Doctors warn: “Sugar is the new tobacco”


More and more people now realize that the fear of natural fats has been a mistake that’s led us into a health disaster. Sugar is the “new tobacco” – and low-fat products are often loaded with sugar.

MailOnline: “Sugar is the new tobacco”: Health chiefs tell food giants to slash levels by a third


Naturally Fat-Free Sugar

Robert Lustig’s New Talk on Sugar!

Fantastic video on sugar and the obesity epidemic

All about sugar


  1. Galina L.
    They would find something else to mix in, like lactose or dry fruit paste into yogurt and sweet pumpkin or apple puree into a vegetable soup. Probably, paste of golden raisins could be used as a sugar substitute in a chocolate fat-free milk. I am sure China will find ways to manufacture it at less cost than HFCS.
    Unless government stop scary people with dangers of fat, food industry would have to balance between the taste of their product and health recommendations. Stonyfield tried to substitute some of their sugar with Stevia - customers rebelled, they returned to the previous recipe.
  2. Wader Henderson
    "Sugar is the “new tobacco” – and low-fat products are often loaded with sugar."

    True, but that is for folks buying boxed and bottled "low fat" products.
    There are loads of foods that are naturally low-fat and have little to no sugar in them.

    The continual association of the "low-fat" craze and its spin-off products as being emblematic of actual low-fat eating leads one as far astray as those who think high-fat low-carb is all about eating bowls of butter topped with bacon.

    The internet seems to feed on itself forming ever more narrow pools of folks Hell bent on hearing more and more information backing up exactly what they already believe.

    Like those we see being called to prayer 5 times a day.

    Replies: #3, #4
  3. PatrickP
    "bowls of butter topped with bacon"

    Mmmmm...sounds delicious.

  4. FrankG
    And yet here you still are, reading post after post and feeling the need to comment on it... what contempt you must have for other people.. people not as smart as you eh?
  5. bill
    My contention is that they are one and the same. Cigarettes
    are doped with sugar in the form of molasses and lots of
    other substances. So the 'tobacco' addiction is in reality
    a sugar craving.

    People who give up tobacco commonly use candy to
    assuage their cravings

  6. Jan
    For many once started on tobacco, addiction can follow.

    I think the same can be true of sugar - that sweet taste! Yes many foods have 'natural' sweetness but I do think it un-necessary to add the large amounts of additional sugars that go into some meals, sugary drinks etc. Quoting from the original article "Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focused on profit not health"

    It is still up to each individual what they choose to eat and drink but more could be done, all sides concerned have to be willing to take appropriate action.

    All the best Jan

  7. Max
    Frankly sugar, and many other sources of carbohydrates, have been around for hundreds and thousands of years without it causing a diabetes epidemic. And there is no question that too many individuals today consume too many calories of sugar.

    But with respect to type 2 diabetes we have many incidences of thin people becoming insulin resistant. Development of diabetes in non-obese individuals would indicate that the causal factor, or factors, is not just simply too much sugar / carbohydrates.

    I would expect that over time the discussion will expand to include the detrimental impact of those relatively new industrial polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA – e.g. canola and other similar vegetable oils). The presence of PUFAs in packaged food items, and restaurant foods, is just as prevalent as sugar. Wouldn't be interesting to discover that PUFAs damage cell mitochondria and that insulin resistance was merely a byproduct of a resulting impaired cellular response to insulin.

    Reply: #9
  8. DickR
    The neo-sugar alarmists need to consider few key points.

    1) The great majority of the dietary intake of the traditional Bedouins comes from wheat (90% of calories), typically in the form of full-grain bread, which is especially the case for the poor who eat very little else. It was estimated that the Bedouins traditionally consumed on average 750 gm, or the equivalent of 25 slices of full-grain bread per day. The sugar intake was observed to be modestly high among traditional Bedouins, a trait comparable to that of the populations in Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela who have traditionally had among the highest rates of per capita sugar consumption in the world and low rates of coronary heart disease mortality. It has been documented that diabetes and heart attacks were all but entirely absent in the traditional living Bedouins which had an average serum cholesterol of 4 mmol/l (155 mg/dl), and that the great majority of the population were exceptionally lean by western standards, both in terms of weight and skin thickness.

