The Great Sugar Debate – What Does It Mean

The Great Sugar Debate

Do any of you remember the book by the British professor of nutrition, John Yudkin that was published in 1972  called “Pure, White and Deadly”. It was a brilliant book that exposed the problems of too much sugar in our diets. Professor Yudkin said that “If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned”.

The general public loved the book and I remember buying it myself and being impressed. What he said made sense. If we eat too much refined sugar, we overload the pancreas and set ourselves up for diabetes type 2 and obesity – which has happened. What I did not realise until recently is that other nutritionists and the food industry got together to destroy his reputation and when he died in 1995, he had become almost forgotten.

In 2009 a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in childhood obesity gave a talk on the subject of “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”, which has been viewed on You Tube over 6 million times. He said that fructose, which is used in most diets is a poison that is the cause of America’s obesity problem. Interesting to note is that he had never heard of Professor Yudkin!  However, Lustig has not been lambasted in the way Yudkin was because more of us understand now that excess sugar consumption IS responsible for a lot of our health problems. Don’t forget George Osborne’s tax on sugar filled drinks – so now it is acceptable to say that sugar is a poison.

After Yudkin talked about sugar, we were bombarded with the view that it was actually fat that caused all of our obesity problems and low fat diets became the way to avoid heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  In 1983 we were advised by the Government to eat more pasta and rice and less meat. However, all that happened was that we became fatter and sicker. If we look at the National Health Examination Survey results of 2006, it shows that between 1960 and 1980, obesity grew by only 13.4 % but between 1980 and 2006, after we were advised to cut down on fat, the obesity rate went up to 35%! In 1980 6% of us were obese in UK but this figure trebled in 20 years so that today two thirds of us in Britain are either obese or overweight and type 2 diabetes has risen. In 2008 research by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said that there is  “No probable or convincing evidence” that a diet high in fat causes heart disease or cancer.

The fact is, we need to eat a mixture of fat, carbohydrate and protein to remain healthy. But we need to eat many less refined carbohydrates to stay healthy. The problem for Yudkin was that nutritionists viewed Yudkin’s book as “propaganda for the meat and dairy industries” and the British Sugar Bureau said that his claims were “emotional assertions” and “science fiction”. However, this was untrue as Yudkin was a very precise professor and was intent on providing a scientific explanation. Gradually scientific research worldwide found a correlation NOT between heart disease and saturated fat but heart disease and sugar.

The world needs a nutrition policy that is grounded in good science, not on pseudo science that includes research based on conflicts of interest and inaccuracies.  Until then, I for one am going to limit my intake of refined carbohydrates; eat eggs and lean meat more than sugary, refined carbs; keep exercising and keep reading – but keeping an open mind.