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By Mike Anderson
From Dayton, OH
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
So anything that could potentially cause health problems should be labeled toxic?


Sounds like a reasonable definition to me, how would you define "toxic"?

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Mike Anderson wrote:
Sounds like a reasonable definition to me, how would you define "toxic"?

By this definition, the following items would also be labeled as toxic; fruit, meat, bread, nuts, eggs, milk, alcohol, heck even chalk. Basically anything that could potentially lead to health problems in the majority of people regardless of their physical health and level of activity.

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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Apr 4, 2012
Belay
redlude97 wrote:
By this definition, the following items would also be labeled as toxic; fruit, meat, bread, nuts, eggs, milk, alcohol, heck even chalk. Basically anything that could potentially lead to health problems in the majority of people regardless of their physical health and level of activity.

Well sure. And fortunately people generally have enough common sense to avoid ingesting nothing but peanuts and vodka day-in and day-out.

The problem with sugar isn't that it is significantly more toxic than any other substance; the problem is that people don't recognize how harmful it is in the quantities that they are consuming it.

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By jdberndt
From Seatte, WA
Apr 4, 2012
You may be interested in consensus opinions on the definition of toxicity. In particular, those from the UN, unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/.... See chapters 3.1 and 3.9.

Also, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on toxicity and is arguably a consensus opinion.

I'm not coming down on one side or the other. I agree that the 60 minutes piece was sensationalist, as are most popular media stories about scientific facts. Nevertheless, public awareness of the dangers of over-consumption is important and 60 minutes reaches a much broader audience than does the scientific literature.

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Peter Franzen wrote:
Well sure. And fortunately people generally have enough common sense to avoid ingesting nothing but peanuts and vodka day-in and day-out. The problem with sugar isn't that it is significantly more toxic than any other substance; the problem is that people don't recognize how harmful it is in the quantities that they are consuming it.

So one cup of OJ a day is toxic? If that is going to be the conclusion made from the research that has been done, then it is textbook sensationalism.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
So one cup of OJ a day is toxic? If that is going to be the conclusion made from the research that has been done, then it is textbook sensationalism.

Clearly, you're just hung up on semantics. The toxicity of a substance has to be considered in context. Certainly for most people, a cup of OJ a day will not be toxic. However, if you have a severe allergy to salicylate, a cup of OJ might kill you and, yes, it would in that case be considered toxic. Given a high enough dose under the right circumstances, lots of things, maybe most things, can be toxic, including H2O. Something that causes cell death or cell dysregulation or that otherwise has a detrimental effect on one's health can be called "toxic".

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
Clearly, you're just hung up on semantics. The toxicity of a substance has to be considered in context. Certainly for most people, a cup of OJ a day will not be toxic. However, if you have a severe allergy to salicylate, a cup of OJ might kill you and, yes, it would in that case be considered toxic. Given a high enough dose under the right circumstances, lots of things, maybe most things, can be toxic, including H2O. Something that causes cell death or cell dysregulation or that otherwise has a detrimental effect on one's health can be called "toxic".

That is the whole point, it is disenguous to label sugar as toxic, when the evidence doesn't show that is the case in most situations in moderation. It is a sensationalistic statement, which I have maintained from the beginning.

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By Jason N.
From Grand Junction
Apr 4, 2012
Indy pass
redlude97 wrote:
That is the whole point, it is disenguous to label sugar as toxic, when the evidence doesn't show that is the case in most situations in moderation. It is a sensationalistic statement, which I have maintained from the beginning.


There are many heavy metals that are essential parts of our diet, but in large doses are toxic (for example, selenium) and generally are described as such. Does the 60 minutes video claim that in moderation sugar/fructose is toxic? I honestly haven't had time to watch it yet.

However, it might also be a fair assessment to say that we are consuming fructose such that we are in a range that would be considered "toxic." Regardless, I'm sure people aren't paying attention to those nuances and I'm sure the articles/videos are labelled as they are to garner more attention.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
That is the whole point, it is disenguous to label sugar as toxic, when the evidence doesn't show that is the case in most situations in moderation. It is a sensationalistic statement, which I have maintained from the beginning.

