I was wrong about sugar…

Just kidding.

Although today I want to take a moment to emphasise and clarify a really crucial issue that a few unmentionables in the comments insist on challenging: that my focus on fructose is misguided. Or, more specifically, that substituting fructose with glucose as a sweetener is misguided (which I don’t actually do, but more in a second…).

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Photography by Angie Gassner & Thomas Mailer

I’m responding to you lot (calm and reasonable readers; not Mr Unmentionable) in the event that you might be wondering if I care about the issue at all.

I do. And to be honest, I’ve had to double-check my position. Just to get clear myself. And for this, I’m grateful to the Mr Unmentionables out there who like to go after me for encouraging people to get real with their sugar intake. As I emphasise throughout my books and other materials, I’m constantly exploring and researching this area and am open to tweaking my thinking as I go. Then sharing it with anyone (calm and reasonable) in my orbit who cares to read on.

So, let’s break it down.

Why do I target fructose specifically (and not sugar as a whole, or glucose)?

Sugar is 50:50 fructose and glucose. It’s the fructose bit that I say is problematic. This is because:

1. Fructose is metabolised by our liver (while glucose is metabolised by all our cells). This taxes the liver BIG TIME: it spends so much energy turning fructose into other molecules that it may not have much energy left for all its other functions. Leading to the production of uric acid, which also promotes insulin resistance and is linked to a whole bunch of metabolic diseases.

2. This liver dumpage also causes it to store the fructose as fat, especially in the liver, and triglycerides, leading to a fatty liver and insulin resistance.

3. Fructose stuffs our appetite mechanisms. Our bodies strictly regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose stimulates the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin, which helps remove excess glucose from blood, and bolsters production of the hormone leptin, which suppresses hunger. We eat glucose, our bodies register this and the message goes out, “stop eating now”. Fructose doesn’t do this.

4. Indeed the metabolic havoc it wreaks can cause our body to store all food as fat.

5. Worse, fructose actually raises levels of the hormone grehlin, which keeps us hungry.

6. Fructose is highly addictive.

7. Fructose is twice as sweet as glucose.

The bottom line (literally):

Fructose makes us fat, we can’t stop eating it, and it makes us eat more.

So does substituting fructose with glucose fix the problem?

Nope. In I Quit Sugar (the print book) I advocate using substitute sweeteners:

  • Stevia. A plant that contains neither fructose or glucose.
  • Rice Malt Syrup. Made from fermented cooked rice, it’s a blend of complex carbohydrates, maltose and glucose. RMS is a slow-releasing sweetener so it doesn’t dump on the liver as much as pure glucose does.

(PS, while we’re being helpful and upfront, there has been a bit of media attention about arsenic being found in rice malt syrup, based on some studies done in Scotland and the US. We asked Pureharvest, who make the rice malt syrup we use, about this and they got their product tested (they do so regularly using independent laboratories). The tests show their syrup is well below the detectable level for arsenic in food. FYI, the studies refer to an arsenic standard that applies to drinking water, not food. The problem with using a water standard is that the average person does not use syrup to replace drinking water, so the quantities of total arsenic consumed from rice malt syrup would not equate. Also, any arsenic found in Pureharvest rice malt syrup does not include the inorganic arsenic from herbicides and pesticides.

  • Glucose Syrup. This is 100% glucose. I don’t personally use pure glucose or dextrose in any of my own recipes. I never have…for a range of reasons, one of which is the fact that so much of it needs to be used to get a sweet flavour. But I do list it as a safe sweetener, so I can see why there’s room for confusion.

So, some clarification:

  • In my other ebooks, in the 8-Week Program and in my second book (coming out in March), I state that I use stevia and rice malt syrup only, as above. Where there was room for confusion, I’ve tweaked copy to ensure this message is now clear.
  • In all my materials, I stress using as little sweetener as you can. I stress using none, highlighting, for instance, that I don’t always use sweetener in my recipes.
  • In all my recipes, across all my materials, I use very little sweetener. The most amount of rice malt syrup I have ever used in my recipes is 1/2 cup,  spread between 8-10 serves.

I do feel that some of my peers who advocate glucose syrup and dextrose as a substitute use too much of it, up to 2 cups in some recipes.

  • In all my materials I include the warning that even non-fructose sugars are not good to eat in large quantities and will cause insulin wobbliness too, albeit in a far more manageable way. Consuming any sweetener – even the “fake” ones that don’t contain sugar as such – can cause a blood sugar spike and continue a blood sugar addiction. Just the sweet taste can trigger insulin and metabolic responses.  
  • There is some conjecture that some of the health impacts of fructose can’t be completely distinguished from the health impacts of glucose, or sugar broadly. Of course, studies to this effect are tricky since rarely do we eat fructose or glucose in isolation….

But it’s a moot point!

First up, there’s no doubt fructose causes a host of health issues that glucose doesn’t. The science is in, see above.

But!!! Even if you wish to contest this in any way, it’s redundant…

I don’t push excess glucose consumption anyway.

Further, and this is the really important point…

The I Quit Sugar philosophy and 8-Week Program is about a bunch of meta principles that go beyond this.

* I Quit Sugar is about quitting all sweetener, including glucose (and rice malt syrup and stevia) for 6 weeks.

Then inviting everyone to reintroduce sweetener back in gradually (with recipes that use very little sweetener of any kind).

* Plus, at its core, its about cutting out sugar in general (the fructose AND the glucose halves of the sugar equation).

We don’t eat fructose on its own anyway; it’s always in table sugar or HFCS form. What’s the issue then? Who’d want to argue against cutting table sugar and HFCS? (Aside from those with interests in the sugar industry.)

* It’s also about cutting out processed foods and reintroducing new ways of whole, healthy eating. This is The Point!

Yep, this is the meta point that Mr Unmentionable et al really seem to miss. Or choose to miss. Again, who’d want to argue against this nutritional advice?

So my clarification is to the way I present glucose in the print edition of I Quit Sugar. And my apology goes out to those who might have gone ahead and dumped large amounts of glucose into their cooking of their own accord using their own recipes.

I hope this clarifies things.

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