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More on Taubes, Lustig and toxic sugar

April 26th, 2011

A quick post with a couple of links for those interested in reading more about the Taubes/Lustig “toxic sugar” debate. To hear more from Taubes, check out his answers to numerous reader questions at the NYT site. And to read David Katz’s response to Taubes/Lustig (hat tip to Yoni Freedhoff at Weighty Matters), click here. A peek at Katz’s conclusion:

As dietary guidance, the vilification of one nutrient at a time has proven as flighty as hummingbirds, propelling us from one version of humbug to another. My advice is to grasp firmly your common sense, and stay grounded.

The hummingbird stuff makes more sense if you read the whole post, but it’s generally a Pollan-esque argument rather than a research-y one. Still, it’s about where I come down. Taubes’s response to that point:

This is a common argument over the years, that reductionism in nutrition research misses the point. Michael Pollan makes this argument in “In Defense of Food.” The counter argument is that this is, indeed, a science and one way sciences make progress is by reducing problems down to their basics. This can often be misleading, and Suzanne’s point (as with Michael Pollan’s) that it has been in the past is very true.

I’ve been a strong journalistic opponent of the belief that salt causes hypertension or that dietary fat or saturated fat causes disease and in doing so I’ve attacked the bad science behind some of these reductionist arguments. But just because over the years one single nutrient after another has been singled out as harmful doesn’t mean that one single nutrient isn’t harmful. It only means that the research is poor and some of the beliefs about how research should be done in these fields are also misconceived.