Pure, White, and Deadly
Some reading this post might think the title refers to illicit drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. Not today. This is another post about the purported dangers of sugar.
A recent article from The Atlantic by Daniel Engber begins with a quote about the dangers of sugar from a book of the same name written by John Yudkin in 1972. As recapped in the article, the increase in heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in Western civilizations is linked to the emergence of sugar according in a number of research studies.
The problem then, as well as today, is that the case against sugar is hard to prove. It’s nearly impossible to separate sugar from other parts of the human diet to make a conclusive connection. Sure, obesity increased substantially beginning in the 20th century, but is sugar to blame? Many nutritionists, at the time, used research sponsored by the sugar industry to ridicule Yudin’s theories. They believed that saturated fat in the diet was to blame, not sugar.
Fast forward to today and the argument against sugar rages on. A new book called The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes reopens the debate. Taubes’ applies his intellect as a researcher to the problem of linking sugar to disease. He cites numerous studies, over a period of years, to support his conclusion that sugar triggers an unhealthy increase in insulin. The increase in insulin, that is not used by the body, causes fat to be stored, which is the cause of obesity and related diseases.
While you would think that this conclusion would be the last word. It is not. Engber, author of The Atlantic article, does a masterful job uncovering some of Taubes’ inconsistencies and sugar industry connections. In the end, however, the case against sugar is not fully resolved. What seems to be the real truth is that Western diets are, for the most part, unhealthy. Sugar is only one factor contributing to obesity and related illnesses. Perhaps moderation is really the best prescription for a long, healthy, life.