There is a sugar that is processed by our bodies as a fat.

This means that it should help us avoid diabetes – insulin (which is functioning abnormally in diabetes) digests sugar not fat. Insulin’s job is effectively to turn sugar into fat. Unfortunately eating a sugar that is processed as a fat doesn’t affect insulin (our sugar metabolism) but does make us fat. This sugar that is processed as a fat is fructose (fruit sugar).

The reason why we get fat from this sugar is that we don’t realise we are eating it: this is to do with a hormone called leptin. After insulin has stored energy in cells there is hormone called leptin which is to let us know that we have eaten enough (that we have stored enough energy). So, if the insulin is bypassed the leptin is not triggered and we don’t know that we have eaten enough. So if we have lots of fructose we will keep eating and the leptin won’t tell us that we have eaten enough.

Result, lots of fat people.

This understanding leads to three practical steps to control our weight.

1. Exercise. BUT, and this is a big but; it is not mainly because it burns calories. If you have ever done the calculations on how much you would have to exercise to burn off those lollies or fast food, you will have been left puzzled that you are not about three times your current weight. Exercise works to balance weight for three reasons:

  • it increases skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity: that is it helps with insulin regulation (sugar digestion)
  • because it’s the single best treatment to get your cortisol down: that is it helps control stress and stress leads to putting on fat
  • it actually helps detoxify the sugar fructose (that sugar which is processed as a fat)

2. The other way to control weight gain is by eating fructose with fibre. Eat the fruit don’t drink the juice.

3. The other thing to do is read the food labels: don’t buy stuff with corn syrup added (in America) or fruit sugars and syrups (more often the case in Australia). Table sugar (sucrose) is half fructose – so you need to cut down on this too.

It is great to see solid research leading to practical and simple advice.

This post is a summary of an interview with Dr Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, on Radio National’s Health Report (the transcript is here: Radio National is Australia’s public broadcasting service).

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