Pure, White, and Deadly
Pure, White, and Deadly by John Yudkin was originally titled Sweet and Dangerous when it was first published in 1972. Yudkin was a British physiologist and nutritionist who was one of the first scientists to claim that heart disease and obesity were caused by a high sugar diet. This 2012 edition has a forward by Robert Lustig, M.D., who is author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease
Yudkin makes two important statements right in the start of the book. 1) “There is no physiological requirement for sugar; all human nutritional needs can be met in full without having to take a single spoon of white or brown or raw sugar, on it’s own or in any food or drink.” 2) “If only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would be promptly banned.” Those are some strong words, but he builds a solid case against sugar.
Early in the book, he touched upon the history of sugar, the different types, and where sugar originated from. The statistics our a bit outdated now, but in 1970, the UK was leading the way with 120 pounds of sugar consumed by the average person in a year, and the US was at 102 pounds. We are talking about 2 pounds or more a week. 200 years earlier, sugar consumption was about 4 to 5 pounds a year. It’s disheartening to think that those statistics have only gotten worse since then. He mentioned all the health conditions that can be related to a high intake of sugar. Those conditions include peptic ulcers, chronic indigestion, gallstones, Crohn’s disease, cancer, cavities, dermatitis, gout, coronary disease, and diabetes. It also appears that sugar effects growth, maturation, and longevity in negative ways. He also discussed the way that sugar can promote dental disease, indigestion, and alter the microbes in the gut.
In the final chapters, Yudkin shared stories on his interactions with the sugar industry. The sugar industry liked to emphasize that sugar was an essential component of the body, which in truth, glucose is. However, they were referring to sucrose (table sugar). They liked to cause confusion, blurring the line between glucose (blood sugar) and sucrose (table sugar) which have different chemical structures and effects upon the body. Their other marketing materials hailed sugar as being a key fuel for providing energy. He quotes a sugar industry pamphlet, “Sugar works for you with each bite you eat- for your body is an energy factory with sugar as your fuel.” The energy topic was one of the few things they had to focus on, since most other foods actually contain some beneficial nutrients too. In the final part of the book, he addressed all the ways that the sugar industry tried to discredit him. During the time that Mr. Yudkin was releasing the information linking sugar to numerous health conditions including heart disease, Dr. Ancel Keys released information from his Seven Countries study (I have read it originally contained 22 countries but he excluded countries that didn’t fit his hypothesis, but I’ll save that for another post) which he claimed linked dietary fat to heart disease. Keys admitted that both fat and sugar were linked to heart disease but that clearly fat was the culprit. Most people who eat high fat tended to also eat high sugar. For some reason (possibly because Keys had better political connections), even though both sugar and fat could be implicated in causing heart disease, fat was declared the enemy. This final chapter very interesting.
If you are looking to learn more about sugar and it’s negative affects on health, I think you will find this book an interesting read. It was a quick read and tops out just above 213 pages. Sugar has been in the headlines an awful lot lately and here is a chance to learn from the original authority.