Sweet and Dangerous

A Scottish doctor today is arguing for a tax on chocolate to tackle obesity and the concomitant rise in type II diabetes. Of course some, including myself, have been labouring under the impression that chocolate might just be good for you, and that this might explain certain cravings, assuming you are eating the very high cocoa solid variety. But an empirical test this morning confirmed that it is not the chocolate I crave but the sugar. I read somewhere on the internet that if you think you crave chocolate because of a nutritional deficiency you should try eating some pure cocoa. So I did just that. It took about a quarter of a teaspoon of Green & Black’s Cocoa powder to convince me that it’s the sugar in chocolate that I’ve been craving. I’m pretty good at acquiring tastes but cocoa is nothing on its own: it needs sugar. And all that sugar does, it seems, is boost your insulin levels and leave you wanting more when your blood sugar crashes again later. Chronically, this will kill you.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading The Diet Delusion by Gary Taubes. If he is correct, the book pictured (above) by John Yudkin is from the graveyard of nutritional science. Published in the US in 1973 for a cover price of $1.95, this copy of Sweet and Dangerous appears to have left a thrift store some time later — somehow riding a wave of inflation to sell for $2.75 — before hopping the Atlantic where it would have been acquired by my late mother-in-law from a UK charity shop for 40p. By this time its bubble had finally burst, and Yudkin’s work is now well out of print. Were it not for the normal prevarication over getting rid of any books in the Knackered household, this battered edition might already have returned to second-hand bookstore oblivion; instead, it has been sitting on my desk for nearly nine months asking to be blogged about, reprieved by Taubes’ mention.

According to Taubes, the hypothesis that sugar consumption could be a primary cause of heart disease and other chronic illnesses was being taken seriously in the research community in the early 1970s. But it was in competition with Ancel Keys prevailing hypothesis that dietary fat was what mattered. This is what Taubes says:-

By the early 1970s, Keys’s dietary-fat hypothesis of heart disease, despite the ambiguity of the evidence, was already being taught in textbooks and in medical schools as most likely true. After Yudkin retired in 1971, his hypothesis effectively retired with him. His university replaced him (at Queen Elizabeth College London) with Stewart Truswell, a South African Nutritionist who was among the earliest to insist publicly that Keys’s fat theory of heart disease was assuredly correct and that it was time to move onĀ  to modifying the diets of the public at large accordingly.

Yudkin became a figure of ridicule, and further research into the sugar and refined carbohydrate hypothesis was avoided by those who knew what was good for them professionally, so says Taubes.

Taubes draws out just how dramatic has been the increase in our refined sugar consumption over the past two centuries, suggesting that Yudkin was right to be more concerned about sugar metabolism:-

But the greatest single change in the American diet was in fact the spectacular increase in sugar consumption from the mid-nineteenth century onward, from less than 15 pounds a person yearly in the 1830s to 100 pounds by the 1920s and 150 pounds (including high fructose corn syrup) by the end of the century.

A fuller review and more mentions of Taubes’s book will arrive in due course. Just to say that I’ve been wondering whether it might be the most important book I’ve ever read. The paperback edition is now out in the UK.

Donate and help me buy back my Fender ('About' tells you why)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

sugar baddy

31Aug08

mmmm, doughnuts

This preoccupation with refined carbohydrates and their exclusion from diet may look odd, but the evidence confirming the significance of removing or moderating their intake continues to mount. Nature, via Science Daily, has published research from Dr Zane Andrews of Monash University (and others) showing that appetite-control cells are damaged over time, with carbohydrates and sugars playing an important part in that damage process:-

Dr Andrews found that appetite-suppressing cells are attacked by free radicals after eating and said the degeneration is more significant following meals rich in carbohydrates and sugars.

‘The more carbs and sugars you eat, the more your appetite-control cells are damaged, and potentially you consume more,’ Dr Andrews said.

Interestingly, the effects start to occur from early adulthood:-

‘People in the age group of 25 to 50 are most at risk. The neurons that tell people in the crucial age range not to over-eat are being killed-off…

…A diet rich in carbohydrate and sugar that has become more and more prevalent in modern societies over the last 20-30 years has placed so much strain on our bodies that it’s leading to premature cell deterioration,’ Dr Andrews said.

Full Nature abstract here. Thanks to Jess for the pointer and bunchofpants for the photo.

Donate and help me buy back my Fender ('About' tells you why)

Tags: , , , , ,

Tweet Given that there is an obesity epidemic, you might expect that when one of the world’s leading science writers, Gary Taubes, addresses the subject — challenging thirty years of official dietary advice — it would get a lot of press coverage. That the book took five years full-time to write, and has a 60-page […]

Tweet Connecticut state legislature’s decision to pass a law banning the sale of junk food in its schools represents a major milestone in the onslaught against big food, obesity and the negative impact on behaviour of junk food. While the state governor may veto the law, the real message is that public opinion can shift […]

Tweet Back to back with the last post, the move against big food companies is clearly real enough for UBS, a Swiss-based international investment bank, to be organizing a conference last week to gauge the future impact of the growing concern about obesity. In an FT article, the interesting though not surprsing development is that […]


the knackered hack

Tim Penn
Alltop, confirmation that I kick ass

free updates by email

t-shirts for tired writers

Support This Site

knackered eye view

www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from knackeredhack. Make your own badge here.

Kino’s Viktor Tsoi

Kino's Tsoi
Close
E-mail It
Socialized through Gregarious 42
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
This work by Tim Penn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.
make PrestaShop themes