tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Sugar industry acting more and more like Big Tobacco

Before you chug down another regular soda, or spoon sugar into your tea or coffee, consider this: There’s a heated debate going onsugar industry over the health risks of consuming too much sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other caloric sweeteners.

On one side: Leading nutrition experts who believe that these sweeteners, including those used in soft drinks, tea, coffee and countless other foods and beverages, add empty calories to people’s diets and promote weight gain. And they say emerging scientific research indicates that consuming too much of these sweeteners may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems.
On the other side: industry groups representing sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that say their products are natural and don’t cause weight gain or health problems. They have launched advertising and marketing campaigns.

The American Heart Association is on the nutrition experts’ side. The group recently issued a scientific statement saying that high intake of added sugars is implicated in many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. And it recommended that women consume no more than 100 calories a day, or about 6½ teaspoons, from added sugars; men, no more than 150 calories, or about 9½ teaspoons. This includes table sugar, brown sugar, HFCS, honey, molasses, brown rice syrup, agave syrup and other caloric sweeteners.

Americans are eating and drinking an average 22.2 teaspoons a day, or 355 calories, says Rachel Johnson, a nutrition professor at the University of Vermont and lead author of the heart association statement. Every teaspoon has 15 to 16 calories. “Sugar has no nutritional value other than it provides calories,” she says.

But the Sugar Association states on its website that the scientific evidence “exonerates sugar as the cause of any lifestyle disease, including heart disease and obesity.” In a prepared statement, the group says, “Sugar has been safely used to sweeten foods and beverages for more than 2,000 years.”

And the Corn Refiners Association is running ads to boost the image of HFCS. The association’s website says that consumers are being misled by marketing tactics implying that products labeled “high-fructose corn syrup-free” are more healthful than those with HFCS.

Hitting a sour note, on both sides

All this marketing hoopla has left a sour taste in the mouths of nutrition experts.

Both sugar and HFCS pack the same calories, and they carry similar health risks because they are both about half fructose, says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. His research shows that the average American consumes more than half of his or her added-sugars calories from beverages. Popkin’s work and that of others also finds that when people drink regular sodas and other high-calorie drinks, they don’t cut back on their calories elsewhere.

Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says: “The bottom line is there isn’t a shred of evidence that high-fructose corn syrup is nutritionally any different from sugar. We should be consuming a lot less of both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, starting with soft drinks.”

Population studies show the higher people’s intake of caloric beverages, sweetened with sugar or HFCS, the greater the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and gout (in men), says George Bray, a professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and author of The Low-Fructose Approach to Weight Loss. Fructose increases uric acid, which causes gout, he says.

Other studies suggest that the fructose in both sugar and HFCS may increase the risk of high blood pressure, visceral (belly) fat, triglycerides (blood fats), insulin resistance and fatty liver disease, Bray says.

Possible explanations: Fructose appears to cause chemical reactions in the liver and kidney that may lead to health problems, he says.

But Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, which represents companies that make HFCS and other corn products, takes issue with some of the fructose studies.

“Nobody eats the same way as they are feeding people in these laboratory settings,” she says. “These misleading studies are giving people abnormally high levels of pure fructose. Fructose itself is safe. It’s in the fruits and vegetables we eat every day. Mother nature put it there.”

As far as the debate between sugar and HFCS, she says, “there has been a lot of peer-reviewed research demonstrating that all sugars are handled similarly by the body, whether they come from corn, cane or beets.”

The association is currently running an ad campaign “correcting the record on high-fructose corn syrup,” Erickson says.

In a prepared statement, the Sugar Association says that “recent efforts by manufacturers of HFCS to position their product as ‘not different than’ and ‘nutritionally equal’ to sugar are false and misleading. … Sugar exists naturally in almost every fruit and vegetable, but most abundantly in sugar cane and sugar beets.”

Even the American Heart Association agrees that excessive sugar is harmful, as do many nutrition experts who recognize the dangers associated with excessive sugar consumption. There is still a problem, though. The battle is mainly between processed sugar and HFCS and whether or not one is healthier than the other, not whether there is a difference between highly-refined and natural sugars.

Most of the Western world seems to adhere to an ideology that makes no differentiation between refined and unrefined, but rather assesses health based on the number of calories a person consumes. Many so-called nutrition experts agree, claiming that low-to-moderate intake of sugar and HFCS should not be a problem as long as calorie-intake is kept in the proper range.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it fails to assess whether or not a highly-processed substance in-and-of-itself poses health problems in spite of its caloric content. A calorie is a generic measure of energy, and the way the body processes food is far more complex than a simple measure of calories.

The truth of the matter is that both refined white sugar and HFCS are harmful to health, whether consumed moderately or in excess. Obviously the more one consumes, the worse off he is, but the point is that the debate is focusing entirely on the wrong hypothesis.

The best forms of sugar are the ones that occur naturally in things like fruit and vegetables. And when a recipe calls for an added sweetener, natural options like stevia, raw agave and coconut sugar are far superior to refined sugars because they contain vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are otherwise stripped away during refining. These co-factors contribute to the digestion and assimilation of sugars, keeping the blood sugar at proper levels. When these are not present, the body is unable to process the sugar properly, leading to all sorts of health problems.

Rather than model themselves after Big Tobacco by defending their harmful products, the refined sugar industries should confess that their products are harmful and begin investing in natural alternatives. But since they likely never will, health-conscious individuals can continue educating their friends and neighbors about the truth, and steering consumer preference away from the toxic sweeteners that currently dominate the mainstream food and beverage markets.

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3 comments to Sugar industry acting more and more like Big Tobacco

  • Shell

    On the other side: industry groups representing sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that say their products are natural and don’t cause weight gain or health problems

    This sound similiar to the tobacco executives at the cigarette hearings? Why don’t these people have the balls to tell the truth-for once! MONEY.

  • SRG

    Just because some people are so frigging dumb that they eat themselves to death does not mean that the rest of us should be regulated or taxed on what foods we consume!
    Big government, dumbocrats and odumba stop worrying about private issues and do your jobs and create jobs!

  • Cyclechick

    This is obviously a behaviour based problem - it’s not an epidemic like the Black Plague, where we can all catch it. Plenty of people make healthy choices and don’t consume these products to excess. We did it with tobacco (although we could go farther), we can do the same with these products. Make them cost prohibitive. It will stop a lot of people from making bad choices if you hit them in the wallet. Additionally, for every percentage point you are over healthy body weight, your health insurance premium increases the same percentage over base.

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