- Everyone is exposed to toxins to a greater or lesser extent, and these chemicals are stored in your body. There are also synergistic effects when exposed to multiple chemicals
- The dose of the toxin doesn’t really matter, because a low dose can be just as damaging as a high dose, especially when it comes to endocrine disrupting chemicals
- For a detoxification program to be effective, the following three principles must be in place: mobilization, detoxification and excretion
- Fasting is a powerful detoxification method as it promotes lipolysis and the mobilization of fat-soluble toxins. To avoid reabsorption, it’s important to take binding agents when fasting and sweat out the toxins, like using an infrared sauna
- Having urine pH of 7.5 or above greatly increases the excretion of acidic xenobiotics and other toxins. The pH of the urine dictates whether a xenobiotic on its way out gets reabsorbed or gets excreted
By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Bryan Walsh is a naturopathic physician extensively trained in molecular biological pathways. In this interview, we discuss detoxification and the food-based detox program he developed. I took his course and believe it’s probably one of the best out there.
In today’s world, where most of us are exposed to countless toxins on a nearly continuous basis, detoxification is an important issue that needs to be done on a regular basis if you are seeking optimal health. Research even shows that infants are now born with toxins in their cord blood and first bowel movements — toxins absorbed from their mother.
“You can decide that you, in your 20s, want to live this clean lifestyle and be free of toxins, but that doesn’t speak to all of the thing that may have been stored from your life even prior to you being born. They are ubiquitous. They are everywhere … everybody’s exposed to something,” Walsh says.
I had read the laypeople’s books on detoxification. I believed that we were toxic. I thought that detoxification was probably a good idea. But then I was talking to a colleague who told me about this detoxification guru and how he was describing phase 3 detoxification pathways … It didn’t jive with what my understanding of phase 3 was.”
Starting From Scratch
Walsh decided to investigate further, delving into the scientific literature and eventually coming to the realization that this “guru” was in fact describing that pathway inaccurately. “I have a problem with that, because in functional medicine we need to be accurate with what we’re talking about,” Walsh says. He also learned there’s yet another phase of detoxification that he’d never heard about called Phase Zero.
“The third thing that really bothered me was I read about what’s called a biphasic response for nutrients that are commonly used in detoxification programs or formulas. What the biphasic response basically says is that a low dose — choose your herb — stimulates certain detoxification enzymes or pathways, but then a high dose inhibits those very same enzymes.
In English, this means the amounts found in food generally stimulate detoxification enzymes, but the amounts likely found in an isolated form in a capsule or in a bottle of detoxification product might actually inhibit detoxification.
I looked at that and thought, ‘Here we go again. We think we’re doing all these great things, but in fact, we may be doing the exact opposite of what it is that we’re attempting to do, and nobody’s questioning this.’ Those three things happened, and I was like, ‘all right. I’ve got to start from scratch.’
Just wipe out everything I thought I ever knew or have been taught about detoxification and go to the scientific literature and say, ‘What really is being talked about and studied?’
Before even getting into detoxification, answering questions that I thought I knew. ‘Are we even toxic in the first place?’ Everybody says we are, but I haven’t actually looked at the literature. Another one was, ‘Is there a synergistic response?’ If there are multiple exposures simultaneously, we’re told there’s a synergistic response. But again, what does the science really say about this?
Another one we hear about is that the dose doesn’t matter … that our body has these built-in detoxification pathways to deal with these things, so therefore a low dose is inconsequential, say the detox naysayers. Another one is, ‘Are [toxins] stored in us?’ Supposedly we’re toxic, supposedly they’re stored, supposedly there’s a synergistic effect, but what does the science say?”
Is Detoxification Necessary?
What Walsh found was that, yes, virtually all of us are toxic and everyone is exposed to a greater or lesser extent and, yes, chemicals are stored in your body and, yes, there is a synergistic effect. What’s more, the dose doesn’t really matter, because a low dose can be just as damaging as a high dose, especially when it comes to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The next step was to determine the most effective way of eliminating all of these chemicals, which ultimately led to the creation of the Walsh Detox Program.
“In my opinion, if we truly want to detox, then this is the type of program I believe — and we have some evidence on — that will actually do the job,” he says. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve looked at many different programs, and this is the best I’ve encountered. One of the core components of this program is a modified fasting mimicking diet, originally developed by Valter Longo, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the University of Southern California.
