It’s the end of the world as we know it, and it’s most likely due to the four foods of the Apocalypse. Okay, maybe that doesn’t have quite the same ring as the famous R.E.M. pop song, but Dr. Robert Lustig believes that the new lyrics will have a much more profound effect on our society than just a number one Billboard ranking.
During the presentation: “The Trouble with Fructose: a Darwinian Perspective,” from the 9th annual Nutrition and Health Conference sponsored by the Arizona Center for Integrative medicine, Lustig made his case about what foods could eventually take down society. In his opinion, the list includes Trans Fats, Ethanol, and Fructose, among others. And it definitely makes some Darwinian sense.
Here’s the idea: chronic fructose exposure promotes Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, or NAFLD, and Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a fancy name for a group of risk factors that combine to increase the risk for artery disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes. Furthermore, fructose induces insulin resistance, which promotes leptin resistance. While this might have worked for 1-2 months a year during a harvest, it can have devastating effects if continued throughout the year. And unfortunately, in our society, fructose is available globally at all hours of the day during every season.
As for Trans Fats, it’s been long understood that these fats can pack a serious punch on your cholesterol, and can add to risk factors for various types of heart disease and cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates that roughly 50,000 lives would be saved per year with the elimination of Trans fats; but they also presented some good news. It turns out that the amount of this harmful fatty acid found in our food has declined by over 50% since 2005.
Ethanol also made the list, and you might recognize it as the common form of drinking alcohol. That means everything from grain alcohol to vodka, to that twelve-pack of beer in the fridge. One of the biggest problem’s with this drug – and yes, many consider it to be a recreational drug – is that it becomes more widely available in more dangerous concentrations every day. Just look at something like Four Loko, which has caused deaths in college teenagers, yet continues to be one of campus’ biggest sellers. If that doesn’t sound like the first sign of the end of the world, I don’t know what does.
So is the end near? Well I don’t think it’s quite time to pack up on flashlights, shovels, and shotguns for the final battle. But Dr. Lustig is giving valuable examples of what could happen if our society doesn’t change some of the habits we’ve picked up in the last couple hundred years. Because with the threat of nuclear war, the Mayan prediction for 2012, and the fact that Snooki wrote a New York Times Best Seller, there seems to be plenty of reasons to worry.
Let’s not eat and drink ourselves into oblivion any sooner than we have to.
Board, A.D.A.M. Editorial. "Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors." Metabolic Syndrome. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Nov. 0000. Web. 03 May 2012. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004546/>.
"CSPI: Transfat." Center for Science in the Public Interest. Web. 03 May 2012. <http://www.cspinet.org/transfat/>.