    Sucrose in the diet and coronary heart disease (Keys 1971; response to Yudkin's pseudoscience)

    2) It has also been demonstrated that the cessation of a cholesterol-rich diet and the subsequent lowering of serum cholesterol results in the regression of atherosclerosis in various mammalian and avian species, including herbivores, omnivores, carnivores and nonhuman primates. In one experiment Armstrong and colleagues induced severe atherosclerosis in rhesus monkeys by feeding a diet with 40% of calories from egg yolks for 17 months. The egg yolks were then removed from the monkeys diet and replaced with a cholesterol-free diet with either 40% of calories from corn oil or low-fat chow with 77% calories from sugar for three years, resulting in a reduction of serum cholesterol to <140 mg/dl and a marked regression of atherosclerosis.

    3) In the Women’s Health Initiative the control group who were advised to lower fat intake significantly increased the intake of sugar and showed trends towards lower body weight and waist circumference. If anything there was a slight trend towards a lower risk of diabetes in the control group.

    4) Kempner’s rice-fruit diet which was based on rice, fruit, fruit juice and sugar resulted in weight loss in most patients.

    Replies: #10, #30
  9. Jonas A
    Sugar and carbs has been around for billions of years and diabetes has not been a problem. This is not about that sugar has been known or around us but its about how it is beeing used.

    For 1000 of years it was used as medicine and was consumed by the people. Only a few rich could afford to eat it. It is only in the last 100 years or so the big masses consumed sugar. If we start looking at the past decades sugar consumtion has sky rocketed because of candy, sodas and added sugars in the food. It is even found in bacon and meatballs.

  10. Murray
    Good grief. A new moniker for the RichardLDL promote statins black ops squad.

    How many amylase alleles do the Bedouin have? 30? How do they prepare the grains traditionally? Relying heavily on isolated data points (cherry picking) is unhelpful given the incomplete state of knowledge, unless one has an ideological agenda. As someone from Northern European stock in which starchy foods were a late addition, I expect I would be in the 1-4 range of alleles for amylase, so a high starch diet would be suicide. I would be one of the millions culled by natural or sexual selection over generations in traditional high starch cultures. RichardLDL (now DickR, Dickk last week) is advocating cultural genocide for aboriginals here in Canada who have evolved on low starch diets.

    Humans have big brains that have a lot of cholesterol. Studies looking at other animals are not reliable comparators.

    Other data and personal experience suggest high carbohydrate and low fat is bad for the brain with aging, and high fat with good fats is not bad for cardiovascular health. For example, the limit of stretching is often the result of loss of flexibility in arteries. One study found that stretching improves arterial flexibility, to an extent, so I have done regular stretching for years for that reason. After reading several studies on metabolic health, I increased consumption of foods rich in vitamin K2, D3 and retinol (aged cheeses from milk of pastured cows, liver, eggs of pastured chickens, etc.) and this improved my flexibility considerably. I went from touching my toes to getting my head between my legs within weeks, despite never coming close to that before notwithstanding years of stretching. Vitamin K2 in combination with D3 and retinol activates an enzyme that moves calcium out of soft tissue and into bones, so this apparently increased arterial flexibility for me and increased my range of stretching. Some British researchers have even attributed the so-called French paradox to cheeses such as Roquefort (which uses unpasteurized milk from grass fed ewes and is age fermented).