I’ve become convinced fasting is an exceptional health strategy, and one of the books I’m currently working on is “Keto Fast,” which I’m cowriting with Dr. Alan Goldhamer, director of the TrueNorth Health Center, the largest fasting clinic in North America. They’ve taken 16,000 people through the water fasting process, many up to 40 days.
While Walsh believes regular water fasting has many health benefits, for this program, he uses a fasting mimicking diet instead. “I just don’t think we’re healthy enough to [water] fast any longer,” he says.
“In every mammal study that I’ve ever looked at, when there’s significant calorie restriction or fasting, xenobiotic levels go up in the blood. Toxin levels go up in the blood every single time, no matter what mammal is being studied, which is to say that … we’re flooding our body with these xenobiotics.
If we are at all nutrient-deficient, if we have any deficiencies in the biochemical pathways, including the detoxification ones, now we’re flooding the body with all these toxins, and we may not be getting rid of them … If we don’t take active [steps] to metabolize or detoxify them and then excrete them, then they’re more likely to cause damage elsewhere in the body. I love fasting. I just don’t think that most of us are actually healthy enough to do it anymore.”
Fasting Releases Toxins
The reason toxin levels go up when fasting is because most toxins are fat-soluble and thus stored in fat. When you’re fasting or on a low-calorie diet, you’re primarily burning fat as fuel. When the fat is being burned for energy, it releases the fat-soluble toxins stored within the fat cells — water-soluble toxins you are hopefully excreting every day through sweat, urine and feces.
Lipolysis is the process of breaking down stored fat, and anything that induces lipolysis is going to mobilize stored fat-soluble toxins. The more lipolysis takes place, such as during fasting or time-restricted feeding (intermittent fasting) or exercise, the more toxins will be mobilized and released from your tissues.
Walsh’s fasting mimicking diet is a slight revision of Longo’s work, which is based on the idea that by consuming a certain macronutrient ratio in a relatively short period of time, your body is tricked into thinking it’s fasting.
“My concern [with Longo’s diet], based on studies showing that during caloric restriction or fasting [toxic] levels go up if you were not actively trying to support detoxification pathways, then where are those toxins going? Are they getting metabolized? Are they just going through Phase 1 and not Phase 2 or Phase 3? All these different things. That’s my only issue with it.”
To address that, Walsh’s diet focuses on foods shown to support and improve the detoxification pathways and detox enzymes like glucuronidation or glutathione conjugation. Brassica vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are excellent for this, as are garlic, onions, leeks and chives.
Detox Pathways 101
Phase Zero, which most people have not heard of, is the entrance of the toxin into the cell. The liver typically gets all the credit for detoxing, as it’s part of Phase 1, where the liver makes the toxins available to be water excreted. However, your intestines have the exact same detox enzymes, as do your kidneys and the male testes. So, detoxification actually occurs in a number of organs. Walsh offers the following analogy of the functions of the four pathways:
“Imagine you’re in a room that has two doors. The first door is Phase Zero. Somebody walks in through that door. That’s the toxin. They come into your room. The room is the cell. And then you start berating them. You say bad, negative things about them. You expose things about them that they didn’t want anybody to know about. That’s Phase 1. Phase 1 exposes or adds a hydroxyl group [which] makes [the toxin] water-soluble.
But now, you just tore that [toxin] apart. They start wrecking the inside of the cell. Phase 2 is you hand them $1,000 … That’s conjugation … [meaning something] is added to it, and now they’re not angry anymore.
Phase 2 pathways include methylation, which adds a methyl group to it; sulfation adds a sulfur group; acetylation adds an acetyl group; amino acid conjugation usually will add glycine. Glutathione conjugation is a glutathione molecule; glucuronidation is a glucuronide molecule.
After Phase 2, [the toxin] is still water-soluble, but now it’s not angry. It’s not going to cause any damage anymore. But it’s still inside the cell. This is what’s incredibly important. It needs to leave the second door. That second door is Phase 3. If you block Phase 3, which things like curcumin does, and milk thistle, that [toxin] cannot leave, and there are enzymes inside of the cell that can undo that conjugation. So, now they’re angry again. Now, they cause damage inside of the cell.”
