The Sugar Conspiracy

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap]N 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?

Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic.

A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.

“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote Yudkin, “that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Read more: The sugar conspiracy | Ian Leslie | Society | The Guardian

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Chris Pehura

When introducing something controversial we must scaffold the idea to something less emotionally charged. For sugar, we need to “sugar coat” it with something more established in nutrition. For instance talk about how sugar molecules impact vitamin absorbion, cell membranes, and blood vessels could be good gateways into deeper discussions. Because too many uncredible people said negative things about sugar, any similar messages from credible people, even with evidence, will be either received with distain or ignored.

Chris Pehura

@John. Thanks, though saying it’s carbs is like saying to blame it on the boogie man. What triggers obesity is more than just consuming carbs and calories. Stress, physical activity, dietary habits, when we eat, and the way our body adapts to our calorie intake are other strong factors. Also, carbs are both fuel anf building material for our bodies.

But all that said, my previous post was not about disagreeing with the dangers of refined fructose. It was about the scientist not expecting or being prepared to fight a battle driven by emotion and not by facts. There are many crack pots out there that say sugar is evil and we are now pre-programmed to treat their message and any similar message as noise. To resolve obesity will not be through education and facts, but through shiifting emotions and beliefs. This means to cure obesity we need added support from psychologists and sociologists.

John Prpich

@Chris, that may be the case if there wasn’t as much imperical evidence as there is, but just look around you, the obesity epidemic has very little to do with fat, specifically good fat, but everything to do with sugar and carbs. All you have to realize is that the body can’t metabolize two fuel sources, fat and carbs, one has to stored. Now the big difference is that good fat is not only used as an energy source, it nourishes the brain. This is simply not the case with carbs, which for most intent purposes aren’t good for you.
If you read food labels and I do every time I shop, you begin to realize that there are tons of carbs in all foods, even some that don’t make sense.
Nutritionists in this country really don’t understand food and nutrition, just like the Diabetes Association telling it’s members they can drink juice, which is preposterous.

If Americans stared eating more good fat, combined with protein, we wouldn’t have the epic dilemma that we are facing. If you want more proof, go to Canada, you’ll see that proportionate to the population, there is significantly less obesity, all you have to do is look at the average shopping cart and you can clearly see the difference.

Chris Pehura

@John. Thanks, though saying it’s carbs is like saying to blame it on the boogie man. What triggers obesity is more than just consuming carbs and calories. Stress, physical activity, dietary habits, when we eat, and the way our body adapts to our calorie intake are other strong factors. Also, carbs are both fuel anf building material for our bodies.

But all that said, my previous post was not about disagreeing with the dangers of refined fructose. It was about the scientist not expecting or being prepared to fight a battle driven by emotion and not by facts. There are many crack pots out there that say sugar is evil and we are now pre-programmed to treat their message and any similar message as noise. To resolve obesity will not be through education and facts, but through shiifting emotions and beliefs. This means to cure obesity we need added support from psychologists and sociologists.

Susan Bender Phelps

Interesting bit of “sugar trivia.” I understand wanting to recognize Yudkin’s early work and his struggle to get the message out. My personal enlightenment about sugar came from reading “The Sugar Blues,” by William Dufty, 1975. Both my maternal grandmother and mother were diabetic. The increased use of processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes in our foods, dependence on prepared and processed food, all contribute to the obesity epidemic, combined with other lifestyle choices and necessities- sedentary work, television and video games instead of healthy exercise, super-sized portions, sugared snacks, sugared cereals, over-consumption of soft drinks, both sugared and sugar-free. If eliminating obesity was as simple as eliminating 1 or more foods, the problem would be far closer to a solution. Obesity from childhood, long-term obesity after childbirth or traumatic injury or illness, or as a medical side effect also cloud the issue.

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