How sweet it isn’t.
In his new book, “The Case Against Sugar” (Knopf, out now), health and science journalist Gary Taubes argues that our collective sweet tooth isn’t just making us fat — it could be killing us in ways we can’t even imagine.
“People are dying today, literally every second, from diseases that seemed virtually nonexistent in populations that didn’t eat modern Western diets or live modern Western lifestyles,” Taubes writes. Here, Taubes tells The Post why sugar is the prime suspect in a deadly diet.
It increases the risk of dementia
Researchers believe insulin resistance, associated with high sugar intake, can impair some brain functions and weaken the brain’s ability to clear away the “plaques and tangles,” which are thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
“If sugar consumption increases our risk of dementia as we age, surely eating less of it would help to minimize the risk,” says Taubes, assuming we want to age “with all our faculties intact."
It makes cigarettes even worse for you
Cigarette tobacco is often cured using a technique that turns its starches into sugar, or by soaking the tobacco leaves in sugar. The sugar allows smokers to inhale the smoke more deeply, making tobacco “as addictive as possible,” author Gary Taubes says. “Being able to take [the smoke] deep into the lungs, and absorbing all the carcinogens,” leads to further nicotine cravings.
It could be feeding our cancer
Taubes and many in the medical community believe that consuming sugar leads to insulin resistance, a condition in which cells don’t respond to insulin effectively, causing the body to produce more of the hormone to compensate. Scientists have found that cancer cells require insulin to grow.
“If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that sugar causes cancer,” Taubes writes.
Sugar stimulates the exchange of the chemicals between our bodies and brains that make us happy. The more sugar we eat or drink, the less of these chemicals we produce on our own, and the more we turn to sweets for that same response — each bite a “kindling of a lifelong craving,” Taubes writes.
But he says there is hope. “If we go long enough without it,” Taubes says, “our brain returns to a baseline where life becomes perfectly enjoyable and rewarding without it.”
It leads to heart disease
Eating too much sugar can lead to excess insulin, which is linked to high blood pressure and, ultimately, heart disease. According to Taubes, too much insulin stimulates the nervous system, increasing heart rate and constricting blood vessels.
“If you had one way to fix the American diet . . . one way to make it much better and healthier would be to remove most of the sugar,” he says.