Sugar KillsWell, if you wanted to call me a Gary Taubes fanboy before, I guess you’ve got one more reason to now as here’s one more post about his writings.

Back in October 2010, I authored a post entitled Sugar – Public Enemy Number One. The main takeaway I intended for the article was to argue that if all the diet books and nutrition gurus in all the world would just agree on this *one* thing: elimination of refined sugars from the diet (including fruit juices, by the way) that would be the single most important contribution they could all make to our public health. This would result in vastly healthier people and dramatically lower health care costs.

Back in January when Gary took his show on the road to Seattle, he mentioned he was working on this big article for the New York Times about sugar. The summary was he was taking a look into the claims of Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF who came out and said fructose was a toxin – in the concentrations consumed in the SAD (Standard American Diet). Now that Gary is a left coaster, he’s gotta make nice with the neighbors (he even got his new BFF Michael Pollan to say nice things about his new book – nice going :)). The net of all this is a ‘little’ piece in the New York Times called Is Sugar Toxic?. Of course, Gary doesn’t do ‘little’ so don’t expect a reader’s digest version, but you should expect a thorough and well reasoned article.

Of course, I want you to read it, but the summary is he thinks there’s something to the idea that sugar should be considered a toxin. One small step for man …


First of the passel of ‘sugar’ books I heartily recommend:

Beat Sugar Addiction Now!: The Cutting-Edge Program That Cures Your Type of Sugar Addiction and Puts You on the Road to Feeling Great – and Losing Weight!

Wish authors didn’t have to play the tabloid headline game with their book titles. Makes serious books look silly. This one is pretty serious.

While the author does focus primarily on the syndromes and conditions that emerge out of sugar addiction, there’s also a *lot* of really great education about what happens to your body hormonally and metabolically and when you consume sugar (of course, when I say ‘sugar’ I mean the whole gamut of sweeteners). He offers a useful breakdown of ‘types’ of sugar addiction that relate to specific responses (adrenal fatigue/distress, yeast overgrowth, etc.). He also approaches the issue from the specific medical conditions. This section I found especially useful and insightful. If any of these conditions means anything to you, you ought to consider reading this book:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes/Metabolic Syndrome
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Spastic colon
  • Migraines and Tension Headaches
  • Obesity
  • Sinusitis

Another general area I appreciated was the way he encouraged the use of appropriate dietary supplements, acknowledging that when you’re trying to right a listing ship, you need to take more activist measures than ‘staying the course.’ Diet alone – especially given our modern patterns of food production/distribution/consumption – just won’t do it. One can imagine it might be a little too much for some, but I believe he erred in the right direction.

While I heartily recommend the book and I learned *a lot* reading it, as is my wont, there are a few things I’d change:

  • It’s great that he references the importance of vitamin D for overall health and specifically as it relates to the conditions that are associated with high sugar intake. His advice, though, is pretty lame. He basically says ‘don’t be afraid of the sun.’ Which is fine if you live in a non-industrialized location the tropics and you are regularly outside in the mid-day throughout the year. Most of the readers of his book would see no appreciable improvement in their vitamin D status by taking his advice. He’s clearly not up on the research in that area (see more).
  • Surprised that he is totally supportive of various sugar alcohols (erythritol especially) as sweetener alternatives. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but it surprised me nonetheless.
  • Gives processed fructose a free ride by not citing the highly toxic effects of processed fructose (see Dr. Lustig).
  • He cites a number of published studies and books, but did not take the trouble to include a bibliography or a list of references to the studies cited. In some cases, I was not able to find the studies he cited in either Pubmed or PLoS. I find that more than a little suspicious.

Even with these reservations, I strongly recommend the book. You will certainly learn something new.

UPDATE: Just happens my good buddy, Jimmy Moore, just recently interviewed the author and the audio may be obtained here.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I committed to continuing down this path on sugar. Given there are so many books on the subject, I thought it would be good to just start with the body of work that’s already out there.

First two books I decided to tackle are Sugar Shock and Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet (see my previous post for a bit more info in each).

This one is going to be short and sweet. A tepid thumbs up on Sugar Shock, Dr. Gott, not so much.

Sugar Shock reads like a collection of Cosmo articles. Most of the topics are handled as stand-alone bits that you can just jump into at any point and read, which has its advantages if you’re reaching out to those (like Cosmo readers … sorry) who are not likely to read a full-length narrative on a subject area this involved. The flip side of that advantage, though, is that you wind up covering a lot of the same ground over … and over … again. Not really my cup of tea.

Taking it in the context for which it was intended, though, the author manages to get a lot of really useful information into that format. For example, her emphasis on the ‘see-saw’ nature of insulin and glucagon (both secreted by the pancreas, with the former promoting fat storage and the latter promoting fat mobilization) is one that the big boys (Taubes, Bowden, Weston, etc.) only gloss over. That was a good takeaway. Ms. Bennett also includes some very useful tables. One that leaps to mind is one that describes the various types of sweeteners out there and what their respective pros and cons (mostly cons) are. I’d take the time to read this one.

