HOPE Farmers Market!

What a successful weekend at HOPE Farmers Market this weekend! All the sticky notes on our board are from the wonderful people who pledged to abstain from soda for a certain amount of time in their busy lives! Pledges range from the rest of day to forever! Thanks everyone for the support!

Soda Project


High Fructose Corn Syrup: How Ironic

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): It’s that name that we’ve all known to come to dread, yet can’t avoid. Think about it, it’s everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. The Huffington Post reports that it’s found in foods such as mac and cheese, frozen izza, Planters Peanuts, among the common suspects of soda and candy.

Although it is highly disputed as to whether or not HFCS is actually any worse than sugar (The recent debate is over a Princeton Study that concluded that it makes rats fat. There are plenty of articles critiquing the design of the study though) I think that it cannot be contested that Americans have been consuming more sugar due to it. Given its cheaper price, food producers are able to pack more sugar into their products for less of a cost.

What’s more though, is that the reason HFCS is cheap is not because it’s just more abundant or easier to produce, but because its subsidized. New York Magazine reports: 

It is made from American corn rather than imported cane, and it is inexpensive, at about 30 cents a pound wholesale. (A pound is enough to make about eleven cans of Coca-Cola.) Mind you, it’s not really cheaper than cane sugar: Federal farm subsidies, amounting to about $20 billion per year, are twinned with a sugar tariff to stack that deck in favor of HFCS. In a free market, the bottom would fall out of corn prices, and the Midwest’s economy would start to look like Greece’s.

And, these subsidies don’t go to your picturesque family farms, but large corporate farms that do not need the extra money.

Some of us might not even mind subsidizing wholesome family farms in hard times, but most of the money heads straight to megacorporations like Archer Daniels Midland, in an egregious bit of corporate welfare. (Kansans who vote hard-line Republican and howl about federal spending tend to go quiet and look at their shoes when you mention this.) ADM makes HFCS by the megaton, and the Cato Institute has figured that every $1 of profit ADM earns in this business costs consumers $10

So what does this all mean? We are paying taxes to make soda cheaper, yet spending all of this effort and money to combat obesity> Ironic, huh?

Soda Causes Childhood Behavioral Problems

Yep. You saw the title. Add that to your list of soda pros and cons. Hopefully your list of cons is miles ahead of pros.

A recent study in the American Journal of Pediatrics found that soda contributes to behavioral problems such as increased aggression, withdrawal, and difficulty paying attention in kiddos as young as 5. In fact, a multiple of studies have established such a link. A 2011 study published by the journal Injury Prevention reports similar findings in teens, in which teens that drank more than 5 cans of soda per day were more likely to have carried a weapon or demonstrated more violence against peers. (Link to study: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2011/10/14/injuryprev-2011-040117.abstract) There is also a correlation to suicidal thoughts. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23829470)

These new findings are exacerbated by the fact that: ( Time Magazine)

In the latest study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, parents reported that 43% of the 5-year olds participating in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study drank at least one serving of soda every day, and 4% consumed four or more servings daily.


In order to evaluate the relationship between the sugared drinks and behavior problems, the researchers adjusted for several factors that can influence behavior, including their mothers’ depression and the children’s diets. Even after this adjustment, the scientists found a significant relationship between more soda consumption and aggressive behaviors that included destroying other people’s belongings, getting into fights and physically attacking others.

What makes soda-drinking kids so unruly? “Soft drinks are highly processed products containing carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sodium benzoate, phosphoric or citric acid, and often caffeine, any of which might affect behavior,” the authors write.

Caffeine is a likely culprit, since other studies connected the compound with changes in hormone levels that could alter the way still developing brains perceive and evaluate risk. Because caffeine can act on so many brain systems, but there is still little information on its influence on young children, the FDA is currently investigating the safety of caffeine that is added to food products consumed by kids and adolescents, like drinks, chips and even gum.



Craving Soda?

Make your own natural sparkling “juice”!

Try this alternative:

Mix sparkling water with a some frozen fruit and a dash of juice! Its homemade so you know what’s going in it, low sugar, and all natural.

Diet Sodas….Benign or Malignant?

I recently came read an article on NPR about whether or not diet sodas really deserve all the positive hype (and popularity) they get. Diet sodas are diet because they contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. There are two opposing views:

One, championed by the American Beverage Association that diet sodas are harmless and actually harmless. They commented on the article:

“Low-calorie sweeteners are some of the most studied and reviewed ingredients in the food supply today. They are safe and an effective tool in weight loss and weight management, according to decades of scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe.”

Hmm…Well a study with overweight teenagers at Boston Children’s Hospital also seems to support its claim so…(then again, there are always discrepancies between what was done in the study and what claims people are trying to pull out of it)

The opposing viewpoint claims this:

One theory is that diet soda may throw off the metabolism by blunting the body’s responses to sugar.

You see, from the moment sugar touches our lips, our bodies start to release hormones to begin processing the sugar. It’s part of a feedback loop that helps the body predict what’s coming.

But if we develop a habit of consuming artificial sugar, our bodies may get confused. And it might not respond the same when we consume real sugar. “We may no longer release the hormones” needed to process sugar — or at least, not as much of them as before, Swithers told me during an interview.

