Calorie for Calorie, Fructose Packs On More Pounds

My two boys recently brought home their elementary-school class pictures, and my wife and I decided it would be fun to show them our class photos back when we were their age. One thing we all noticed right away was how many more overweight or obese kids there are in our sons’ class photos than in our old pictures from the early ’80s, when we were kids. Something has changed in a big way, no pun intended. More inactivity and poor diets are likely to blame. People are eating more calories than ever before, but they are also changing the source of their calories. More kids today are eating highly processed foods and drinks instead of fresh fruits, vegetables and prepared foods. Does the source of the calories matter? I used to think not. I used to think that what we are eating is fine but that we just need to eat less of it. However, I’ve proved myself wrong.

As you no doubt have realized, fructose consumption has increased astronomically in recent years, because it is the dominant sugar added to processed foods and drinks, mostly in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is what is in fruit, but when you eat a piece of fruit, you are full. When you drink a big-gulp soda, you take in not only huge numbers of calories but huge amounts of fructose, way more than you could ever eat in fruit. We already know that the excess calories are bad when we are trying to lose weight, but what about the large amount of fructose?

We recently conducted a simple experiment in which two groups of mice were fed identical diets except for the type of sugar added. —> Read More

Inflammatory Claims About Inflammation

We all appreciate the elegance of simple solutions to complex problems. But we know too that simplicity can often masquerade as truth, hiding a more nuanced reality. Such is the case with inflammation, where pseudoscience, exaggerated claims, false promises, and dangerous oversimplification have dominated for too long. Here is a typical missive:

“Inflammation controls our lives. Have you or a loved one dealt with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer? If you answered yes to any of these disorders you are dealing with inflammation.”

Well, no, inflammation does not control our lives. Like many others, this author claims inflammation is responsible for a huge range of maladies, ranging from Alzheimer’s to lupus to stroke to fibromyalgia; I counted 30 on this site. As a biologist, and author of a book on diet and nutrition, I find this to be nothing but cringe-worthy. Yes, inflammation is terribly important, and as we will see, associated with disease. But the oversimplification and weak link to biology that we find on sites like these are misdirection from understanding what is actually happening in our bodies. Such misunderstanding leads to odd nutritional or medical recommendations that are useless at best or dangerous at worst.

Dr. Wajahat Mehal has written an excellent lay-person-friendly overview of the latest in inflammation research can be found in the most recent issue of Scientific American. I urge anybody making any claims about inflammation, or contemplating dietary or behavioral changes based on concern about it, to read this article.

Here is the crux of the problem. Yes, indeed, as Dr. Mehal notes, “inflammasomes are at the heart of a wide range of diseases and disorders.” But before —> Read More

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