    Similarly, loss of balance can be a sign of loss of neurons or neural branching. Studies have shown that higher average blood sugar increases the rate of annual loss of brain mass. Taking HbA1c down from 6.0 to 5.0 will about half the rate of loss according to one study. A Mayo study showed that those in the study eating the most carbohydrate (which raises blood sugar) had 3.6 times the rate of signs of cognitive decline than the average. Those who ate the most fats, had less than half the rate of signs of decline. (The books Grain Brain and Brain Trust discuss from the clinical perspective of leading neurologists the effect of diet on the brain.) A Framington study showed that those who had the highest cholesterol levels had the least cognitive decline with aging. (The brain is approximately a quarter cholesterol.)

    As Wade aptly observes, the ill effects of consuming lots of sugar and the effects of low fat versus low carb are two different issues. I am with Dean Ornish on eliminating sugar and starch. I get all the carbs I need from vegetables and some fruit, mostly cranberries. I see lots of evidence high fat is not detrimental to cardiovascular health (avoiding vegetable oils and trans fats and acellular sugar and starch). There is evidence that low fat is bad for long term brain health, but not conclusive. There may be ways to hack low fat to preserve brain mass, just as hacking high fat avoids CVD.

  11. Murray
    I should add the observation that while not everyone has the genes, alleles, epigenetics or cultural food preparation traditions to handle a high carbohydrate diet, everyone has the basic metabolic capacity to handle high-fat low-carb. The reason is that any fasting capability means the ability to draw on stored body fat for energy. Fasting and the general ability to withstand caloric deprivation is a high fat low carb diet, since energy in those situations is drawn mostly from body fat.
  12. DickR
    Native people in America have relied on starch as the staple food for thousands of years, potatoes, quinoa, beans, corn, etc. The best example are the long-distance runnner tribe, Tarahumara's, who rely almost solely on corn and beans, they also drink corn made beer in large quantities. Small, isolated Arctic populations make the exception to this pattern, speaking of cherry-picking.

    It seems like every time a challenge to the low-carb religion is delivered it is shouted down as cherry-picking. Heck, 3/4 of the known world from the ghettoes of Cairo to Pacific islands, relied mostly on starch-based, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet still few decades ago; diabetes, obesity and CHD were rare on this 3/4 of the world.

    The Kuna Indians from Panama who also consume a starchy diet that is relatively rich in fruit and added sugar have also been observed to by quite slim.

    Northern European people such as Swedes have nothing to do with European paleolithic hunter-gatherers genetic wise, modern day Germanic Scandinavians are direct descendants of the Middle-Eastern agriculturalists.

    Reply: #22
  13. Murray
    DickR, there is a difference between an existence proof and a universal proof. The existence of exceptions disproves a universal claim. To cite counter examples does not establish the universal claim and disprove an existence proof. As to European descent, Weston Price described well Swiss diet. Sure they ate grain: the equivalent of one slice of bread from grain milled the day before (low oxidation) with a piece of cheese (raw milk from cows on alpine grass, high in omega 3) the same size. So work it out. A piece of bread with a piece of cheese the same volume. Sounds low carb high fat to me. Price found these people to be among the healthiest he found. So just citing the fact they ate bread hardly proves that LCHF is intrinsically unhealthy. It says nothing about how well adapted they may be to a low fat high carb diet. It certainly does not support a universal proof that high carb is good. Perhaps I am a logic nanny having spent years doing existence proofs in analysis, logic and math generally, but one needs to be mindful to avoid interpretive error. I cringe every time I read someone says "everyone is not X" when they mean "not everyone is X." It indicates a failure to distinguish existential proof from universal proof. So it would be cherry picking to cite an isolated example (not knowing the full genetic, epigenetic, metabolic and developmental story) as support for a universal proof, but logically sound (not cherry picking) to use it for an existence proof. Of course, logical errors well suit ideology and are useful to cow people vulnerable to such errors.
  14. FrankG
    Sugar industry's secret documents echo tobacco tactics
    Sugar Association's intent to use science to defeat critics uncovered by dentist

    Remember when smoking was endorsed and even encouraged by Doctors?

    In terms of sugar usage over thousands of years: consider that the N. American First Nations also used (still use) tobacco as part of their traditional way of life.. does that somehow make smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco safe?

