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Sunday, 13 November 2011


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Sugar and the insulin response also seems responsible in part for increasing the lipid content (triglycerides in my case) of blood. I generally avoid it as much as I can. I also switched to Splenda for sweetening my hot tea. It modifies a normal sugar molecule with chlorine. Sounds bad, but it hasn't been shown to cause problems in laboratory creatures, so far as I know. A side benefit is that when I pee in my pool, it's self-correcting.

Continued good luck with your sugar busting. Have you noticed any change in your weight?

"peanut butter and jelly sandwich..."
We have plenty of hideous sugary food in UK but I'm glad to say that this is something that I haven't encountered: yet. People the size of baby hippos are becoming more and more common here in recent years though.
And 7 grams (which is about 1/4 oz I believe) is a hell of a lot more than a teaspoon full. A tablespoon maybe?

Highly recommended book: "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes.

I read the book, adapted the advice and have been feeling much better. Not just from a weight perspective, but also in getting off the roller coaster of insulin spikes and needing snacks.

Putting sugar on everything is sadly a problem in the whole western world, but probably more so in the USA than anywhere else. I'd like to add that no bread selection can be considered large unless it has proper rye-based breads. Those are, when made properly, healthy and popular in some parts of Europe. The second point is that natural yogurt is pretty healthy and not sweet in the slightest, "yogurt" just often refers to the small colorful plastic packages with a little bit of yogurt and a large bit of additives in them. One should be careful with the latter type...

Excellent post. I would add that it isn't just the sugar causing the insulin spikes that undergird the cravings; it's also the wheat, a far more potent and indeed dangerous component of bread. Yes, I know, there is the common wisdom (sic) that refers to "good whole grains." Bottom line, there are NO good whole grains. Slice or two of "good whole grain bread " can lift one's blood sugar level more than can two teaspoons of sugar.

William Davis, MD, an interventional cardiologist has a NYT best-seller book, thoroughly scientifically researched, entitled "Wheat Belly." Take a look at it, and be prepared for a remarkable look at an alternate view of the increasingly world-wide obesity epidemic.


Some more voices in the wilderness here. One man's attempts to poison himself, and his wife's campaign to do something about the nutritional value of school lunches.

The text of this post is 4.8% sugar.* You can't escape it.

*By word count, before you all jump on me.

King Corn (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1112115/) is a fun and unpretentious documentary about the corn industry that is well worth watching. Partly because it's a source for sugar, products that have not had something to do with corn are hard to find in a supermarket.

I guess I'm lucky regarding sugar. I don’t like when it’s been added where it doesn’t belong and cannot abide a long list of foods that are normal fare for most folks. Sugar in peanut butter…yech! Now bitter, that’s another thing: beer, black coffee, dark chocolate!

Sugar is sensed by humans (and most mammals) by a class of taste receptor molecules called T1Rs. Sugar molecules bind to these receptor molecules that are present on the taste receptor cells in our tongue, which then trigger an influx of calcium ions, which in their turn trigger chemical and electrical events that ultimately lead to the perception of sugar by the brain. Now the interesting observation is that these receptors are also present on certain cells in the gut, in the pancreas and in the liver--as if these organs can independently "taste" sugar even though we are not "conscious" of them. It is as if these organs have independent "sugar-tasting" abilities. So is true of other taste receptors, such as those that sense salt, bitter etc.

Are we but colonies of cells, who find it expedient to live together?

Mike- I'm 56 today, and about 56% sugar- it makes me happy in a sad, sad world.

I'll make a point of eating a salad today, but I'm sure it'll somehow be laced with it.

For those times when I need "a sweet touch", I've had good luck with stevia based sweeteners: all natural, 0-calorie, and doesn't trigger the insulin response the way the artificial sweeteners will.

Good bread doesn't need sugar to still be full of flavor. Apologies to those Mennonite girls, but "you're doing it wrong".

Also worth taking a look at is The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It's not just high fructose corn syrup, our modern Western eating habits have so many corn products in it, it would shock the corn worshiping Aztecs.

And JOOC, are you significantly overweight?


