The Case Against Sugar: Is Gary Taubes Full Of Sweet Lies & Deception, Or Is Sugar Really Making Us Fat?

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

My guest on today's podcast – Gary Taubes – just wrote a groundbreaking, eye-opening exposé entitled “The Case Against Sugar” that makes the convincing case that sugar is the tobacco of the new millennium: backed by powerful lobbies, entrenched in our lives, and making us very sick.

Among Americans, diabetes is more prevalent today than ever; obesity is at epidemic proportions; nearly 10% of children are thought to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And Gary believes sugar is at the root of these, and other, critical society-wide, health-related problems. In the book, he delves into Americans' history with sugar: its uses as a preservative, as an additive in cigarettes, and the contemporary overuse of high-fructose corn syrup. He explains what research has shown about our addiction to sweets. He clarifies the arguments against sugar, corrects misconceptions about the relationship between sugar and weight loss; and provides the perspective necessary to make informed decisions about sugar as individuals and as a society.

The ever-prolific Gary Taubes is co-founder and senior scientific advisor of the Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSI). He's an award-winning science and health journalist, the author of The Case Against Sugar, Why We Get Fat and Good Calories, Bad Calories, and a former staff writer for Discover and correspondent for the journal Science. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Esquire, and has been included in numerous Best of anthologies, including The Best of the Best American Science Writing (2010).

He has received three Science in Society Journalism Awards from the National Association of Science Writers. He is also the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He lives in Oakland, California.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-The difference between glucose and fructose, and how is that related to sucrose…[7:35]

-Why the fructose we eat now is different than the fructose we find in nature…[14:20]

-How German researchers discovered sugar to be just as effective as “crack cocaine”…[21:10]

-The fascinating marriage of tobacco and sugar, and why sugar is in cigarettes…[27:50]

-How “metabolic imprinting” causes a baby's pancreatic cells to become dysfunctional…[33:35]

-Why salt may not be the cause of hypertension, but sugar may…[44:00]

-The relationship between sugar, gout and uric acid, and why gout and uric acid may not just be protein related…[47:10 & 57:00]

-Why different people have different blood sugar responses to sugar…[49:20]

-What Gary thinks of the fact that he's been called out on the fact that the NuSci metabolic ward research found no insulin-obesity link, and whether it's calories, not macronutrients, that are most important…[65:00]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-The Amazon page for all Gary's books

-NuSI Hall Study: No Ketogenic Advantage (ICO 2016)

-An effective supplement for regulating blood sugar and insulin response called Kion Lean

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Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Gary or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

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13 thoughts on “The Case Against Sugar: Is Gary Taubes Full Of Sweet Lies & Deception, Or Is Sugar Really Making Us Fat?

  1. RoJo says:

    Late to the podcast but….

    It seems like science is looking for an food industry to blame. The most obvious cause is the consumption of sugars, refined carbs and excessive protein for decades. If people have never fasted and have never entered ketosis during their lifetime their body loses its ability to convert fat to ketones. Their metabolism can only store it as body fat. Obesity has to be primarily a metabolic issue due to a chronic glycogenic diet.

    The medical establishment and insurance companies need to begin to refer obese people to dieticians/nutritionists (covered under insurance) for the purpose of training people to safely enter ketosis and gain back the fat burning mechanism. I feel it’s crucial to safely guide obese people into ketosis to avoid complications. That takes insurance coverage for most everyone. The medical industry and science will never solve the problem without considering that it’s the lack of a ketogenic metabolism. IMO

  2. John T says:

    This is one of your more thought provoking podcasts Ben, thanks. I’ve listened twice (sad, but true!) and listening to what Gary says is very reasonable. The title of the book may be controversial, but hey that’s what the publisher will want. Human physiology is a complex system, even before genome and epigenetics are factored in. Multi factorial, but like Gary says a lot of evidence does point to sugar.

    1. Great, thank you for the feedback.

  3. Richard says:

    Really interesting. First time I heard about the gout/insulin connection. Up til now we’ve only heard that gout is caused by excess protein intake.

  4. Bo Neichoy says:

    Ben — awesome job pushing the questions that puzzle us all.

    I am a bariatric surgeon — i see morbid obesity and all associated health issues on a daily basis. There is an underlying issue with every patient that I see — carbs and inactivity. I do not see many patients in my clinic that adhere to a keto / Primal / Paleo / low carb / slow carb / no carb lifestyle. I know that it is a biased statement as somebody that is going out of their way to eat like this is most likely a fitness junky. It is hard for me to not blame sugar. If not itself, something that it does on an epigenetic level. If I do see a patient that has followed one of the above mentioned eating patterns, they had tremendous success while doing it — however, they get guilted into not living that lifestyle by a significant other or a doctor at some point (and some just can adhere to it). I think that if you look at morbid obesity rates throughout the country, you are going to see the biggest problem in the south. Lifestyle, ethnic makeup, socioeconomic issues all play into it, but being from the south and having grown up with this — its sugar (access and affordability).

  5. Marcus says:

    Hey Ben,

    I’m a fan of your work and I’ve been listening to your podcast for quite some time now…lots of quality info you’ve put out man and I thank you for that!

    I’ve gotta say, I feel like you dropped the ball as far as addressing Kevin Hall’s NUSI research around the link between insulin and obesity. Gary gave you some ‘background’ and then literally didn’t even address the study.

    He had some incredibly funky analogies trying to explain his insulin hypothesis of obesity as well.

    I totally agree with you as far as there being a bunch of factors that contribute to obesity but I’m just curious, why didn’t you press Gary a little harder on NUSI’s research that didn’t line up with his opinions?

    1. Ben says:

      I agree he totally dodged that question. Maybe Ben was being polite and realised he wasn’t going to answer it properly. I think he did address it quite a bit on the Sam Harris podcast though.

    2. Often, to be honest, the issue is TIME limitations (e.g. my guest's limited time and the rabbit-hole-ish risk of diving into a debate). Sometimes I wish I had 3-4 hours with a guest!

      1. Martha451 says:

        Gary has said many times that he believes Hall made analytical mistakes & so misinterpreted the data. While telling primarily an insulin based story, he never disagrees with the mukti-factored nature of obesity. Clearly leptin, grehlin, sex hormones mitos, circadian rhythms – it’s all involved. As he says in this interview the only question is which is cause, which is effect. And he clearly says we don’t know. He & Ben agree. Good interview!

    3. Jake says:

      Yes, very unfortunate. I’m surprised Gary even has opportunities to do interviews with people when he can’t even prove his own theories with actual science.

      Oh wait, I’m not surprised. People want to hear good news about their bad diets.

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