Carbs and Sugars: A History of Deception

Carbs and Sugars: A History of Deception

Do you remember the food pyramid? The precursor to the food pyramid was created in the mid-1970s by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Need, led by Senator George McGovern. The McGovern Report, entitled “Dietary Goals of the United States,” was a totally fabricated document. At the time, there was a low-fat guru named Nathan Pritikin, and McGovern totally bought into Pritikin’s ideas. Knowing he wanted the report to show the benefits of a low-fat diet, McGovern assigned a young vegetarian senate staffer with no background in science or nutrition to write the report. 

Real scientists of the day were pleading with the government for some shred of scientific evidence or clinical trials before they issued their dietary guide, but McGovern responded with, “Senators don’t have the luxury that a research scientist does, of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.” Consequently, McGovern released his report with no evidence whatsoever. 

And here’s a really big coincidence: Senator George McGovern was from Minnesota, a leading producer of corn, wheat, barley, and oats, which happened to be what McGovern thought Americans should be eating in huge quantities. 

When the McGovern Report was released, Americans already believed that sugars and carbs weren’t harmful. It was recently discovered that a group called the Sugar Research Foundation paid Harvard researchers to publish a paper in 1967 stating that fat was the culprit in heart disease, not sugar. The paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and from that moment on, the belief spread that fat was a killer. 

By the time the USDA was creating the food pyramid in 1992, evidence was stacking up that sugar was the major cause of obesity and heart disease, but the USDA refused to be influenced by facts, using the McGovern Report as a basis for the pyramid. 

As more and more Americans began abandoning fat and loading up on carbs, something odd happened: Americans became more obese. In the years between the debut of the food pyramid in 1992 and 2010, obesity rates nearly doubled in 36 states, and more than doubled in 12 states. 

Food manufacturers were quick to jump on the food pyramid bandwagon, and store shelves became filled with fat-free foods. No one cared that all those fat-free foods were filled with carbs and sugars because it was fat that was bad. Carbs … well, they were on the biggest part of the pyramid, so they must be good, right? It turns out, all those carbs and sugars were pushing the obesity rate from 15 percent in 1990 to 36 percent today. 

Why Are Carbs Bad?

There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber.

  • Sugars – During digestion, the body breaks down complex sugars (disaccharides) such as sucrose and lactose into simple sugars (monosaccharides) such as glucose and fructose. Simple sugars are small molecules that can be absorbed directly by the body and used as a source of quick energy.
  • Starches – Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, are long molecular chains (polysaccharides), which the body must break down into simple sugars to make use of them.
  • Fiber – The body can’t extract anything from fiber. Since it can’t be broken down during digestion, it passes through.

Because complex carbohydrates take a longer time to break down their molecules into sugars, the sugars are released more slowly into the bloodstream and don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Additionally, the foods that contain complex carbohydrates—whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables—also contain fiber, which helps keep blood sugar levels from spiking too high. Fiber also regulates cholesterol levels and maintains intestinal health. 

However, when  you eat simple carbohydrates—sugar, cookies, candy—the body quickly converts the carbs into glucose, which can cause blood sugar to spike. The spike in blood sugar increases the level of a hormone called insulin, which feeds the sugar to the cells to use as energy. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. 

How Excessive Carbs and Sugar Affect Your Body

When you consume more carbs/sugars than you can use, the excess is stored as fat, to be used at a later time. The increased insulin levels that were a result of the blood sugar spike, promote a higher rate of fat storage. 

The excess glucose goes through a conversion process, forming triglyceride molecules. Triglycerides account for the majority of body fat, which can be converted back into glucose by the liver should the need arise.  

When the need to convert triglycerides into glucose doesn’t occur, the triglycerides can build up in the bloodstream, increasing the risk of developing heart disease

Additionally, constant spikes in blood sugar will reduce the ability of cells to absorb and use blood sugar for energy. The pancreas will begin to work increasingly hard to produce more insulin to overcome the low rate of absorption. Over time, the strain on the pancreas will reduce its ability to produce insulin, causing type 2 diabetes.  

In summary, eating too much sugar can:

  • Cause blood sugar levels to spike
  • Cause an increase in the production of insulin
  • Cause the insulin to increase the rate of fat storage
  • Cause excess sugar to be converted into triglycerides
  • Cause triglycerides to build up in the bloodstream, increasing the risk of heart disease
  • Cause a decrease in the production of insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes

Excess sugars and simple carbohydrates not only add pounds, they increase the risk of premature death from heart disease or diabetes. 

Because food manufacturers add some form of sugar to just about everything, cutting down can be a daunting task. Happily, there’s SweetLeaf®. SweetLeaf Stevia is a plant-based sweetener that has a non-glycemic response, meaning SweetLeaf has a zero glycemic index and doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. SweetLeaf can take the place of sugar in foods, beverages, and recipes. 

Start at home with a low-sugar recipe. Making the switch is especially easy with the interactive Stevia Conversion Calculator or the handy Stevia Conversion Chart

Swap out sugars with great tasting SweetLeaf Stevia or SweetLeaf Organic Stevia in packets or shaker jar, six flavorful blends of hydrating Water Drops®, or any of the 17 delicious flavors of Sweet Drops®

The path to a healthier life starts with SweetLeaf.

Back to blog