Main issue for me with all those "sugar free" versions is they have Sorbitol or Sucralose, both of which have a weird, clinical, chemical film/taste to me, especially in drinks. Hate the stuff.

Good on you, Mike! That is a sometimes goal of mine (and my use of sometimes definitely exposes my level of commitment) and I am impressed when people take on that sort of dietary discipline.

mike, all these products you buy "sugar free" might have aspartame as a substitute. Aspartame has been questioned quite a few times too. I can't really tell you much more, just a heads up.

I recognize the pattern of sugar being the cause of craving. But, as some commenters will certainly explain in more detail, even the flour (carbohydrate) in 'bland' bread is a trigger as well. The whole concept makes me feel hopeless sometimes

But still: congrats with the discipline you showed. I never persevered that long.

Kind regards from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Thanks for posting this, Mike. What's sold in mainstream chain grocery stores and restaurants is not food. It is addictive, non-nourishing, cheap-to-make products disguised as convenience. The documentary movie "King Corn" is an eye opener and I highly recommend it for entertainment and enlightenment. All these years I thought the food industry strived to make food better. Nope, they have been working hard to make it cheaper.

Oh Mike! You trying to make me feel guilty eating my sourdough waffles with melted butter and pure maple syrup? Won't work!

An intriguing observation made by some who understand this body of literature far better than I is this: the cravings that follow upon the complete elimination of all sugar and all wheat can be absolutely blocked by the administration of Naloxone, the drug used to treat addictions. Take a look at the SAD (standard american diet); it reeks with the crud of grains/sugars.

Congratulations on having success with a not-at-all simple task.

We also tried going sugar-free for a while (which is easier in Europe, but still not easy), and one thing we noticed was that vegetables started tasting sweet. That was really delicious. Also, sugar in youghurt is a vile invention.

It is quite doable to make bread without adding sugar, in fact the added sugar was quite a surprise for me when I came to the US. Here's a recipe for a savory bread that takes very little effort, just a lot of waiting time (overnight is best): http://perial.livejournal.com/25095.html

My weight's normal, though I wonder why you ask. I'm no puritan about sugar, but I will never understand why people eat so much of it.

Thanks Mike - a good reminder. I am trying to eat better, but it is a day-by-day challenge.

Mike, I agree with you that sugary foods are addictive and once you start eating them, you always want more. I, too, use Splenda in most cases where I'd formerly put in a spoonful of sugar, say in tea or on unsweetened cereal.

BUT, I wonder why you quit- because there is nothing wrong with sugar in moderation. Maybe you quit because that was the way for you to moderate your intake. On the other hand, I like to use real sugar occasionally because to me, it tastes a lot better than those substitutes. Try comparing some time.

Another idea was given to me by a friend a few years ago that has proven to be a really effective rule for good nutrition: avoid manufactured foods. Anything made in a factory is probably laced with things you don' want or need, like too much salt or too much sugar in various forms.

That's the real reason behind my comment - to spread this effective and helpful gospel. There's no reason to strive for 100% adherence, or becoming some kind of food Nazi about it. But preparing your own food and avoiding things in cans or jars or frozen will serve well to steer anyone in the right direction, again without needing to be fanatic.

Mike thank you for this informative article. I too try to limit sugar but not quite as much as you do. The hardest part for me is the time factor, specifically when working a lot and when I just need to eat something quickly.

Can you tell us a little more about what your daily meals are like?

I make most of the bread at our house. I work at home and Suzy at her school. The breads I make with sugar have 1 tsp/loaf, but most of our bread is made without sugar using the same ingredients as your Amish teens. Adding sugar doesn't necessarily increase flavor. If the simpler breads are made with a sparse amount of yeast and allowed to rise slowly a great deal of flavor is added. I wonder if the Amish gals just didn't make very good bread.

You should just avoid processed food and prepare it yourself. That way you can be sure what's in it and it will be healthier.

Also watch your salt. Here in Canada the stuff marketed as "Table Salt" is cut with sugar!

Great post, Mike!