    As for "Native people in America have relied on starch as the staple food for thousands of years"... in some parts of the American continents perhaps but the Arctic Inuit are far from the only exceptions to this... as I'm sure the First Nations who followed the vast herds of buffalo across The Plains would agree.

    Replies: #15, #16
  15. FrankG
    I'm sure the First Nations who followed the vast herds of buffalo across The Plains would agree...

    That is, the few remaining may agree: given that the vast herds of buffalo were wiped off the face of the planet by European settlers and the surviving First Nations forced (literally at gunpoint) into "reservations" where they have really not been doing so very well on Western foods, high in sugar and refined starches -- these populations are among the greatest risk for Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome etc... etc... and yet this DICK thinks he can point to these people as examples of being well adapted to live on starch! Your current pseudonym is very well suited... DICK!

  16. Murray
    Inuit, Cree, coastal, they all had low carbohydrate cultures. One expects low grain tolerance, and indeed, they seem to get the highest obesity and diabetes rates from a food pyramid diet high in flour. Dr. Wortman's My Big Fat Diet is an entertaining and hope-inspiring glimpse at how some coastal aboriginals lost weight and reversed type two diabetes returning to tradition low carb high fat diet. My wife is part Cree and discovered this past year she is grain intolerant, as eliminating grain has cured her serious headache issues and summer allergies. So this all supports an existence argument that there is not a universally even level of carbohydrate or grain tolerance. If someone is gaining weight with an otherwise healthy diet, a plausible hypothesis is that that individual's carbohydrate tolerance has been exceeded. The fact that others thrive on the same level does not disprove the hypothesis. That kind of logic is what you see in sales brochures. Phinney and Volek found a wide range of variability in the level of dietary carbohydrates at which different people begin to have elevated degrees of liponeogenesis in the liver.
    Reply: #17
  17. FrankG
    "Inuit, Cree, coastal, they all had low carbohydrate cultures."...

    As do the Sherpas in Tibet. I find it interesting to watch documentaries around the ascent of Everest, where the European climbers are constantly "carb-loading" on cereal, pasta and mars bars; while the locals (who actually do all the heavy lifting and make far more trips up and down the mountains) live on yak meat, yak butter and yak milk!

    Similarly a recent documentary "The Emperor of the Steppes" with an international expedition excavating ancient tombs in Mongolia.. the local fare..? Mutton... for breakfast, lunch and supper!

    When I lived with the Inuit for a time (on Baffin Island), they would always ensure that they ate local "country food" before venturing out on the land/sea-ice, as "Southern" food never really kept them warm enough.

    Of course none of this proves that an human -- as an opportunistic omnivore -- cannot live on starches, just that they are not required -- by that same opportunistic omnivore -- for a vital life.

    In terms of human baseline: the fact hat we store our major energy supplies as saturated animal fat, and that my own genetic ancestors lived through ice-age European winters, suggests to me that LCHF is a viable choice.

