#251 Sugar vs. Fat

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Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential
food groups: alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and fat.

Allen Levine

Sugar vs. Fat: Which Is Worse?

By Steve Edwards

BoxingLadies and gentleman, tonight we bring you the long-awaited fight to crown the World Obesity Federation's heavyweight champion. It's the battle to decide, once and for all, which food is most responsible for making us fat. In one corner, we have our long-reigning champion, The Heartbreak Hammer, Fat! In the other corner, the up-and-coming challenger everyone's been talking about, The Soda Pop Kid, Sugar!

DonutAs the undisputed nutrient kings of our fast food world, this is the bout that everyone's been waiting for. Fat has been the people's champion for a long time. Sugar, on the other hand, has only been around as long as humans have been altering their food from natural sources. Lately, a lot of money and science have changed our challenger's traditional fighting style, leading to a string of TKOs (technical knockouts) en route to Sugar's shot at the title. Going into tonight's fight, however, the experts still favor the champion by 2-to-1 odds.

The tale of the tape

SugarSugar—Weighing in at 4 calories per gram, the challenger is slight in stature compared to our champion, and will look to speed in order to gain an advantage. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but the way we consume it now is much different than how we find it in nature where's it's surrounded by a fruit, grain, or other plants. The Soda Pop Kid is synthetic crystalline sugar—the kind that goes into soda, candy, and many convenience foods. Its main weapon is the speed with which it rushes into your system.

CheeseBurgerFat—At 9 calories per gram, Fat outweighs its challenger by more than double. Unlike sugar, fat is its own food group and an essential part of our diet, just like carbohydrates and protein. It's easily found in nature in many forms and doesn't need to be processed. This, of course, doesn't mean we don't process it when it's convenient or cost-effective. As opposed to sugar, fat moves into your system slowly. Then it remains there for as long as it can. In abundance, it clogs things up. Its main weapon being bulk, its goal is to wear you down.

As you can see, we've got a classic tortoise-vs.-hare matchup between these two heavyweights.

A brief history

FruitSugar—Since all carbohydrates are broken down into sugars in our blood, it's always been a part of our diet. However, when eaten as a complex carbohydrate or encased in fiber (as in fruit), it affects our body differently than it does as processed sugar.

Bees were the first sugar producers and humans have been eating honey about as long as bees have been making it. However, it didn't become a major part of our diet until thousands of years later. Westerners began the production of sugar around 1500 BC. Originally made from sugarcane and sugar beets, it's now manufactured from other crops, like corn and wheat, which make up the bulk of the sugar consumed in the USA.

Honey DipperModern technology has enabled us to tamper further with natural sugar. Traditional sugar, like honey, had a much lower glycemic index (GI) than many modern variations. Since the higher the GI number, the quicker the sugar rushes into your system, we are now essentially able to have sugars affect the body like a drug, creating exaggerated hormonal responses, particularly the hormone insulin. You may have heard of insulin because when we have trouble producing it we have a disease called diabetes. Type II diabetes is the result of eating a poor diet. It's also the fastest growing disease in the world, which, in Sugar's camp, means they think it's time for a shot at the title.

Olive OilFat—Like we stated earlier, fat is dense—it has a lot of calories for its size. It's also an essential nutrient and helps us feel satiated, or full. Therefore, when we're hungry we tend to crave it. And since we don't really need much of it, it's very easy to overeat.

When we eat more food than we can put to good use, our body stores it in adipose tissue. We call this tissue fat, or fat tissue. But it's not really fat, as in the kind we eat. It's something else. Well, it's adipose tissue, but we've always called it fat. Anyway, the point is that we call it fat whether we get it from eating too much fat or too much protein or too much sugar or carbs or by drinking too much alcohol. And because of this, fat gets a worse rap than it deserves.

