First it was too many calories. Then it was too much fat. Now there’s a full-on war on sugar, our latest dietary enemy No. 1.
In health policy and nutrition science circles, this single nutrient is taking up a lot of oxygen these days. Sugar is being blamed for the obesity and diabetes epidemics. We’ve started to tax it in our beverages and remove it from our schools. New York Times columnists and svelte celebrities are eliminating it from their diets to retrain their palates or detox for the new year. Food companies are trying to cut back on it in a few of their products.
In his compelling book, The Case Against Sugar, journalist Gary Taubes argues that we should view the sweet stuff as toxic — in the same league as cigarettes or alcohol. Other anti-sugarists go further, suggesting we should call it an addictive drug and regulate it as such.
But that’s just one side of the debate. Other health experts will tell you that focusing on a single nutrient like sugar is outdated, that the causes of obesity are complex and multifactorial, and that overemphasizing sugar’s harms could even be dangerous for public health.
The backlash against sugar, and the science behind it, is a lot more complicated than it seems. Here are 11 facts to clear up the confusion.