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AuthorHi, I'm Gary Taubes, science journalist and author of "The Case Against Sugar." Ask me anything, Reddit!

Feb 23rd 2017 by GaryTaubes • 24 Questions • 136 Points

My latest book, The Case Against Sugar, argues that sugar is the new tobacco: backed by powerful lobbies, entrenched in our lives, and making us very sick. Ask me anything about sugar and its effects on our health, diet, American’s history with sugar, and our addiction to sweets.

Proof: https://twitter.com/garytaubes/status/834838457524514816

Ok. Signing off. Thanks for all your comments and kind words.

Q:

I am a physician. Reading Good Calories Bad Calories was the the most important book I've read in my life. In fact I read it nine times. The sugar and refined carbohydrates, metabolic syndrome, insulin, obesity scenario was all spelled out there and as Cleves said caused the saccharine diseases. The anti low carbers always referred to the Kitavans, who eat high starch diets, as examples of how this didn't hold up. But what I got from The Case Against Sugar was that you really need sucrose namely fructose to initiate the metabolic syndrome. Once you have metabolic syndrome then you have become glucose intolerant and all refined carbs need to be avoided as they will raise insulin and promote further fat deposition. Societies like the Kitavans who eat very little sugar can eat a high percentage of carbohydrates and not get fat or chronic disease because they don't eat large quantities of sugar to initiate the metabolic syndrome. Have I got that right? permalinksaveparentEDITdisable inbox repliesdeleteREPL

A:

You do indeed have that right. That's the argument. Although the Kitavans also didn't eat white flour, so it could be the white flour, too. Nine times!! Wow. You probably know the book better than I do at this point. Thanks.


Q:

Hi Gary! I'm 100% on board the "sugar is the devil" train, thanks to you, Nina Teicholz, and Dr Robert Lustig, and my family and I are loving the results after removing most added sugar from our diet. My question is, based on your research, do you have any recommendations for how parents of small children should approach holidays like Valentine's Day and Halloween where a ton of candy consumption is the social expectation? Is it better to let them binge on it for one night then take it away, or let them eat one piece a day til it's gone? Or let them eat certain types of candy but not others? (Candy is, obviously, not part of their daily diet at home.) Apologies if this was covered in one of your books, I have really limited time to read due to the aforementioned kids.

A:

Well, we let our sons eat candy for the one day because I'm not ready to be that strict with them and my wife thinks kids should get to enjoy their childhoods. Not everything has to be about health. Do I feel like a hypocrite for letting them? I wrestle with it.


Q:

I just came from a wellness conference where, of all things, Naked juices were being grandstanded. The implication here is that they are somehow healthy. I know that the sugar content of these products (Produced by PepsiCo), is among the highest of any product on the market right now.

How do we combat such insidious marketing?

A:

We have to get people to realize that the sugar in the juices is (probably) worse than the vitamins and phytonutrients are good. That's going to take some time and effort making the kinds of arguments we've been making all along. I think we're winning, though, but it's a slow process. And industry backing of wellness conferences probably plays a role. Maybe we need Asbury to donate bullet proof coffees...


Q:

I've kept overall carbs fairly low since 2010 thanks to your work. But I find this significantly impacts my ability to perform intense mental work (writing and analysis) unless I add some sugar, and I read recently that you use nicotine when writing. I've tried adding salt, potassium, etc., but only sugar seems to help. Any advice or thoughts on why and what to do?

A:

I certainly understand (as I'm chewing half a nicorette now), and I need caffeine to function well. The question is whether or not we're doing ourselves harm and what the trade-off is. You understand the trade-off, so you're making an informed decision. (I wrote my second books using d'anjou pears for the sugar rush. But I also gained 15 pounds while doing it.)


Q:

How do you feel about non organic and non grass fed beef, pork, poultry, seafood (farmed vs. non farmed) etc...Due to the difference in the type of fat these contain (e.g. omega 6 vs. omega 3, and other potential differences) is it wise to stay away or at least get the leaner option? What do you do when you can't get the "natural" option? Thanks

A:

I think you have to be lucky to live in an area where you can get grass fed meat easily and you have to be able to afford it. For those of us who do and can, it is very obviously the better choice, if for no other reason than the documented horrors of factory farming. But many folks don't and can't, and for them I still think an animal-product rich diet is probably healthier than the alternative. (Although, i admit, clearly not for the animals.)


Q:

If you could meet Ancel Keys today what would you say to him?

A:

I'd ask him if he really meant what the NYT quoted him saying in the late 1980s, that we were too obsessively focused on cholesterol.


Q:

Do you think we know everything there is to know about Keto?

A:

No. We don't know the longterm effects. We can speculate because the short term effects are so beneficial for most people, but that doesn't mean were right. I had an operations systems prof in college who used to say "you pays your money, you takes your chances." That's ultimately the best we can do.


Q:

Gary, I have little to ask you, I just wanted to say that I read "Why We Get Fat" back in August 2015, and decided to change my life. I've lost 75lbs with LCHF, my health is so improved, my metabolic profile is so improved, I'm no longer considered at risk of t2 diabetes and I've gotten fit so I can pursue my dream career. You change people's lives in a way you can't possibly imagine.

