A Journalistic Sweet Spot

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Over at Slate, I recently found a worthwhile article critical of That Sugar Film, an Australian, Supersize Me-like "documentary." I particularly appreciated the following point, the likes of which I rarely see in journalism about nutrition:

There's so much more to question in the movie. [Filmmaker Damon] Gameau uses 40 teaspoons of sugar as his daily baseline for comparison -- he claims this level of consumption is normal in Australia -- but the most recent data show that Americans, at least, consume less than half that total every day, an average of just 18 teaspoons. Gameau also treats it as a given that among the sugars that we eat, fructose is uniquely bad for health. In this, he's following the line of Gary Taubes, a journalist who has made this argument for years, and who appears throughout the film. But Taubes understands that his case has not been proved. That's why he's spent so much time raising tens of millions of dollars for a series of laboratory studies that might give us better answers. (Ferris Jabr of Scientific American has a great review of fructose science, and a few of its outstanding questions.) [links dropped, bold added]
This isn't the first time I have praised Taubes's efforts to test his ideas, nor is his fearlessness of being proven wrong the only reason.

This story, so unlike the tiresome, quasi-religious thinking I so often see about diet, is a breath of fresh air.

-- CAV


: Corrected spelling of Journalistic in title.


Steve D said...

It's quite possible that Taubes is correct but only for certain people. Thousands of studies have been done but we still do not have clarity on many aspects of diet. One reason may be the high variation in metabolism within human populations and individuals, due to both genetic and environmental factors.

In other words, on an individual level, it is useful to experiment with different diets and exercise regimens to find the one best for you. (the utility of experiment may be generalized to many other things in life)

Also, I agree with your comment about the pseudo religious thinking which is prevalent wrt diets and dieting. Maybe this has to do with the way the human mind works; the reason people are religious in the first place.

Gus Van Horn said...


On the pseudo-religion front, there are lots of things lending that area to that approach. Big among them are the abundance of questions for which there appear to be no clear-cut answers and, in the face of that, the chance to perform rituals as a means of appearing to be "doing the right thing".