If a substance provides energy, does that make it a food?

If it doesn't nourish you, and causes metabolic disease - it isn't food. What would do that?

Just because something is an energy source does not make it a food.

Can you name an energy source that is not nutrition, in which there is no biochemical reaction in the human body (or in any organism) that requires it, that causes disease when consumed at high dosages, yet we love it anyway, and it’s addictive?

Answer: alcohol.

It’s loaded with calories, but it’s not nutrition. There’s no biochemical reaction that requires it (40% of Americans don’t consume alcohol, and they’re not sick). At high dosages, alcohol causes fatty liver disease.

Clearly, alcohol is not a food; it’s a toxin in high dosages.

Alcohol is not dangerous because of its calories or its effects on weight. Alcohol is dangerous because it’s alcohol; the biochemistry of the molecule makes it toxic.

-Dr. Robert Lustig

Dr. Lustig notes:

Transfats, *branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), alcohol and fructose share 4 biochemical properties:

  1. they are metabolized for energy primarily within the liver;
  2. they are not insulin regulated;
  3. they do not have a “pop-off” mechanism to form glycogen for storage and
  4. they overwhelm mitochondrial β-oxidative capacity, leading to reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and excessive “de novo” lipogenesis (DNL), which drives hepatic insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis and the unfolded protein response (UPR), which results in metabolic syndrome.

Simply said, not all sources of energy are food (nourishment), and some, in excess quantities, become toxic - and can cause metabolic disease. 

*The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) valine, leucine and isoleucine are essential amino acids that account for more than 20% of the amino acids in the typical Western diet. In the anabolic state, they build muscle. However, when provided in excess beyond anabolic requirements, these classic ketogenic amino acids must be deaminated in the liver to be diverted toward energy utilization. This supplies too much acetyl-CoA to liver mitochondria, leading to liver-fat formation, and BCAA serum concentrations correlate with metabolic syndrome.


Sickeningly Sweet: Does Sugar Cause Type 2 Diabetes? Yes. Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL. Department of Pediatrics, Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA

Canadian Journal of Diabetes. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcjd.2016.01.004

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