The award-winning journalist once again takes up the cudgel in defense of health.
In his latest book, Taubes (Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, 2010, etc.) makes the provocative contention that sugar, rather than fat, is the primary cause of obesity and a major culprit in a spectrum of chronic diseases. While it is now recognized that a drastic increase in the consumption of sugar and refined starches correlates to a dramatic rise of obesity in populations that adopt a Western diet, the author argues that nutritionists have yet to pinpoint its significance. He points out that obesity is a marker for the overconsumption of carbohydrates responsible for the onset of Type 2 diabetes. The problem, he writes, is not the number but the kind of calories consumed—nor is it necessarily a diet high in saturated fats. Taubes compares sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup to “toxins…that do their damage over years and decades, and perhaps even from generation to generation.” Furthermore, diabetics and obese people are “more likely to have fatty liver disease” as well as other degenerative diseases due to elevated carbohydrate intake. For this reason, Taubes is dismissive of advice (from Michael Pollan, among others) that urges an across-the-board reduction in the total amount of calories we consume. The author buttresses his provocative contention with population studies showing the increase of chronic disease in populations that subsist on a Western diet. An example is the increase since 1960 of chronic disease among the indigenous population of a New Zealand protectorate that substituted a carbohydrate-rich diet for the saturated fats they formerly consumed. Taubes makes a convincing, well-documented case against the modern carbohydrate-rich diet. Limiting their intake is an important factor in longevity, not merely as a matter of weight control.
An important book that merits—and will likely receive—broad circulation and discussion.