What Jason N said. There are many, many, MANY things that are NOT toxic in low doses but highly toxic at higher doses. Heavy metals, many pharmaceuticals (opiates and acetaminophen to name just two), and -- wait for it -- sugar. Would it be sensationalism to claim that Tylenol is toxic?

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Jason N. wrote:
Does the 60 minutes video claim that in moderation sugar/fructose is toxic? I honestly haven't had time to watch it yet.

Yes it does.
Jason N. wrote:
Regardless, I'm sure people aren't paying attention to those nuances and I'm sure the articles/videos are labelled as they are to garner more attention.

So we are in agreement that it is a sensationilistic statement?

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
Would it be sensationalism to claim that Tylenol is toxic?

Yes. It would be like calling water toxic.

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
There are many, many, MANY things that are NOT toxic in low doses but highly toxic at higher doses. Heavy metals, many pharmaceuticals (opiates and acetaminophen to name just two), and -- wait for it -- sugar.

No one is arguing against that, surely not I.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
No one is arguing against that, surely not I.

Then you agree that sugar is toxic.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
Yes. It would be like calling water toxic.

Water is toxic in high enough doses.

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By Jason N.
From Grand Junction
Apr 4, 2012
Indy pass
redlude97 wrote:
Yes it does. So we are in agreement that it is a sensationilistic statement?


I'm not sure anymore, haha. I think I was at first, but after pondering it more I think it could be accurate. Bringing up selenium again as an example - I think it is generally described as toxic. But it is also an important micro-nutrient in the human diet. So what defines "moderation" is crucial here. What if our definition of moderate sugar consumption is way off?

I think the mainstream interpretation of "toxic" is too black/white (which is inaccurate, it is way more of a spectrum). Toxicity is a complicated thing, there is a whole profession dedicated to it's study after all!

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
Water is toxic in high enough doses.

But to make that statement without any qualifications is being deliberately obtuse to get someone's attention.

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Jason N. wrote:
I'm not sure anymore, haha. I think I was at first, but after pondering it more I think it could be accurate. Bringing up selenium again as an example - I think it is generally described as toxic. But it is also an important micro-nutrient in the human diet. So what defines "moderation" is crucial here. What if our definition of moderate sugar consumption is way off? I think the mainstream interpretation of "toxic" is too black/white (which is inaccurate, it is way more of a spectrum). Toxicity is a complicated thing, there is a whole profession dedicated to it's study after all!

Actually, the mainstream usage is where the gray is. The scientific classification of toxicity is black and white and quantifiable.

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By Jason N.
From Grand Junction
Apr 4, 2012
Indy pass
redlude97 wrote:
Actually, the mainstream usage is where the gray is. The scientific classification of toxicity is black and white and quantifiable.


I guess what I mean is that I think the average person believes that something is toxic or it isn't. The science is well defined and quantifiable, but it is a more complex definition as well.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
Actually, the mainstream usage is where the gray is. The scientific classification of toxicity is black and white and quantifiable.

No. Science is never black and white, toxicology is no exception.

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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 4, 2012
redlude97 wrote:
But to make that statement without any qualifications is being deliberately obtuse to get someone's attention.

And the video does, as far as I could tell, qualify the assertion that sugar is toxic; i.e., they say that it is toxic when excessively consumed.

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By JohnWesely
From Red River Gorge
Apr 4, 2012
Gunking
Newsflash! If you have a lousy, unbalanced diet, your health will be suboptimal. If sugar is toxic, everything is toxic. If everything is toxic, then toxic doesn't mean anything.

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
No. Science is never black and white, toxicology is no exception.

How so, the study of toxicology is about dose and response

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Richard Radcliffe wrote:
And the video does, as far as I could tell, qualify the assertion that sugar is toxic; i.e., they say that it is toxic when excessively consumed.

No, the video shows that excessive sugar could potentially lead to various health problems, but there is no direct link yet, and there are too many variables to come to a concrete conclusion yet, certainly not enough to label sugar as toxic in the common understanding of the word.

