The sugar conspiracy

The sugar conspiracy, by Ian Leslie.

In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long? …

The “experts” had it wrong and with the help of powerful interests buried the critics:

John Yudkin … was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly. The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Is saturated fat or sugar “the diet problem”. Seems now that they accused the wrong culprit back in the 1960s:

For at least the last three decades, the dietary arch-villain has been saturated fat. When Yudkin was conducting his research into the effects of sugar, in the 1960s, a new nutritional orthodoxy was in the process of asserting itself. Its central tenet was that a healthy diet is a low-fat diet. Yudkin led a diminishing band of dissenters who believed that sugar, not fat, was the more likely cause of maladies such as obesity, heart disease and diabete. But by the time he wrote his book, the commanding heights of the field had been seized by proponents of the fat hypothesis. Yudkin found himself fighting a rearguard action, and he was defeated.

Reminds me of the carbon dioxide theory for global warming (it’s wrong too).

At best, we can conclude that the official guidelines did not achieve their objective; at worst, they led to a decades-long health catastrophe. … Scientists are conventionally apolitical figures, but these days, nutrition researchers write editorials and books that resemble liberal activist tracts …

If, as seems increasingly likely, the nutritional advice on which we have relied for 40 years was profoundly flawed, this is not a mistake that can be laid at the door of corporate ogres. Nor can it be passed off as innocuous scientific error….

John Yudkin’s scientific reputation had been all but sunk. He found himself uninvited from international conferences on nutrition. Research journals refused his papers. He was talked about by fellow scientists as an eccentric, a lone obsessive. Eventually, he became a scare story.

Yep, just like climate change.

But, as Gary Taubes puts it, obese people are not fat because they are overeating and sedentary – they are overeating and sedentary because they are fat, or getting fatter. …

The most prominent recommendation of both governments was to cut back on saturated fats and cholesterol (this was the first time that the public had been advised to eat less of something, rather than enough of everything). Consumers dutifully obeyed. We replaced steak and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oils, eggs with muesli, and milk with low-fat milk or orange juice. But instead of becoming healthier, we grew fatter and sicker.

It appears now that all the recommendations were back to front.

UPDATE: Gary Taubes has two interesting podcasts: one, two (hat-tip Matthew).

UPDATE: Salt, We Misjudged You. Similar reversal, also by Gary Taubes.