Food nanny Walter Willett: Sugar causes premature death

Walter… we eagerly await some scientific evidence for that claim.

The Washington Post reports:

“Telling people the problem is all fructose is completely wrong,” says Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. “In the amounts being consumed, sugar can lead to serious damage and premature death. I think it’s fair to say that’s toxic,” he says. “But it doesn’t mean everything else is good.”

As sugar intake increased during the 20th century, so did life expectancy. Certainly too much sugar, like too much of anything, can be a problem. What level is “too much” will likely vary from person to person. But there is no evidence that typical sugar consumption in a healthy individual poses any problem whatsoever.

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12 responses to “Food nanny Walter Willett: Sugar causes premature death

  1. “Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

    A nutrition DEPARTMENT?

  2. Sugar is essential to health and life. It is what your body burns for energy, warmth and thinking. 100% of the carbohydrates you consume are converted to sugar. Your body doesn’t know or care if the sugar comes from table sugar, HFCS, white rice or organic brown rice. If you fail to consume enough carbs your body can converth the protein and fats to sugar and if you fail to consume enough calories it will convert body fat to sugar and when that runs out it converts muscle mass to sugar. Without sugar you die. Now, go drink a big gulp.

  3. Gone: I remember a few years back when the food nannies were dissing sugar and pushing “healthy carbohydrates”, they were horrified to discover that the human body can turn carbohydrates into sugar. An amazing discovery for the “scientific community”, we learned that in the third grade back when the earth was cooling.

    • I remember a few years back when the food nannies were dissing sugar and pushing “healthy carbohydrates”, they were horrified to discover that the human body can turn carbohydrates into sugar.

      Except that plenty of them are still pushing this “advice” apparently in the hope that nobody will notice!
      Apparently with some sucess since many people no longer realise that “sugar” and “carbohydrate” actually mean the same thing.
      The human digestive system separates some polysaccharides and disaccharides into their constituent monosaccharides. (Any it can’t do this with are known as “fibre”).

      It get’s even dafter when you consider that polysaccharides actually contain more “sugar” than either monosaccharides or disaccharides. (Due to the way that glycosidic bonds work.)
      Typically they’d be claiming something like “sucrose bad, amylopectin good”. Which is utter nonsense. If they could manage the likes of “sucrose bad, amylopectin worst”. That would at least indicate some understanding of chemistry and biology.

      N.B. the digestive system cannot change monosaccharides into different monosaccharides.In theory the liver can change galactose to fructose or glucose; fructose to galactose or glucose; glucose to fructose or galactose in actual practice this dosn’t tend to happen.The idea of “All carbohydrates are changed to glucose” being a common myth. Fructose and galactose are, in practice, far more likely to be changed into fats or directly used for respiration.
      Similarly mammary glands will sythesise galactose (from non carbohydrate sources) in preference to attempting a glucose to galactose conversion. (Possibly they are also capable to gluconeogenesis. Since lactation induced hypoglycemia is highly undesirable.)

  4. Come to think of it, they whole world is out to kill you. Everything is toxic and you will eventually die. So, the only thing to do is ferment simple sugars, polysaccharides and other terrible things so they will less toxic. Toxicity can be decreased by distilling the results and treating them with carbon. Cheers

  5. You really need to read Gary Taubes book “Why We Get Fat” which is the Reader’s Digest version of “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. The Nutritional “Scientists” of the 60s,70s, etc. are as messed up as the Climate “Scientists” of that era. Regards

    • I’m pretty sure that Taubes is on the “sugar is toxic” train. I believe that was his position last time he commented at JunkScience. Gary, if you’re out there, is that correct?

  6. Steve, You are correct sir! Sugar and processed carbs causes insulin to spike which cause the fat cells to store glucose. Do you think obese mothers are eating all the food instead of feeding their malnourished children. NO, it is because of the carbs and sugars which are the mainstay of the poor’s diet. I have dropped 35 lbs, lowered LDL, blood pressure and triglycerides and increased HDL by following the recommendations in the appendix of this book.

  7. Sugar and processed carbs causes insulin to spike which cause the fat cells to store glucose.

    Building fats from excess sugars is one of the mechanisms the body uses to prevent hyperglycemia. In the case of glucose this requires insulin and takes place in both fat cells and the liver. In the case of fructose and galactose this process does not require insulin and takes place primarily in the liver.

    If someone is “insulin resistant” then the amount of glucose their body can use for respiration is reduced. Fat cells typically do not become insulin resistant. Probably because they have no need of a mechanism to turn off insulin response whereas cells which only use glucose for respiration need to ensure that glucose does not build up in the cytoplasm.

    Processing has little to do with things. Raw fruit typically contains glucose, fructose, sucrose and galactan. Thus eating fruit will result in glucose, fructose and galactose entering the blood.

    NO, it is because of the carbs and sugars which are the mainstay of the poor’s diet.

    The ultra high carbohydrate diet, with a bias towards “starchy foods” (mostly amylopectin, a very easy to digest glucose polysaccharide), has been pushed as “healthy” in Europe, North America and Australasia for more than 30 years. So it isn’t just poor people likely to be eating such a diet.

    I have dropped 35 lbs, lowered LDL, blood pressure and triglycerides and increased HDL

    Fats produced by the liver enter the blood in VLDL. The liver always puts cholesterol (or cholesterol esters) into the VLDL it produces. VLDL can change to IDL by giving up some of its fat to a cell or to LDL by giving up most of its fat. There are also plenty of unknowns when it comes to animal lipoprotein transport. HDL are assumed to be produced by the liver. It’s also unclear how fat can leave fat cells, since they don’t appear to produce lipoproteins. (Possibly LDL to IDL/VLDL or IDL to VLDL.) Then to ensure confusion many people refer to “cholesterol” when they actually mean “lipoproteins”. (Cholesterol isn’t a “fat” either.) It’s unclear if “triglycerides” actually means “fat across all lipoproteins in the blood” or some kind of VLDL count.

  8. It is a little simplistic and not entirely accurate to say that most consumed carbs will be stored as fat. For a large segment of the population who are in atheltics or work a very aerobic job carbs consumed will get used and not stored as fat. Two factors make this happen: first an athletic individual builds a capacity to store glycogen in their muscles and liver that far exceeds that of a sedentary person. Second of course is the simple fact that an active person burns the sugar/glycogen just about as fast as the body converts it from carbs to glucose. A typical marathon runner will burn as many calories in the race as a normal person burns in 24 hours.

    Then too the ability to store calories as fat is quite normal and does not necessarily indicate obesity. Most people will consume their food convert the carbs to glucose and burn some while the body will store some as fat. Then a few hours later the body retrieves that stored fat to be used as energy. To simply say the body store excess calories or sugar as fat would seem to imply it stays there for months, years, decades. In general it does not. If it did most of us would gain weight until we burst at 800 lbs or more, Most humans are not obese and even those who are obese are not on some asymptotic weight gain so even the bodies of obese people tap the fat cells for energy.

  9. My only change in life style was to change my diet by eliminating sugars and “white” carbs. I do not count calories on this diet, just net carbs. The diet that I follow is the one proven to be the most effective by the Stanford A TO Z study. On this diet I am never hungry. My daughter decided to go on Weight Watchers after reading the book and she found that it is a very effective low carb diet. Like a warmest, this has become a “religion”.

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