Three Principles of Detoxification
So, for a detoxification program to be effective, the following three principles must be in place:
- Mobilization, which includes calorie restriction or fasting and exercise to engage lipolysis
- Detoxification, which involves stimulating and optimizing all of the detoxification pathways
- Excretion. Fiber is an important binder that enhances excretion from the bowels. You also need to stay well-hydrated to flush toxins out through your urine. A route of excretion that cannot be overstated is sweating. Using a near-infrared sauna, or a far-infrared sauna equipped with near-infrared bulbs is ideal
The Importance of Binders
So, to effectively detox, you first need to mobilize the toxins, then optimize your detox pathways, and finally bind the toxins flowing through your system so that they can be eliminated through your urine, feces or sweat. To do this, you need some kind of binding agent.
“I have specific binders that I’ve included in the program, some with meals, and some away from meals,” Walsh says. “Also, along with the fasting mimicking diet, I also utilize time-restrictive feeding. Try to eat in the smallest window of time to maximize lipolysis, not maximize mobilization …
Now, if you are in the time-restricted feeding period where you’re not eating for 16 hours, you’re undergoing lipolysis and you’re getting this flood, depending on how toxic you are, of toxins, [which] are getting into your gastrointestinal tract on an empty stomach. How are you going to excrete those if you’re not eating as much bulk or food as you were prior?
There are some binders that work better on an empty stomach, and then some, like five of them, that work better with food … I use things like chitosan and charcoal, and different types of fibers. There’s evidence modified citrus pectin increases excretion of xenobiotics.
It’s vital that you not only [get] fiber when eating, but also, when in a fasted state, [you need to] consume these binders, because if your levels of xenobiotics go up in the blood, some of that is leaking into your gastrointestinal tract. If you don’t have the bulk that you normally eat in terms of just total calorie content, you’re not going to be moving that stuff along as well. That, to me, is a vital piece. It’s not just sweating. It’s not just drinking enough fluids. You have to bind those things up for excretion.”
Beware of Detox Fads
Walsh brings up an important point with regard to detox research. Rodent studies, for example, can be unreliable when it comes to human detoxification, because rodents have more robust detoxification pathways than humans do, are nocturnal, live far shorter lives and have a faster metabolism.
So, if something works well in a mouse or rat, it doesn’t mean it will work as well in us. How they measure detoxification also makes a difference. Typically, researchers will look at enzyme activity or messenger RNA (mRNA), which tells you how the cell is making a detoxification protein.
Walsh cites an in-vitro study that looked at what happened when quercetin was applied to cells. The mRNA went down for certain detoxification enzymes, which suggests quercetin inhibited detox. But when they added a toxin to the mix, quercetin actually increased the toxin excretion. So, even though quercetin appeared to inhibit detox, it still aided excretion of this particular chemical.
One potential reason for this paradoxical finding could be because quercetin inhibits cluster of differentiation 38 (CD38), which is a major consumer of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a compound involved in mitochondrial health, cellular redox and energy metabolism. Essentially, quercetin indirectly increases NAD+. There’s also the issue of acute versus chronic dosing.
“In most studies, they look at acute dose. They take a cell, they apply green tea (or some other compound), and then they look to see what those enzymes do. Pomegranate acutely inhibited certain detox pathways, but given over a period of two weeks increased those same pathways.
Saying all those things together — choose your nutrient of the month and say, ‘Does it help with detox?’ Well, was it done in a cell, a rodent or in a human clinical trial? Did they look at mRNA or enzyme activity? What cell tissue were they looking at and does it have different effects? What dose was it, meaning biphasic effects? [and] was it an acute or chronic dose?
Because of all that, you have to be an expert in looking up the research and interpreting the research to say irrefutably that milk thistle is a detoxification nutrient.
I can’t say that. Because of that, because of what I’ve read, I don’t have curcumin, green tea, pomegranate or any of those things [in my program], because if you really want to detox, you have to mobilize. You have to open up Phase Zero, 1, 2 and 3, and you have to excrete. Anything that can inhibit any one of those things, I think doesn’t have a place in the detoxification program.”
For these reasons, Walsh’s program includes very few supplements. It’s mostly food-based, as you’re not likely to harm or create adverse effects on any of the detox pathways with food. As such, it’s one of the most pragmatic, safe and relatively inexpensive ways to detox.
How Often Do You Need to Detox?
Considering you’re continuously exposed to chemicals and pollutants of all kinds through food, air, water and most household products, how often do you need to detox? Walsh offers the following recommendations:
“The program, as it’s outlined, is 10 days. My recommendation is to do the 10-day program. The first six days are calorie restriction, but high-protein. The last four are that modified fasting mimicking diet. What I recommend to people is to do the full 10-day program one month, and then depending on how they do, the next month, do the full 10-day program or just do the four- to five-day modified fasting mimicking diet.
