The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

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The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
Non-Fiction | Nutrition
Goodreads | Amazon
Published by Anchor Books
Released December 27, 2016
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I’ve mentioned several times on my blog now that I gave up sugar for the month of January in an attempt to be healthier and to try to get my body to stop craving sweets. I find that whenever I’m doing something challenging, reading about why I made that decision helps to keep me focused. In that vein, I purchased The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes, the author known for the book Why We Get Fat.

When I bought the book I assumed it was going to be about the nutrition of why sugar is so bad for us. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even read the synopsis but instead purchased it based on the title alone. What I wasn’t expecting was a complete history of how sugar became so prevalent in the western world and the effect it has on diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, but I’m happy that it’s the book I got.

In the introduction to the book, Taubes lays out his argument:

“…that sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are fundamental causes of diabetes and obesity, using the same simple concept of causality that we employ when we say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. It’s not because we eat too much of these sugars – although that is implied merely by the terms ‘overconsumption’ and ‘overeating’ – but because they have unique physiological, metabolic, and endocrinological (i.e., hormonal) effects in the human body that directly triggers these disorders.”

From there he examines sugar in every way that can be done. I especially enjoyed his discussions on the history of sugar reaching the western world and how it’s been perceived as a healthy food for portions of that history, even being used medicinally on occasion:

“‘It was good for almost every part of the body, for the very young, for the very old, for the sick and for the healthy,’ wrote the British historian James Walvin. ‘It cured and prevented illnesses; it refreshed the weary, invigorated the weak.'”

The most striking (and, truthfully, infuriating) aspect of sugar that Taubes examines is that sugar was found to be unhealthy early on, but the sugar industry used its financial influence to pay scientists to argue that it wasn’t. Research was purposefully overlooked or not taken seriously, and the industry did everything it could to blame dietary fat for the issues that should have been attributed to sugar.

I was startled to realize while reading this book that so much of how we think about nutrition, calories, and sugar was instilled in us decades ago by the course that this research took. So many people are still drawn to “low-fat” products despite the fact that the majority of these products are filled with sugar; there are groups that still believe that “a calorie is a calorie,” regardless of where those calories come from. There were even times in the recent past where organizations such as the American Heart Association were recommending patients eat sugary treats rather than foods high in fat to stay healthy. It makes me feel that the role of sugar in our diet is going to be slow to diminish.

Taubes uses a lot of evidence to make his argument that sugar could be the cause of many of our “Western diseases” that have become more prevalent since the introduction of sugar into our diets. He examines hundreds of years of medical history, as well as very convincing population studies. Those population studies were the most plausible arguments to me. As populations added sugar to their diets, their instances of diabetes and similar metabolic diseases suddenly starting appearing en masse in populations that rarely saw those diseases prior to sugar.

I’m definitely not saying that sugar should be cut out of our diet completely, and I also didn’t get the impression that that was Taubes’ goal either. Instead, the quantity of sugar we eating is extraordinary and perhaps we shouldn’t indulge ourselves quite as much as we’re able to. I still plan on enjoying my weekend bowl of ice cream after this month ends, but this book has made me more cognizant of the role that sugar could have on my overall health, particularly as I age.

This book was a wonderful, comprehensive look at sugar and it’s history. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the history of foods, or that just want a deeper look at the effect that our highly sugar-filled diets might have on our long-term health.

Sugar-Free January – Week Two

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At the beginning of the month, I announced that I would be going sugar-free for the month of January in an attempt to detox a bit from all the sugar I’d starting eating. Last week, I shared my thoughts at the end of the first week, which can basically be summed up with: I noticed nothing different about myself, and I spent my nights dreaming about sweets.

Week two has been much easier. I haven’t been craving sweets as much, although walking into a grocery store is still a challenge. An interesting thing that’s happening is that I haven’t been nearly as hungry as I usually am. I’ve always been a snacker or grazer, eating small bits between meals. I also tend to eat when I’m bored, which I know isn’t healthy. This week, however, I’ve noticed that I’m no longer craving snacks between meals, and when I do eat I get full much faster.

