According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s 2013 study1 “Sugar: Consumption at a Crossroads,” as much as 40 percent of US healthcare expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar.
“… [T]he substantial impact of sugar consumption found in the study was mainly due to the costs of treating caries and other diseases of the hard tissue of teeth, hypertensive and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, rectal and colon cancer, as well as chronic kidney disease.”
- Cutting back on the amount of sugar you personally add to your food and drink
- Using stevia or luo han instead of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. You can learn more about the best and worst of sugar substitutes in my previous article, “Sugar Substitutes — What’s Safe and What’s Not“
- Using fresh fruit in lieu of canned fruit or sugar for meals or recipes calling for a bit of sweetness
- Using spices instead of sugar to add flavor to your meal
The excess consumption of sugar in the U.S. can be directly traced to flawed dietary guidelines and misplaced agricultural subsidies. Progress is being made however, with the 2015 to 2020 U.S. dietary guidelines9 now recommending limiting your sugar intake to a maximum of 10 percent of your daily calories.10 Google Trends11 also reveal that more people are now concerned with low-sugar diets than low-fat diets.
Unfortunately, the dietary guidelines still suggest limiting saturated fat to 10 percent of calories, which is likely far too low for most people. Tragically, it also makes no distinction between healthy saturated fats and decidedly unhealthy trans fats.Saturated fats are actually very important for optimal health, and those with insulin/leptin resistance may need upwards of 50 to 80 percent of their daily calories from healthy fat.
“The [sugar] industry used to boast that its government protection does not cost taxpayers anything directly, but that claim has been exploded due to recent market developments that forced the federal government to, in effect, buy up tons and tons of sugar and sell it to ethanol refiners at a loss — so as to prop up prices. Taxpayers took a hit of some $258 million in fiscal 2014.”
“The decline in consumption was greatest amongst those who earned the least, and appears to be going up over time as people’s habits change … Frank Chaloupka, an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who wasn’t involved in the study, says that the tax ought to be applied elsewhere, and would improve health by encouraging a lower consumption of sugar.‘I think sugary beverage taxes should be an important part of a comprehensive approach to promoting healthier diets and reducing obesity,’ he says. ‘The experiences in Mexico are demonstrating their effectiveness in altering consumer behavior, which will almost certainly eventually show up” as a decline in obesity, he adds.'”
Cancer screening is conventionally touted as being an important part of “cancer prevention,” even though it does no such thing. Now, researchers question the validity of public service announcements claiming that “cancer screening saves lives.” According to a recent analysis,19 it’s “unclear” whether screening actually saves lives, and the researchers warn that claiming it does is “misleading.”
“The problem, they say, is that the ubiquitous adage is based on the fact that deaths from the target disease may decline but fails to take into account deaths linked to factors related to the screening itself. Sure, screening for prostate cancer might reduce the incidence of death from that specific disease, but does it reduce overall mortality for the person who got the screening? Maybe not.For example, prostate cancer screening is known to return ‘numerous’ false positives … and contributes to over 1 million prostate biopsies a year. The procedure is ‘associated with serious harms, including admission to hospital and death.’ What’s more, men diagnosed with prostate cancer are ‘more likely to have a heart attack or commit suicide in the year after diagnosis’ … In both cases, the deaths aren’t due to the cancer itself but rather are linked to the screening.”
- 60 percent of women who undergo regular mammography screening for 10 years receive a false positive at some point, leading to unnecessary distress and treatment, which can have serious side effects. Studies have also shown that routine mammograms have no effect on death rates.As noted by Reuters:21
“[T]hese tests avert just 1 breast cancer death for every 1,000 women screened. ‘There used to be ads saying if a woman hadn’t had a mammogram, she needed more than her breasts examined,’ Prasad said. ‘The fact that the medical profession promoted screening so strongly, when it was always a balancing act, when it was always a personal choice, is really shameful.'”
- A study22 looking at colorectal cancer screening found 128 cancer deaths among every 10,000 people who received screening, compared to 192 cancer deaths among every 10,000 individuals who didn’t get screened.
“Rather than pouring resources into ‘megatrials’ with a small chance of detecting a minimal overall mortality reduction, at the additional cost of harming large numbers of patients, we should invest in transparent information in the first place. It is time to change communication about cancer screening from dodgy persuasion into something straightforward.”
“The take-home message is after decades of research we have not found clear evidence that screening saves lives, but clear evidence that screening harms many.”