Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sugar: the bitter truth

Well, well, it took a while -- actually about twenty years -- but finally Penguin did the obvious thing and reissued Professor John Yudkin's absolutely classic study of sugar: Pure, White and Deadly. This book has been out of print for many a long year, and when you could find it the price was usually in three figures. A few years ago I had to borrow a copy from my local library's county archive.

The new edition comes with an introduction by Professor Robert Lustig, who was probably the guy that twisted Penguin's arm. I'd like to think that Penguin were smart enough to launch a reissue unprompted, but then why did they ever let an important book like this go out of print in the first place? (There's no polite or reassuring answer to that question.)

And, what's more, Lustig himself has a book out. The title is Fat Chance, and it looks like a brave book to write, because it dares to criticise the food industry. Yudkin tried that, and got nothing but trouble as a result. He should, of course, have been supported by his university, but wasn't, which is a disgraceful story in itself.

The fact that sugar is the source of half our health problems is not new. The journalist William Dufty wrote a classic expose of it in the 1970s, in Sugar Blues, which is still in print. But scientists who are prepared to put their head above the parapet and let Big Food fire cannon at them are not thick on the ground.

If by any chance you haven't yet realised what pernicious stuff sugar is, and how determinedly it is forced upon us in almost everything, then Lustig's new book is the one to go for. Those of us who've been paying any attention to food in the last 40 years probably won't learn a lot that's new -- except of course that we shall be given a host of new examples of how little the food companies care about their customers' health, and how committed they are to making profit no matter what.


DavidGillespies BigFatLies said...

While Dr Lustig's theories and evidence may seem convincing to the general public and reporters, the real test is how well he performs with his fellow scientists!

He was certainly called out for overstating the evidence and poorly extrapolating rat research at a conference he spoke at earlier in the year - check out the Q and A video in the attached article by David Despain (as well as the other lectures)! for a full review and links to all lectures - if not just watch the Q and A at and

What research shows that it is fructose that causes addiction? At the Q and A at the Sugar Symposium, Dr Lustig was called out on this and one researcher showed that rats liked glucose based carbohydrates over sucrose, and another questioned the applicability of rat research to be extrapolated to humans!

Also a recent rat studied suggests that it might be the sweet taste and NOT the fructose (as they used an artificial sweetener) although the article title gets it wrong also!

The major issue with Dr Lustig's theory is looking at US Sugar intake over history - levels were still high in the early 20th century - so saying it is sugar is either an oversimplification or there is a threshold value that we have recently crossed. Methinks that it is a perfect storm of more sugar and less burning it up with physical activity!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if there was a law that meant that every time someone makes a comment on a blog, they had to disclose if they were being paid by a commercial company to make such comments. More and more companies are employing people to pose as members of the public and tell blatent lies on the internet in order to protect the company's profit margins - but it's a good job these mercenaries are easy to spot!

Juaquin said...

I should stop drinking Coke i guess, but spending hours infront of the computer to finish a clients web site eats a lot of power. So sometimes you need some sugar intus. But thanks for the article