That Sugar Movement


Day 34

Jumba, Randy and Dr Pat

America, home of the brave, land of the free and a place where 40% of dogs are now overweight or obese.  


Jetlag is a funny thing. It makes you see the world quite differently, like a subtle but wobbly blind has been pulled down from under the eyelids and covers the eyeballs. Its even funnier when you are driving past ‘Randy’s Donuts’, who has a giant 20 foot donut bolted to the roof of his shop. I estimate 450 teaspoons.

I think today’s blog really does sum up what I may encounter for the rest of my time in this fair nation.  I started the day with a burrito type breakfast wrap with egg, avocado and cheese. The portion size was bordering on a comedy sketch where maybe a camera was hidden in a tree and people were watching me, laughing at home. I did actually look hard into the back seat of a tinted windowed SUV just to look for a glint of a camera lens in the sun. But sadly this was no reality show, this was just reality.

I halved the portion with a dear friend who lives here and he explained that him and his girlfriend always order one thing and share it, and that is enough the majority of the time. There are many complexities to the American food system and we discussed this as I drank a decaf with 2 sugars served in a ceramic bucket masquerading as a tea cup.

I headed out to meet a wonderful lady who works in a Children’s Obesity clinic. She has done terrific research about sugar’s effects on the appetite control centres in our brain. This vital collection of cells is known as the hypothalamus. What she and her colleagues have discovered is that when volunteers were given a drink containing glucose, parts of the hypothalamus became excited and lit up but then very quickly settled down and told the body that ‘we’re doing okay now, we’re feeling pretty full here and satiated, thats enough’.  On the other hand, when those same volunteers were given the fructose liquid, the areas of the brain lit up, but STAYED lit up. There was no hypothalamus intervention to say ‘we are full or done’. So in theory, this allows more food or fructose to come into the body.  Now this has enormous ramifications for obesity especially in the US where 80% of all the sweeteners used is High Fructose Corn Syrup, but also in Australia with all the fructose we consume through juices and sports drinks, dried fruits, sugar etc etc etc. It appears it just slides on in through the back door like a pimply teenager at a nightclub. It also explains an experiment I did 2 weeks ago where I ate nothing for 3 hours, felt super hungry then had some apple juice. I was surprised that I didn’t feel satiated in any way, in fact I felt more hungry. I think we may be onto something here….

Then something very special happened. I had lost track of the time in the jetlag ‘wobbly blinds’ foggery and needed a rapid rise of teaspoon intake as the sun was beginning to lay its head gently onto the horizon pillow. I heard the beating of some tribal drums, turned my head and there, like a tropical oasis with fake plastic pineapple trees, was Jumba Juice. The tribe had spoken.

I sensed something brewing, perhaps my teeth began to recoil in fear or my liver got on one knee and begged for mercy but there on the menu, shining in a Los Angeles golden hue were the words ‘Strawberry Surfer Smoothie’. A strawberry, peach, lemon, lime, low fat yoghurted behemoth with 139 grams of sugar! And no, that is not a jet-lagged keyboard error, 139 grams of sugar. I actually had to get the calculator out and laughed out loud in the store when my digital pigeon told me it was 34.75 teaspoons. In a cup. God Bless America (cue music). Nearly my daily allowance in a styrofoam container that had the nerve to tell me they used “No High Fructose Corn Syrup, because “we care about your health”. Now to be fair, the people at Jumba may not be aware of the new fructose knowledge I have been acquiring but the “No High Fructose” part of that sentence needs a serious edit at the front.

I had a piddly 4 teaspoons remaining for the day so had to choose carefully as I now realize how simple it could be to go over the 40 teaspoons target. I chose a very friendly looking ‘health bar’ from the local Whole-Foods store and forced it into my stomach. The poor thing was still in trauma from the juice.

A really great day though and a fascinating chat with the doctor. The fact that a Childhood Obesity clinic even has to exist is incredibly sad. I hope the knowledge I learnt today and in the time ahead can be spread far and wide and we can shut the doors on them forever. It was a lovely modern building and would make for a great Nutritional Learning centre.

blog pix 14

My friend with the dreaded ‘Jamba Juice’

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