Saturday, March 02, 2013

“This study is proof enough that sugar is toxic. Now it’s time to do something about it.”

The study is

"The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data" by Sanjay Basu, Paula Yoffe, Nancy Hills,and Robert H. Lustig

Here's the study Abstract:   (A simpler NY Times version is just below)
While experimental and observational studies suggest that sugar intake is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes, independent of its role in obesity, it is unclear whether alterations in sugar intake can account for differences in diabetes prevalence among overall populations. Using econometric models of repeated cross-sectional data on diabetes and nutritional components of food from 175 countries, we found that every 150 kcal/person/day increase in sugar availability (about one can of soda/day) was associated with increased diabetes prevalence by 1.1% (p <0.001) after testing for potential selection biases and controlling for other food types (including fibers, meats, fruits, oils, cereals), total calories, overweight and obesity, period-effects, and several socioeconomic variables such as aging, urbanization and income. No other food types yielded significant individual associations with diabetes prevalence after controlling for obesity and other confounders. The impact of sugar on diabetes was independent of sedentary behavior and alcohol use, and the effect was modified but not confounded by obesity or overweight. Duration and degree of sugar exposure correlated significantly with diabetes prevalence in a dose-dependent manner, while declines in sugar exposure correlated with significant subsequent declines in diabetes rates independently of other socioeconomic, dietary and obesity prevalence changes. Differences in sugar availability statistically explain variations in diabetes prevalence rates at a population level that are not explained by physical activity, overweight or obesity. 

The NY Times article translates this into less academic language:
Sugar is indeed toxic. It may not be the only problem with the Standard American Diet, but it’s fast becoming clear that it’s the major one.
A study published in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal PLoS One links increased consumption of sugar with increased rates of diabetes by examining the data on sugar availability and the rate of diabetes in 175 countries over the past decade. And after accounting for many other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity.
The Times reported just a few days ago that the Mediterranean diet helped prevent heart attacks and strokes.
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

People have known for a long time that fat and sugar weren't good for health.  Dean Ornish's  Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease, came out in 1990 arguing for a low fat diet.  The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook  came out in 1994.

It's hard to 'prove' that one political party has a more sensible program than another.  And it takes a certain level of scientific savvy to see why evolution and global climate change caused by humans make far more sense than alternative explanations.

But everyone understands that obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes are not good things.  And it's not hard to understand that sugar and fat lead to those conditions and that the incidence of obesity and diabetes can be dramatically reduced by intelligent diet. 

This knowledge has been around for years.  So I would argue that many of the people who are obese and/or have diabetes probably also eat an unhealthy selection of foods.  Either because they don't know any better or because they don't have enough self control and discipline to resist the call of the junk food industry and buy and cook healthy food.   I also must acknowledge that junk food is often cheaper than healthy food, so some poor folks may eat junk food for economic reasons.  Though smart poor folks find ways to feed their family well. 

So I'd offer this chart of the ten most and least obese US states color coded to show how they voted in the last presidential election. Some might argue that the quality of their choices in food reflect the quality of their political choices as well. 

Most Obese U.S. States Least Obese U.S. States
State% Obese
1. Mississippi34.9%
2. Louisiana33.4%
3. West Virginia32.4%
4. Alabama32.0%
5. Michigan31.3%
6. Oklahoma31.1%
7. Arkansas30.9%
8. Indiana30.8%
8. South Carolina30.8%
10. Kentucky30.4%
10. Texas30.4%

State% Obese
1. Colorado20.7%
2. Hawaii21.8%
3. Massachussetts22.7%
4. New Jersey23.7%
4. Washington, D.C.23.7%
6. California23.8%
7. Utah24.4%
8. New York24.5%
8. Nevada24.5%
8. Connecticut24.5%


  1. Interesting to note that Michigan had significant immigration from a number of the other most obese states in the 20th century.

    In the other column, Utah also similarly experienced significant immigration (from Xenu), possibly explaining it's deviation in both voting patterns and Amway participation rates.

    1. lol oops

      "In the other column, Utah also similarly experienced significant immigration (from Kolob)"

    2. I was wondering how I'd missed the Mormon-Scientology connection until now. But it was the kind of comment that makes me smile in appreciation.

    3. Actually the UT sugar is culturally motivated. Mormons have very few vices and sugar is the one they can indulge in without religious censure. We have Mormon neighbors who give us treats for plowing their driveway in the winter. Inevitably it is something with so much sugar in it, your teeth hurt to eat it.

    4. Anon 2:57am - If I read your comment right, you're saying Mormons eat more sugar. But they're on the least obesity list.

    5. Google "Utah Idaho Sugar Company".


    1. Thanks = this is applicable to lots of other situations, like oil drilling and other industry assurances of their expertise and responsibility.

  3. Michigan, whose rural communities tend to vote republican even though their national representation is Democratic.

  4. There was a spam comment that I deleted. But when I deleted it, it caused a comment on the spam to be deleted, so I'm reposting it.


    spam link.

    Dave Sharpe the cofounder of is apparently responsible for this crap being posted here. Looks like he's fronting some sort of viral internet spam mlm scheme.

    For what it's worth, one complaint found online reads:

    My complaint is that this company are misleading in their sales information and are using hypnotic marketing methods to recruit people.


    I'm not sure if he's signing this "Jerk" or calling the spammer "Jerk."

    1. Next time I'll be less ambiguous. The spammer was the Jerk.


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