my brain to fry like an egg. So I think hopefully we should be able to do that with sugar to make the message so powerful and really package it in a way that people say, Wow, this is addictive.
It's causing my dopamine system to be completely unregulated, ruining my ability to feel pleasure in other, more positive things like relationships and exercise. And that's why I want to take this really seriously. And I want to understand, you know, how I can change my diet and how I can change my relationship with food, because that's what it all comes down to. As Rob said, we'll talk in a minute about what we can do socially, but individually we have to change our relationship with food. We have to realize that just because something is in the supermarket doesn't mean it is good for you.
There is also bleach in the supermarket and in the toilet bowl, but that does not mean that it is good for us to consume it. I heard it cures COVID. So that's where we really need to get to: understand, you know, how can we change that relationship with food? How can we avoid using sugar to help us calm down? Many, many people. I would say that sugar is probably the most abused drug in the world because people use it to self-medicate. People use it to numb their feelings and make them feel better. If they have had a bad day at work, they use it to reward themselves if they had a good day at work.
So I think we really need to start reflecting on our use of sugar, why we use it, and really re-evaluate what role we want it to play in our lives, knowing the damage it can do to our physical health and our health. mental health. We need to find a better

treatment

for our emotions and then use food to demand them. To that point, you know, Nicole just said that we use it to celebrate and we also use it to extinguish our fear, our miseries. Well. We use it for both, right? Which means something is wrong if you do it for both of us.
Good. A group of neuroscientists at Sapient Labs conducted a study with 227,000 people showing that ultra-processed foods predict depression, consumption of ultra-processed foods predicts depression. And people say, well, you know, that's, you know, socioeconomic. No, that was adjusted because, you know, exercise will fix it. No, that was tight because you know, you're racially you. No, that was tight. If everything were adjusted and ultra-processed foods still appeared as the main driver of depression. And this is actually changing the way people view ultra-processed foods, not only as a systemic toxicant, but also as a mental health brain toxicant. I also want to point out the internet, you know, as a resource for your kids and, you know, your family's naysayers when you get together for Thanksgiving, Nicole hosted a 5-minute TEDx educational talk on what sugar means . it does to your brain.
And at the same time I published a TED Ed talk called Sugar Hiding in Plain Sight about how you can identify foods that contain it. And by the way, there are 262 names for sugar and the food industry uses them all on purpose. And the reason they use them is because you can put a different type of sugar like number five, number six, number seven, number eight, number nine. When you add them up, it's number one and they don't have to declare it. Notice that on the side of the package it says total sugars or added sugars.
Now, it didn't before, but there's supposed to be a number next to it, right? A percentage, percent daily value, percent DV. And there's a percentage, there's a reference range for every item on the Nutrition Facts label except sugar. Why is that? Why is there no percentage? DV For sugar? And that's because it has no purpose. There is no DV because nobody needs it. And I thought this was very interesting. In 2011 I went to a meeting that was the Culinary Institute of America. It was called Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids. And we are going to talk about how we were going to prepare the school food.
I ended up selling the little horror of salad bars, and that's when it was decided that this is how, you know, we should fix, you know, school food was basically putting a salad bar in every school. You know, that makes a lot of sense, right? You know, I didn't even have sneeze guards. You know, I'm sure everyone will eat from the communal salad bar. I mean, give me a damn break. But still, that's what they decided. And one of the panelists at that meeting was a guy named Sam Cass. Has anyone heard of Sam Cass? So Sam Cass was a shell, Michelle Obama's personal chef who came with her and her husband to the White House.
And she and he became the key person for her Let's Move campaign. Does everyone remember that? Well. And it started against the food industry. And her first statement in this, you know, pink sleeveless dress was all over YouTube. And he called out the food industry and said, this is your fault. This happened under his supervision. And we have to prepare food so we can fix our children. She never said it again. You know, her own administration actually gagged her. Well. And then Let's Move actually became something about moving instead of about food, you know? But anyway, Sam Kass was the key person on Let's Move and he was there at this meeting and so was I.
And I asked, okay, why isn't there any daily percentage of sugar on the food label? And he said to me, in front of all these people, why would you need a percentage of the DV for something that is not a nutrient? And I thought to myself: Exactly, exactly. Why would you do it? But that's the point, right? It is not a nutrient. So this is my question for you. Can you name a substance that has calories that are not necessary for life, that actually causes damage and death to cellular and human organs, and we love it anyway?