The easiest way to cut sugar intake (and one's weight) is to stop putting sugar in tea and/or coffee and to drink mineral water instead of soft drinks.

Looking forward to your post on smoking...

"Can you tell us a little more about what your daily meals are like?"

I'm not sure that would help, because I'm very far from a paragon of good practices. I find it very difficult to eat well, or even responsibly. I hate to cook, totally suck at it (really, zero aptitude), and chronic depression often saps the energy needed to do the work of planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning in a systematic way. I'll do okay for a while and then backslide. Finally, I just don't like many foods, and I don't enjoy eating very much. I'm a non-foodie, whatever the word for that is. I know that having a cook is a luxury reserved for the very rich, but if anyone ever actually needed a cook, it's me.

When you consider that most modern convenience foods sell and provide convenience first and foremost, it stands to reason that when you give them up, eating is not as convenient. I really struggle with it.


I gave up adding sugar to beverages and foods in my teens. I did not like the way it cloyed the taste of beautiful flavours, in much the same way that salt does.

Then, 19 years ago, I was diagnosed diabetic and underwent education about sugar in the diet through the hospital. The single most useful piece of information was to read the nutrition information printed on labels and packaging.

Worthy of note is that tooth decay in European communities hardly existed until sugar was brought from the New World. Sugar was very expensive and so tooth decay was considered an ailment of the wealthy.


Peanut butter and jelly (which the rest of the English speaking world would call jam) is one thing. It's supposed to be packed with sugar. What's scary is what's happened to the peanut butter. http://www.andrew.co.za/2004/08/the-black-cat.html shows how the definitive South African peanut butter has changed, losing protein and fibre (which some people call fiber ;)) and replacing them with carbohydrates in the form of cane sugar. The peanut butter I grew up eating is now called "health" peanut butter.

Congratulations Mike for changing your diet style! It is very difficult, I went through a similar change too.

Now I live by the maxim - eat only food what your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Absolutely no preprocessed food and of course stay away from high fructose corn syrup.

As for the bread... I am from Germany :)

All the best and keep up the good work.


umm, you guys don't have natural yoghurt?
Can you buy foods that do not come in containers, tins or other packaging? Cook from raw, then you will know exactly what you get.

I really have to watch my salt intake because I have Meniere's disease. Try bread made without salt sometime. It isn't pretty. Take a look around at how much sodium in its various forms there is in the foods we eat, particularly commercial foods. It's very difficult to avoid.

re: Paris and Mike's reply

It's not so much fructose per se as it is the sheer quantities of it we're getting in our diet. Fresh fruit has enough health benefits and buffers that negate any damage the fructose may cause.

Regular sucrose is a pairing of one glucose and one fructose molecule. After splitting, the glucose can be used as is and goes straight into your bloodstream. The fructose first has to be processed by your liver, putting just an extra little bit of strain on your system. But every little bit adds up and when you look at our modern diet as Mike points out, you're not looking at a "little bit" any more.

The New York Times posted an article back in April, Is Sugar Toxic where the author starts linking our excessive fructose load with liver problems and adult onset diabetes, then links the liver problems and the diabetes with cancer. The conclusion comes back to the same thing: a couple of pieces of fresh fruit a day is an order of magnitude difference from what the average American is consuming on a daily basis.

If there's something I hate, that's buying food in a supermarket, bread particularly. It looks so plastic.

I buy bread at a bakery. Meat cut in front of me at a butcher's, not bloodless lumps on styrofoam. Cheese from a cheese shop, not the supermarket stuff in plastic. Fruit from a seller in a stall at the open air market. Fish at the fish market.

Yes, I understand not everybody has access to those things but it's interesting how all that stuff, long considered backward, is now coming back. Even if you Americans would consider conditions here quite unsanitary, nobody died of it. :)

My diet is not exactly an extreme of health but I eat sweets when I want sweets and I eat very little processed food.


Thanks for this enlightening piece about the ever-present sugar in our diets.

I have included a link to a funny graphic spinning around the web. [WARNING: Not workplace / school friendly. —Ed.]


