Last updated on January 1, 2020
As of July, 2017, 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2015, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death. My late grandmother suffered from it for many years prior to her death and my mother also deals with the disease. In their cases, they are among the millions that have been diagnosed as having type-2. And with the number of diabetics growing around world, the future prognosis is grim. More disturbingly, diabetes is just one of the several conditions that are considered to be effects of metabolic syndrome. The link between food and health has long been established. Food has been man’s source of energy and the key to life. But somewhere along the way, our approach to what we eat changed dramatically and in the process we face health epidemics never before seen.
Gary Taubes appropriately named this book The Case Against Sugar. What he has written in this book is sure to open your eyes and change the way you look at sugar which might possibly be the most common food ingredient in history. In fact, it is so common that it is hiding in plain sight in dozens of foods we would never suspect to contain added sugar. The first thing I should point out is that Taubes does not tell us to refrain from eating sugar nor does he tell us to consume it. He leaves that to the reader to decide. What he does tell us is the unfiltered truth about the history of sugar and its effects on the human body. Doctors and other health figures have told us for years that fat and salt were the culprits behind many of the illnesses we battled. But what if the real monster was there all along and ignored either unintentionally or even blatantly? Some readers may find the topic far-fetched and wonder if the sugar they put in their coffee and the sugar found in other products they consume daily are truly that bad. Well in order to answer that question, we first have to understand how sugar came to be developed and why it has been so important to business and the food industry. Taubes has done the leg work for us, presenting the material in an engaging format the pulls the reader in. Additionally, he helps us understand the different types of sugars and why it is important that we know them intimately.
The story is centuries old and incredibly, without sugar, many of the empires throughout history would have had enormous difficulty existing. In particular, the British Empire became extremely fond of the white crystals that bankrolled their imperialist machine. Throughout history, sugar has accompanied every civilization, empire and ethnic group. I dare to infer that its commonplace among all of these thing is precisely what made it so hard to believe for many that it could also be life threatening. But it is exactly that which we learn but more importantly, Taubes, like a seasoned professor, explores in-depth why sugar was so important to big industry and why it was necessary to be protected. He includes many facts that some readers may be completely unaware of. The section on the tobacco and sugar industries should frighten every reader, especially if they are a smoker.
Diabetes is far from a modern disease. In fact, it has been in existence for centuries and its rise has been well noted and documented. But what we see through Taubes, is that for a large portion of that time, the connection between sugar and diabetes never fully acknowledged. If you ask any diabetic today, they will readily inform you that sugar is at the same time their worst enemy and most needed substance. Their inability to produce enough insulin to handle rising blood sugar or inability to produce insulin at all, as in type-1 diabetics, highlights the precarious situation that exist for diabetics. In essence, they walk a daily tight rope that could spell success or doom.
Diabetes is a focus of the book but the not the main focus and in addition to what is the silent killer, Taubes makes the case for the relationship between sugar and the conditions classified as metabolic diseases. The connections form an intricate web and at times the reader may need to revisit a section more than once to understand the chain of events that occur in the body upon the ingestion of sugar, whether natural, refined or artificial. Gout, cancer, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks plague millions of Americans and for years, doctors have known that what we eat does affect how we feel and age. Inflammation has become a known factor in all of these conditions and other ailments that plague the human body. Sugar is also known to play a role in all of these conditions. But is it safe to say that the reduction or elimination of sugar could reverse all of these illnesses? Possibly so and incredibly, it is believed that at least 4 in 10 forms of cancer are preventable. I have always refrained from telling anyone what they should or should not eat. That is a highly personal decision. But what I can say is that I have had my own battle with sugar and dropped it from my diet well over ten years ago. When I did, my acne disappeared, I lost weight, my digestive tract improved and I saw a marked improvement in cognitive function in addition to a surplus of energy. However, there was a withdrawal process and I did suffer from headaches and irritability for a couple of weeks as my body readjusted to the absence of sugar and high levels of carbohydrates. Today, I do not even buy it, add it anything I eat or drink and also follow the mantra that if I cannot pronounce what is in a product then I do not eat it. It may sound extreme to some but we are only given one body on this earth and it is up to us to take care of it.
This is the ugly truth about sugar, the once believed to be harmless product that our parents and grandparents gave to us without the knowledge that we have today. The children of today are the first generation that may have a shorter lifespan than their parents. That is unacceptable and I believe, criminal. Our health has been sacrificed in the name of greed and mass production. But we can fight back and take care of our lives. And with books such as this one by Taubes, our minds are being awakened each step of the way. If you suffer from a metabolic condition, trying to quit sugar or even curious about its dangers, this book is a must read.