But make no mistake, fat is formidable. We like fat. We like it a lot. Many fat-laden foods are considered delicacies. And we like fat so much that we've found ways to consume just the bad parts of fat that serve little to no dietary purpose. Stuff like butter, margarine, lard, and trans fats are completely unnecessary for our survival. Yet, somehow, our culture has taught us to crave such things. And these cravings have led to heart disease becoming the planet's most popular way to kill people. Fat has been the undisputed champion of the obesity world for a long, long time. It's not going to relinquish this title easily.

So let's get ready to rumble!

Round 1

Round 1Smaller but faster, Sugar comes out in a rush and pummels Fat mercilessly. Because of The Kid's smaller stature, Sugar's punches seem to have little effect on The Champ. But Fat hardly lands a punch himself and is looking old and slow. Could The Hammer's reign be over?

Round 2

CheetosThe Sugar rush comes to a quick crash. The Champ, in no rush himself, seizes control of the pace and takes the round.

Round 3

All of our sponsors are major lobbyists on the side of Sugar. The Kid replenishes and responds in another flurry of activity. The Champ is back on his heels, waiting for The Kid's next, inevitable, crash.

Round 4

Jelly BeansThe Kid jabs, moves, and controls the pace but The Champ seems unfazed. Fat knows that Sugar is only an effective nutrient during and immediately after activity when blood sugar is being used up. So Sugar must keep moving, otherwise it has no nutrient value. The Hammer, being experienced, is willing to bide his time and wait for an opening.

Round 5

BreadSugar bobs and weaves, employing a psychological game that confounds The Champ. Complex carbohydrates and the simple carbs in fruit break down slowly and provide sustained energy during performance. This gives Sugar an advantage of public misconception because the junk-food sugar can be lumped together with healthy carbohydrates. This underhanded attack is clearly something Fat hadn't counted on. It seems to anger The Hammer.

Round 6

TartThe Champ counters, big time. Two can play the public misconception card and Fat uses its adipose tissue to absorb all of The Kid's body blows. The statement that size matters seems to be holding true. In spite of nearly unending corporate support, Sugar seems to be tiring and its punches are growing less and less effective.

Round 7

CheeseFat is now clearly in control of the bout and uses a cholesterol combo to weaken The Kid further. The Hammer's corner men, Meat and Dairy, are loaded with it and too much cholesterol is a major cause of heart disease. Could this spell the end for the gallant challenger?

Round 8

EggsA savvy move saves The Kid, who notes that cholesterol is a necessary part of the diet and that with a proper ratio of fiber and complex carbs it will have little negative effect. It's a beautiful defensive move, but how long can it work? The Hammer just seems to be warming up his arsenal.

Round 9

Hot DogOffended by The Kid's trickery, Fat comes out smokin' and unloads an entire 7-Eleven of chips, butters, whipped cream, hot dogs, margarines, and even "vegetable" oils at The Kid. Since all lead to heart disease, now the leading cause of death in the world, Sugar's only defense is the rope-a-dope. He's clearly in major trouble.

Round 10

Boxer DownDown goes Sugar! The Champ plants a trans fat to the head and levels the challenger. This could be it, folks. The Kid staggers to his feet but the referee has stepped in. He seems to be holding up a can of Crisco to see if Sugar can identify what hit him. If not, he's going to stop it.

Oh, but wait a minute. The Kid seems to be okay, and even looks to be smiling. The ref flashes a thumbs-up and the fight continues. Sugar dances away from a series of haymakers. The Hammer obviously wants to end the contest right now. But he can't connect. The Kid survives! In his corner, he's being given a Coke.

Round 11

AlcoholHis face is bloodied but The Kid is back at work. The Champ's attack has been slowed with the news that the FDA has required that trans fat be listed on the side of every food label while sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, and glucose syrups can be used with virtually no regulation. This tactic has clearly befuddled The Hammer, whose punches are beginning to miss more often than they connect.