Another change I’ve noticed is that my skin has started to clear up and is less oily. I had a feeling this would be one of the results of cutting out sugar, but I’m still very pleasantly pleased by it. When I was vegan and watching what I ate, I rarely ate sugar and white flour, and other mass-produced foods and my skin absolutely glowed during that period of my life. There was even one time that I was at a bar with one of my friends and a strange woman walked up to me to ask me what kind of skin care products I used to get my complexion. I’m not sure she believed me when I replied with “just some drugstore cleanser.”

Overall, at the end of the second week, I’m beginning to notice some positive changes, albeit slowly. I’m looking forward to seeing what week three brings.

Sugar-Free January – Week One

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Last week, I shared that I was participating in Sugar-Free January and that I would be posting weekly updates about my progress.

To sum the first week up, I’m craving all the sugar.

I had expected to have sugar cravings the first few days, but I wasn’t expecting to literally be dreaming about sugar. The third night of this challenge, I had a dream that I was sitting on my couch with a huge popcorn bowl, except it was filled with an assortment of candy. The entire dream was just me eating candy because my brain clearly hates me.

It’s also been challenging because, despite the holidays being over, I still find myself surrounded by decadent treats everywhere I am. While it’s been challenging to say no to everything, I’ve stuck with it.

The worst temptation I’ve had occurred during a trip to the grocery store. The particular store I was at had their sparkling waters directly across from their cookie selection, and while I was picking up some La Croix (which, by the way, is great for satisfying a sweet tooth without eating sugar!), I noticed that there was now a carrot cake Oreo flavor. Carrot cake is one of my favorite things in the world, and I bought it. While I’m not planning on trying them until next month, walking by them day after day has been challenging.

One of the positive things about this challenge is that I’m rediscovering my love of fruit. I’ve never been a fruit lover, but without being able to grab ice cream or a cookie when I’m craving something sweet, I’ve been gravitating towards fruit, especially bananas.

I haven’t noticed any changes in my skin, weight, or general feelings of wellness. Aside from the intense cravings I’ve had every day, I don’t feel different at all. However, even though I don’t feel different, I know that it’s having a positive effect on my overall health.

Sugar-Free January

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I have never been a sweet-tooth sort of person – I’ve always much preferred salty treats such as chips and pretzels. I could easily go weeks without consuming a piece of candy or a cookie. That has changed in the last couple of years, as I have found myself rediscovering my sweet tooth to the point where I have been consuming an unhealthy amount of added sugars.

Sugar is addictive and added sugar is dangerous to your health.

Over the past year, I’ve gained more weight than I’m comfortable with, and although sugar consumption is not the main reason for it, it’s definitely a contributing factor. I cannot currently change the fact that I have a desk job and sit or stand in one spot for ten hours per day, nor can I do much to alter the effects that the antidepressants I’m on can increase a person’s weight. However, I can control the amount of added sugar I consume on a daily basis.

Sugar has a lot of detrimental effects on your health, such as:

In modern American grocery stores, sugar can be very difficult to avoid. It’s in practically everything in one form or another, even foods you might not initially expect, such as salad dressing, marinara sauce, yogurt, granola, and cereal.

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Due to all of the negative effects that sugar is having on my body, and in order to get back to my previous state of being where I do not crave sweet foods every day, I will be giving up added sugars for the entire month of January.

What does that mean? For starters, no baked goods or candies. I’m not expecting to miss candy that much – I don’t consume a ton of it at this moment. Usually, when I am craving sweets, it’s in the form of ice cream, muffins, or pound cake.

I will also be cutting out things like sugary sauces and any yogurt or breakfast foods that have high sugar content.

What foods am I not giving up? Fruit! Even though some fruit does have high sugar content, it also contains fiber and water and tons of nutrients. I will be allowing myself to consume all the fruit I want. Granted, since it’s winter, that fruit will probably be frozen, but it’s still going to be delicious!

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If you want to join in this challenge with me, feel free to! I’ll be sharing weekly updates on how the challenge is going and if I notice any changes in my weight or skin. Let me know if you’re joining this challenge in the comments, or join the wider community with #sugarfreejanuary!