How a typical journalist misunderstands sugar

A friend sent me an article from the magazine “Bicycling,” warning readers to avoid some lies about sugar. A link to the article follows below. I recommending reading it now, and seeing what you think, before considering my opinion in the balance of this post.

I enjoyed the article, but mostly for the entertaining nonsense.

The author’s very first statement, that people who stop eating sugar don’t have long to live, is completely wrong. She probably is thinking about how the body uses glucose for energy on a cellular level, but the digestive system converts starches and even proteins into glucose, too; sugar itself isn’t at all necessary. In fact, carbs are the only nutrient with no minimum safe level – there are many documented cases of people going decades without eating a single carb, much less sugar. Take Eskimos, for example.

Now, for sure, I’m not discounting that endurance athletes probably find sugar to be performance-enhancing. My friend, a pro bike rider, pointed this out, and I’m sure there’s good science for why it’s true.

But this article itself doesn’t contain any actual science. Their expert, Leslie, is a “registered dietitian,” and she reflects the bad old days of our nutrition science. (Fat makes you fat, Count Calories, etc.)

More of her incorrect statements:

1. “The brain only can use glucose.” Wrong, the brain can also work quite well on ketone bodies, or ketones, which is what it gets in ketosis.

2. “The body primarily uses glucose”. Nope, the body ONLY uses glucose – except in ketosis, when it also toodles along happily on ketone bodies.

3. She’s also implying that you need to eat sugar to have glucose available to your cells, which isn’t at all the case, as I mentioned above, although it may be an efficient way to do it during intense physical activity.

3. “Artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain, diabetes, destruction of gut bacteria, etc.” Actually these studies are anything but conclusive, and are blown up far beyond their importance by journalists who know that ironic conspiracy theories sell advertising. The health costs to sugared soda drinking are crystal clear and well-documented in comparison.



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