How the sugar industry defends itself against claims that sugar is unhealthy

Happy Halloween! Mother Jones has a video and multi-part "long read" feature with Gary Taubes on how the sugar industry works to fight research that links sugar consumption with chronic diseases. Taubes is the author of "Good Calories, Bad Calories," and is working on a book about sugar.

In "Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies," Taubes explores the industry's campaign to "frost its image, hold regulators at bay, and keep scientists from asking: Does sugar kill?"

There's a document dump here with internal memos revealing a strategy to safeguard sugar from "opportunists," "pseudoscientists," and "enemies."

Also, "How a Former Dentist Drilled the Sugar Industry," some classic creepy vintage sugar ads, and a timeline of "sugar spin."

Right, then. Enjoy your trick-or-treating!


  1. Remember the story where Monica Lewinsky was giving Clinton a blow job in the Oval Office while he was taking a call?  Guess who has the pull to interrupt a Presidential blow job with a phone call?  Big Sugar.

  2. This video implies that any and all sugar is a bad thing. I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure we need a certain level of sugar to survive. Sure, the processed food industry likes to pump their products full of sugar, fat and salt because on some level we crave it, I get that. But rather than railing against all sugar in general, shouldn’t critics like this be giving us a better idea of how much sugar is “enough” vs. how much is “too much?” I realize it varies tremendously from one person to another but the implication that drinking a can of Coke is like playing Russian Roulette strikes me as a draconian, knee-jerk response to a more subtle problem.

    1. Well, you probably could get by without any sugar, but you have to realize that Taubes (who is a writer rather than a scientist or physician) is really anti-carb, and not just anti-sugar. While the relative merits of carbs versus proteins is a valid scientific question, I always wonder why the proponents of low-carb diets like to point to conspiracies run by “Big Sugar”, “Big Corn”, “Big Wheat”, etc. Don’t they realize that the same arguments could be used to claim that *they* are puppets of “Big Beef”, “Big Pork”, etc?

    2. That’s Taubes’s hobbyhorse. He’s obsessed with the idea that sugar is a POISON and it makes people fat. He doesn’t think exercise works and believes that we all should be on low-carb Atkins diets. If scientists or nutritionists disagree with him, they’re stupid or evil.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest argued against his very first pro-Atkins NYT piece and he responded by saying that they were “an advocacy group that has been pushing low-fat diets since the 1970s.” Okay, does that answer any of their criticisms? No. Besides, they’re a non-profit consumer advocacy group. They’ve changed positions as scientific knowledge has progressed and mostly they get criticized BY the food industry and libertarian politicians for pushing for healthier food options and more labeling (including on alcohol and cigarettes).

  3. I’m so sick of Gary Taubes. I’ve been wary of him since the first interview I heard with him. He went on and on about how exercise cannot work because it makes you hungry. He repeatedly mocked and insulted scientists if they got results he disagreed with. If your attitude toward science is that any study you don’t like the conclusion of is wrong, I’m going to view you as on the same level as Ken Ham or Jenny McCarthy.

    Human nutrition is way more complex than “SUGAR IS POISON AND BIG SUGAR IS EVIL!” He promotes the Atkins diet, which has plenty of known potential side effects without necessarily being any better for weight loss. Plus, eating a pound of meat a day is certainly helping the meat industry, which is not exactly a super nice and cuddly alternative to the sugar industry.

    As one article on Taubes (and this is by someone who’s known him for 15 years and likes and respects him) said, “When someone divides a complex phenomenon into two basic categories, he invariably oversimplifies and distorts reality.”

  4. a low carb diet is actually a high fat diet, not high protein. taubes raises good issues. there was a point where the nutritional establishment implicated fat as the cause of heart disease, etc, rather than sugar or other simple carbohydrates. imagine the implications if taubes is correct (which, after reading his books, i think he probably is)! try this: have your blood lipids checked and then try the diet you think will be most healthy. then check them again. try low carb, high fat. try vegetarian with whole grains, etc. see what works in your body.

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