That, for people who are relatively healthy, I think is a good way to go. That’s four to five days a month of the fasting mimicking diet portion of it only — all the supplements, all the sauna and all the exercise … For a period of six months or so, doing that once a month is probably not a bad idea for most people, because of the accumulation [of toxins] that we have.
If people want to be somewhat aggressive with this, I would say do two of the four-day fasting mimicking diets a month. Put one in Week 1 of the month, and then do another in Week 3, and then the following month. You can do two of those a month if you really wanted. You mobilize a lot during that.”
There are very few absolutes, especially in health. It is likely a six-day, high protein diet would help many, but I think it may not be ideal. My strategy would be to use time-restricted eating to at least eight hours and preferably six. Do this for at least a month and then start the four- to five-day portion of the Walsh protocol.
Why Checking the pH of Your Urine Is a Good Idea
Interestingly, research suggests having urine pH of 7.5 or above greatly increases the excretion of acidic xenobiotics and other toxins. “The pH of the urine dictates whether a xenobiotic on its way out gets reabsorbed or gets excreted,” Walsh explains. “It’s an incredibly important piece.
If your urine is too acidic, you tend to reabsorb the acidic xenobiotics that have been conjugated and are on their way out. Conversely, the more alkaline it is, you’ll tend to reabsorb alkaline xenobiotics, which there are less of. Many xenobiotics are acidic.”
To increase excretion of these toxins, all you’d need to do is use a urine analysis strip to measure your pH, and if below 7.5, take some sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate during the fasting mimicking diet portion of the program, to raise your pH above 7.5. Adding some N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) may also be helpful, as NAC supports glutathione production and calcium D-glucarate to augment glucuronidation.
To purchase Walsh’s detox program, go to MetabolicFitnessPro.com. There are two versions of the program, one for practitioners, which includes nine hours of video delving deep into the science of the detoxification pathways. The other is for patients and nonpractitioners, which includes a less rigorous introduction to the science, along with detailed program instructions.
The practitioner version includes the nonpractitioner version free of charge. You can also find more information about Walsh on DrWalsh.com. If you’ve been searching for a good detox program, this program is well worth the money. Practitioners can also benefit their patients by understanding the detox process better.
- Thousands of studies spanning many decades show excess sugar damages your health, yet the sugar industry successfully buried the evidence and misdirected the public with manipulated science
- “Sugar Coated” investigates the sugar industry’s once secret PR campaign, showing it normalized excessive consumption by deflecting evidence implicating sugar as a cause of ill health
- The manufactured uncertainty and lack of scientific consensus is what has allowed the sugar industry to thrive while health statistics have tanked
- A 2016 paper examined the links between funding and study outcomes. Of the 60 studies, the 26 that found no link between sugary drinks and obesity or diabetes were all funded by the beverage industry; of the 34 that did find a relationship, only one had received industry funding
- Seventy-four percent of packaged foods contain added sugars, which hide under 61 different names, many of which are unfamiliar
By Dr. Mercola – July 16, 2018
Thousands of studies spanning many decades show excess sugar damages your health,1 yet the sugar industry successfully buried the evidence and misdirected the public with manipulated science. According to the sugar industry, sugar is a harmless source of energy and may even be an important part of a healthy “balanced” diet.
Dr. Cristin Kearns, a dentist and fellow at the University of California, made headlines when she published a paper2 detailing the sugar industry’s historical influence on dietary recommendations. Evidence also shows how the sugar industry influenced the scientific agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research (now the National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research), which back in 1971 created a national caries program, downplaying any links between sugar consumption and dental caries.3
The documentary, “Sugar Coated” — which features Kearns, investigative journalist Gary Taubes, author of “The Case Against Sugar,” and Dr. Robert Lustig, a leading expert on sugar metabolism and obesity — investigates the sugar industry’s once secret PR campaign, showing how it normalized excessive consumption by deflecting evidence implicating sugar as a cause of ill health. As noted in the film’s summary:4
“In order to continue sweetening the world’s food supply, thus securing continued profits, the sugar industry turned to the very same deceptions and tactics lifted from the tobacco industry. Using big sugar’s own internal documents on this strategy, ‘Sugar Coated’ reveals the well-oiled tricks of the trade to confuse the public about what is really driving the global pandemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”
Processed Food Is the Primary Source of Added Sugars
In the past three decades, obesity rates have doubled and Type 2 diabetes has tripled. How did this happen? Evidence implicating sugar has steadily mounted, but as noted by Taubes, definitive proof has remained elusive. The lack of indisputable proof — and the manufactured lack of consensus — is what has kept the sugar industry motoring forward, at each turn deflecting suspicions by pointing out conflicting evidence.
