Sugar Is Not Toxic

OatmealBrownSugarBananas2Mark Bittman said that sugar is toxic:

It’s the Sugar, Folks, Mark Bittman, New York Times, 27 February, 2013

Sugar is not toxic.

One of the comments under his article:

This article is a gross distortion of nutritional and biochemical facts, that neglects the fundamental importance of sugars to the metabolism of life on this planet. The opening line (“Sugar is indeed toxic.”) is distorted and inane. Sugars are not toxic, as evidenced by our evolution of taste buds that respond so positively to them. Sugars are a dense source of energy, which is why our metabolic systems cherish them. Let’s leave such excessive, unsubstantiated commentary to The Onion or Mad Magazine, and just apply common sense to our diets.

Phillip E. Klebba, Ph. D.
Head of Biochemistry
Kansas State University

Klebba is right. Sugar is not toxic.

9 thoughts on “Sugar Is Not Toxic

  1. Bix Post author

    By the way, I don’t think fat is toxic either … nor is protein, nor are animal foods, nor are fruits (some people say fructose is toxic, it isn’t) nor are potatoes (Loren Cordain who founded the Paleo movement famously said that potatoes “punch holes into the membranes of the intestines”), nor are grains or beans or even dairy foods. I may not think it’s wise to eat a lot of some foods, but that doesn’t make them toxic.

    It is, as Klebba said, distorted and inane to refer to any of these foods which we evolved to eat as toxic. That kind of hyperbole usually has an agenda behind it … that isn’t about public health.


    1. Melinda

      I agree with you that his choice of wording is unfortunate and totally incorrect. But isn’t the context of his comments important?–i.e., in the context of the “Standard American Diet”, *added* sugar (defined in a link in MB’s article: isn’t healthy, b/c the SAD already contains considerable sugar from many sources? The PLoS study controlled for most everything, so couldn’t there be a link b/tw excessive sugar and the chance of developing metabolic syndrome? However, if someone eats in the admirable way your recommend and follow yourself, I doubt that added sugar would be a problem, would it? I’m just asking–don’t know the answer at all. On the other hand, Lustig (one of the study’s authors) has a conflict of interest, b/c he had already published a book on sugar vis-a-vis diabetes, to which MB also links.

      I don’t know–you’re the expert, not I. But there is also a correction at the bottom of the article:
      “Mark Bittman’s column on Thursday incorrectly described findings from a recent epidemiological study of the relationship of sugar consumption to diabetes. The study found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher rates of diabetes — independent of obesity rates — but stopped short of stating that sugar caused diabetes. It did not find that “obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.” Obesity is, in fact, a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, as the study noted.”


      1. Bix Post author

        If you’re saying that, in the context of the Standard American Diet, added sugar isn’t healthy because Americans already consume a lot of sugar, then could you also say that added fat isn’t healthy because Americans already consume a lot of fat? And added protein isn’t healthy because Americans already consume a lot of protein?

        I know this is an overused phrase but it fits here. The dose makes the poison. Yes, I think that someone can eat too much sugar. But I also think that someone can eat too much fat, protein, animal food, and even drink too much water. I happen to think that the fat and protein are more of a problem than the sugar.

        The American Diabetes Association says it’s a myth that eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

        By the way, he says that insulin resistance is a direct result of consumption of added sugars. But he says nothing about fat. I have cited studies for years that show insulin resistance results from a high-fat diet.
        Wikipedia/insulin resistance: “Dietary fat has long been implicated as a driver of insulin resistance.”


      2. Cerise

        Melinda, how is having a book published a conflict of interest?? That’s a bizarre claim you make. The book (presumably) expresses the reasons he thinks sugar is toxic. That’s all. It’s pretty much like publishing a paper. If someone publishes several papers, do you think that represents a conflict of interest if she publishes a new paper on the same topic?


  2. Melinda

    I completely agree with you re added fat, protein, etc. And yes, the dose makes the poison. I just wondered what you thought–I know you’ve been recommending low-fat, no animal protein diet for ages! Ahead of your time!


  3. Melinda

    It’s a conflict of interest b/c the article is likely to spur sales of the book. That’s why such things are often mentioned as conflicts of interest in the fine print of scholarly articles.


  4. Melinda

    As a scholar, I can tell you that publishing papers is a very expensive undertaking for the authors. Unlike the old days, you do not get paid for publishing articles–in fact, it’s usually the opposite: you pay the journal. I know it sounds bizarre, but it’s true. I’m dealing with it right now.
    Books, though, if they’re good ones, generate income for the author.


  5. Pingback: Mark Bittman’s New Venture “Aimed At The Upper Middle Class” | Fanatic Cook

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