Fat, Sugar and Science Fiction?

Gary Taubes’ recent features article “Is Sugar Toxic?” in The New York Times got so much play that I have to comment. Gary Taubes is a brilliant writer, but he is only partially correct.

Posted on | Mike Roizen, MD | Comments ()

Gary Taubes’ recent features article “Is Sugar Toxic?” in The New York Times got so much play that I have to comment. Gary Taubes is a brilliant writer, but he is only partially correct.

Taubes has had two lead articles in the Times recently – one on how bad added sugar is, and the other on how eating fat is not causing America’s weight gain issue. I think he concluded the latter just cause he wants to justify his bacon habit. The data are clear – sugar glycosylates proteins, and that leads to increased risk of vascular disease and cancer. And saturated fat and the protein it is associated with (the bacon or turkey etc.) causes inflammation. Yes, Gary Taubes is only partially correct – at least about the science – but he is such a brilliant writer and storyteller that if you weren’t sure of the science, he would lull you into a “bacon is great habit,” like he has himself. Unfortunately, that would lead to your increasing use of the health system. It isn’t fats in the blood that fat primarily changes; it is inflammation in your arteries and your immune system.  

Gary – and you – need to quit eating saturated fat-laden food from four-legged animals, if he and you are to avoid suffering from arterial and immune disease. Today’s tip: Food is NOT “Let’s Make a Deal.” Added sugars and saturated fat and four-legged animals cause inflammatory and protein changes in your body that last 180 and 23 days much longer than the joy from eating them lasts.

On the sugar issue, we agree. Sugar is toxic, and to be healthy, you need to avoid more than 4 gm of added sugar per hour. Maybe I’ll blog to help Gary get off his bacon habit – and we’ll provide him with the data that saturated fat and its associated protein (we aren’t sure whether it is the four-legged protein or the saturated fat, although the fat from two-legged animals seems to do it as well) changes your genes in ways that stimulate aging and inflammation that make vascular disease (heart disease, stroke, memory loss, impotence and, yes, even skin wrinkling) and cancer more likely. 

As to the medical stories of the week, I tweeted (@youngdrmike) these as the most important (and we discussed on YOU: The Owner’s Manual radio show which you can listen to at healthradio.net on Saturdays at 5-7 p.m. EST):

Story #1: Eating an apple every day really is good for your health.

 In a study of 160 women who ate either dried apples or prunes daily for one year, the women who ate apples saw their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – the “bad” kind known as LDL – drop by 23% after six months. At the same time, their “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL, rose about 4% over the course of the study.

  • Though the apple slices added 240 calories to their daily diet, these women wound up losing weight – 3.3 pounds, on average.
  • Researchers from Florida State University decided to put apples to the test because the fruit contains pectin, which improves the body’s ability to metabolize fat, and polyphenols, which dial back production of inflammatory molecules.
  • The idea that eating an apple a day could keep the doctor away can be traced to Pembrokeshire in southwest Wales. Nearly 150 years ago, a Welsh magazine called Notes and Queries published a longer version of the famous rhyme: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Story #2: Hookah use common among college students, Internet survey finds.

Sent to a random sample of students at eight North Carolina colleges and universities, this survey found that 40.3% reported having ever smoked tobacco from a hookah, nearly as many students (46.6%) who said they had ever smoked a cigarette. Nearly 25% of respondents said they were current users of cigarettes and 17.4% said they were current users of hookahs.

  • Many wrongly think water pipe use is safer than cigarettes. 

Story #3: Poor sleep may contribute to after-birth depression.

An Australian prospective study has found that poor sleep in early pregnancy might be one significant driver of depression in later pregnancy and after birth.

I’m still doing at least an extra 11 minutes of cardio every day. I’ve tracked them on Sharecare.com. The great news – Dr. Oz’s Move It and Lose It has been extended until August.

Blog written by Mike Roizen, MD
Dr. Roizen is a past chair of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee and a former editor for 6 medical journals with...