Tim Shultz

I need to give up sugar as well, but it's tough, now read the book "Wheat Belly" by a UW Madison professor, and see why you need to stop eating wheat too...

...we can't eat nuttin'....

When I first shopped for groceries here (I'm an international student, from Malaysia of all places-- more's the pity), it stunned and saddened me to see how completely processed food dominated the shelves, and how hard it was to find fresh, whole foods.

Folks' diet here was shocking to me as well:

Exhibit 1: The cheese pizza. Huh? There's such a thing as plain cheese pizza? You mean pizza with just processed cheese and white flour? And people consider it a proper meal?

Exhibit 2: Cereal. Seriously, where in the big wide Midwest can one find proper whole grain cereal that's not saturated with high fructose corn syrup? (When I think "cereal", I think of muesli with a mix of whole grains and seeds, unsweetened. Not ubersweetened granola, no thanks...)

Exhibit 3: The tiny amount of water folks here drink daily amazes me. How people manage to not be dehydrated drinking so little water (and so much soda) beats me.

Exhibit 4: Bread. But you've covered that already..

Sugar and alcohol are both ways of storing a lot of corn in a small space and easily transporting it from place to place.

I see on my "smooth" peanut butter jar here in Aussie, sugar is shown as 8.1g per 100g. But as usual, Mike, you are spot on.

You mean the corn industry's meme that all sugar is the same is a lie?

"I shocked, deeply shocked...", Claude Raines

Mike, if you'd like a PB&J sandwich, here's what to do. First, make the 24-mile drive to Trader Joe's in Glendale and get some of their Tuscan Pane. Its nutrition label indicates less than 1 gram of sugar. Then apply the Smucker's Organic Peanut Butter and your sugar-free jelly. Finally, enjoy. At age 58, I haven't been a kid for many years, but still think of this as "lunch."

PS The bread freezes very well. I've had it in with my Tri-x stash for as long as three weeks and found it like-new when eaten. Just suck out all air each time you remove a couple of slices before tightly closing the bag again.

"I had been expecting an orgy of wholesome goodness, but the bread was bland and tasteless. The reason?"

The bread was badly made and/or undersalted.

*I* can turn out a knock-your-socks off plain white loaf with just those four ingredients and I'm a half ass baker. A serious baker can leave me sitting in the dust.

And I should point out that Gillespie's thesis is unsupported by any actual science.

Mike - have you read any of Michael Pollan's books (I would assume so ) - if not I think you'll find them interesting, and useful (as well as well written) - "The Omnivores dilemma" "In defense of food"

Just an added thought to all the excellent comments already posted: if you want yogurt that does not have added sugars, look for "plain" Greek (or Turkish, Balkan or similar) yogurts. In addition to what you will find in ethnic grocery stores in the bigger cities, there are a couple of national brands (available in most common grocery store chains) that sell Greek-style yogurt with no added sugars. However, I usually get the 2% yogurt - so I can't speak for the abomination that is fat free yogurt.

Hey Mike, don't blame sugar!! Here where I live,the state of São Paulo, Brazil, is the world's most important producer of sugar and alcohol.
Americans must continue eating sugar!heheheheheheh

Great article.

I'd like to add a couple of items here: 1) raw cane sugar is a viable alternative as a sweetener - I understand from various sources, that it is the refined white sugar that is the major culprit
2) Stevia is a plant which is used to make a natural sweetener.

When baking cakes, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, and add 1/2 teaspoon of Stevia and 1/2 cup of raw cane sugar.

"And I should point out that Gillespie's thesis is unsupported by any actual science."

Gillespie, at painstaking length, begs to differ.

In any event, here's the bottom line where nutrition is concerned: the status quo is wrong. The conventional wisdom is wrong. It's got to be; it doesn't work. Look at the obesity stats, look at the diabetes rates. We're in the middle of an epidemic. The evidence in front of our noses (well, on our bellies or hips!) says that the "actual science," whatever you may believe it is, is at about the same state as epidemiology before John Snow found the Broad Street pump: in a dark age.

So Gillespie might not be right, but at the worst he can't be more wrong than the accepted wisdom as far as I'm concerned.


