A Beer Belly is the Same as a Soda Belly

October 07, 2009

A Beer Belly is the Same as a Soda Belly 

 Competency #11 Sugar and Fructose Reference:  The Bariatrician, Robert H. Lustig, September 2009 

 Dr. Lustig is a full professor of pediatric endocrinology at UC San Francisco.  He asks the question, “How are the Atkins Diet and the Japanese Diet the same?’”  One is very high in protein and fat, the other is all carbs with no fat.  The answer is that they both work.  They work, not because they are boring or they reduce calories, but because they both exclude fructose. 

The biology of fructose is becoming clear.  When you eat table sugar (50% fructose) or most American processed foods that contain HFCS (high fructose corn syrup that is 55% fructose) you get a load of fructose to your liver.  Fructose cannot be metabolized anywhere but in your liver and your liver does something very interesting.  It breaks down fructose in a fashion very similar to alcohol, forcing your liver to make fats at almost the identical rate at which a similar amount of alcohol would do.  Those fats are the damaging LDL types that not only damage your arteries and your liver, but they ship fats out to be stored to the rest of your body.  

Dr. Lustig elegantly shows that two slices of bread (120 calories of white carbs, all glucose) actually gets handled quite well by your body with only 1 gram or so going to bad fats in your blood.  120 calories of beer (1 glass) ends up with 40 grams of damaging fats, and a lot of damage to your liver.  In addition, 120 calories of soda (1 can), or Kool-Aid, or orange juice which are sweetened with HFCS result in 40 calories of damaging fats coming out of your liver, just like with the alcohol. We thought going on a low-fat diet in America would help us lose weight.  We all have avoided fats and switched to carbohydrates in which food manufacturers have put fructose as a sweetener.  (Go to the grocery store and try and find a low-fat yogurt that doesn’t have sugar in it or a loaf of bread that doesn’t have HCFS in it.)  

But fructose is not glucose.  Fructose is called a sugar but is actually an “aldehyde” that is metabolized very, very differently.  Its net metabolic output is fat.  Bad fat.  When you eat a high fructose load, you are actually eating a high-fat food. Nature supplies us with the antidote from fructose.  When we eat fruit, we get fiber and antioxidants.  The 6% fructose in an apple or a pear comes with abundant fiber and balanced vitamins that negate the potential problems.  So fruit seems to be fine, in part because the fiber pushes the fructose down into the colon faster where it's digested by bacteria to safer products, makes you feel full faster, slows down your eating, and negates the bad effects. 

 A lot of us middle-aged folks have bellies we aren’t happy with.  We may not drink beer.  But we sure eat sugar.  Nowhere in the world do we see bellies like we see in America.  Nowhere else in the world do folks eat as much processed sugar. 

WWW.  What will work for me?  It’s time to become a processed sugar fanatic.  I’m off sugar.  I’m reading labels this month like crazy.  Very interesting, I’m finding that it’s not so hard to avoid the carton of fully sweetened yogurt.  And I’m down a notch on the belt.

Column written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI.  (262-784-5593)