Round 12

FishLadies and gentlemen, we've got a new fight! Left for dead just a few rounds ago, Sugar is now controlling the pace. Still a long way behind on points, the challenger is using an intriguing combination that's hurting The Champion. First pointing out that many fats—the type in nuts, olives, seeds, avocados, fish and many others—are essential for optimal health and then noting that nothing in sugar is needed for human survival and combining it with the fact that a "no fat" label can be on a food containing 100% sugar. Then he uses the fact that sugar alters body pH levels, a clear example that an all-sugar food is far worse than a no-fat food. That's gotta hurt.

Round 13

LollipopThe credit probably goes to his corner men, all major corporate CEOs, but Sugar has got to be one of the craftiest fighters in history. He comes after Fat with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibromyalgia, an offensive that clearly caught The Champ off guard. Apparently, they're illnesses attributed in part to excessive sugar in one's diet leading to insulin resistance problems. The Hammer may have amassed enough points to win a decision but is now clearly on the defensive and reeling. Who knows what The Kid's got up his sleeve at this point?

Round 14

SodaWith only one round to go, Sugar swings wildly with a combination of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and soda pop. This is one of the most lethal offensive combinations in the history of obesity! HFCS is the cheapest and lowest-quality sugar produced and is now added to many items that aren't even sweet—things like salad dressings and peanut butters, items once clearly in Fat's corner. And soda, a substance with no nutritional value whatsoever, has become the singularly most consumed item on the planet. I don't see how The Champ can survive this. He's staggering around the ring, basically out on his feet! Somehow, and it must be experience, The Hammer avoids going down.

Round 15

Referee 2It all comes down to this: one round to crown the World Champion of Obesity. Fat, the longtime champ, is clearly in trouble but still has enough points to win thanks to its mid-fight dominance. But Sugar has owned the latter rounds thanks to heavy lobbying, effective marketing, deregulation, and public misconception. The Champ was barely on his feet at the end of round 14 and his corner is working furiously to limit the damage. The question is, does Sugar's corner have one last trick up its sleeve?

And here we go . . .

HeartThe Champ still manages to show some swagger, and comes out flashing heart disease as the number one killer, recently eclipsing lung disease and cigarettes—no slouch in the death department.

But Sugar barely flinches and counters with type II diabetes, the fastest growing illness in the world, that's almost single-handedly controlled by Sugar. It's like Ali's "anchor punch" against Liston and it sends The Champ sprawling.

Down goes Fat! Down goes Fat!

And I don't think the Champ will be rising from this one. Nope. Fat is out cold. The Hammer's reign is over. There's a new kid in town. Sugar is elated, dancing around the ring and pointing at the crowd, screaming, "I want YOU! I want YOU!"

ChampLadies and gentlemen, introducing the NEW heavyweight champion of the obesity world: SUGAR!

If you want to get into the ring to fight fat and sugar, you might check out the kickboxing in Chalene Johnson's Turbo Jam® or the martial arts moves in Tony Horton's P90X®.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards.Steve Edwards If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Coldwater Fish, the Top Superfood

By Kathy Smith, creator of Project: YOU™

Kathy S.The question I get asked the most is, "Kathy, what's the most important thing I can do for my health?" The most important thing you can do is take good care of your heart. To be more specific, I am talking about getting regular exercise, not smoking, and controlling stress, along with eating a variety of nutritious, heart-healthy foods as part of a healthy diet. The top "superfood" that I tell people to add to their list of favorite heart health boosters is fish. But not just any fish. Fish that is a good source of omega-3 fats.

SardineWild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies (coldwater fish) are at the top of the list of heart-healthy, antiaging brain food. These fatty fish are packed with protein, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and antioxidants that have been proven to protect against heart disease. The evidence is so strong that the American Heart Association recommends eating salmon and other omega-3-rich foods twice a week for benefits that go far beyond heart health. Fatty fish guard your heart, brain, and circulatory system. Plus, there is evidence that people suffering from depression can benefit from diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Dr. PerriconeDr. Nicholas Perricone, a certified dermatologist and well-known antiaging expert, is considered the "father of fish oil" because he was one of the first serious supporters of fish oil supplements as well as wild salmon for supplying the body with much-needed essential fatty acids (EFAs) necessary for healthy, young-looking, supple skin.