Where we live in rural southern Ontario it's easy to get organic food, including organic bread without sugar. There are plenty of sweetener alternatives available, including stevia, Zero [tm], coconut flour and more.

It's harder to get organic snacks that are sugar-free, but possible if you look carefully, even in the regular supermarkets.

"Aspartame has been questioned quite a few times too."

Did it answer?

Over the past ten years I've gone from pretty bad eating habits to almost completely primal (meat, fish, veg, fruit, nuts and all sorts of nut and plant oils). I feel ill if I try to eat sugar and grains. Lost loads of fat, gained muscle But best of all I'm really, really into cooking now. In my opinion some of the best writing in these matters are by Michael Pollan (corn, food and agro industries), Gary Taubes (calories, obesity), Mark Sissons (primal lifestyle). It's hard to describe the difference that eating well makes to one's health and body composition, but it's pretty gob-smacking. 80% diet, 20% other stuff.

When you have diabetes, the massive quantities of sugar in our diet seems more like an assault. I now dread going to every kind of social function, because the primary snacks served are carbs and sodas, no protein at all. I went to lunch with my son last week at his school, and though they had a diverse menu for them, it was almost entirely carbs. My "salad" included a sugary yogurt, a cookie, four slices of cucumber (thank goodness), a roll, and a cheese stick. No salad in sight, so that was misleading as well.

I'm most particularly angry about HFCS. I remember feeling good about buying Hansen's "Natural" soda back in the 1980s because it used High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of sugar. "That's supposed to be good for you," we thought. "It's from fruit!" As one who carries around a blood glucose meter, I can tell you that my blood sugar goes up by ~100 points more if I've had HFCS in a meal; whether bread, crackers, or other snack, my reaction is double what it would be with even refined sugar.

Good for you for becoming more aware of how we wealthy are killing ourselves in the name of convenience. Eat source foods, avoid things in boxes, cans, and bags as much as possible. While you're at it, read about AGEs, advanced glycation endproducts: the byproduct of cell metabolism and toasting or overheating just about anything. The Wikipedia article is probably good enough to get a grasp on the concept. It's the heat-caused chemical combination of sugars with protein. It's why toast raises a diabetic's blood sugar more than a slice of bread, and why instant coffee (thrice cooked) is implicated in diabetic foot ulcers.

And of course, don't overdo underdoing sugar in your diet. Let the knowledge guide your choices, and the occasional indulgence will be soaked up by your healthy liver and kidneys.

A few years ago I switched to Diet Coke and Splenda, it already made a lot of difference.My strategy always have been to change habits little by little. Not to change everything in one day. Once an habit is changed, you don't go back because the taste is adapting. As a matter of fact, I cannot drink Classic Coke anymore. I had some people warn me about Aspartame but seriously it's much safer than any sugar in quantities as massive as found in a non-diet soda.

On a side note I realize that's a bit the same with other kind of consumptions: culture in general is also 90% junk. I mean mainstream films, books, TV, etc. are also kind of "sweetened": same basic taste that appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Those Mennonite girls were afraid you might take their picture!

Daily exercise is THE most important thing for a healthy body, but you can never out run a bad diet.

Yeah...sugar is freaky. Corn has become freaky too, almost evil.

Food Inc is another documentary that exposes the darkness of the US Agricultural pod..Shines light on some very disturbing realities.

There's none of us so holy as a reformed sinner. Look on the bright side: with our stunningly expensive health care system we're living longer than ever even though we're big as whales. See, it all works out.

"There's none of us so holy as a reformed sinner."

I'm not trying to be holy. I'm trying to be healthy.

"we're living longer than ever even though we're big as whales. See, it all works out."

I'm not so sure of that. I seem to remember reading that although U.S. life expectancy is still rising, we're falling vis-a-vis our rank relative to other nations. Right now we place somewhere in the mid-30s. I'm not going to go do the research, though, so take this with a grain of, er, salt.

And here's a thought that scared me a while back: "How many obese 80-year-olds do you see?" (Can't remember who said that.)


