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The Case Against Sugar

Our love of sugar is killing us

By Gary Taubes
12-minute read
Audio available
The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes

The Case Against Sugar (2016) offers a critical look at how the sugar industry has grown ever stronger despite medical data showing that it can be harmful to our health. Find out how this happened, and how critics have been silenced and ridiculed despite overwhelming evidence that this one ingredient can be linked to many of the most serious diseases in the Western world.

  • Nutritionists and people who care about their health
  • Dieters and anyone who would like to lose a few pounds
  • Parents who think fat is more dangerous than sugar

Gary Taubes is an award-winning journalist who covers science and health. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic and the British Medical Journal. He is also the author of Why We Get Fat and The Diet Delusion.

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The Case Against Sugar

By Gary Taubes
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
Synopsis

The Case Against Sugar (2016) offers a critical look at how the sugar industry has grown ever stronger despite medical data showing that it can be harmful to our health. Find out how this happened, and how critics have been silenced and ridiculed despite overwhelming evidence that this one ingredient can be linked to many of the most serious diseases in the Western world.

Key idea 1 of 7

There was a time when sugar wasn’t an additive in the majority of our processed foods.

The history of sugar can be traced back thousands of years to the island of New Guinea and its native people, who were the first to plant sugarcane for cultivation.

For a long time, harvesting sugarcane was the only way to produce sugar, but this eventually became a costly burden. The sugarcane plant only grows in the tropics, and it was complicated and expensive to transport it to the rest of the world.

So, before other methods of producing sugar were developed, the cost and labor of sugar production made it an ingredient that only rich people could afford. It was such a luxurious status symbol that it was included, along with pearls and other treasures, in gifts that the King of Spain would habitually receive.

But it was only a matter of time before sugar was to become cheap and widely available, and this was primarily due to a plant now known as the sugar beet. Sugar beets can be grown just about anywhere, and once a process was developed to extract beet sugar, the ingredient became a whole lot easier to come by.

Then came the steam engine, which brought on the Industrial Revolution. As a result, a refinery in the 1920s could produce the same amount of sugar in a day that used to take a decade to produce in the 1820s.

It was this cheap, refined sugar that eventually made it possible for companies to produce the junk food found in supermarkets today.

In the early nineteenth century, people primarily used sugar to sweeten tea, coffee or other hot beverages. But with the new methods of refining sugar, sweet foods like candy, ice cream, chocolate bars and soft drinks could be mass-produced at a low cost. Plus, previously sugar-free foods, like bread, could now also be sweetened with sugar.

One of the most revolutionary sugary products was Coca-Cola, which was invented in 1885 by John Pemberton, who originally promoted the drink as a “brain tonic.”

It wasn’t until years later, when Asa Candler added more sugar and turned it into a soda, that it became the world’s most popular soft drink.

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