Gary Taubes is the bestselling author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, and he covers the diet-health beat for The New York Times.
While we don’t agree with everything he concludes about diets, we think most of what he says about foods and diet is accurate.
We do think he performed a public service by penning the recent article, “Is Sugar Toxic?” for the paper’s Sunday magazine.
Taube begins his piece by noting a YouTube hit few would have predicted: “On May 26, 2009, Dr. Robert Lustig gave a lecture called ‘Sugar: The Bitter Truth,’ [the video of which] … has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month … “
As he says, these are “… fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.”
(There’s also a condensed 11-minute presentation of the sugar story, by nutrition-savvy trainer Sean Croxton, who’s video-interviewed Dr. Lustig, Gary Taubes, and two Vital Choice favorites: whole foods author Nina Plank and the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Sally Fallon.)
We encourage you to read Taubes’ essay, which echoes what we’ve been saying, based on the hard evidence: namely, that all sugar – along with corn starch and refined white flour – is bad for your heart and metabolism.
The facts show that it’s a satisfying but distracting folly to vilify high-fructose corn syrup … and by implication or assertion downplay the (equal) damage done by cane sugar, agave syrup, and other natural sweeteners … refined or not.
It’s quite clear that cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are equally bad … because both are about half glucose and half fructose.
While corn syrup is synthesized (okay, not ideal) and cane sugar is “natural” (but unnaturally refined), this makes exactly zero difference in your body’s reaction to their fundamental components: glucose and fructose.
Cholesterol-fat theory of heart disease: A fiasco from the get-go
In his seminal 1986 book, Sugar Blues, William Duffy presented a compelling evidence-based case that sugar causes heart disease and diabetes.
Duffy relied heavily on the work of John Yudkin, M.D., a British nutrition expert who’d first made the case in his book Sweet and Dangerous, published in 1978.
Yudkin’s work was dismissed by mainstream medicine, which instead went along with a Congressional panel’s well-meant – but almost entirely erroneous – assertion that dietary cholesterol and saturated fats cause most heart disease.
Sadly, that unscientific Congressional report set the agenda for medical research for decades, even as it justified development of hugely profitable cholesterol-lowering drugs.
This miscarriage of medicine happened even though it soon became clear that most of the “evidence” for this theory consisted of deliberately cherry-picked data … much of it from University of Minnesota nutritionist Ancel Keys’ famed “Seven Countries Study”.
To be sure, a small group of genetically unusual people need to drastically limit intake of cholesterol and/or saturated fats and take drugs as needed to manage heart risks.
But these very uncommon exceptions only highlight the compelling evidence that for most people, the cholesterol and saturated fats in animals foods are actively healthful.
For an excellent history of how cholesterol and saturated fats were named guilty … without credible evidence ... we refer you to a recent essay by Steven Malanga of City Journal, titled “The Washington Diet”.
For even more detail on this topic – and the specific, evidence-based clinical implications of various blood cholesterol and fat test results – see the two-part video titled, “I have high cholesterol, and I don’t care” by Chris Kresser, author of The Healthy Skeptic blog.
Some of the outrage-inducing history Malanga covers in “The Washington Diet” can be gotten – in a friendlier, funnier way – from the movie "Fat Head" and other videos by former comedian and former health writer Tom Naughton.