It seems as if many theories about nutrition take hold in popular culture as a function of our human tendency towards word association.
The old belief, held by many even today, that eating fat will lead a person to become fat is probably partly rooted in the words we use. However this belief is somewhat misguided (calories are the main dietary determinant of weight loss, not fat), so why did it catch on? Well, would so many people have clung fervently to the idea that a low-fat diet should be the go to for weight loss had we called the fat on our bodies “adipose tissue” as it is so often referred to in the medical field? What if we called the fat in our diet “lipids”, or some other interchangeable term? In an alternate universe following a different lexicon would there have been as many people following a low-lipid diet for the purpose of adipose tissue reduction?
Phrased like that I kind of doubt it.
A similar example can probably be noted in the widespread idea that sugar causes diabetes. Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar. Even though the sugar in this scenario is in fact glucose, the use of the word “sugar” has almost certainly established in the minds of people a connection between this “sugar” in the blood and your basic dietary sugar, made up of glucose and fructose.
Were our colloquialisms more accurate we would say diabetics have high blood glucose and call “sugar” either sucrose or a mixture of glucose and fructose, whichever was more appropriate in the situation. This may have alleviated some of the unscientific condemnation of “sugar” as a cause of diabetes and the inevitable recommendation that diabetics avoid sugar at all costs.
Clearly I am beginning this post with some critical pronouncements. However, this issue is, in my opinion, one of the most complex, misunderstood, and important topics in nutrition today. The vilification of fructose is an increasingly popular dogma which I strongly oppose not just because I disagree with it, but because of the ramifications of this belief. Some health “professionals” have gone so far as to make the obstructive claim that fruit is contraindicated in people with diabetes and a risky food in general given the fructose it contains.
In this post I will be evaluating the belief that “sugar causes diabetes” primarily by critically evaluating the claim that fructose adversely affects insulin sensitivity.