Fueling uncertainty has been the primary defense strategy that has allowed the sugar industry to thrive while health statistics plummet. “If the evidence gets definitive, they’re done,” Taubes says. Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, teaches that sugar — when consumed in the excess amounts we’re consuming today — acts as a metabolic poison.
Lustig doesn’t really see himself as the “anti-sugar guy,” stressing he’s really anti-processed food. The thing about processed foods is they contain massive amounts of added sugar. Seventy-four percent of packaged foods contain added sugars, which hide under 61 different names, many of which are unfamiliar. Examples include barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, just to name a few.
Metabolically, however, there’s no difference between these sugars, Lustig says. Even health foods and baby foods can contain shockingly high amounts of processed sugars.5 Take Krave Jerky, for example. A modest size bag (3.5 ounces) of Krave Chili Lime Jerky contains a whopping 39 grams of sugar.6
What Is Moderation?
Lustig stresses it’s the excessive consumption of sugar that is dangerous, not the sugar in and of itself. But how much is too much? At which point does it become a “poison”? Sugar in “moderation,” he says, would be 6 to 9 teaspoons (25 to 38 grams) of added sugar a day.
This is about the max that your body can safely and effectively process. Europeans consume, on average, 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The American average is 19.5 teaspoons a day. For historical perspective, in 1812, people ate approximately 9 grams or just over 2 teaspoons of sugar per day.7
According to a 2014 study,8 10 percent of Americans consume 25 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of added sugars, and those who consume 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar are twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who get 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar.
The risk was nearly tripled among those who consumed 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar. That means at least 10 percent of the adult population in the U.S. are in this tripled-risk category.
Type 2 diabetes9 and heart disease are not the only ramifications of a high-sugar diet. By triggering insulin resistance, excessive sugar consumption drives virtually all chronic diseases, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,10 cancer and dementia.11,12 Research13 shows even mild elevation of blood sugar — a level of around 105 or 110 — is associated with an elevated risk for Alzheimer’s.
Moderating your sugar intake is extremely difficult, if not impossible, if you’re eating processed foods and snacks. The film shines much needed light on the fraud that passes for “healthy snacks,” such as fruit gummies, which contain sugar derived from concentrated fruit juice, water and a few added vitamins. While the sugar is derived from fruit, there’s nothing left of the nutrients in the whole fruit. You might as well just give your child a few sugar cubes. There’s really no difference.
How and Why Sugar Replaced Fat
The records unearthed by Kearns reveal that as far back as 1964 — a time when researchers had begun suspecting a relationship between high-sugar diets and heart disease — John Hickson, a sugar industry executive, introduced a plan for how to influence public opinion. Using the same tactics employed by the tobacco industry, Hickson’s plan was to counter adverse findings with industry-funded research, along with directed “information and legislative programs.” “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,” he wrote.
One of the strategies used to deflect accusations that sugar caused disease was to shift the blame to saturated fat. In the early 1970s, the sugar industry faced proposed sugar legislation that would impose limits on the sweet stuff.
They also worried about the potential impact of “Pure White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It,” a book published in 1972 by British nutritionist John Yudkin, in which he presented decades of research pointing at dietary sugar, not fat, as the underlying factor in obesity and diabetes.
As proposed by Hickson, the sugar industry countered Yudkin’s work with a secretly funded white paper called “Sugar in the Diet of Man,” which claimed sugar was not only safe but actually important for health. Again, the key to success laid in preventing a consensus from taking root. As long as there was confusion and uncertainty about sugar’s role in health, regulators were forced to give sugar a free pass.
Sugar Apologists and Defenders Bought and Paid for by Industry
Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, who chaired the department of nutrition at Harvard, played a key role in defending the sugar industry and disseminating its propaganda, all while hiding his close ties to the industry. Stare spoke out against critics on radio and television, claiming breakfast cereal with milk was a healthier breakfast choice than bacon and eggs, for example.