And researchers think this change in hormone levels could contribute to increases in how much we eat, says Swithers, “as well as to bigger spikes in our blood sugar, which may be related to things like diabetes.”

However, researchers still need more info on what exactly happens when people consume artificial sweeteners. This opposing viewpoint is also supported by the San Antonio Heart Study and the multi ethnic study.

Regardless of which viewpoint is correct, the truth is that the trend of consuming diet sodas is increasing. A verdict must be made, and soon.

I, personally, am an avid supporter of camp 2. AND, I think there is an even more compelling argument for me no matter which viewpoint is proved correct. The article explains:

Well, since being overweight is a major contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes, it’s possible that some diet-soda drinkers suffer from a mindset problem: They justify eating lots of high-calorie foods because their drinks are calorie-free.

It’s the “hey, I’ll go ahead and have those fries and a cheeseburger, since I’m having a Diet Coke” mentality.

It’s highly plausible. I know I suffer from that mindset whenever I eat a really healthy salad dinner, and then reward myself with an indulgent desert afterwards.

Problem: Organ Shortages

The number of people awaiting organ transplants has been growing steeply since the 1990’s. In fact, in 2011 of over 100 people awaiting organ transplants, only 30 were performed. A recent Economist article briefs on the challenge of organ rationing, especially in terms of how grey the judgement is when it comes to deciding who gets the organ. Moreover, with the number of baby boomers with kidney failures increasing (60%), another question had popped up: should organ donations favor the young?

The top organ that people need by far are kidneys; in 2013 there have been 4,061 kidney transplants performed, compared with the second contender, the liver, with only 1,542 performed. What’s more is that diabetes has been proven to be closely linked with kidney failure and end stage renal disease. This is frightening because people are getting diabetes more than ever today.

Which makes this soda project (however small and impact it might seem to make) a necessity and super important.

Solving the sugar consumption/metabolic disease problem is a long term goal though. The short term reality is that we are still short of kidneys. And, only 35% of people living on dialysis live more than 5 years. To solve the short term problem, there has been a lot of research in the area artificial kidneys. A UCSF article details recent progress on a hopeful design:


According to the article, the US spends about $29 billion per year, 6% of its total medical budget, treating kidney failures. 400,000 people are currently on dialysis. The UCSF just got a $3 million dollar endowment for research. If the US could spend a little more on research so we could get this technology sooner, it would save so much more in the long run.

Possible Objection to Lustig’s Research

Although Lustig’s hypothesis that the fructose in sugar being the root cause of a host of metabolic problems and America’s obesity epidemic seems quite sound, it is in part due to the strength of his voice in the academic field. Most people do not hear of other objections to his research, including me. However, I recently came across David Despain’s blog Evolving Health that included an interview with Dr. John Sievenpiper of St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto. Sievenpiper is also a qualified expert in the field: he is the lead author of three recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses evaluating fructose’s effects on body weight, blood pressure, and glycemic control in humans from randomized controlled feeding trials.

Access the full interview on this link: http://evolvinghealthscience.blogspot.com/2012/05/fate-of-fructose-interview-with-dr-john.html

One of his main arguments is that the studies Lustig uses to support his claims were made on animals, which cannot be directly translated to the effects of fructose on humans.

I think you hit the nail on the head. There is really the disconnect between animal carbohydrate metabolism and human carbohydrate (or fructose) metabolisms. One of my criticisms of using animal data is that they feed at superphysiological levels at 60 percent energy. No one is consuming that.

The heart of Lustig’s argument has been that fructose consumption causes the generation of dangerous fat in the liver. However,

On top of that, we know that if you look at comparative physiological studies, animals metabolize carbohydrates differently than do humans. In animals on a high-carbohydrate diet not providing excess energy, you find that de novo lipogenesis [conversion by the liver to fatty acids] is anywhere from 50 percent or higher. They basically make fatty acids for at least 50 percent of the carbohydrate [consumed]. De novo lipogenesis accounts for at least 50 percent carbohydrate. In humans, it is very, very hard under isocaloric (neutral energy) conditions, let alone in overfeeding conditions, to push that beyond 10 percent or even 20 percent.

Also, in many of the studies he cites, the animals are given a super-physiological amount of fructose, thus skewing data.

It is easy to get caught up in the one sided view of “fructose as poison”, so the purpose of this post was to temper my own perspective a bit. Sure, fructose is still bad, but I think society could use a little more balanced view. And again, nothing in science is absolute. We certainly do not want this to happen:

That’s the danger — that people will say that fruit is a source of fructose and I won’t consume fruit because it may induce obesity, metabolic syndrome, and so on. It’s not just the lay public that may take this message to heart but professionals. We had an endocrinologist here at our hospital at University of Toronto who was telling patients not to consume fruit because of the fructose content precisely because of all the commentaries, editorials, and reviews that Rob Lustig had been publishing. The danger is that people will take the message to extreme. They’ll start saying “I should cut these things out (apples, pears) to cut my fructose exposure.” That is a really wrong-headed approach. When I talk to Dr. Lustig on the side, I do get a sense that he does think that there’s a dose threshold, but it doesn’t come out in the writing, or the YouTube piece.