And this is precisely why I cannot eat Subway, it's meant to be healthy yet the bread tastes more like confectionary. After eating the bread in England, France and Australia, subways bread is revolting, solid with sugar,YUK!

This is really relevant to me right now.
10 Days ago I was exactly 100kg. I stopped eating bred, rice, pasta and sweet cakes etc.
I also stopped wine for a bit. I've lost 6 kilos and my digestion is 100% better.
Sugar is costing us our health and possibly our environment. Keep up the great posts.

Mike, as a French man, I must say I am quite bewildered and horrified by your article. Sugar in bread, seriously ??! This is criminal !
And you should definitely try whole wheat bread, once accustomed to it, it tastes ten times better than white bread, and is much more satisfying and filling.

A few observations about bread:

1) Bread with just water, flour, yeast and salt can be very very good. And sweet, because of the breaking down of starches. (try these two recipes: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/08mini.html?pagewanted=all and http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2984/jasons-quick-coccodrillo-ciabatta-bread)

2) Starch is not really THAT much better than sugar, so why stress about sugar if you're eating bread? I'd cut down on bread altogether.

Re bread, I make my own using whole wheat flour in a breadmaking machine, and the recipe calls for a tablespoon of sugar for about a pound of bread. I believe it's only there to help the yeast along. And the bread is excellent.

Europe gets lots of things wrong, but food labelling is clearer here, in spite of agri-business lobbying. My peanut butter says 'ingredients: 97% roasted peanuts, palm oil, salt' (these have to be in decreasing order). It also tells me it has 1g salt per 100g and 3.7g sugars, which must be the sugars in the ingredients.
All the supermarkets here have yogurt without sugar available, and at 4% fat, 2& and no fat (of which, I mostly prefer the latter).
There is a category of jam (jelly), called extra jam, which must have more than 50% fruit, although it's obviously still a high sugar product. Jelly is something quite different in the UK!

The evidence in front of our noses (well, on our bellies or hips!)

I'd like to point out that the evidence has something (a lot) to do with mostly sedentary and exercise-less lives, too. Yes, I'm one such. If we burned the calories, it wouldn't matter whether it's HFCS, refined sugar or Stevia.

Plus, good muscle tone is important for photography. This summer I was shooting with Olympus E-3, two batteries in a grip and the 150/2 lens. I noticed that many photos were unsharp. I first thought there were focussing problems in the camera, in the lens or in the combination. And then I realized that I simply cannot hold such a heavy combination still. Time for regular push-ups. :-/

Corn and the corn industry is your basic problem. Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma is good on this ... in a basic American junk-food meal, everything comes form corn. Corn syrup, corn in the feed of the animals whose flesh goes in the burger, corn as a thickener, corn flour, ....

On a trip to the US recently, we were chatting to a friend (this was in Chicago) who told us that he was going to a farmers' market where he hoped to buy some cheese curds made with milk from grass-fed cows. "Er, what other sort of cow is there?" My wife naively asked ... well, the corn-fed cow, of course.

Not that we can be complacent, this stuff will probably be killing us Europeans next.

I'm with all the folks who have advocated avoiding processed foods. It's a shame if this isn't possible where you live. Apart from anything else, cooking can be quite a satisfying activity, and think of all the packaging that you'll be saving

It's funny you should mention this- last year, after watching Dr. Robert Lustig's YouTube video "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" my wife Eve became convinced that sugar was the hidden toxin that was making our culture so fat and sick.

She decided our whole family- me, her, our two girls ages 6 and 11- should try an experiment: to go for a whole year not eating ANY added sugar in our food. Her blog about our ensuing adventures is called "A Year of No Sugar." We are currently ten months in.

David Gillespie's books have been a huge resource for Eve, and using his dextrose-sweetened recipes has saved our family from feeling terminally deprived... After corresponding on the web, Eve had the chance to meet Gillespie in NYC last month for a, of course, No Sugar lunch.

My wife likes to say that since quitting sugar we are happier, healthier and we poop more- that might be more information than people want to hear- but true. Surprisingly, the hardest thing about not having sugar isn't the cravings... it's the isolation that comes from eating differently than everyone else we know. When did we all become so addicted, and not notice?