Another major sugar apologist was Ancel Keyes who, with industry funding, helped destroy Yudkin’s reputation by labeling him a quack. The smear campaign was a huge success, bringing sugar research to a screeching halt.
Another Harvard-based nutrition scientist identified in Kearns’ historical analysis as someone paid to produce research for the sugar industry was Mark Hegsted, Ph.D. In 1977, while heading up the nutrition department at the United States Department of Agriculture, Hegsted helped draft an early document that eventually became the U.S. dietary guidelines.
In the decades since, U.S. health officials have urged Americans to adopt a low-fat diet to prevent heart disease; as a result, people switched to processed low-fat, high-sugar foods instead. This, it turns out, is the real recipe for heart disease, yet by taking control of and shaping the scientific discussion, the sugar and processed food industries managed to keep these facts under wraps all these years. The end result is clearly visible in the health statistics of today.
Sugar’s Law of Attraction: The Bliss Point
With saturated fat enlisted as the dietary villain, the processed food industry had to figure out how to remove the fat while maintaining taste. The solution was to add sugar. The ill-advised low-fat craze is a major reason why processed foods are loaded with so much added sugar. Another reason has to do with the creation of food addiction.
The food industry goes to great lengths to scientifically calculate the exact combination of ingredients that will make you crave a product, known as the Bliss Point. Howard Moskowitz, Ph.D., a longtime food industry consultant, is known as “Dr. Bliss.” A Harvard-trained mathematician, Moskowitz tests people’s reactions and finds the optimal amount of sugar for a product.14
Moskowitz’s path to mastery began when he was hired by the U.S. Army to research how to get soldiers to consume more rations in the field. Over time, soldiers were not consuming adequate rations, finding their ready-to-eat meals so boring that they’d toss them half-eaten, and not get all the calories they needed. Through this research, Moskowitz discovered “sensory-specific satiety.” What this means is, big flavors tend to overwhelm your brain, which responds by suppressing your desire to eat more.
However, this sensory-specific satiety is overridden by complex flavor profiles that pique your taste buds enough to be alluring, but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells your brain to stop eating. The magic formula gives you “the bliss point,” enabling the processed food industry to make very deliberate efforts to get you to overeat.
Sugar Limits Finally Included in US Dietary Guidelines
While we still have a long way to go, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans include the recommendation to limit sugar to 10 percent of your total daily calories.15 For a 2,000 calorie diet this amounts to 10 to 12 teaspoons, or just over the amount found in one 12-ounce can of regular Coke. Based on the evidence from some studies, even this amount can trigger health problems, but it’s certainly better than no limit at all. Other health organizations have gone even further.
The National Institutes of Health now recommends kids between the ages of 4 and 8 limit their added sugar to a maximum of 3 teaspoons a day (12 grams). Children aged 9 and older should stay below 8 teaspoons. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to:16,17
- 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men
- 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women
- 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for toddlers and teens between the ages of 2 and 18
- Zero added sugars for kids under the age of 2
Twenty-five grams of sugar per day is my recommended limit for men and women alike, with the added caveat that if you have insulin or leptin resistance (overweight, diabetic, high blood pressure or taking a statin drug), you’d be wise to restrict your total fructose consumption to as little as 15 grams per day until you’ve normalized your insulin and leptin levels.
Sugar Industry’s Response to Sugar Limits
Not surprisingly, the sugar industry’s answer to all of these sugar limits was to create yet another study18 to refute the validity of the recommendations and keep the uncertainty going.19,20,21,22 As reported by CBS,23 “The study from McMaster University claims that the evidence for prior knowledge in how sugar intake is proportionate with weight gain, across nine public health guidelines, is ‘low quality.’”
The review was funded by the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a trade group representing the Coca-Cola Co., Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the Hershey Company, Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and many others. In conclusion, these industry-funded science reviewers found that:
“Guidelines on dietary sugar do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence. Public health officials (when promulgating these recommendations) and their public audience (when considering dietary behavior) should be aware of these limitations …
At present, there seems to be no reliable evidence indicating that any of the recommended daily caloric thresholds for sugar intake are strongly associated with negative health effects. The results from this review should be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.”
Ironically, the only “limitation” listed for this study24 was that “The authors conducted the study independent of the funding source, which is primarily supported by the food and agriculture industry.” Essentially, what they were saying is that, yes, the study was funded by the food industry, but trust us, we were completely impartial.
