The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
For the past 15 years, the US nutrition journalist Gary Taubes has argued that official dietary guidelines are “fundamentally wrong”, said Joanna Blythman in The Guardian. Rather than cutting saturated fat from our diets, he believes we should avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar. At first, scientists dismissed his views as “apostasy”, but recently the “so-called guardians of public health” have come to accept that sugar does more than simply rot our teeth. Yet according to Taubes, that still isn’t enough. In The Case Against Sugar, he sets out to “nail the lie” that the “tidal wave of obesity and Type 2 diabetes sweeping the Western world” is primarily a result of overeating in general. Most people, he says, don’t get fat because they consume more calories than they expend. They do so because their diets are so high in sugar.
According to Taubes, sugar does more than provide “empty calories”, said Clive Cookson in the Financial Times. He marshals evidence to show that it functions as a “dietary switch”, inducing resistance to insulin, the metabolic hormone that regulates how we store or burn food. “Insulin resistance is the fundamental trigger for Type 2 diabetes.” And Taubes goes even further than this. A high-sugar diet, he claims, leads not only to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, but contributes to many “diseases of Westernisation” including asthma, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Even if, as its title suggests, The Case Against Sugar isn’t exactly a “balanced book”, Taubes is a “serious science writer who refrains from exaggerating the evidence”. We should take his views seriously.
“If sugar is really so bad, why didn’t we realise sooner,” asked Bee Wilson in The Sunday Times. “Faulty science” isn’t the only problem; “propaganda” has also contributed to our blindness. The “most startling” passages of Taubes’s book concern the “outrageous lies” told by “Big Sugar”, which, like the tobacco industry, did its “darnedest” to persuade us that its product was “beneficial”. In the 1930s, it ran ads claiming sugar could “fight off colds” and “build up immunity”. Later, it depicted sugar as an appetite suppressant. The one problem with Taubes’s book is that it “allows no compromise”. In an epilogue, he writes that there is no such thing as “moderation” with sugar, and claims that even one scoop of ice cream a week “might be too much”. While “I am all in favour of unsweetening our palates”, it “stretches credibility” to imagine people swearing off the stuff entirely.