Cherry Picking: Part 3 of Chronic Toxicity: Debating Gary Taubes' The Case Against Sugar

For those unaware, I have been debating with my mother on this blog recently about the evil slow effects of sugar addiction leading to metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Gary Taubes' new book The Case Against Sugar makes a thorough case for cutting out all processed variations of sugar from one's diet right now in much the same vein as stopping smoking cigarettes, but of course some people have to bring up other things like meat and dairy products, other people such as my mother. We first started this debate here and continued it here. For a nice summary of Taubes' points, you can now turn to The New York Times' recent interview with Taubes, where he points out:

"To understand the case against sugar, using a criminal justice metaphor, you have to understand the crimes committed: epidemics of diabetes and obesity worldwide. Wherever and whenever a population transitions from its traditional diet to a Western diet and lifestyle, we see dramatic increases in obesity, and diabetes goes from being a relatively rare disorder to a common one. One in 11 Americans now has diabetes. In some populations, one in three or four adults have diabetes. Stunning numbers.

So why sugar? Well, for starters, recent increases in sugar consumption are always at the scene of the crime on a population-wide level when these epidemics occur. And sugar is also at the scene of the crime biologically, and it’s got the mechanism necessary. But the evidence is not definitive; what I’m arguing is still a minority viewpoint."

At any rate, my mother recently wrote back, and here is her email:

Dear Son,

It is not fair to bring up crab cakes as they are a great favorite of mine when we are at the beach. Of course you can have an occasional one when you are on vacation. However, moderation in general doesn't work well when it comes to healthy eating. So eat a plant based diet all the rest of the time- see Plant Strong- an excellent book to read.

If we are cherry picking research studies, I ask you to look at the research known as the Adventist Health Studies. The Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda California practice healthy lifestyles, but differ in how much meat they eat. One of the lead researchers, Dr. Gary Fraser, said "Not eating meat is clearly important because it seems to have an impact on heart disease and cancer" (quoted in The Blue Zones--another book you should read).

And since dairy is liquid meat, it also is not good for you. Plus dairy cows lead a miserable life in the large dairy farms. I want you to look at plant-based diets because heart disease is the largest killer of American men and women.

Since this is a film blog, please watch Forks over Knives. It could save your life.

Love, mom

Dear mother,

I appreciate your interest in me eating less meat and dairy products, but I still wonder--as long as I have knocked out most processed foods with sugar from my diet (except for the occasional glass of V-8, which I just drank while enjoying some colby cheese), I find getting rid of dairy products to be even more difficult than ever. My problem is I'm not hugely fond of most vegetables. When I was younger, I tended to have an instinctual dislike of green food. Ideally, we can agree on some level that as long as someone cuts out the sugar and the meat, only shop along the edges of the grocery store (away from processed foods), and mostly stick to vegetables and fruits (but no fruit juice), then one would do fine. 

I have largely cut out sugar from my diet over the past 2 weeks, and I've lost 5 pounds, and plan to lose more (and I wasn't that heavy to begin with). I feel better, and I don't fully know why (although Taubes has many more examples and studies in The Case Against Sugar, so I wasn't just "cherry picking" one). Deleting sugar from my diet just feels right, and I enjoy reading an entire book that confirms my hunch, even if all of the medical evidence has not arrived yet.

Yours ever devotedly (and always tending to get the last word),



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