So here's a question then - what is your absolute favourite food?

A:

Hmmm.... deviled eggs, maybe. At least this morning. And thanks for kind words.


Q:

Gary, your work has meant a lot to me - your books have given me the ammo to start LCHF and start taking better care of myself. One of my vices is dry white wine (chardonnay mostly). It has been the hardest to give up. I keep the carb count low but I feel it still impedes my progress. I know I am insulin resistant. Is wine really the main saboteur at this point in changing my lifestyle (promoting insulin spikes)? How bad is alcohol with LCHF?

A:

My understanding is that white wine has more sugar content than red, but I could be wrong. I do know people who fail on LCHF and they either refuse to give up the wine or refuse to give up their diet sodas. I'd try an experiment: give yourself two months without wine and see how it goes and how much you miss it. Ok, one month. Or try red...


Q:

How often do you recommend exercising per week?

A:

I don't. It's beyond my area of expertise (assuming I have one).


Q:

Well, how often do you exercise then? lol

A:

I do HIIT about three times a week, and in between do dips (kitchen cabinets well spaced) and pull-ups on a bar on the way to my office.


Q:

Have you seriously considered moving into the US political arena to affect some change in these public policies?

A:

Not me. Being political is not what I'm good at.


Q:

Follow up question: Didn't all those populations eat a ton of organ meats? Maybe a better question is, are vegetables necessary if you can't stomach the idea of consuming eyeballs, liver, blood, etc?

A:

Probably not all of them. But that's the problem with observational data like this. You need an intervention to establish causality.


Q:

Gary, low carb follower here and lost a ton of weight. Do you think lobbying from sugar invested groups (coke, wheat farmers) were a major part in the governments health recommendations?

A:

I still blame bad science more so than the lobbying, although surely the industry involvement didn't hurt because the recommendations clearly benefitted industry.


Q:

Your last AMA appearance was four years ago. In February 2021, what do you think you will be talking about here?

A:

I'm focused on one subject I think I know well and so it's the same as it was. Only with a better knowledge base, re sugar.


Q:

thoughts on how major influx of saturated fats on a ketogenic diet impacts health? specifically in regards to cholesterol. Have seen my good chol. go down and bad go up on keto adaptation. looking for advice as I love my energy/body on keto. Thanks!

A:

I don't think we know. It's hard to imagine that a diet that reverses metabolic syndrome will do harm merely because it increases LDL-P, but that doesn't mean it doesn't. So repeating myself, better research is necessary. Until then we have to take our chances with what we think is healthiest.


Q:

Why did Peter Attia leave NUSI?

A:

You'll have to ask Peter that one.


Q:

Pancakes or waffles?

A:

Personally? Waffles. Know Better Bread (which does not pay me in any way nor do I own stock) makes a good low-carb waffle.


Q:

NUSI appears to have slowed-down (latest press release was August 2015). What up? Any new experiments on the books?

A:

Our funding from LJAF ended in August 2016 and LJAF decided with Peter gone to try to fund nutrition proposals directly. So we've been short-staffed, to put it, mildly. We're still working to get study proposals together that can resolve these controversies and we're still hoping that LJAF will fund, but we're all working as volunteers now. We're also overseeing the two studies we still have outstanding. As such, NuSI is in a state of serious flux.


Q:

Hi Mr. Taubes. Thank you for all the efforts and tenacity you put into your work. Speaking of which:

How do you handle talking about that one topic again and again and (probably) encountering the same objections and arguments over and over? I suppose once you become the advocate of the no-sugar faction it must be difficult to escape the stigma of "Sugar-Gary".

A:

Well, the people who tend to want to talk to me are the converts. I think I would welcome conversations with those who disagree, but they find it easier to ignore than to confront. And I understand that. I feel the same way in other areas (like arguing politics).


Q:

Is there a movie deal in the works? Who do you want to play yourself on the big screen?

A:

Well, my book from the early 90s on cold fusion is under option, but that's about it. Re playing myself, if only I looked like Brad Pitt it would be an easy decision to make. No luck, there.


Q:

You do look a bit like Owen Wilson though...

A:

So I gather. As an old girlfriend of mine would have said, though, back when I looked a little like Sylvester Stallone, until Owen Wilson starts looking like Brad Pitt, looking like Owen Wilson is not all that great a thing.


Q:

I wanted to thank you for your hard work and investigation. Why We Get Fat has been eye opening for me. I read it a few years ago, but it wasn't until this past August that I started a LCHF diet (lazy keto till February). It's been amazing. But the problem is that I would love for my mom to get on board with this, but there aren't a lot of Russian-language sources for this information, are there any translations of your book(s) available?

A:

I do think there's a Russian translation in the works for either WWGF or The Case Against Sugar. I can't remember which. Either one, though, would help. I hope you have more luck convincing your family, though, that I've had convincing mine.


Q:

Do you ever review any subreddits here to check the pulse on your writings, etc? The demographics of Reddit are a far cry from the NYT. The same goes with TV, radio, and YouTube interviews. Do you or your team have any way to gauge the effectiveness of these appearances?

A:

Ahh, if only I had a team, I'd probably have time to do this. Occasionally I check into reddit, but I don't know enough to judge what I'm seeing.