a Gary Taubes YouTube video transcribed by Liz Reedy
We ran Part 1 in our April 2017 edition of Northwest Senior News
Part 2 continues beginning at 12:31 minutes
What I learned is that the German and Austrian researchers had a very different hypothesis of obesity than we do. We think that obesity is caused by taking in more calories than you expend. It’s an energy balance. I’m just curious how many of you believe that to be true. You know, you eat too much and you’re sedentary.
I once gave a lecture on why we get fat at the Tufts School of Nutrition, which is the hotbed of the anti-fat movement in America. That and the University of Washington, here are two places that really do not like my work. Before the interview I said, “How many of you believe that obesity is caused by taking in more calories than you expend.” Nobody raised a hand. And I said, “Well, I don’t have to give this lecture because I’m going to try to convince you it’s fake.”
The counter argument is that the Germans and Austrians had come to the conclusion that obesity is a hormonal defect. Back in the 1920s, obese people would say, “Well, it’s hormones.” And it was considered an excuse even back in the 1920s before any hormone but insulin had been discovered. People had no idea how hormones work in the human body.
The medical community would say this was an excuse for fat people to not eat in moderation like lean people would. This idea, built up through the 1960s, was hammered on over and over again. It can’t be a hormonal defect; “fat people just don’t have willpower like I do”, was the implication.
The Germans and Austrians said that it was clearly a hormonal defect; it’s got to be a hormonal defect. I mean, look at it. Men and women fatten differently. It means that sex hormones are involved, right? Men and women go through puberty, the boys lose fat, the girls gain fat; it’s the sex hormones, you know? You get these localized accumulations of obesity. One of the most famous is called the steatopygia. [also spelled steatopigia: the state of having substantial levels of tissue on the buttocks and thighs]
Anyway, World War II comes along, the German and Austrian schools vanish. Some of these researchers fled to the United States but they didn’t get jobs because nobody wanted to hire these German Jewish researchers; certainly not Ivy League institutions, which actually had protocols in place so as not to be overrun by Jewish admissions and Jewish students. In fact, a lot of them ended up moving west, and it’s one of the reasons that places like Washington and Berkeley, where I live, are such great universities because they embraced these people.
This idea that obesity was a hormone regulatory defect evaporated with the Second World War. After the war, very well-meaning US nutritionists and young doctors sort of recreated the science of obesity from scratch with no idea how to do science and no understanding of endocrinology or genetics or metabolism and even profoundly, nutrition.
They ended up with this idea that it’s just about eating too much. Gluttony and sloth. It was like a Biblical theory of obesity. In the 1960s when researchers started to understand what it is that actually regulates the accumulation of fat in your fat cells, by that time we had already decided that obesity was an eating disorder caused by taking in too many calories. Nobody cared what the endocrinologists were learning about obesity. Ed: We’re at 16:36 minutes.
I was doing a BBC TV show in which they were interviewing me in Oakland via Skype. The host of the BBC show was a geneticist who studies obesity at Cambridge University. He studies the genetics of obesity. He got a little angry at me because I kept asking him questions when he wanted to ask me questions.
One of the questions I asked him was “Do you know what regulates fat accumulation in fat cells?” And he said, “Well, we don’t know that.” And I said, “No, you don’t know that because you studied genetics.” But if you pick up an endocrinology textbook or a biochemistry textbook, it’ll tell you about the hormone insulin, [and it will] tell you what enzymes are in insulin that regulate and pull fat in or out of fat cells.
Anyway, this whole story ties back to sugar. If obesity is a hormonal regulatory defect and if it’s more or less controlled, as the endocrinology and biochemistry textbooks will tell you, by the hormone insulin, then whatever works to elevate insulin in your bloodstream is going to make you accumulate excess fat; that thing happens to be sugar.
My Comments: Sugar and the other refined carbohydrates in our processed-food diet is one of our major health problems. Anyone who writes and knows anything about nutrition warns us about this problem.
William Dufty in Sugar Blues described his battle with sugar addiction and how destructive sugar was for his health. Dr. Stephen Sinatra in Chapter 4, Sugar: The Real Demon in the Diet of The Great Cholesterol Myth writes as to how sugar contributes directly to heart disease.
The problem for us is the pervasiveness of sugar in our diet. Even in things touted as being good for us such as “organic” can be remarkably high in sugar. A client recently told me about her favorite bread, Dave’s Killer Good Seed Organic Bread with the yellow wrapper. The nutrition information indicates 5 grams of sugar per serving with one serving being 140 calories. 5 grams x 4 calories per gram = 20 calories per slice. 20/140 reduces to 1/7, meaning that around 14% of the calories are sugar. Obviously, a loaf of bread such as this is light years better than white foam bread, however it is still a hidden source of sugar. To Dave’s credit, some of their other lines have less sugar.
