Category Archives for Sugar

The Case Against Sugar Review – an Unsweetened Attack on Diet Myths

Gary Taubes’s latest assault on the ruinous effect of sugar on our lives and the promotion of fat-free diets is detailed and compelling

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Sugar is Not Just Empty Calories

Even more important are its effects on hunger and metabolism.  Sugar causes your insulin levels to spike, which results in a   later sugar “crash” in which the hunger causes you to overeat.   This cycle continues as you satisfy that hunger with more sugar, causing another insulin spike.  Over time, these insulin spikes desensitize your body to insulin, which is a major cause of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Change The Way Your Body Stores Fat

The other important effect of sugar is on your metabolism and fat storage.  It’s not just that the calories in sugar are stored as fat, but rather that a diet high in sugar changes the way your body stores fat overall.  The net effect is that a greater proportion of ALL the calories you eat are stored as fat.

Heart Health

There is also an effect on the type and location of fat that is detrimental to your heart health.  Fructose, which is the chemical that makes sugar taste sweet, is metabolized in the liver, and this process results in the accumulation of visceral, or deep belly fat.  This type of fat is not only unsightly but it also raises your level of LDL, the bad cholesterol, and is a major risk factor for heart disease.

So Gary Taubes continues to fight the good fight, against the food industry who wants you to believe that all calories are equal.  They’re not.  Sugar is what’s making you fat.


One Simple Yet Powerful Change

Try this simple experiment on yourself for one week: replace your sweet cereal with whole grains like steel-cut oats with berries and coconut milk.  For a week make fruit the sweetest thing you eat all day.  You will notice 2 things right away.  Your cravings for sweets will disappear and body fat will start melting away effortlessly.


Sugar confusion? – simple facts

Sweet = Sugar = Fat

Fructose is the chemical that makes food naturally sweet.  Fructose content is the reason pineapples and bananas taste sweeter than raspberries.  You can tell how much fructose any food has simply by tasting it.  To give you an idea of how sweet is sweet - table sugar (sucrose) is half glucose and half fructose.  Why does fructose matter?  Glucose can be burned as fuel for energy by any cell in the body, but fructose is metabolized only by the liver.  There is solid scientific evidence that consuming fructose leads to the accumulation of visceral (belly) fat.  So, simply put, sweeter food = more belly fat.

Sugar makes you hungry

The basic mechanism has to do with insulin.  When you eat sugar your pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to allow you to absorb and utilize the sugar for fuel.  The more sugar you eat, the more resistant your body becomes to the effect of insulin so just like a drug you need more of it to have the same effect.  High spikes in insulin levels lead to a low blood sugar "crash" which is a powerful appetite stimulant.  This is why eating sugar makes you hungry.

You can easily eat a lot of it

I love warm pecan pie with ice cream.  I can't resist it.  Even if I've just finished a huge meal and I think I can't eat another bite, by some miracle of modern physics I'm able to find room for it - why is that?  Studies show that you can eat a lot more simple carbohydrate (sugar) than any other macronutrient.  Fats and proteins, even whole grains, will fill you up a lot quicker.  Sugar is also empty calories, so a diet high in sugar will lead you to eat more calories, and then still need the other macronutrients (fats and proteins) to give your body the nutrition it needs.  This will lead to overconsumption of calories.

No matter how full I am, by some miracle of modern physics I can always find room for warm pecan pie with ice cream - why is that?

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There are lots of other health risks

There is a solid association between the liver effects of sugar and levels of LDL cholesterol, which are associated with heart disease, one of the top 3 killers.  These effects are also associated with higher risk of some of the most common cancers, like colon cancer and breast cancer.  The insulin resistance from fructose puts you at high risk for obesity - the world's most common cause of preventable death.

Sugar content is cryptic and stealthy

Would it surprise you to know that, according to the Harvard Health Blog, most people put the equivalent of 2 cookies-worth of sugar (as ketchup) onto their hamburger? or that all of these are just other names for sugar?

  • agave nectar
  • barley malt
  • dextrose
  • rice syrup
  • isomalt
  • corn syrup
  • raw honey
  • organic palm sugar

According to a 2016 HHS report, American children consume 17% of their daily calories from "hidden" sugar. 

How much you eat may not matter

This may be the hardest concept to accept - it may not be a matter of how much sugar you eat but rather that you eat it at all that puts you at risk.  You could easily survive without ever eating sugar again.  Whole grains, proteins, and fats could give you all the nutrition you need.  The evidence indicates that sugar consumption changes the way the body utilizes energy and stores fat, and these changes lead to overconsumption and obesity.

 Eating sugar trains your body to store more fat.  Since that stored fat is not readily available for energy, your hunger mechanisms signal you to eat more to get the energy you need to live. To put it simply, it may not be the case that we get fat because we eat too much, but rather that we eat too much because we're fat.  If this is true, then we may need to start seeing sugar as more of a slow poison with cumulative effects over time rather than the "too much of a good thing" model most people cling to.  The idea that apple pie and brownies are actually slow poisons would be a bitter pill to swallow.

Artificial sweeteners may be just as bad - or worse

There is good evidence that diet soda makes people gain weight.  While advertising and labelling focuses on the low calorie aspect, it may be that these artificial sweeteners, which can be up to 50 times sweeter than sugar, are desensitizing us to the sweetness of foods, leading to overconsumption of fructose.  

Try drinking seltzer for a week.  During that week, notice how everything tastes sweeter.  Sometimes foods you normally eat will seem unbearably sweet.   I did this experiment and never went back to diet soda.  I started enjoying everything I ate so much more and I magically started losing weight, probably for 2 reasons:

  1. Increased sensitivity to sweetness led me to eat less sugar.
  2. ​The effect of less sugar on my hunger led me to eat fewer calories.

So why would I go back.  I was losing weight and enjoying foods I loved so much more.  Try it.