Go wild

White WaterSo what's the difference between wild salmon and farmed salmon? There are some very compelling reasons why you might want to choose wild salmon. It has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and a healthier ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s (while some essential omega-6 fatty acids are healthy, most Americans consume an unhealthy amount in their regular diet). It has a lot less saturated fat than most farmed salmon does, and it's a superior source of DMAE, the main ingredient for better muscle tone. Wild sockeye salmon are the best choice because they eat algae instead of small fish, like their cousins the coho and the king. This means sockeye don't absorb as many toxic chemicals that they can pass on to us.

Vitamin EIn addition to being heart healthy, fish oil does make you smarter if you make it a regular part of your diet. It strengthens brain cell membranes and enhances cell-to-cell communication. People who take it over time find they can remember in-depth conversations better, think on their feet, do better on tests, and have less difficulty reading maps.

Salmon FishYou should aim for two meals a week of coldwater fish, preferably wild sockeye salmon. If you don't like fish, you can take a daily fish-oil supplement (500 mg EPA, 500 mg DHA), and choosing the right one just got easier. The nonprofit group Environmental Defense evaluated 54 manufacturers and found that more than two-thirds follow the strictest standards for reducing major fish-oil contaminants—mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and dioxins. Remember, because fish oil capsules can be unstable, it's best to store them in the refrigerator.

ActiVitTo get more of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need to stay healthy and feel and look younger, check out Beachbody's ActiVit® Multivitamins. And, when you sign up for the Team Beachbody® Club, you'll find more wellness tips and recipes from me in my Trainer's Corner, plus tons of great recipes to help you add more omega-3s and make healthier choices in your diet.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Sweetener IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

True or False?

  1. SweetenerFALSE: Of Equal, Splenda, and Sweet'N Low, Equal is the sweetest. Splenda (sucralose) is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Sweet'N Low (saccharin) is 300 to 500 times sweeter, and Equal (aspartame) trails the pack at 200 times sweeter.

  2. TRUE: Aspartame turns into formaldehyde in your body. Aspartame breaks down into phenylalanine (which can affect people with phenylketonuria), aspartate, and methanol. Methanol is then broken down further by the liver into formaldehyde and formic acid, both toxic. Fortunately, the toxic effects of methanol and its byproducts are caused by prolonged exposure, and the belief is that the amount of methanol and the length of time in the body makes aspartame reasonably harmless in small doses. However, some warn that a cumulative effect of aspartame consumption may exist, which could cause long-term health problems.

  3. RatFALSE: Saccharin causes cancer. In the 1970s, studies showed that saccharin caused bladder cancer in lab rats. This led to a warning on all products containing saccharin that the product may cause cancer. Subsequent studies showed that the cancer was caused by biological mechanisms present only in rats, and that no evidence existed that saccharin caused cancer in humans. In 2000, the federal government delisted it as a carcinogen, and products containing saccharin no longer carry the warning.

  4. MoleculeTRUE: Sucralose is made from sugar. It's essentially true. It begins as a sugar molecule with its hydrogen-oxygen atom groups replaced with chlorine, which turns it into something else entirely. It's like saying glass is made from sand. It's true, but you probably wouldn't let your kid play in a box full of glass. The makers of Equal, an aspartame product, are currently suing Splenda that its tagline "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar" is false advertising.

  5. SteviaFALSE: Stevia is banned in the U.S. Stevia was banned in 1991 from being imported to the U.S. The ban was revoked in 1995 after the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was enacted. No reason has ever been given for why stevia was banned. Many suspect it was due to political pressure from the artificial sweetener industry. A plant-based sweetener, stevia is currently only available as a supplement, and not recognized as a food additive by the FDA, as it has not been proven to be safe. It hasn't been proven to be unsafe, however, and has been used as a sweetener and additive in other countries such as Japan for years, with no harmful effects reported.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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