Sugar: The Bitter Truth

Last month, I shared two great videos which busted the Cholesterol Myth. After writing the post, I got a flood of emails. The typical comment? “If saturated fat and cholesterol don’t cause heart disease, what does?”

I’ve answered that question here at Food Renegade often enough, so I didn’t feel immediately compelled to write a separate post answering that good (but beaten to death) question. But today (thanks to blogger Ed Bruske @ The Slow Cook) I discovered a video presentation that answers the question quite nicely.

It’s a talk given by Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, a UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” The reasons I love this talk? First: the man’s a doctor at a prestigious university teaching and doing research in the field of endocrinology. If anyone is qualified to speak authoritatively on this subject, it would be him. So, if your friends or your family don’t want to hear it from you, other bloggers, science journalists like Gary Taubes, or those in the alternative medicine community, perhaps they’ll actually listen to him. Second: He tackles not just heart disease, but diabetes, obesity, and high-blood pressure. In other words, he shows the connection between dietary intake of sugar (specifically acute fructose) and the root causes of these diseases of industrialization.

Someone truly on the Real Food bandwagon wouldn’t stop at fructose. They’d start discussing dietary ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats and point out the protective quality of pre-industrial, traditional foods. They’d make a case not just for a high fat diet, but eating quality fats gleaned from a natural banqueting table (i.e. wild-caught seafood, grass-fed meats, raw & pastured dairy). They might even point out the dangers of consuming grains, particularly improperly prepared grains. They’d emphasize the need for eating living and fermented foods to support proper digestion and mental health.

Dr. Lustig doesn’t do any of that. And maybe that’s another reason I like this talk. The man is not on the Real Food bandwagon. He’s on the Science bandwagon, basically asking “what does the science really show?” So to listen to his talk, you don’t have to have a completely different food worldview. His science is accessible even to those in love with the Standard American Diet, those who have no objection to the industrialization of our food supply. It’s just plain old science, debunking the cholesterol & saturated fat myths, pointing out the dangers of our excessively high sugar consumption.

Hopefully, it can serve as a wake up call that can start others on the journey to eating Real Food. But, in the very least, it can answer that singular question, “Well, if it’s not cholesterol and saturated fat, what does cause heart disease?”

(photo by dbjorn)


  1. says

    Great video! I watched the first half of it a couple of weeks ago, but forgot to go back and finish due to the fast pace of life. Thanks much for posting about it. I’m scheduling a time to finish watching it.
    .-= Karen´s last blog post …Rachel’s Meatloaf =-.

  2. says

    “Well, if it’s not cholesterol and saturated fat, what does cause heart disease?”

    I used to think that excessive sugar intake was largely responsible for heart disease. But after hearing Dr. William Lands discuss the connection between the omega-6/omega-3 tissue ratio and heart disease, I’m not exactly sure sugar is the major culprit. You can drag the timer button slightly to the right to the 12 minute mark where Dr. Lands begins speaking.

    You can be oh so careful about not consuming too much added sugars and refined grains but still ruin your health if you’re not aware of the omega-6 component in food. Here is some more info about the omega-6 hazard:

    • says


      Thanks for the links! This is certainly a topic I’ve discussed at length here at Food Renegade, as I pointed out in the article above. I believe there are actually a lot of connections between the skewed nutrient profile of industrial foods and CVD. The biggest, of course, are sugar and Omega 6:3 ratios. But there’s also a lot to be said about our digestive system, the havoc that grains wreak, the protective nature of quality animal fats, and the need for healthy gut flora (promoted by eating raw & fermented foods, etc.)

  3. Barbara says

    Fascinating…thankfully we don’t have much HFCS here in New Zealand but I’m seeing more of it than I used to…glad I’ve limited the kids to water and milk…never could take to juices and fizzy drinks!

    Thanks for sharing…

  4. Giovanni says

    I also like this talk because, like you said, it doesn’t hop on the “Real Food bandwagon.” I think that the main reason why diet is such as hot and sensitive topic in America, and why so many of our friends are resistant to change, is because nobody likes to be told that it is “common sense” to eat “real.” To them, the food that they have been eating has been “real,” and it takes a radical shift of personal word-view to discover otherwise. People do like, in contrast, to hear that the latests advancement in technology has proved that there is much more to sugar than just their calories printed on the labels. They don’t like to hear that the “hippies” had it right all along. Maybe this is the approach that people need to take to educate the others–not with a “we’ve-told-you-so” attitude but with a science-backed argument that people might trust more.

  5. Alejandra says

    It’s amazing how our society has been geared towards so many sugary drinks and that government policies are actually aiding the problem. The issue is that through beverages alone, most Americans go over their daily caloric intake. Don’t drink your calories!!! The truth about sugar and how our bodies respond to it is truly frightening. Who knew that this is the single highest contributor to obesity. I definitely think that our government, through public policy should make it a priority to protect their citizens from these dangers to our health instead of exacerbating the problem with corn subsidies.

  6. Linda Collins via Facebook says

    You might be interested in this, too. Dr Lustig is mentioned. Cereal Killers Movie it can still be viewed for free on Dr. Joseph Mercola ‘s website

  7. Ken Patty Seifert via Facebook says

    This was the best lecture in a long time. I knew fructose was bad but now can actually explain why.

  8. Diane says

    I heard Dr Lustig being interviewed on the BBC in the UK today – his message – cut out the added sugars and !

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