You can read about her lunch with Gillespie, along with many other family adventures at: http://www.ayearofnosugar.com

Best- Stephen

I (happily) gained 5 kilos when I quit smoking. When I decided to take them off, no diet worked, including going hungry a lot. Then I decided to try and cut sugar from my diet for a couple of months just to see what happens. Here are the two main and shocking conclusions:
- I am addicted to sugar, in the sense that I crave it and have withdrawal symptoms.
- It is very hard to eat a meal without sugar, because it is EVERYWHERE.

Guess what: those 5 kilos are gone. I regularly overeat (really, I pig out). I drink alcohol regularly. At least one beer at lunch and one glass of wine at dinner every day. Those 5 kilos just do not come back on because I do not eat any sugar at all. No cheat days, no sugar, no weight. And here are the bonuses, the proverbial cherries on top of the sugarless cake: no depression, no cravings and no "low sugar" moments! The only exception? I eat a lot of fruit. Bananas and apples mainly, but also grapes, pears and whatever I feel like. No cookies, no puddings, no cakes. Bacon dripping in fat? No problem.

If everyone new about this, the "diet industry" would collapse in about six months.

Here are some of my observations from the experience.

Sugar is free. Walk into any Starbucks, ask for an extra packet of sugar (without purchasing a drink), and they will give it to you. The experience is the same in any coffee shop in Europe (excpet maybe in Amsterdam, IYKWIM). At the supermarket, on a per calorie or per kilo basis, it is as good as free.

Sugar substitutes will kill any attempts at a zero sugar diet. Removing sugar from your diet is much more about re-educating your palate than it is about making sacrifices. Drinking a diet soda or a "zero" soda will ruin any attempts at a no sugar diet. Drink water. Drink sparkling water. Heck, unless you have a history of dependency, a beer is much much much more healthy that a diet soda.

My next suggestion is controversial. I know why you disagree with it, so no need to educate me. I understand your arguments, and they have merit, but still... The government should tax sugar like it taxes alcohol and cigarettes. No, there should not be a tax on doughnuts. But a per pound tax on high fructose corn syrup? For sure. Never gonna happen though, 'caus a lot of hardworking, poor corn farmers will lose their jobs.

The best thing about a zero sugar diet? I never feel hungry any more. Yes, I have a big appetite. But I can even skip a meal and not feel hungry. I just feel I have a lot more energy all day long. It's awesome.

Following this article I bought "Sweet Poison" via your Amazon UK link.

Mike, let us know if this book appears in your top ten purchased books list. Maybe TOP will be transformed into a diet site; Tips for Overweight People, or Trying to Overcome Porkiness?

Mike said, "Without getting into the science at all ... "

This is a characteristic of the irrational demonization of sugar, high fructose corn syrup and the food industry in general.

Moderation in most things is good.

Populational studies throughout the world are interesting. Everywhere you look, Asia, Mexico, immigrant populations in the US, etc., as soon as people adopt a "corporate"-processed diet (in general prepared foods), they gain weight and begin to show signs of all the diet-related diseases that we are familiar with. When people make their own food using ingredients and recipes that have been around for centuries, they're healthier.

I would not be surprised if we soon come to regard many of the "fast" foods that we consume in a similar way that we now regard cigarettes, that is, a health hazard.

"Mike said, 'Without getting into the science at all...' This is a characteristic of the irrational demonization of sugar"

Not at all. This is a characteristic of writing a comment on a blog and not being able to synopsize the close argument of a book-length piece of writing in a few hundred words.

It doesn't mean the science (according to the author) isn't there, it means I'm not able to present it in the present context. You'll have to read his book if you want to evaluate his take on the science.


"The evidence in front of our noses (well, on our bellies or hips!) I'd like to point out that the evidence has something (a lot) to do with mostly sedentary and exercise-less lives, too. Yes, I'm one such. If we burned the calories, it wouldn't matter whether it's HFCS, refined sugar or Stevia."