  18. Marcy
    What I get from the above posts is that everyone is different and has different tolerance to different foods. What works for one may not work for another.
  19. smc
    There are indeed individual variations in our ability to tolerate certain food types. But let's not forget the big picture over the past 30-40 years. This indisputable epidemic of obesity/diabetes/metabolic syndrome has corresponded precisely with the reduction of saturated fat intake in the Western diet and the subsequent increase in carbs, particularly sugar, and pro-inflammatory omega-6-laden industrial vegetable oils. This is not logical proof, to be sure: correlation is not causation; but in medicine this is about as good as you can get. In my own case, the reversal of my previous low-fat/high carb regimen into LCHF has definitely improved my health in myriad ways.
  20. Galina L.
    I am Russian, looking like I am partially Asian. Russia is situated in both Europe and Asia, and there is a significant part of the population with genes from not-Slavic tribes, especially from the people who lived from their cattle, on meat and milk-derived products.
    As I remember myself, I always craved more meat, tried to eat less bread , hated to eat gruel for a breakfast, and was more indifferent to sweets than average people. I also was very prone to get infection, had more flatulence than others and multiple allergies. It was amazing how healthy I became on a LC a diet without any issues others report like so called "carb flu", trouble sleeping, insane cravings for cookies and bread. I don't think I am "broken" , or overeating carbohydrates made me fat. I just tolerate carbs worse than people like my husband who feels fine eating pasta and sweets, however, he can't find much sweets in our house anyway. I bake for him sourdough rye bead, and keep pasta to a minimum in his diet, I think buckwheat and potatoes are better choices.
  21. Galina L.
    To tell you the truth, I don't completely understand what is so bad about sugar. Glycemic index of it is lower than of white rice and potato, even rutabaga, and almost the same as green peace, carrots, beets, people don't always eat a lot if it, unlike rice, for example.
  22. JAUS
    Before accusing others of cherry picking stop using extreme examples like the tamahumara. They run extreme distances so of course their tolerance for carbs are greater, same with elite athletes they tolarate more junk because they empty their glycogen storage while training. Excessive exercise is dangerous and it's not uncommon for 'healthy' athletes to die of heart failures.

    The only tribe that I'm interested in are the 'san'. They have the oldest genes of all humans and have lived like our ancestors for at least 100 000 years until recently. So what is the original human diet then? Mogongo nuts (very fatty nuts), meat, insects (and other bugs), water melons (not the same as the modern sweet ones), snakes, roots and very rarely honey. They eat less then 5% carbs, granted that there are still some of them that know the ancient skill of persistance hunting, that don't require any weapons, they mostly hunt using poison arrows nowadays. Humans are not carb eaters we are meat and fat eaters, no matter what all the vegan nutjobs say.

  23. Michelle
    Wow, did you read the comments on this guardian piece? We have a long way to go folks and it's going to be a bumpy ride.

    People actually think that a Paleo or LCHF diet is tasteless an boring when the exact opposite it true. I think it is going to take a few generations to pass away before the 'sugar is toxic' message becomes ingrained in our daily lives.

    M x

    Reply: #26
  24. DickR

    In the same post I mentioned that 3/4 of the world still ate a low-fat, high starch diet 3-4 decades ago. Europe & US made the exception. If you did not like my Tarahumara example, I'll get back to my previous example of the Bedouins who ate a diet with just 11% fat (% calories). Many of the Bedouin women were forced to stay inside their tents all day allowing for little exercise, yet these women with almost no exceptions were slim and free of vascular disease. If starch was fattening, then all Ornish's patients were somehow able to escape this while eating a diet of 80% carbohydrate (whole-grain pasta, barley, oats, etc)

    Reply: #29
  25. Murray
    Michelle, the affect of responses to suggestions to cut sugar or high-glycemic starch is what first tipped me off to the fact we are dealing with an addiction. An addict will be attuned to direct threats to a supply of the fix; indeed, there in an unconscious radar to sense indirect threats. I believe this is why presenters in favour of low carb at scientific conferences face apoplectic negative emotional outbursts.

    One sees a similar pattern with drugs elsewhere. British slavery and colonialism was driven largely by a growing addiction for sugar. Need more sugarcane. Addiction trumps innate sense of fairness and social justice. I look at local businesses that are cash cows these days and they are caffeine and sugar. Chocolate is the perfect storm, with theobromine to boot. Turn it into a health food by calling it dark chocolate; stroke of marketing genius. (I eat 100% chocolate. The so-called chocolate lovers I encounter could not imagine eating 100% chocolate, which shows what is really driving the obsession: a new flavouring for sugar.)

    Once you start looking for it, the signs of widespread sugar addiction become readily apparent. So don't be surprised by intemperate responses. View them as evidence of the difficulty they face. Feeling sorry for them is the more appropriate response, I believe.

