General Medical

‘That Sugar Film’: The Truth About Weight Control?

fordCecilia Ford, who has been a psychologist in private practice in New York City since 1987, has addressed emotional issues for Women’s Voices in many articles over the years.


132244825_dbf0e21d9f_zPhoto by Uwe Harmann via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

People who “weigh too much,” whether they are obese or hefty or even just somewhat overweight, are among the few groups who are not shielded from ridicule and abuse by fear of “political incorrectness.” Even in other countries, recent reports indicate that being fat is the No. 1 cause of bullying. It seems that one of the major reasons for this is that it has always been thought that people are overweight because they overeat. It’s their own fault, it has been believed, so they deserve what they get. Also, people seem to think that ridicule will  help motivate the overweight to pay attention and do something about their “problem.”

Dr. Megan Riddle wrote a post here at Women’s Voices for Change on Monday about interesting new research into the causes of obesity. Scientists are beginning to discover, at long last, that the causes of weight gain and the extremely stubborn problem of weight control are much more complicated than they originally believed. In the past decade or so, (at least) four main unassailable tenets of the field have been challenged by researchers:

  1. All calories are equal.
  2. Calories in = calories out = weight control.
  3. Almost everyone metabolizes calories the same way.
  4. Dietary fat consumed = fat in the body and circulatory system.

When calories were first discovered to be a way to measure the source of energy in food, it seemed that science had found an elegant way to explain the problem of obesity. Protein and carbohydrates had equal calories, but fats, with nearly double the amount, were to be avoided. Furthermore, when scientist Ansel Keys concluded that dietary fat was contributing to the buildup of fat in the form of cholesterol in arteries, fats became even more verboten.

In the 1970s an official “food pyramid” was endorsed, recommending that we get most of our calories from carbohydrates, like grains, followed by proteins, with only small amounts of fats allowed. Food companies began marketing “low-fat” products whose calorie count was lower, but whose flavor was enhanced by the increased use of sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup, a low-cost sugar substitute. Disaster ensued, to say the least. Obesity rates started rising and have only recently leveled off.

It turns out that refined carbohydrates, especially sugars, and especially high fructose corn syrup, may be the most “fattening” food you can possibly eat. But if a calorie is a calorie, how can one food be more fattening than another? Isn’t it just a matter or portion regulation?

The traditionalists in the field argued yes. One thousand calories of candy should be metabolized the same way as any other food. But there had always been a few voices who spoke up against them. Dr. Robert Atkins published his high-protein, high-fat, extremely low-carbohydrate diet in the early 1970s. He was reviled as a dangerous crackpot who encouraged his patients to eat steak with butter sauce at a time when low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diets were king. He claimed he had lots of clinical data supporting his thesis that his diet actually lowered cholesterol levels in his patients. But Atkins didn’t have double-blind, controlled experiments backing him up. He was too busy getting rich and building an empire with his huge success.

Next Page: The calorie/low-fat hypothesis.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • hillsmom August 30, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Dear Dr. Ford, Can you tell me how much sugar is in a glass of wine? I think I read that one 6 0z. glass contains 100 calories, but how to convert that to sugar…? Also, is there a difference in the sugar content of red vs. white. I sent this article around to friends which brought up the question.
    Thanks. Hope this comment/question isn’t too late.

  • hillsmom August 22, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Swan, I didn’t find the film, only the trailer. But I did find another documentary which shows a study done in GB. It’s over an hour long and unfortunately has commercials. There are more films on YouTube along the same lines. Here I’ve been more concerned about sodium content, now I know better.

  • Swan August 22, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Thank you for showing the SUGAR FILM on your site which I watched with great interest. I am much better at avoiding sugar as I get older and wiser but my downfall is ice-cream and chocolate chip cookies. Not at the same time I hasten to add. At least the film shows us a safe amount of sugar that can be consumed without dire effects on the body in the future. Thank you for your very informative and sensible blog site.
    Bon week-end,

  • hillsmom August 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to find food without High Fructose Corn Syrup in it? (Well, that is beside produce) I finally found Wegmans Organic Ketchup, but it does have sugar.