The Case Against Sugar

To calm my mind before bed, I recently read “The Case Against Sugar” by in Gary Taubes.

In the past few years, the dangers of dietary fat have begun to look as though they were overstated, and the risks of sugar underplayed. Among the leading advocates for this reappraisal is Gary Taubes, an investigative journalist who has been reporting on nutrition since the late 1990s. His third book on the topic of diet and health, The Case Against Sugar, is a prosecutor’s brief, much like Yudkin’s own, but fleshed out with four decades’ worth of extra science and a deeper look at both the history of that science and the commercial, economic, and political forces that helped shape it.

The Atlantic, January/February 2017 “The Sugar Wars”

In my opinion I think he laid out a pretty good case against sugar. We all notice how much larger (fatter) people are today than a generation ago. What has changed? Taubes argues it is not just a question of eating more and exercising less, but also the vastly increased amounts of sugar and corn syrup that are in the modern, Western diet. He gives the history of medicine regarding sugar in our diets, the influence of the sugar industry lobbyists and how popular media and thinking has shaped our society’s view towards sugar.

This book makes a different argument: that sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are fundamental causes of diabetes and obesity, using the same simple concept of causality that we employ when we say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer.

Taubes, Gary “The Case Against Sugar”

After reading the book, I have to mostly agree with him. Sugar really has no place in our diet and should only be an occasional treat. I find it hard to escape sugar as it is used in many products, especially processed products like peanut butter, bottled tomato sauces, etc. If you want to lose weight and increase your chances of avoiding heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. it would be in your best interest to eat less sugar. My adopted mother died of diabetes and it is an insidious disease. Unfortunately, diabetes runs in her family, as she was quite active and thin, but it is a family curse and many of her relatives develop it quite early in their lives. In the advanced stages, it cuts circulation to the legs, lessens vision and eventually causes organ damage to the kidneys that leads to death. Below are some other facts I learned.

  • The origin of the word diabetes comes from Greek meaning “siphon”. If left untreated, people have an unquenchable thirst and must constantly be drinking liquids, hence the name.
  • 12-14% of Americans have diabetes and another 30% are predicted to get it at some point in their lives.
  • I didn’t know that much of our sugar comes from sugar beets. I thought it was only sugar cane. Sugar cane originated in Papua New Guinea. French naturalist and banker named Benjamin Delessert discovered a method to refine sugar from beets in 1811.
  • Nutrition is taught without much history.
  • The average American consumes
  • “okay” is the most recognizable word on earth; second is “coca-cola”
  • 12.5 million slaves were transported to the New World to work on sugar plantations
  • Many of the chocolate bars we know today were first created and mass produced from 1886 – 1930. Snickers (1930) / Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar (1900) / Toblerone (1908) / 3 Musketeers (1932)
  • Breakfast cereals also contribute to sugar consumption Frosted Flakes (1952) / Cocoa Puffs (1956)
  • Dietary fat is more demonized than dietary sugar and Taubes think it should be the opposite.
  • All of the sugar I consumed as a child from breakfast cereal to Kool-Aid caused a lot of my dental problems today.
  • “We now eat in two weeks the amount of sugar our ancestors of 200 years ago eat in a whole year” U of London John Yudkin (1963)
  • An apple has a teaspoon of sugar compared to almost 10 teaspoons in a Coca-Cola.
  • Sugar from carbohydrates (potatoes, example) is released slower and gentler than eating a mass of concentrated sugar
  • Americans consume between 42 and 75 pounds of sugar per year. (ouch)
  • blood sugar – Glucose circulating in our blood
  • sucrose – composed of equal (50-50) parts glucose and sucrose
  • fructose – found naturally in fruits and honey, the sweetest of all sugars
  • HFCS high-fructose corn syrup most common type is 55% fructose and 45% glucose

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