In the last half century, the prevalence of autoimmune disease - disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue in the body - has increased sharply in the developed world. An estimated one in 13 Americans has one of these often debilitating, generally lifelong conditions. Many, like Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, are linked with specific gene variants of the immune system, suggesting a strong genetic component. But their prevalence has increased much faster - in two or three generations - than it’s likely the human gene pool has changed.
Many researchers are interested in how the human microbiome - the community of microbes that live mostly in the gut and are thought to calibrate our immune system - may have contributed to the rise of these disorders. Perhaps society-wide shifts in these microbial communities, driven by changes in what we eat and in the quantity and type of microbes we’re exposed to in our daily lives, have increased our vulnerability. To test this possibility, some years ago, a team of scientists began following 33 newborns who were genetically at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
The children were mostly Finnish. Finland has the highest prevalence - nearly one in 200 under the age of 15 - of Type 1 diabetes in the world. (At about one in 300, in the United States isn’t far behind.) After three years, four of the children developed the condition. The scientists had periodically sampled the children’s microbes, and when they looked back at this record, they discovered that the microbiome of children who developed the disease changed in predictable ways nearly a year before the disease appeared. Diversity declined and inflammatory microbes bloomed. It was as if a gradually maturing ecosystem had been struck by the blight of overgrown by weeds. (source)
How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much?
by Michael Greger, M.D.
In 1776 - at the time of the American Revolution - Americans consumed about 4 lbs of sugar per person each year. By 1850, this had risen to 20 lbs, and by 1994, to 120 lbs, and now we’re closer to 160 lbs. Half of that is fructose, taking up about 10% of our diet. This is not from eating apples, but rather the fact that we’re each guzzling the equivalent of a 16-oz soft drink every day; that’s about 50 gallons a year.
Even researchers paid by the likes of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and The Coca-Cola Company, acknowledge that sugar is empty calories, containing no essential micronutrients, and therefore if we’re trying to reduce calorie intake, reducing sugar consumption is obviously the place to start.
Concern has been raised, though, that sugar calories may be worst than just empty. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the fructose added to foods and beverages in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup in large enough amounts can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.
Fructose hones in like a laser beam on the liver, and like alcohol, fructose can increase the fat on the liver, increasing the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is one of the most remarkable medical developments over the past 3 decades - the emergence of fatty liver inflammation as a public health problem here and around the globe.
These may not be messages that the sugar industry or beverage makers want to hear. In response, the director-general of the industry front group World Sugar Research Organization replied “Overconsumption of anything is harmful, including of water and air.” Yes, the overconsumption of sugar compared to breathing too much.
As one author expressed, I suppose it is natural for the vast and powerful sugar interests to seek to protect themselves, since sugar takes up the single greatest percentage of our daily caloric intake.
The American Heart Association is trying to change that. Under their new sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more that 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150. That means one can of soda could take us over the top for the day. (source)