And it's addictive. Mainly alcohol. Alcohol. Well. Alcohol is a substance that has calories, seven calories per gram. There is no biochemical reaction in the body that requires it when consumed, which it causes. So not even in excess and even in a normal amount, you know, small amounts cause human cellular damage and ultimately death if you drink enough. And we love it and it's addictive. Well. And 20% of Americans are binge drinkers or chronic alcoholics. Well. No dietician on the planet would say that alcohol is a food because it has calories. So why would they say sugar is a food when all it has are calories and it does exactly the same thing?
No biochemical reaction that requires it when consumed in excess causes so much damage and death to organs and human beings. And we love it anyway. It's addictive. And the reason is that sugar and alcohol are metabolized in exactly the same way in the liver and brain. So this is not a surprise. This is not rocket science. This actually makes a lot of sense. Sugar is the child's alcohol. And that's why the grandmother is a trafficker. You know, it's interesting, Rob, that you brought up this idea and I've been thinking about this a lot over the last few years.
When I started doing this work, I focused a lot on the word addiction. How do we prove if it is addictive or not? How do we define addiction? And in the last few years, I really think we've done enough to prove that it's addictive. If people don't believe it right now, they will never believe it. The new conversation I've been having is what is a food? And I think that's the problem because we have this general term of food. For a long time, if I said, come to my house, let's get something to eat, you'd have a general feeling of, okay, we'll probably get something to eat.
But now you have no idea what I'm going to post. It could be putting fries. I could be making, you know, ribs. I mean, it could be anything. And I think this is where we are in terms of moving forward to avoid being pushed back, well, it has calories, so it must be an ultra-processed food, it's a designer food. It's not even food in my life. Food. It's not food. That's why we need to delete that term from our discussion. We're talking about these things because I think that when we call it food, and I also admit this myself, we support the idea that it is a food in the sense of what we have traditionally known as food, which is it is nutritious and good for us.
These things are not in the same category and I think we need to find a way to make it a more widespread part of the conversation. And again, the addiction part, I think now mostmedical professionals I know, most scientists will at least acknowledge that, yes, there is an addictive component to sugar. I will tell you that Nicole has been a warrior on this issue. In 2012, a paper appeared in Nature Neuroscience from this group in the UK. Basically, I defended food addiction and made this, you know, meandering argument about survival and, you know, you need food and blah blah.
And Nicole sent a letter to the editor after she basically called it out and said, you know, how did you know that title was the best? Was. Yes, throwing the baby out with the bag. Are you throwing the baby out with the bathwater? After a brief rinse? And then they came back and said, Is there even a baby in the bathroom? Good. It was, I mean, really, it was very serious, I have to tell you. And the fact of the matter is that many of the people in the ivory tower still cling to the notion that sugar is safe.
It is a food because it has calories. And sugar can be part of a balance. And basically, I think everyone's money has been taken, is what I think is happening. Well, you know, what I'll always come back to is that if something is addictive, the idea that we're going to take it in moderation doesn't hold water either, because you can't expect someone who's addicted to heroin to have a little bit of heroin like that. If that worked, it would be wonderful for many people. But it does not work. Addictions don't work like that. Powerful drugs don't work like that.
That's not how the brain works. So when we talk about expecting people to moderate and consume just a little bit of a highly addictive substance, it's a tremendously big question. So the big question is: what do you want to do about it? Good. And it's OK. So everyone says, how about these sweeteners? And I know everyone is going to ask about diet, so I'm going to take it off the table right now. Alright. The toxicity of one Coca Cola is equal to the toxicity of two diets. Coca-Cola has it. Now you say, wait a second, no calories, no fructose.
How can it be? And the reason is because it has nothing to do with calories or fructose. In that case, dietary sweeteners, number one, still generate an insulin response because the sweet generates an insulin response. And the dopamine response and. The dopamine response. And that's been shown in 50 ways since Sunday, including neuroimaging, what? And also, dietary sweeteners disrupt the microbiome and cause something called leaky gut, and that causes systemic inflammation, which in itself causes chronic metabolic disease. So that's not the answer. The way I think about dietary sweeteners is like methadone. If you're addicted to heroin, the reason we need to do something about it is because when you're in withdrawal, you're going to steal a car, okay?
When you are in your elevated state, you are not dangerous to anyone. You are only dangerous in the state of withdrawal. So what do we do? We gradually reduce the withdrawal state by administering this oral opioid called methadone. You know, now we have others, you know, to take their place. But ultimately the goal is to basically even out the highs and lows. And the goal of methadone

