Sugar versus artificial sweeteners

I have a question for you, my very knowledgeable friends.  I don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners, nor do I even like the taste of corn syrup.  I like good old-fashioned cane sugar.  I’m old enough to live with that decision.

Am I making a mistake, though, when I sweeten my children’s tea or home-made smoothies with cane sugar?  We have sucralose in the house, but I just can’t make myself use it.  Am I consigning my children to a lifetime of obesity?  Am I preventing them from a lifetime of cancer?

What’s the story here?  Incidentally, I’m asking you guys, because there is way too much information out on the internet.  I can find massive amounts of material supporting both points of view, which leaves me no better off than I was when I started.

UCSF researchers recommend that the government regulate sugar, just as it does alcohol and tobacco

Because our government isn’t yet doing enough, or costing enough, or interfering sufficiently in our lives, three researchers at the University of California San Francisco now recommend that the government should regulate sugar, just as it does alcohol and tobacco:

A new commentary published online in the Feb. 1 issue of Nature says sugar is just as “toxic” for people as the other two, so the government should step in to curb its consumption.

The United Nations announced in September that chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes contribute to 35 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the commentary. The U.N. pegged tobacco, alcohol, and diet as big risk factors that contributed to this death rate.

Two of those are regulated by governments, “leaving one of the primary culprits behind this worldwide health crisis unchecked,” the authors, Robert H. Lustig, Laura A. Schmidt and Claire D. Brindis, argued.

I’m struggling here to say something snarky and clever, but I just can’t.  You see, I have this sneaking suspicion that, if Obama gets another four years in the White House, we’ll see a Department of Sugar Regulation, complete with punitive taxes on its purchase, minimum age requirements, rationing to ensure that people don’t eat too much and, quite possibly, rules requiring that sugar and sugar products be kept in special locked areas in stores in order to prevent theft and underage use.

Incidentally, does it strike you as coincidental that this study got published two weeks before Valentine’s Day?  Yeah, I don’t think it’s a coincidence either.  Considering that Communist and Muslim cultures consider Valentine’s Day evil both because of its Christian origin and because of the fact that it triggers an orgy of spending (how capitalist!), it is “holiday non grata” in those totalitarian societies.  It seems as if the food police want to see the same thing happen here.

I am envisioning some sort of bumper sticker, though.  You know, something along the lines of “Protect Valentine’s Day.  Vote Republican in 2012.”

One thing on which we both can agree: sugar is bad and high fructose corn syrup is worse

Alec Baldwin has undergone an amazing transformation in the last few months.  This is Baldwin at peak pudgy:

And this is Alec Baldwin today:

What’s even more impressive than this transformation is Baldwin’s claim that he dropped all the weight in four months, primarily by leaving sugar out of his diet:

Baldwin, who’s dating yoga instructor Hilaria Thomas, tells “Access Hollywood,” “I gave up sugar. I lost 30 pounds in four months. It’s amazing.

“(I do) Pilates, spin, not as much yoga as I’d like. When we’re shooting (‘30 Rock’) it’s tough… When we’re shooting and I can’t work out, I just have to eat less. So, I’m very conscious of that. But sugar was the real killer for me – that was the problem.”

In one of those frequent coincidences I so often see in the internet world, within minutes after reading about Baldwin’s weight loss, I returned to an email thread in a conservative group to which I belong.  The thread had made a fascinating journey, traveling from poor grammar (specifically, the loss of the declaratory in favor of the interrogative), to the feminization of speech, and then to chemicals in food that may affect boys’ hormonal development.  The last email in the thread, the one that arrived immediately after I read about Alec’s “I gave up sugar” statement, was about the dangers of sugar generally and, more specifically, high fructose corn syrup.  The author of the email made his argument against sugar compelling by including pictures that precisely echo Baldwin’s photos:  he went from middle-aged plump to trim and muscular, not through surgery and time travel, but through sugar control and exercise.

My friend linked to Peter Attia’s War on Insulin site, and said that it changed his world.  I have to admit to being intrigued.  Last year, I gave up flour (which transforms into sugar in the body) and felt better, although I lost at most three pounds.  By the end of the year, though, I’d slipped back into my old ways.  The War on Insulin approach, however, is better rounded than just giving up foods, and that may be what I need.  It’s not even so much about the weight gain, although I’d be happy to drop the last baby fat (13 years after the baby was born).  It’s also about feeling better.  I feel draggy, and draggy people don’t get black belts.

Aside from finding the whole thing very intriguing, I thought it was incredibly funny that, in a country that is currently experiencing a very deep, rancorous political divide, one that splits it pretty much straight down the middle numerically, two people from opposite ends of the spectrum (my conservative friend and the liberal Alec Baldwin) can find common ground in the world of low-glycemic diets.