"Diet composition in Cuba also changed during the study period. By 1993, carbohydrate, fat, and protein contributed 77 percent, 13 percent, and 10 percent of total energy, respectively, whereas in 1980 their respective contributions were 65 percent, 20 percent, and 15 percent. The primary sources of energy during the crisis were sugar cane and rice."The AICR recommends avoiding sugar to prevent cancer. They say that sugar sweetened beverages "cause weight gain and obesity." So, why did Cubans lose weight and lower their cancer risk while eating more sugar, and more carbohydrate overall? I thought if anyone could tackle that apparent conundrum it would be a research institute willing to promote dietary intervention for cancer prevention. After all, in 1994 the AICR "provided core grant funding for The China Study, a seminal project conducted by Professor T. Colin Campbell." And Campbell has spent a good portion of his career advising the consumption of a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet ... one that essentially eliminates animal foods, and so one that gets a good portion of its calories from carbohydrates, of which sugar is one.
- Impact of Energy Intake, Physical Activity, and Population-wide Weight Loss on Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Mortality in Cuba, 1980–2005, American Journal of Epidemiology, 2007
I don't believe sugar intake, by itself, is the cause of weight gain and obesity. I don't believe it causes cancer or diabetes. I don't even think sugar is unhealthful. It's just a carbohydrate.
Dr. McDougall argues these points well:
The McDougall Newsletter: Sugar, Coated With Myths, 2006
The McDougall Newsletter: Sugar, 2010
It's difficult to measure the impact of a discrete nutrient, in this case sugar, when it is operating in a dynamic, intricate, and highly interdependent system - the human body. This is one reason why nutrition researchers now focus on dietary patterns in lieu of single nutrients. It could well be that within the context of a low-fat, whole food plant-based diet, sugar is benign. (Indeed, a high-fat, high-sugar dietary pattern, a "meat-and-potatoes" pattern, has been linked to increased risks for cancer and diabetes.) This is my hunch. This is what I thought AICR would say to me. Instead, they just deleted my comment. It makes me wonder what groups are funding them these days.
Dr. McDougall took up the topic of dietary patterns back in 2006 before it went mainstream:
"The main reason sugar has a bad reputation is because of the company it keeps. People living in Western societies eat loads of rich foods that make them fat and sick. Along with their high intake of meat, dairy, and refined grains, they also eat a lot of simple sugars. In this caldron of malnutrition, sugar’s exact contribution becomes indistinct. But, in most people’s minds, sugar is the villain — the scapegoat, taking focus off the animal-foods and free fats (vegetable oils), which are much more of a burden to one’s health than simple sugar is."On a related note, I think taxes on soda and sweetened beverages are wrong. They are not being levied for health reasons. They are being levied for political reasons. If it was about health then there would be taxes on processed meats like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, and on junk foods like chips and cakes.
Sugar And Diabetes, Part II
Sugar And Diabetes
Study: People Who Eat More Sugar Weigh Less