Sweet Conspiracy: A History of Deadly Scientific Mistake
For almost 40 years, we have been afraid of saturated fats, abandoning them in the name of health and harmony. Although back in 1972, the English scientist John Yudkin strongly stated that eating fat does not lead to obesity and heart disease, sugar is to blame. However, the results of his research were ridiculed. The fact that we were victims of a profound scientific error is not to blame for scientific research, but the usual human qualities: fear, charisma, the desire for power.
Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specializes in treating childhood obesity. In his 2009 lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” he strongly argues: fructose, commonly used in modern diet foods, is guilty of the American obesity epidemic.
About a year before the video was posted, Lustig made a similar speech at a conference of biochemists in Adelaide (Australia), after which one of the scientists approached him and asked if Lastig had read Yudkin’s works. Lastig shook his head. “John Yudkin,” the scientist continued, “is a British professor in nutrition, who as early as 1972 spoke of the dangers of sugar in his book Clean, White, Deadly.”
If at least a small part of what we know about the effect of sugar on the body was related to another food supplement, it would be immediately banned.
John Yudkin, a scientist
The book was a success, but Yudkin cruelly paid for it: prominent nutritionists, teamed up with food manufacturers, destroyed his reputation and career. He died in 1995, disappointed and forgotten by everyone.
Perhaps a scientist in Australia was trying to amiably warn Lastig that he would jeopardize his reputation as a scientist by launching a high-profile campaign against sugar. But, unlike Yudkin, Lastig caught a fair wind: almost every week there are fresh studies about the harmful effects of sugar on our body. In the US, they begin to recommend limiting sugar consumption, in the UK Chancellor George Osborne announced the introduction of a new tax on sweet drinks. Sugar becomes the number one dietary enemy.
We are seeing a significant shift in priorities. When Yudkin conducted his research on the effects of sugar in 1960, adherence to a low-fat diet gained momentum – saturated fats were the main enemies. Yudkin led a constantly decreasing group of dissenters who believed that sugar rather than fat was a more likely cause of illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But, by the time he finished writing the book, strategic heights had already been taken over by low-fat nutritionists. Yudkin tried to resist, but was defeated.
Not only defeated, but actually buried. Returning to California, Lustig searched the book Clean, White, Deadly in bookstores and on the Internet, but to no avail. In the end, he got a copy of it by submitting an application to the university library. After reading the introduction to the book, Lustig was shocked: “Damn it, this guy guessed everything already 35 years ago.”
Beginning of an era of low-fat diet
In 1980, after lengthy consultations with respected American nutritionist scientists, the US government issued its first “Dietary Recommendations.” Management has set nutritional trends for hundreds of millions of people. Doctors based their prescriptions on it, food companies developed products to follow this diet. The influence of the leadership spread outside the United States: in 1983, following the American example, the United Kingdom issued similar recommendations.
The main advice was to reduce the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol – for the first time people were advised to eat something less. Consumers obediently obeyed and replaced steaks and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oil, eggs with granola, and milk with low-fat milk or orange juice. But instead of becoming healthier, they became fat and sick.
Analyzing the statistics of changes in the weight of people after the war, we can assume: something has changed since 1980. Only 12% of Americans were obese in 1950, 15% in 1980, and 35% in 2000. In 1980, 6% of Britons were obese, but over 20 years this number has increased more than 3 times. Today, ⅔ of the British are obese or overweight, making Britain the “fattest” country in the EU. The incidence of type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity, has increased in both countries.
We can conclude that in the best case, official recommendations did not reach their goal, in the worst – they led to a long-term medical disaster. Naturally, the search for the guilty began. Scientists are traditionally apolitical, but here nutrition researchers began scribbling articles and books reminiscent of brochures by political activists, which threw accusations towards major players in the sugar industry and fast food.