Is it better to fund such research as cortisol tests or provide education and support for struggling families?

In a grant I read about research into child behavioral health, scientists stated that they believed that poor self regulation in children led to unhealthy behaviors such as overeating. They proposed to measure “… salivary cortisol and alpha amylase, self-regulation, eating behavior, diet, and anthropometry…” in 250 low-income children between 22 and 33 months old, 40% of which were already overweight by age three.

As I read this I couldn’t help thinking about the sometimes overwhelming difficulty of good parenting. I wonder if childhood obesity isn’t more related to the struggle of raising a child under hard socio-economic situations. When children want something they scream. It is so hard to not give in at the time of the tantrum and I have often wondered with amazement how parents with little to no financial/emotional support keep from hitting their children, much less from feeding them what is best rather than what is proper under stressful circumstances. While I think it’s great that scientists are doing their best to try to find solutions, I wonder if it might not be better to put more resources into helping young families by giving them more education and more support. Thoughts?

Do apples make you want more apples?

A few weeks ago I asked a National Academy scientist, whose research focuses on obesity issues, if sugar is addictive. He said that, according to the definition of addiction, the answer is no. His wife turned to me and said that she thinks it is. I did a little more research and found this in Wikipedia:

“Any concept of sugar addiction is complicated by a lack of consensus on the actual definition of addiction.” Further down the article sites a study by Takashi Yamamota, and reports “Sugar and the taste of sweet stimulate the brain by activating beta endorphin receptor sites. These are the same chemicals activated by heroin and morphine.” [7]

The article goes on to site sugar studies with lab rats, which concluded that, rather than becoming addicted the rats became “sugar-dependent.

I think the quality and kind of sugar makes a big difference in how much sugar we eat and am curious — How many of you have eaten more than one apple at a time? How many stop at one cookie? If you eat an apple do you find yourself craving more apples? If you have one cookie, regardless of actually eating more, do you want more?

[7] Yamamoto, Takashi (May 2003). “Brain mechanisms of sweetness and palatability of sugars”. Nutrition Reviews 61 (Supplement S5): S5-S9. PMID 12828186.

LA Sugar Blitz

In late February I traveled to Los Angeles, in part to start new project about the obesity epidemic. I placed 100 sugar skulls in public places across the city in the hope that those who find them will come here and learn more about the ideas behind the art.  In the following posts you’ll find photos of where you can find the skulls in LA as well as current articles pouring out on sugar. I would love to hear your feedback as this is Phase One of a huge, multi-year project that will take place on the street, in galleries and museums. Thanks for reading!

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Scary Sugar Stories

It looks like Dr. Robert Lustig is finally getting his views heard. I first learned of his work last April in the NYT Magazine article Is Sugar Toxic? by Gary Taubes. When I read this a lightbulb went off and I began realizing my new work.

On Feb. 6, 2012, Max Pemberton reported in The Telegraph, that sadly, sugar is toxic, writing “What makes this added sugar so dangerous, argue the researchers, is that fructose from refined sugar is primarily broken down in the liver (unlike glucose which is slowly released from complex carbohydrates during digestion). The strain that this refined sugar puts on the liver starts a process that can lead to fatty liver disease and liver failure. But most importantly, its presence can trigger the development of type 2 diabetes. This is because high levels of sugar in the blood mean the pancreas has to produce large amounts of insulin – a hormone that helps control, and keep stable, blood sugar (glucose) levels by promoting its uptake by cells which need it for energy. Over time, the pancreas becomes fatigued and starts to fail. At the same time, cells in the body become increasingly resistant to the effects of insulin, and so blood sugar levels remain high, with damaging consequences.”

On Feb. 9th, Philly.com posted “You wouldn’t hand your 7-year-old a cigarette and a beer, but University of California researchers say the overload of sugar in the diets of kids—and adults—is just as bad for health. Their new report, published earlier this month in the journal Nature, contends that sugar contributes to heart disease, diabetes and cancer that kill 35 million people around the world each year.”

The Philly.com piece includes links to several good studies.

NPR is all over the topic. On Feb. 17th Ira Flatow talked with Dr. Robert Lustig about the dangers of sugar, its misconceptions and business politics.