Thursday, June 14, 2012


It may be the same in your country. Right now Australia has been subjected to a number of “look-at-me, look-at-me” people jumping onto the media proclaiming that sugar is toxic and the cause of obesity, heart disease and a list of attention-grabbing conditions. Not much different to the arguments we heard before colour TV.

It’s not science, nor is it logic
Naturally the media want a human interest angle so they track down someone who chugged down lots of sugar and now has cut out sugar and they feel better. Conclusion: sugar is toxic. Now if you used to drink lots of soft drink and ate plenty of cakes, biscuits/cookies, pastries, ice cream, confectionery and cut them out, yes, there is a good chance you feel better. There is also a good chance that you will have replaced all the sugar-containing foods with fruit, nuts, vegetables and other foods laden with essential nutrients. You feel better because you are eating better.

On the weekend, with deep pain, I watched a 60 Minutes story on sugar. Main interviewee? An ex-fashion editor! You know, the one with years of published research in nutrition. From what I could gather, she left her high-pressure job, went to live in the country, bought a push bike, chose to improve her diet and felt better. Obvious logical scientific conclusion: sugar is toxic. Even the kids thought that one was funny. Always remember, when you cut out an aspect of your diet, you must replace it with something and that something is usually of better nutritional quality than what you have deleted.

Sugar, as in table sugar or cane sugar, is a carbohydrate. It is a molecule of fructose joined to a molecule of glucose. Some are claiming/hoping that it is fructose that is making everyone fat. A systematic review and meta-analysis by some seriously respected scientists who checked all the published data says: “Fructose does not seem to cause weight gain when it is substituted for other carbohydrates in diets providing similar calories.” In other words, fructose per se doesn’t have an independent ability to make you gain weight. They point out that fructose only causes weight gain when, like any sugar, it is eaten in excess of your kJ/Calorie needs. That is, you gain weight when you eat too much.

The reviewers finally say: “Weight gain seems to be due to the extra calories that are characteristic of high-fructose diets and not due to the fructose itself.” Now that is going to upset a few pet theories and self-promotion programs. Nah, it won’t actually because when you have a pet theory it is quite easy to ignore facts that spoil your story, and weak humans are unable to change their mind or correct an opinion.

What does it all mean?
It is quite simple really. Just don’t eat too much sugar or sugar-laden foods, while eating plenty of minimally processed foods like fruit and vegetables. How’s that for sensational? You are right, it’s not an exciting message at all. Logic, science and balance have no place in current affairs programs. They barely get noticed in other circles either.

Ok, here’s another idea: eating too many Calories makes you fat! Nope, way too factual. Let me think about it. I’m sure there has to be something we can blame, just as long as we don’t suggest that being overweight is because we eat too many kJs and exercise too little.

I also wrote about sugar a year ago on my blog.

Reference: Sievenpiper JL et al. Annals of Internal Medicine 2012; 156: 291-304

Fecal transplantation

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a debilitating condition. It is now possible that a simple transfer of someone else’s faeces into the bowel of the sufferer will solve the problem. As icky and as unlikely that seems, there are researchers working on just that. And it is not a new idea. Fecal transplantation was successfully used to treat enterocolitis back in the late 1950s.

There are 1200 different bacterial species and a hundred trillion bacteria living in the large bowel. There are 10 times more bacteria in your back end than you have cells in your body. It is thought that a particular bacterium Clostridium difficile is the one responsible for many cases of intractable UC.

In the past, the consumption of probiotics (healthy bacteria) has only provided minor success as consumption by mouth can’t deliver anywhere near enough bacteria to the large bowel. Many patients with UC usually endure multiple medications, infusions and often a colostomy. They all agree that a fecal transplant is far preferable as a treatment, even if tough cases require up to five infusions. Using fecal bacteria from a relative seems to have more success.

As Dr Tom Borody, Centre for Digestive Diseases, Sydney, said at a recent conference I attended “This is a new form of therapootics.” He gave his first fecal transplant back in 1988 and that patient remains symptom-free today. Borody has started a Poo Donor Bank, seeing a great future in using healthy fecal bacteria as a means of curing colitis caused by Clostridium difficile.

Reference: Borody TJ & Campbell J. Expert Reviews of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2011; 5 (6): 653-655