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Sugar or Fat

April 10, 2016

I recently read an article called “The sugar conspiracy” in the Guardian newspaper.  It was about the cause of obesity, which once was fatty foods, but now seems to be foods high in sugar.  The first thing I noticed in this long article was that there was no conspiracy of the conventional kind, at least not yet.  There was no conspiracy of large corporations to suppress information on sugar in the diet.  This did happen in the case of tobacco and lung cancer, but is not happening for sugar.  Instead, it’s scientists and nutrition experts who are opposing this change of cause.

Scientists and researchers do resist change, preferring to support the conventional wisdom of the time.  It’s their typical reaction to a new theory, by defending the existing theory.  I read about this behavior in one of Stephen Jay Gould‘s essays, in the case of the theory of mass extinction by meteor impact, proposed by Luis and Walter Alverez.  It took about ten years before their theory was accepted by geologists and paleontologists.  Scientific theories are supposed to be open to change, but it may take some time before this change takes effect.

The concept of sugar as the cause of obesity, rather than fat, comes from several recently-published books.  Most of the public seems to have accepted this idea, but it’s still controversial among scientists and nutrition experts.  There is good scientific evidence implicating sugar as the culprit, but more scientific studies are needed to convince scientists and experts.

Consider one of our major industries, the producers of carbonated beverages.  They are in the process of replacing sugar with artifical sweeteners, but they attempt to maintain the same sweetness level in their beverages.  They do this for a good reason.  The public wants to drink sweet-tasting beverages.  The companies know that an optimum sweetness level will produce the most sales of their product.

Scientists and nutrition experts now operate on a shakey scientific ground.  According to the article, there’s an absence of well-designed scientific studies that show fatty foods to be the cause of obesity.  This connection has been conventional wisdom for many years, of course.  Instead of good science, they rely on people with authority and reputation in the obesity field.  In some cases, science has been misused as a way to prove what they already believed.  Some scientists and experts even have vested interests in diets that they have developed.  The field is a bit of a shambles.

It seems likely that sugar is the real culprit in obesity.  With a few more well-designed scientific studies, scientists and experts will be forced to change their opinions.  Likely a few of them will lead the way.  Maybe it won’t take ten years this time around.


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