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By Dan Austin
From San Francisco, CA
Apr 4, 2012
The main conclusion I draw from this discussion so far is that "toxic" is not a very useful descriptive term because of how dependent it is on context; that is, one must have a very thorough understanding of the context in which a substance is being consumed to determine whether or not it is toxic, but by the time one has such an understanding of the context, whether or not the substance is toxic becomes irrelevant. If a substance being "toxic" or not is SO dependent on context, then I'm not sure what value can be derived of calling describing something pejoratively as a toxic. This isn't to undermine toxicology, but rather to say that whether sugar (or anything else, really) "is toxic" is almost meaningless.

So, in a sense, I agree with redlude. Saying "sugar is toxic" is sensationalist. However, I don't dispute the negative affects the over-consumption of sugar (or carbohydrates in general) can have on health, in the context of our modern, largely sedentary society. I don't have a list of journal publications to pull up in order to support this belief. In the same vein, I don't have a laundry list of publications to pull up to support my belief in evolution - frankly, it's just not worth my time to procure such a list of publications. I just really don't see what could be so contentious about the core claim (i.e., that the over-consumption of sugar/carbs significantly/substantially contributes to many health problems in modern society) that provokes a call for extensive citation.

To redlude's point, I don't think ANYONE is claiming that a glass of OJ a day is "toxic". My understanding is that, given the typical physical activity of the average person in modern society (i.e., sitting in front a computer 8 hours per day), the typical diet that relies heavily on sodas, sports drinks, corn, wheat, potatoes, etc is directly implicated in a variety of negative health outcomes. To be fair, this is much more of a 'duh' statement than "sugar is toxic". I do believe that there needs to be sweeping change in how nutrition and diet is perceived by the public, but I also agree that though trying to achieve this via sensationalism might seem like the easiest strategy, it's not honest and ultimately people need to be informed by the actual science than by the popular distillation of the science. Although perhaps from a cynical/realist perspective, the most effective way to stimulate informed discussion about the subject is to begin with sensationalized or simplified pop-sci like we see in the NYT, New Yorker or Economist.

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By redlude97
Apr 4, 2012
Dan Austin wrote:
The main conclusion I draw from this discussion so far is that "toxic" is not a very useful descriptive term because of how dependent it is on context; that is, one must have a very thorough understanding of the context in which a substance is being consumed to determine whether or not it is toxic, but by the time one has such an understanding of the context, whether or not the substance is toxic becomes irrelevant. If a substance being "toxic" or not is SO dependent on context, then I'm not sure what value can be derived of calling describing something pejoratively as a toxic. This isn't to undermine toxicology, but rather to say that whether sugar (or anything else, really) "is toxic" is almost meaningless. So, in a sense, I agree with redlude. Saying "sugar is toxic" is sensationalist. However, I don't dispute the negative affects the over-consumption of sugar (or carbohydrates in general) can have on health, in the context of our modern, largely sedentary society. I don't have a list of journal publications to pull up in order to support this belief. In the same vein, I don't have a laundry list of publications to pull up to support my belief in evolution - frankly, it's just not worth my time to procure such a list of publications. I just really don't see what could be so contentious about the core claim (i.e., that the over-consumption of sugar/carbs significantly/substantially contributes to many health problems in modern society) that provokes a call for extensive citation. To redlude's point, I don't think ANYONE is claiming that a glass of OJ a day is "toxic". My understanding is that, given the typical physical activity of the average person in modern society (i.e., sitting in front a computer 8 hours per day), the typical diet that relies heavily on sodas, sports drinks, corn, wheat, potatoes, etc is directly implicated in a variety of negative health outcomes. To be fair, this is much more of a 'duh' statement than "sugar is toxic". I do believe that there needs to be sweeping change in how nutrition and diet is perceived by the public, but I also agree that though trying to achieve this via sensationalism might seem like the easiest strategy, it's not honest and ultimately people need to be informed by the actual science than by the popular distillation of the science. Although perhaps from a cynical/realist perspective, the most effective way to stimulate informed discussion about the subject is to begin with sensationalized or simplified pop-sci like we see in the NYT, New Yorker or Economist.

agreed mostly with your point. I still don't like the use of sensationalism in science. I never disputed the science, just the presentation of it.

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