A corrected version of the disclosure statement revealed ILSI actually both reviewed and approved the scope of the protocol for the study.25 AP News also discovered that one of the authors, Joanne Slavin, a professor at University of Minnesota, failed to disclose funding in the amount of $25,000 from Coca-Cola in 2014.
Slavin also did not disclose a grant received from Quaker Oats, owned by PepsiCo, nor did she include her work on a 2012 ILSI-funded paper on sugar guidelines. Meanwhile, she did disclose a grant from the Mushroom Council.
Review Shows Massive Research Bias Based on Funding
If you’re at all inclined to take Slavin and her coauthors on their word, consider the following study published in November 2016: The paper, “Do Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Cause Obesity and Diabetes? Industry and the Manufacture of Scientific Controversy,”26 reviewed 60 studies published between 2001 and 2016 to examine the links between funding and study outcomes.
“We comprehensively surveyed the literature to determine whether experimental studies that found no association between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity- and diabetes-related outcomes (negative studies) are more likely than positive studies to have received financial support from this industry,” they write.
The results? Of the 60 studies, the 26 that found no link between sugary drinks and obesity or diabetes were all funded by the beverage industry; of the 34 that did find a relationship, only one had received industry funding. In conclusion, they noted that: “This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public’s health.”
Some of the studies giving sugar a free pass have industry fingerprints clearly visible all over them. For example, one paper27 came to the highly unlikely conclusion that eating candy may help prevent weight gain. The source of the funding reveals the basis for such a bizarre conclusion: The National Confectioners Association, which represents candy makers like Butterfingers, Hershey and Skittles.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi-backed research has also come to the highly improbable and irresponsible conclusion that drinking diet soda is more helpful for weight loss than pure water.28
When you consider that following the proposed sugar guidelines (restricting sugar to 5 or 10 percent of daily calories) would cut junk food companies’ profits by half,29 it’s easy to see why they’re willing to go to such obnoxious lengths to try to mislead you about the science. Greed is no excuse, however, and it’s high time everyone stopped buying into the sugar industry’s carefully plotted misdirection campaigns.
Crush Your Sugar Addiction
Sugar causes very real damage to your body and cells, and the addiction to the substance is also very real. There are several strategies you can use to reduce or eliminate your intake of added sugars, while still enjoying your meals and feeling satisfied after eating.
Educate yourself on the health impacts of sugar
Making permanent changes to your lifestyle and nutritional choices is easier when you know the why behind the change. You can see a quick list of the 76 different ways sugar negatively impacts your health in my previous article, “The Truth About Sugar Addiction.”
Reduce net carbs
Your net carbs are calculated by taking the total grams of carbs and subtracting the total grams of fiber. By keeping your net carbs below 100 grams per day, and for a healthier diet as low as 50 grams per day, you will reduce your cravings for sweets. To learn more, including the importance of cycling in higher amounts of net carbs once you’ve become an efficient fat burner, see “Burn Fat for Fuel.”
Eat real food
If a food is boxed, canned or bottled, it’s likely also been processed and may include added sugar. Whole, organic, non-GMO foods provide your body with the nutrition you need to function optimally and natural sugars bound to fiber that reduces your net carbs.
On processed foods you do purchase, scour the label for ingredients that represent sugar to evaluate the total amount. The less sugar you eat, the less you’ll crave.
Use safer sweeteners
Not all sugar substitutes are created equally. Avoid using artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Safer alternatives include Stevia, Lo Han Guo (also spelled Luo Han Kuo), and pure glucose (dextrose). Contrary to fructose, glucose can be used directly by every cell in your body and as such is a far safer sugar alternative. It will, however, raise your net carb intake.
Reduce the sugar you add gradually
If going cold turkey hasn’t worked for you in the past, try slowly reducing the amount of sugar you add to your drinks. This helps give your taste buds time to adjust to drinking your favorite tea or coffee without the added sweetener.
Increase healthy fat intake
Fat increases satiety, reducing cravings for something sweet afterward. Avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds increase your healthy fat content, fill you up and reduce your sweet cravings.
Include fermented foods
Fermented foods support your digestive health and improve your gut microbiome, and the sour taste naturally helps reduce your sweet cravings.
Try Turbo Tapping
Emotional and stress eating is not uncommon. Using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), you can address your stress levels and the discomfort you may feel from giving up junk foods in your diet. Turbo tapping is a form of EFT designed specifically for sugar addiction and is well worth a try if you’re struggling to give up soda and other sweets.