Dr. Gott, on the other hand, is stuck in the lipid hypothesis and is clearly not up on the latest clinical research on diet. This is even the case related to the research that supports his approach. My personal ‘net’ takeaway is he advises both a low-carb (although he would be loathe to refer to it that way) *and* a low-fat diet. That simply is not a workable, long-term approach to nutrition, in my opinion.

Not that I’m saying he is not having a positive impact on his patients. Just getting the sugar and white flour out goes a very long way. It’s just that most of the rest of his advice is coming from a 25-year-old time capsule.

Just picked up Beat Sugar Addiction and it’s looking very promising. That’ll be the next one I take on.


A Sugar Reading List

October 24, 2010

My recent post on sugar got me thinking more seriously about the topic – just as I’ve noticed my stress-related consumption of the poison has taken an upward trend as of late (another topic actually, perhaps a post …).

So I raided my local library’s shelves for all the books currently available on sugar (online holds are a great thing) that might help me with this series of posts.

Here are a few of them for your consideration. In the coming weeks, I’ll pick a few and write more in depth posts on each.

Suicide By Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction
My first glance at this one shows that there’s a lot of focus on the addiction element of the problem, given the author self-identifies as a recovered sugar addict (having ‘kicked it’ in the 1970’s).
Potatoes Not Prozac, A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight, and Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel
Again, heavy on the addiction/sensitivity angle. While I’m not a big fan of potatoes as a rule, I’m inclined to think that they top a daily dose of prozac. this
Get the Sugar Out, Revised and Updated 2nd Edition: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet
Heh. Sugar and it’s Kissing Cousins, is a title of one of the chapters.
Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet
Don’t know Dr. Gott from Dr. John, but I figured I’d take a look at what he has to say. The "No Flour, No Sugar" part intrigued me.
Sugar Shock!: How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life– and How YouCan Get Back on Track
A couple of my favorites, Nicholas Perricone and Stephen Sinatra lent hands on this one, so it started out as a favorite. After a quick scan, I find that it takes on the ‘sugar is natural’ argument head on and highlights how traditional sugar is no less processed than it’s more modern ‘kissing cousin’ HFCS.
I think this one goes to the top of the list.
Beat Sugar Addiction Now!: The Cutting-Edge Program That Cures Your Type of Sugar Addiction and Puts You on the Road to Feeling Great – and Losing Weight!
This one is sitting at the library waiting for me, so I haven’t peeked at it yet.
The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program
Same author as ‘Potatoes not Prozac.’ Will pick this one up once it becomes available. As of this writing, I’m in position six on the hold list.

Poison in a CubeWhile I’ve written on this topic a couple of times, a recent conversation with a family physician at the Health 2.0 conference sealed the deal for me. It’s time to write about sugar for real.

The first thing I’d like to say is I’m grown a little weary of the back and forth among the proponents of the various diets. Yes, I have an overall approach that I believe has a lot of merit. Yes, I think much of what is considered conventional wisdom is just plain wrong and we will come to know it as such in time.

That said, I’m also convinced that much of the jibba jabba is about egos and the need stake a claim on what’s ‘right.’ It’s also true that one can’t very well ‘sell’ a diet unless you make it the be-all and end-all. When you look at them all, however, there are a few simple things that pretty much all dietary approaches agree upon. One simple and straightforward one is the reduction of or complete elimination of sugars from the diet.

Some might be tempted to read that and say ‘Duh! everybody knows sugars are bad for you.’ In a sense, you’d be right. There’s practically nobody (except the sugar refiners, soft drink makers and the ‘Sweet Surprise’ people) saying sugars are harmless. From my perspective, though, there’s still a long way to go.

As I mentioned in a recent high-fructose corn syrup post, many people are actually doubling up on cane sugar drinks thinking they’re better than drinks sweetened with HFCS. Also, I’d bet the vast majority of people who would say ‘Duh! Any moron knows sugar is bad for you’ would also say ‘Fruit juice is good for you.’ To say nothing of the fact that most people don’t have a handle on how much sugar they’re actually consuming in bread, sauces, drinks, etc.

So consider this a down payment with more to come. In this installment I’ll recommend you take a look at a great Reader’s Digest version of a now legendary lecture from Dr. Robert Lustig (Pediatric Endocrinologist at UCSF). The original is here in all it’s 89-minute glory. If you want the essence of the video (fructose = toxin) in under twelve minutes, take a look at the video from Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness. Got to love the way he just breaks it all down.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

December 28, 2009

Another bombshell. It’s 89 minutes of metabolic truth-telling by Dr. Robert Lustig who is a Professor of Pediatrics (Endocrinology division) of the University of California at San Francisco. His primary focus is on explaining the crucial difference between the way fructose and glucose are metabolized. His central premise could be stated as ‘It’s the fructose, stupid.’ In brief:

[Dr. Lustig] explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin

I’m always keen to get complete agreement from another perspective. The major item that makes this talk unique is that he explains the biochemistry in, perhaps to some, excruciating detail, but it’s necessary to make the point.

To watch the original in its entirety, go to the University of California Television site: Sugar: The Bitter Truth. is also available on YouTube in full form, and is available in nine YouTube-sized bites courtesy of our decidedly eccentric (and I say that in the fondest way possible) Dr. Joseph Mercola.