The Dairy Queen Blizzard®: Supporter of The Hospital for Sick Children, but also Diabetes.

Jonah Lusis

Today, August 14, is Miracle Treat Day, meaning if you purchase any size Blizzard® at a Dairy Queen restaurant, they will donate the proceeds to local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

I’m certainly not criticizing supporting children’s hospitals, but a large-size “M & M Blizzard®” contains 150 g (about 6 times the recommended daily limit) of sugar, and if you’ve paid attention at all to the news in recent years, you no doubt are aware that “sugar is the new tobacco”.

The role of sugar in health is closely tied to obesity and blood sugar control. Obesity, and it’s health consequences, primarily diabetes and heart disease, is widely considered to be the next major public health crisis. Research published at the PLoS Computational Biology in 2010 suggests that 42% of Americans will be obese by the year 2050 (in 2010, 34% were obese). Obesity correlates to a Body-mass Index (BMI) score of greater than 30. A BMI score of greater than 25 (a weight of 165 pounds for a person of 5’8”) correlates to an increased risk of early death. A BMI score of greater than 22 (a weight of 145 pounds for a person of 5’8”) correlates to an increased risk of developing a chronic disease.

  1. The role of sugar in obesity is three-fold: Firstly, it is calorie-rich and nutrient-poor (containing no vitamins, minerals or fiber), meaning it adds to your weight, offering nothing in return.
  2. Secondly, evidence suggests that sugar calories are more damaging to the body than, for example, protein calories. The work of Robert Lustig, MD (a pediatrician and obesity expert) at the University of California has demonstrated that a can of soda has the same impact on the liver as a shot of alcohol.
  3. Finally, it dramatically affects blood sugar levels. There now exists some debate as to whether obesity causes insulin-resistance (difficulty in the body regulating blood sugar levels, and eventually diabetes mellitus), or if excessive sugar consumption results in insulin-resistance, which in turn causes obesity.

Anyway, we can agree that excess sugar is not good for you.

When we discuss “bad” sugar in the diet, we are referring to sugar added to processed foods (not only candy bars, but also ketchup, salad dressings and Dairy Queen Blizzards®), not sugars intrinsic to foods such as fruits. Currently, recommendations (per the American Heart Association) are to limit added sugar content in the diet to 5% of their daily calories, or 24 g (or 6 teaspoons) daily for women, and 38 g (or 9.5 teaspoons) daily for men.

The best way to stay within your limit for sugar consumption is to eat mostly unprocessed foods.

If you are eating a food containing a label, check the label. You will likely be surprised at the amount of sugar present: a can of Pepsi® contains 41 g, a tablespoon of ketchup contains 4 g (is approximately 1/3 sugar).

Oh, and to bring it around to the Blizzard®, maybe it’s a little inconsistent, and kind of cynical, to promote a product that is clearly at odds with human health to support a health initiative.

Jonah Lusis, ND



Posted: 2014 August 13