Continuing: Again, it’s targeting this condition of insulin resistance. If you’re insulin resistant, your pancreas has to pump out more insulin to make take up the high blood sugar in your body and deal with it. Basically, you have a very strong chain of effects that would implicate whatever is the cause of insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes.
Again, I think it’s vitally important in doing this story to understand the history. So much of this book [ he is referring to his book, The Case Against Sugar.] is about the history. I’m also saying in 2016 we’ve missed the story. So, I’m making this argument that the nutrition community got it wrong, the obesity community got it wrong despite the anti-sugar movement.
The question is: why is the anti-sugar movement about sugar being empty calories if we consume an excess, whatever that means. Nobody ever says lung cancer is caused by smoking in excess, right? You say it’s caused by smoking. But we’ll say obesity is caused by consuming foods in excess. Is it just caused by consuming foods, just as lung cancer is caused by smoking?
What I had to do with this book is explain why such a profoundly important hypothesis had been ignored. Something I argued time and again is that the evidence is actually ambiguous. I’m speculating by saying sugar causes all these diseases. Why is it in 2017 I have to speculate we haven’t done the research necessary to narrow it down.
The other part of the story is how the sugar industry worked in the 50s, 60s, and 70s to take what the nutritionists were giving them and make sure no one ever concluded that sugar was uniquely toxic. This is not a short-term toxin like we’re used to, like a chemical which might kill you if you inhale it for three weeks, but a long-term toxin that works over years and decades to create these chronic conditions, diseases, and disorders that are so burdensome, and will eventually shorten your life like no other.
My Comment: This is why so many people find it difficult to realize that their stent placement, obesity, stroke, cancer, or heart illness is the result from past decades of nutritional abuse. I have been in homes and seen processed, sugary junk foods sitting on people’s kitchen counters. Invariably they are taking several meds for blood pressure, heart regulation, and/or type 2 diabetes. They also tend to be overweight.
Continuing: Much of what I do in this book is also to talk about the history of the sugar industry and their public relations campaigns. They ran concerted campaigns in the 60s and 70s, first to fight back the challenge that artificial sweeteners presented in the 60s. It’s funny because people like to say it’s a surreptitious campaign by the sugar industry, but I first realized this happened because I was reading a New York Times article.
In 1967, a vice-president of the sugar association took credit for spending almost a million dollars to fund studies to demonstrate that cyclamates were carcinogenic. And to a New York Times reporter he says, “Look, if some competitor can undersell you ten cents to a dollar, wouldn’t you throw a brick bat at him if you could?”
It wasn’t a surreptitious campaign, it was just capitalism at its best. Artificial sweeteners came into the market in the 1950s. By the 1960s they were taking over the soda industry and the sugar industry felt they had to fight it back. So they did. They funded studies and they got cyclamates banned, and they almost got saccharine banned based on science that was almost unbelievably bad.
In the 1970s, when a very influential British nutritionist named John Yudkin was claiming that sugar was deadly and that it was probably the cause of diabetes and heart disease, the sugar industry funded a campaign of researchers who believed saturated fat was the problem.
Comment: Weren’t they clever by scapegoating saturated fats?
Continuing: The nutritionists and cardiologists in the United States had concluded that saturated fat was what caused heart disease, and if it caused heart disease, then it caused diabetes. All they had to do was pay the nutritionists to stand up and write what they really believed. What they believed was that sugar was benign.
This report produced by the sugar industry had been designed as a part of a public relations campaign by a hot-shot public relations firm in Chicago. The report was called Sugar in the Diet of Man. It was about ten or eleven articles supplemented in a journal. They gave it to the FDA, and the FDA had to decide whether sugar was safe or not. The FDA read the report and said, “Clearly, these very influential nutritionists believe sugar is benign, so we will too.”
One thing led to another, and the end result was that they managed to, in effect, shut down sugar research in the country for about thirty years. In fact, by the mid-1980s, for someone to say sugar might be harmful and to study it, was to be accused of being a quack. It wasn’t just that the NIH wouldn’t fund such studies, but it would actually ruin your reputation as a scientist if you claimed to do it.
What happened was some research was done anyway. One of the paradigm shifts I talk about in all my books is in the 1960s we focused on the idea that we get heart disease because fat raises the cholesterol in our blood and our arteries clog up. We often use this clogged pipe analogy. Some people talk about artery-clogging fats. Stop at 23:32 minutes Continued next month
My concluding comment for this month: For those who have followed our review and digests of Dr. Stephen Sinatra’a The Great Cholesterol Myth, we have learned that the demonization of saturated fats and cholesterol has been one of the greatest nutrition and health frauds of the past 60 years. End