treatment

is to slowly but surely taper off over the course of eight weeks until you stop taking it. That's what's supposed to happen. But that's not what happens. What happens is they replace it and it stays there and people don't do it, and the patients don't even come back to the addiction clinic.
Well. And of course, the addiction treatment staff doesn't want to put you at risk, so they don't want to take you off methadone. So basically it ends up being a methadone for heroin swap and society doesn't care because, you know, you're not stealing cars if that's what you're doing with diet sweeteners and you're hiding your sugar addiction with diet. sweeteners, you're really not helping yourself. Yes that's it. Just a band-aid. It's a band-aid. It's a band-aid. Ultimately, we need to do this, this in our lives. And the only way to do that is to sweeten the food.
And the only way to do that is to involve the food industry, which is what I've been trying to do for the last decade. You know, to be honest with you, we've actually done a pretty good job. Things are happening. Go ahead, Dr. Lustig. I read your book on metabolism and you make some reference to not being a big fan of supplements. And if I remember correctly, I think you're stuck on a vitamin D amino acid somehow. And vitamin C, I was wondering, are omegas. Omega three. So omega three. But do these supplements neutralize some of the hidden sugar in your diet?
No, no, no, none of them will really mitigate the sugar problem. That's that's not the case. I just think that based on how they work and what's deficient in our ultra-processed food diet, those are things that we can supplement when we can actually demonstrate efficacy. By the way, I would add something to that now, and that is B vitamins. In fact, we are vitamin deficient today and it has been shown that omega three plus B vitamins can reverse Alzheimer's. Thank you. And I want to thank you for recognizing the work of a colleague. I feel like that is rarely seen in what I do.
You mean she invented the field? No, I love it, I think I love it, I applaud it. It's so strange to see. So my question is: I'm about halfway through your book. I haven't read your book yet. What is the murderer Bill? If you could work with a legislator to write a bill that would begin to reverse this at some level, what would that bill be? Begin? boy. I think we could do a whole show on that. Well, it certainly will probably reflect what happened with tobacco. We'll start with some warning labels. I think we need to go beyond saying this is bad.
Your health is the warning label, because I think we see it now. If you look at the Nutrition Facts label, there is a requirement for food companies to start setting a DV for added sugar. So when you look at the products now, you'll see that yes, some of these products contain 56% of the recommended daily value of added sugar. It is not a good idea to eat it. So I think having a degree of how highly processed these foods are so that people can have more transparency, I think that's certainly one of the starting points. And then I think we need to work to start normalizing it in our children.
I mean, my eight-year-old daughter doesn't know what the world is like without added sugar everywhere and being offered it all the time and trying to get her to understand why she needs to resist and say no, thank you. It's a foreign concept to these kids. So I think that's where I would start. I would start in a different place. She would get rid of all food subsidies. And the only way to do that is to fix the farm bill. And the reason is that it doesn't matter what you tell people. What needs to be done is to make it worthwhile for the food industry to change.
Right now they make money on subsidized products, on subsidized crops, corn, wheat, soybeans, sugar, all of which are bad for us. Now, what if they didn't subsidize those things? Then they wouldn't be able to make as much money on those things and would have to consider selling other things, like broccoli. The point is that as long as food subsidies exist, they will distort the market. And as long as the market is distorted, not much can be expected from the public. And we have seen that we learned that with tobacco and alcohol. That's why the Iowa. The caucuses always come first. corn.
Yeah, well, we've come to the end of the show, but we have the book signing and a chance to ask a few more questions. I have some more. So today our thanks to Dr. Lustig and Dr. Vina. We also thank our audience here, as well as those listening online. This meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California commemorating the 120th year of enlightened debate is adjourned. Thank you.

If you have any copyright issue, please Contact