  26. Graham_LCHF
    Might be of interest. . .

    Sugar is now enemy number one in the western diet

  27. Galina L.
    I would be targeting as unhealthy the practice of regular snacking between and after meals. In my opinion such eating pattern makes sugar more unhealthy, and normal (so called "real") food more fattening. I consider anything not free from calories a snack - a fruit, a fistful of nuts, a sweetened cup of tea or coffee.
  28. Galina L.
    Dick, as soon as people who eat their traditional diet find themselves in a westernized environment, they are mostly unable to experience protective properties of their diet which was a part of their traditional life-style and environment, even when they don't exchange their normal food choices with fast food. I am an immigrant into US myself,and I observed many immigrants. We do not like American food, we tell each other what normal Americans eat as a funny joke during our gatherings, we eat liver, cook meat jello,I just made 4 gallons of sauerkraut, but almost every family have to find a way to avoid problem with increasing body masses.
    Western world just can't go back to life-style of less economically developed world, even if research find that Bedouins or Inuits or Afghan peasants don't have cardiovascular diseases or cancer.
  29. Pierson
    DickR, are you familiar with Ray Peat's research on sugar, by chance?
  30. Paul the rat
    Br J Nutr. 2011 Aug;106(3):390-7. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100033X. Epub 2011 Mar 22.

    Prevention and reversal of diet-induced leptin resistance with a sugar-free diet despite high fat content.

    Shapiro A, Tümer N, Gao Y, Cheng KY, Scarpace PJ.
    Author information

    Chronic consumption of a Western-type diet, containing both elevated sugar and fat, results in leptin resistance. We hypothesised that fructose, as part of the sugar component of Western-type diets, is one causative ingredient in the development of leptin resistance and that removal of this component will prevent leptin resistance despite high fat (HF) content. We fed rats a sugar-free (SF), 30 % HF (SF/HF) diet or a 40 % high-fructose (HFr), 30 % HF (HFr/HF) diet for 134 d. The HFr/HF diet resulted in impaired anorexic and body-weight responses to both peripherally (0·6 mg/kg, assessed on day 65 of the diet) and centrally (1·5 μg/d, assessed on days 129-134) administered leptin, whereas SF/HF-fed rats were fully leptin responsive. At day 70, half the HFr/HF-fed animals were switched to the SF/HF diet, reversing the leptin resistance (assessed 18 d after the diet switch). The HFr/HF diet elevated serum leptin and reduced adiponectin, and levels were restored abruptly at day 3 after switching to the SF/HF diet. These data demonstrate that a diet containing both HFr and fat leads to leptin resistance, while an isoenergetic SF/HF diet does not. Moreover, removal of fructose from this diet reverses the leptin resistance and the elevated leptin, suggesting a cause-and-effect relationship.

    These data suggest that fructose is the bioactive component of a HF/high-sugar diet that is essential for the induction of leptin resistance.

  31. Dr.G
    I WISH sugar was the new tobacco. When other people eat sugar it doesn't stink, ruin my food and poison me.
  32. Robin Wilcourt
    Dick R. The studies you cite re: high carbs do not take into account the total caloric intake of people and that is impossible to do accurately as we all know. One can only observe/estimate the caloric intake but it would not have been high in the tribesmen you allude to.

    The amount of exercise combined with a relatively low caloric intake might- just might- acoount for the fact that these people are "slim."

    The facts are that high fat low carb diets result in decent biochemical profiles and that ancient man did NOT eat a HCLF diet. The people who do today have all the downsides and few of the health benefits derived from a HCLF diet. Citing the healthiness of the Middle Eastern populations is funny given that the Bedouins of today are fat, diabetic ansd disease ridden.

    I am wondering if you are really high procarb promoter; if so,why are you?
    The evidence abounds that grains are not healthy and excessive CHO is deadly. What is your agenda? What is your point?

    It's bloody obvious that high protein, high fat diets (built into our DNA) are the way to go.

    I spend too much time treating people who eat your "recipes." Help me out.

  33. Sarah
    Check out this crazy article. Looks like a desperate effort to stop people from going lchf -

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