the sweetening of america

The Sweetening of America

I DO NOT think that there is a sugar “conspiracy” in America.

I DO think, however, the food industry and sugar producers have realized that they can make lots and lots of money by adding sugar to the foods we eat.

Good Calories, Bad Calories

Gary Taubes, in his book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health,” shines the light on what happened in food-industry board rooms across the country and how they have influenced the way we eat.

The first half of his book is more like a short history of sugar.

Sugar cane is not native to North America. It was introduced by early explorers. Soon after, the food producers realized that Americans had an insatiable taste for it and sugar mills sprang up everywhere. They began making sugar from beets and corn. It became less and less expensive, making it more available to all Americans.

Taubes’ book is also a short history of the food-industries tactics that were used to make food more palatable. In short, they did this by adding more sugar (also fat and salt). The term “bliss point” was coined as a term that referred to the amount of salt, sugar, and fat that optimized the deliciousness. I’ll share more about bliss point in a later blog.

The Food Industry Has Created a Sugar Culture in America

I started out by saying that I don’t believe in a sugar conspiracy. But honestly, it feels like a conspiracy. It feels like sugar growers, food-industry CEOs, and yes, nutritionists have conspired to make us fatter, sicker, and addicted to sugar.

It feels that way, but the truth is that we have no one to blame but ourselves. Maybe not our kids, but adults are to blame. We love sugar. We crave it, and bear much of the responsibility for our over consumption of sugar.

The main point of Taubes’ book is to answer the question: Which macronutrient is most responsible for the current health crisis in the country? Carbs (sugar) or Fat? Nutritionist have debated this for decades but they seem to be coming to a consensus that refined carbohydrates play a primary role.

The old weight-loss adage, “Calories in, calories out” suggested that we simply need to burn more calories than we take in. All calories are equal. A calorie is a calorie. This model is losing favor. Nutritionists are seeing the effects that refined carbohydrates have on our metabolic system and are concluding that, “all calories are not the same.”  Weight gain and weight loss have one thing in common: sugar.

Sugar is the culprit.

The takeaway from Taube’s work is to be aware of what we’re eating. If you’re carrying extra weight and are overweight, it’s the sugar that’s causing it not the fat. His book makes us aware that for years, food industry leaders have steered us toward sugar with lots of added sugar in our foods and consequently we’ve gotten fatter. They have marketed sugar to kids and to adults and we’ve gotten fatter. The sweetening of America has led to the fattening of America.

Sometimes, those of us decrying the consumption of sugar feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. We wonder if anyone is listening. I hope that you can take a step back and look at the history of sugar. Consider picking up Taubes’ book and read about the way the food industry discovered the “bliss point” for food so you will buy their brand. I hope you’ll learn how advertising influences our choice of foods for your kids. If you read his book, you begin to see the manipulation that’s gone on for decades by the food producers and sugar growers.  That said, nobody’s forcing you to buy and over consume sugar. There’s a lot of blame to go around for the fattening of America.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Arm yourself with the truth about sugar. It’s killing us one teaspoon at a time.


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