“I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this Parliament, doing this job, and say to my children’s generation: I’m sorry, we knew there was a problem with sugary drinks, we knew it caused disease, but we ducked the difficult decision and we did nothing.”
– George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, announcing a tax on sugary beverages, March 16, 2016
I’m a huge fan of Gary Taubes, an award-winning science and health journalist, with three Science in Society Journalism Awards from the National Association of Science Writers, and is the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. Gary is co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative. When I first began my journey into low carb, healthy fat living, Gary’s books Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It and Good Calories, Bad Calories, made it all plain for me. He has also written Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion as well as Nobel Dreams: Power, Deceit and the Ultimate Experiment.
In his introduction to The Case Against Sugar, Gary says the following:
The purpose of this book is to present the case against sugar – both sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup – as the principal cause of the chronic diseases that are most likely to kill us, or at least accelerate our demise, in the twenty-first century. Its goal is to explain why these sugars are the most likely suspects, and how we arrived at the current situation: a third of all adults are obese, two-thirds overweight, almost one in seven is diabetic, and one in four to five will die of cancer; yet the prime suspects for the dietary trigger of these conditions have been, until the last decade, treated as little worse than a source of harmless pleasure.
After studying Gary’s case for the prosecution, which begins with the early domestication of sugar in New Guinea about ten thousand years ago; the discovery of sugar crystals by Indian farmers in 500 B.C.; it’s distribution to China and Japan by Buddhist missionaries; carried by the Muslim expansion into the Mediterranean countries; the further introduction by Columbus into the New World, and ends with the modern times, where Americans currently eat between 150 lbs and 170 lbs of sugar per person annually; where half a billion adults and 40 million children on the planet are obese, and diabetes is a worldwide epidemic, there can be little doubt that the hypothesis is correct.
The Case Against Sugar is a challenging read with a bibliography that extends to 35 pages and with 281 notes, but, in my opinion is well worth the effort.
Gary’s earlier books helped change the way I eat but The Case Against Sugar disturbs deeply. In its pages I learned:
- That sugar and tobacco are married. Who would know that soaking Virginia and Burley in a sugar sauce would encourage inhalation of smoke from blended cigarettes, and addiction. Gunpowder and nuclear weapons have killed fewer people.
- That sugar and slavery went hand in hand. When Muslims began growing sugar in the Middle East in the seventh century, they imported black slaves from East Africa to work the fields.
- That the present epidemic of obesity, diabetes, gout, heart disease, cancer is probably not possible to reverse.
Published: Portobello Books, 2016
ISBN 978 1 84627 637 8
Photo credit: Myself