By Kevin Kolodziejski
I daresay you’ll never converse with one.
Even if you truly have a screw loose and take a two-week, ice-cycle vacation across the Arctic and subarctic regions. While then you just might meet an Inuit, one of the 65,000 or so people who inhabit those regions — and whom the politically correct no longer call Eskimos — there’s still absolutely no chance of a conversation. How can I be so sure?
You don’t speak Inuit, dummy!
But anthropologist John Steckley does and in his book, White Lies About the Inuit (University of Toronto, 2007), he claims they have 52 different words for ice and snow. It’s an assertion many other anthropologists and linguists have called, to be blunt, a lie. Yet a paper published prior to that in 1991 by Anthony C. Woodbury listing 15 different dictionary entries solely for snow, “Counting Eskimo words for snow: A citizen’s guide,” did not seem to create a similar academic firestorm.
Why ‘Snow’ Many Words?
So why with the first day of spring only four days away — and you probably having close to zero interest in the matter — share such lexical trivia about snow in an obscure-as-they-get language? To hammer home a point: A single word for snow is insufficient for the Inuit.
It’s far too important to their overall health and well-being. So whether it be 52, 15, or somewhere in between, their language needs a number of specific words for specific types of snow, in part to differentiate between snowfalls that are harmless and ones that are not. Our language has multiple words, too — around 60 by most counts — for another sometimes harmless, sometimes hazardous white substance.
Like glucose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, brown sugar, cane sugar, raw sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup. And let us not forget the blackest sheep in this crystalline, but less than crystal clear flock — high-fructose corn syrup.
So when a group of researchers discovered more about how sugar can harm you, they created yet another term for it.
Introducing Free Sugars
I first encountered the term “free sugars” on February 14 in a study published by BMC Medicine with an unwieldy, 20-word title, the gist of which is summarized nicely by Lisa O’Mary in her WebMD article about it: “Heart Disease, Stroke Linked To Specific Kinds of Sugars: Study.” In both, free sugars are defined as the combination of added sugars (usually listed on the Nutrition Facts panel as Incl. Added Sugars) and the sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit juice, but not the naturally occurring ones in whole fruits or vegetables.
In the study, researchers at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom delved into info kept in the UK Biobank on 110,497 Brits between the ages of 39 and 73 who filled out at least two, 24-hour dietary assessments about nine and a half years apart and were free of heart disease and diabetes initially. The study’s primary goal: “to assess the associations” between carbohydrates and heart disease.
When the researchers analyzed total ingestion of carbohydrates, they observed no association between a high intake of them and the incidence of heart disease or stroke. In other words and a paraphrase of O’Mary’s, it’s not necessarily the amount of sugar (what all carbs except fiber ultimately become) but the kind you consume that makes heart disease or stroke more likely. Because when the researchers assessed free sugar intake, they detected an increased risk in both.
2 Health Risks Linked to Free Sugars
The highest increase occurred in the Brits who consumed at least 95 grams of free sugar in each assessment. For context, the Eighth Edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists the daily American average of added sugars at just over 71 grams. But be aware that any prior added-sugars calculations crunched in the United States omit the naturally occurring sugars found in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit juice included in the new term.
Moreover, be aware that it’s not just only heavy consumers of free sugars who are adversely affected by them, a fact stressed by Oxford University in their press release about the study. Through further statistical analysis, researchers calculated that for every 5 percent increase in free sugars of daily total calories, risk of heart disease increases by 6 percent, cardiovascular disease increases by 7 percent, and stroke increases by 10 percent.
2 Takeaways on the Study
When Medical News Today asked Dr. Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead for the online healthcare provider Treated, for an outsider’s opinion of the study, Atkinson said that those sugary foods mom warned you about might be even worse than she imagined. “If you want to make some changes to look after your heart health,” he added, “cutting out cola is probably more helpful than cutting crisps [British for potato chips].”
MNT also asked another doctor not involved in the study (and with the same last name; it’s not a typo), Elexander Atkinson, a family medicine doctor at Novant Health in Charlotte, NC, to assess it. He did so in a way that echoes a sentiment you’ve read from me many times before. “The problem is simple, refined, and processed carbohydrates — in excess.”
And according to the way language works, whether it be Inuit or English, a new term for sugar has emerged as a result of linking grave health consequences to consuming too much of certain types.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.
Leave a Reply