Is sugar toxic? That's the new question being investigated by news show "60 Minutes," and the answer may surprise you.
Both Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta have reported that sugar, whether it be in crystal or syrup form, is toxic.
"They are basically equivalent," said Dr. Lustig. "The problem is, they're both bad. They're both equally toxic."
According to their reports, the average American consumes over 130 pounds of sugar annually. This had lead to increased diagnoses of diabetes and obesity, especially in children. The National Institute of Health states that diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans of all ages, and 215,000 people younger than 20 had diabetes in 2010.
Approximately 15,600 youth were diagnosed with diabetes every year from 2002 to 2005, a significant spike in new cases. One of the problems is that high fructose corn syrup is often used to sweeten everyday foods and drinks, including juices for kids.
"We found that the subjects who consumed high fructose corn syrup had increased levels of LDL cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease," nutritional biologist Kimber Stanhope told "60 Minutes." Her study was conducted among adults who replaced food with sweetened beverages. "I started eating and drinking a whole lot less sugar," she explained.
Why does the food industry use such a harmful substance, then?
"When you take the fat out of food, it tastes like cardboard," Dr. Lustig said. "And the food industry knew that, so they replaced it with sugar … and guess what? Heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and death are skyrocketing."
"Ultimately, this is a public health crisis," Lustig explained. "You have to do big things and you have to do them across the board. Tobacco and alcohol are perfect examples. I think sugar belongs in this exact same wastebasket."
The doctors' claims are not falling on deaf ears. The online community is reacting with surprise and seeming acceptance of their reports.
"Calories from sugar ARE different from other foods-they're more toxic," tweeted AJ Johnson.
"Must see: Toxic Sugar on 60 Minutes" advised Andreas Eenfeldt.
Watch the segment here: