a spoonful of poison helps the medicine go down

3 million people have viewed Robert Lustig's lecture "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" on YouTube. He argues in opposition to the nutritional consensus that "a calorie is a calorie," explaining that sugar calories are handled differently by the body and are more likely to end up as fat. The majority of fructose (or sucrose -- more on this below) ends up being processed by the liver, the same way alcohol is. Fructose only occurs in nature in combination with large amounts of (nutritionally beneficial) fiber -- when refined out to a pure form, the body treats it as a poison, and Lustig's argument is that's how we should be treating it on a cultural level. Instead we allow profiteers to keep upping our consumption of it, even in the face of a staggering epidemic of obesity.

According to an article sympathetic to Lustig, he's been challenged on some of his facts, but the article doesn't say what they are so more reading is needed (will keep you posted). Assuming he's mostly right, his lecture is a scary compendium of ways we've allowed diet to go off the rails. We knew they were putting sugar in everything but... infant formula? The same amount of sugar as a soft drink? Sports drinks used to be piss-tasting stuff with electrolytes and food coloring until the soft drink companies started marketing it to kids (in the early '90s) by adding gobs of high-fructose corn syrup. And who knew how insidious a certain leading (as in No. 1) soft drink company was, marketing a beverage with caffeine that makes you pee, salt that makes you thirsty, and sugar to hide the salt?

For purposes of his argument about metabolism, Lustig treats all refined sweeteners as equally bad, whether sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or even fruit juice. He doesn't mention this example but one of the major OJ distributors claims on its packaging that you are getting two servings of fruit in each carton. Without the fiber of say, an orange, the beverage is worthless as a fruit serving -- check that, it isn't just empty calories, it's toxic calories masquerading as nutritious.