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Dr. Oz… again?!?! How is this possible… Coconut Sugar

September 15, 2012
coconut-sugar

I am as shocked as anyone to have to bring up Dr. Oz again, so quickly after the last time he humiliated himself recommending ‘miracles in a bottle’ for weight loss.  Just the fact that he has recommended so many miracles recently is enough to make it clear that there is something wrong with him.  Either he doesn’t know the definition of miracle or he is an idiot.  Here is the definition of miracle… you decide which it is:

mir·a·cle [mir-uh-kuhl]

noun

an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

In any case, this current blunder of his has nothing to do with miracles (and if I was being honest, I am not surprised at all that he is back here).  It has to do with his complete lack of research.  I have no idea if some idiot in his staff picks some crazy idea and Dr. Oz just reads the cue cards.  I saw his over selling of palm sugar today and I cringed through the whole thing.  You can see some quotes from the clip below:

I have something new today that will change everything you know about baking and sweetening coffee and tea.  This delicious simple switch can prevent the sugar crashes that make you hungry and then cause you to gain weight.  There is a new tropical sweetener to hit the market and doctors are taking notice.  It can help stabilize your blood sugar.

Why Coconut Sugar Really Isn’t Anything New

Those are pretty bold words… change everything I know…  This must be a pretty impressive sugar.  And listening to Dr. Oz, it seems like it is.  Look at this chart:

Holy Crap!! Look at the difference between the table sugar and the coconut sugar!  Of course there is no scale on the blood sugar axis so the image is literally meaningless, but if I didn’t know better I would say that the coconut palm sugar will actually single handedly reduce the GI response of foods that you have eaten, at least it appears to judging by Dr. Oz’s graph…

Of course coconut sugar does no such thing.  Coconut sugar is simply a version of unrefined table sugar taken from coconut flowers.  It is made up mostly of sucrose, which is the same substance that makes up table sugar.  Sucrose is an equal combination of a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule.  Sucrose typically has a GI range of 58 to 65.  Understanding that Glucose is pretty much defined as being a GI of 100 (it is what the whole scale is based on), and fructose, which has a GI range of 12 to 25, it makes sense that sucrose falls right in between.  Do remember though, sucrose is very refined.

Palm sugar is not and is often quoted as having a GI of 35, but that is the first warning sign.  There is no way that any food product has one GI number.  There are so many variations between people that multiple studies of any product will produce multiple numbers, or a range.  These ranges are reported for almost all sweeteners, but quite often the extreme in the range is suggested to prove a point.  Here the Sugar Association reports sucrose at 58, while here they report it at 80.  The bias of each of these people is clearly evident in the evidence they chose to present.  That is the problem with the GI of 35 for coconut sugar.  The number comes from a study done in the Philippines that measured 10 test subject.  The description of the test can be found here.   There is nothing particularly wrong with the study, except the low sample size.  Of course, the location of the study is important because, according to Wikipedia:

The world’s largest producers of coconuts are the Philippines.[1] and Indonesia

I am not accusing them of wrong doing, it is just there is clear motivation for the country to select the best data and we have seen poor data done in countries that had a benefit from the outcome.  Remember Dr. Oz and the African Mango that had research done in Cameroon, the largest producer of African Mango?

In fact a little more digging turns up a range of 35 to 54 for coconut sugar, based upon tests from the Philippines, USA Australia, and Japan.  With these new figures, we are getting awfully close to sucrose, which makes sense.  What makes even more sense is when you look at evaporated cane juice (which is what coconut sugar essentially is), it has a GI of 55 (I can’t find a range for it by the way, so I am a little skeptical of how much research has been done on it).  55 is awfully close to 54.   Beyond the lack of refining, another explanation of the lower GI could be the amount of fructose to sucrose.  Maple syrup has a GI of 54, honey has a GI of 30 and brown rice syrup has a GI of 25 so, lower GI sweeteners have been around for awhile, it doesn’t change what we know about sugar at all.

What Makes This Segment Offensive

Fructose has a GI of 22, yet nobody is recommending using it as a miracle sweetener.  We know that Fructose is dangerous when consumed in moderate to large quantities because it is not absorbed and used in the blood stream but instead is metabolized by the liver and stored as fat.  You can read all about it here (and if you don’t understand what fructose is and what it does, I highly recommend you read that article, it sums it up well).  The point is, fructose is dangerous and it has a low glycemic index so you would have to be an idiot to recommend a sugar just because it has a low glycemic index, especially when you point out that it has the same calories as table sugar!  This is what Dr. Oz does with coconut sugar.  If that wasn’t bad enough, then he gets a self professed sugar addict and the rest of his audience to eat blondies (light coloured brownies) and cupcakes baked with coconut sugar instead of table sugar.  The level of cognitive dissonance is astounding.  It really appears that he is promoting eating baked goods just so long as they are made with coconut sugar (Try to cut out baked good entirely)!!!!  This is INSANE!!  Almost as insane as the line he uses to close his bit on coconut sugar:

Next, would you like to put your coconut palm sugar in a special tea that will help you lose weight all day long?

Don’t put sugar in your tea.  Tea and coffee are excellent opportunities to cut your sugar dependence.  I did it.  It was hard, one of the hardest things I have done.  It took awhile, to get used to it, but now I would never go back.  It was a necessary first step in cutting my dependence on sugar and if you want to get fit, you are almost guaranteed to have to go down this road, oh and drinking tea won’t help you lose weight, no matter what the crackpot on TV says.

Early next week, Dr. Oz is going to have Kirstie Alley on his show and I cannot imagine how that is going to go.  Here an actual doctor will have the opportunity to ask her about her missing science behind your ridiculous product, a product which has no explanation whatsoever as to how it works.  Of course Dr. Oz is the last doctor on earth I would want conducting this interview so I am guessing there will be some crazy demonstrations/props, a lot of hand holding (am I the only one who is creeped out by how he has to grab onto every girl on the shows hand and not let go no matter what?), and dancing.  After all, who needs evidence and science and answers when the two of them can get fabulously wealthy and dance around the stage….

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tammy Baranoff permalink
    April 30, 2013 7:27 am

    Couldn’t agree more. I saw the Oz segment, tried to figure out why it’s so low, and saw that 10 person study which they seem to base all their marketing on. I ran across your blog while trying to find the other study – the one that HAS to be somewhere that can explain why it’s so low. Thank you for writing.

  2. Lawrence Weir permalink
    January 16, 2014 1:14 am

    Why is Dr Oz allowed to spread this nonsense on national TV? Where is the outrage from the medical community?

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  1. Coconut Sugar - Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie?

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