SUGAR

REPORTER: HELEN WELLINGS

David Gillespie calls himself a recovering lawyer and reformed "foodaholic".

Six years ago -- with 40 extra kilos on his waistline and getting more obese each year -- he vowed to discover why he couldn't stop eating, constantly going on diets, and again putting on more weight.

A mountain of scientific research convinced him it's not fat that makes us fat. The big culprit is fructose in sugar -- once in the bloodstream, it instantly converts into fat. His book calls it "Sweet Poison". "When we eat fat protein and carbohydrates we feel full. There is no such control for fructose, you can eat as much sugar as you can get into your mouth and it will never fill you up", David said.

The more we sugar eat, the more we crave - not only sugar but other foods too. "If you eat foods with sugar in them, you are going to get fat, but it is the much more insidious thing that is much more dangerous -- it makes you immediately a candidate for Type 2 Diabetes, for heart disease and for a range of cancers that have been directly linked to sugar", David said.

In the 19th Century, our diet included about 1 kilo of sugar a year -- in fruit, when it was in season. Now, with supermarket shelves laden with sugared foods and drinks, we consume on average 50 kilograms a year of sugar. Our calorie intake has increased 30% since the 1980s.

Fruit juice is a sugar shocker, full of fructose. A glass of apple juice equals 4 apples; orange juice, 4 oranges. "It contains exactly the same amount of sugar as a soft drink, as coke -- that's eleven teaspoons of sugar -- eleven in apple juice. As soon as you finish the glass of apple juice you have in the morning, the first mouthful has already been converted into fat in your bloodstream", David said.

David and his 6 children each have a couple of pieces of fruit a day and drink plain water, not juice. "It is much better to have the whole fruit rather than the juice of the fruit. When you juice a fruit, you throw away the fibre and keep the sugar so you are keeping the worst aspect of the thing and throwing away the best", David said.

Low fat foods are usually high in sugars and salt -- and these surprises:

"Most BBQ sauces, 55% sugar; plain tomato sauce 21% sugar; tomato paste 11% sugar; chilli capsicum spread 12% sugar; mayonnaise 20 - 25% sugar; ice-teas, this container has 10 teaspoons of sugar alone; sesame poppy crackers for your cheese almost 10% sugar; and most jams 60 - 70% sugar", David said.

Cereal surprises - ""A lot of people say you shouldn't eat Coco pops because they're full of sugar but they are about the same sugar as supposedly healthy

cereals. And All Bran actually contains 13% sugar. Muesli? They have plenty of dried fruit in them which has fructose in it as well, so that will put on weight", David said.

Non-fattening sugar alternatives -- unfortunately honey and fruit nectars are 40% fructose at least. Consumption of artificial sweeteners is soaring. David Gillespie used them to unhook him from sugar addiction, then stopped using them, as he wasn't convinced of the long-term effects. "Low GI sugar is a naturally occurring table sugar that has been processed less, that has a lower GI of 50 compared with ordinary table sugar which has a GI of 65", Dr. Barclay, Chief Scientific Officer of the Glycemic Index Foundation, said.

The world's first low GI sugar, an Australian innovation, has just been launched. Called LoGiCane and manufactured by CSR, it's touted as a healthier alternative to normal table sugar. Low Glycaemic Index foods are slowly converted to glucose in the body thereby, helping weight control. Dr Alan Barclay, says, "All sugars should be eaten in moderation, but it is just a better sugar".

David says less processed or not, sugar is bad for us. "It doesn't matter if it's plain white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar or castor sugar, they are all exactly the same -- all fructose", he said.

So what's OK for sweetness? "Have a really dark chocolate 70% - 80% cocoa has a lot less sugar. If you are going to eat cereal, have Weetbix, very low in sugar. Most alcohols are fine, It's the mixes put with the alcohol that are the problem. Beer is fine", David said.

David's simple message for losing weight and staying healthy? "No diet .. avoid sugar", he said.

And David Gillespie says trying to reduce sugar dependency is similiar to reducing or giving up smoking or drugs -- extremely difficult to achieve and to stick to.

David Gillespie's book, "Sweet Poison" is available in all good bookstores.