In my continuing effort to debunk or support nutritional claims, I will focus today on whether sugar is addictive. You cannot spend more than five minutes in a comment section on nutrition before someone says “sugar is as addictive as cocaine.”
And again, I believe a lot of simply accept that as a fact, even among reasonably scientific people. My default position regarding any nutritional claim these days is that there’s a 95% chance that it’s bogus.
There are a lot of nonsensical claims about sugar, and I’ll get to them during the next few weeks, but again, we are going to target the claim that sugar is addictive. And we’ll use real science, which is definitely missing from almost every nutritional claim.
As an ancient dinosaur, I’ve seen every diet fad from the popcorn diet to the South Beach diet to the paleo diet to the keto diet. Most of these fads are based on almost no good science, though they try to bring really bad science to convince themselves or others to “buy” into it, sometimes literally.
I’m sure that the ancient Romans had some diet fad diet that the aristocracy followed to keep themselves healthy – oh wait, the Roman upper class followed the Mediterranean diet, which may be one diet fad that stood the test of time and science.
Outside of the aforementioned Mediterranean diet, which includes whole grains, olive oil, seafood, legumes, and nuts, most of these diets lack robust scientific evidence supporting their usefulness in weight loss or maintaining some unbiased standard of health. But they certainly make a lot of money for those promoting them. The worldwide diet management market is estimated to be over $192 billion in 2019. Wait, what? Obviously, I’m in the wrong business.
One of the current fads is the keto diet, which is all the rage among those looking to lose weight, improve their health, and, I’m sure, prevent cancer. Before someone thinks it really prevents cancer, it does not. In fact, it may increase the risk of cancer. But that’s another story for another day.
Let’s get into this keto diet fad. Is it supported by any robust, repeated, published evidence? Or, like most diet fads, is it mostly supported by testimony and anecdotes?
In my effort to broaden the focus of this blog, I want to discuss a food fad that lacks scientific support — gluten-free diets. If you listen to the quacks on the internet, apparently organic, GMO-free, gluten-free diets will fix all that ails you and your kids.
Except it won’t unless you suffer from very rare medical conditions that make you very sensitive to gluten.
Like a lot of food fads, such as avoiding fats or carbohydrates, gluten-free diets seem to have a basis in real science and medicine, but it has exploded far beyond what real science-based medicine would recommend, and that would be to a very tiny patient population.
This article about artificial sweeteners and obesity was written by Linda Tock, an American living in Denmark, who has an extensive research background in the biomedical sciences. She has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Chemistry and Health and will be pursuing a Ph.D. Ms. Tock has a fascination for Daphnia, an interesting planktonic crustacean, that is an important organism in studying pollution and environmental stresses.
So I received a message from a friend of mine, wanting my opinion on this news article, which loudly proclaims that artificial sweeteners are linked to obesity. Because it was a genuine question regarding the science behind the study, and not a ‘concern troll’ about my preference for diet cola, I went and looked at the study itself to see what the fuss was about.
People demonize food “chemicals,” like high fructose corn syrup, all of the time — see monosodium glutamate, as just one example. And there’s high fructose corn syrup, a sugar that is blamed for everything from cancer to diabetes to climate change. OK, maybe not climate change.
High fructose corn syrup is just sugar, but because it has a complicated name, it must be bad. It’s part of the “chemophobia,” the fear of anything that sounds like a chemical.
The so-called Food Babe has made a lot of money endorsing a belief that all chemicals are evil. Of course, such claims ignore the simple fact that all life, the air, and water are made of chemicals.
They want us to believe that man-made chemicals are more dangerous than “natural” chemicals, but that betrays several things about science:
Many “natural” chemicals are dangerous.
Those “natural” chemicals didn’t evolve for the benefit of humans, so they are not inherently better for humans.
Nature isn’t always better.
And high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is considered one of the evil “chemicals” that are destroying humanity. But is it? Let’s answer that question.
Years ago, my girlfriend was the trauma department director, and she constantly claimed that there were more ER visits during a full moon. Now, I was much nicer to her than I would be to an anti-vaxxer, so I kind of laughed. But I wasn’t so sure.
Then I kept hearing that claim from who I thought were rational and sane physicians. They just firmly believed that ER visits skyrocketed during a full moon. I knew there would be data out there to support or debunk this claim, so today, as we approach a full moon, to find out what’s out there.
Let’s take a look at the evidence, and hopefully, settle the question for a long time. And I’m going to take bets that several ER physicians will post in the comments their anecdotes that “prove” their beliefs.
Aspartame, the artificial sweetener known as Nutrasweet or Equal, is another target for those who love to push false narratives about substances in our foods. It’s the same for MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and so much else. As I wrote in a recent article about diet soda, the claims are not backed up by real science.
This article will look at aspartame as a “chemical,” and we know that any chemical scares people despite the fact that everything on the planet is made up of chemicals, and then we will look at the most current safety data from actual scientific research.
I love my diet soda, specifically one brand, but I kept reading that this was a bad habit that was going to kill me. I should be drinking water for my long-term health, getting rid of that sugar-free brown sparkling water forever.
I thought that I was taking a risk on my overall health by drinking diet soda even though it was better than drinking the full sugar versions of that drink. But recently, I thought to myself, “self, is there any science behind the tropes about diet soda?”
I decided to dig into it, and what I figured out was that the science didn’t support the claims of the diet soda deniers. Not even close.
Now, I could stop here and call it a day, but I know my audience, and you want science supporting or debunking the claims of the anti-diet soda world. So, here I go with some science.
Across the internet, I keep reading about some relationships between vitamin D levels and COVID-19. I’ve written about it twice (here and here), but I have never seen reliable, robust, and repeated clinical trial data that supports a link between vitamin D levels or deficiencies and COVID-19.
So, I thought I would take a look at it once again, and see if there’s anything there. I keep wondering if vitamin D is just another “miracle supplement” that, once you scratch the surface of data, you find that there is actually nothing there.
What we know or think we know about COVID-19 seems to change daily, partially because the disease caught us by surprise. But every day we seem to get new data that contradicts something we thought or adds to our knowledge of the disease. And sometimes both.
Let’s take a look at the current data on vitamin D and COVID-19.
Complete vaccination against COVID-19 was linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular events such as acute myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke as secondary complications of a COVID-19 infection. These results were published in a peer-reviewed journal recently.
This is another huge benefit of COVID-19 vaccination that should be convincing evidence that the vaccine has both short- and long-term benefits.
As I usually do, I will review the study and results so that you can use this paper as further evidence that COVID-19 vaccination saves lives.