Actually, this is the view that one strain of recent thinking on diet debunks. The argument is best presented in "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes, which is a potentially revolutionary book, flawed by the fact that he resorts, at the end of the book, to a weak recommendation for what amounts to an Atkins diet. He's not very interested in the question of what to eat, in other words. But his theory is extremely interesting.

William Davis points out in the beginning of his book "Wheat Belly" that approximately 40% of triathletes are overweight. This suggests that the myth that exercise is what regulates weight is false.

I'm not saying exercise isn't good for you, of course. But it doesn't seem to be the key to weight control, or the answer to what's making so many of us so much fatter so quickly.


An interesting article on high fructose corn syrup from oukosher.org -- "The World's Most Recognized and Trusted Kosher Trademark."

And from Kosher Nexus ...

Here's my diet.
1. Cardio exercise -- 120 minutes a week.
2. Weight training --90 minutes a week.
3. Diet -- avoid "white" starchy foods.
4. Diet -- smaller portions.
5. Diet -- high fiber content.
6. Diet -- fish two to three times a week.

I've been following this regimen for two years. I've lost 20 pounds and am no longer considered a borderline diabetic. My cholesterol levels are fine. Funny thing, my back is killing me

Beuler comments that perhaps there should be a tax on sugar. Perhaps an easier way to reduce sugar consumption would be to eliminate the subsidies that the US government pays to producers of sugar and HFCS.
Eliminate the subsidies and you would trim the waistlines and help reduce government debt.

After reading Good Calories, Bad Calories (the much more thick, heavily cited, academic version of Why We Get Fat) I pretty much completely cut carbs out of my diet. After a week or two, my cravings for them went away. I have cheat days where I'll have a beer or some bread, but other than that it's been pretty easy. And I've lost 35 pounds.

Just to let you know how much I appreciate the combination of your posts, whether OT or straight photography, and the conversation with your highly sophisticated readership which follows in the comments. I think a lot of the hype about the positive value of interactivity on the Web is just that, hype, but here we can often read something that is much more than the sum of the parts. Thanks a lot.


I've always hated sweetened peanut butter anyway. Most of it has a nasty texture too. AND is loaded with trans fats.

I thought good peanut butter with honey added sounded like a good idea, but I tried it once and I hated that, too; I apparently don't like sweetened peanut butter in any form (if you will admit that that stuff in Reese's is not peanut butter!).

Much of the best bread I've had has that ingredient list; and a good part of the rest is that, plus some oil, plus maybe some seeds or something on the exterior. It doesn't keep as long, but the first day or so, it's the best there is.

I'm reminded of a screed written by Mark Twain concerning the manufacture of sugar, where he pointed out that it wasn't an extremely complex process, as industrial processes go, but he was amazed that "...not one in twenty manufacturers can avoid getting sand it..." (I'm paraphrasing, but I thought it was interesting. At least we don't have to worry too much about adulterants in straight sugar.)

With best regards,


Hi Mike,

as far as I can tell, you already know the solution to your problem. You mentioned you don't like many foods, hate to cook, love sweets. In other instances, you've also mentioned the almost complete lack of exercise in your lifestyle. Take the matter by the horn and kick it in its nuts, much as you curbed your drinking problem years ago.

1) Get some exercise. Start slow, long walks, then increase to fast walking. See if you can walk 2 hours twice a week. Get on your bike for a couple hours a week. Bottomline: get sweaty, get hungry. It makes eating much more fun.

2) Be determined about eating well. Like many comments have suggested, eat food as fresh as you can get, not in a box, not in a can, not from a factory. Frozen meat/ fish/ vegetables are very good, compared to anything in a can.

3) Get yourself some cookbooks and get cooking. Cooking your own meals is a crucial piece to the puzzle. Mark Bittman has some good ones. Jacques Pepin, too. It's very easy to roast a chicken or cook whatever piece of meat with some vegetables.

4) Seek out food outlets in your area that serve real food, freshly cooked. Chinese food is great in that sense. If you order Chinese, ask them to reduce the amount of oil and salt they use. It makes Chinese food much more pleasant to eat regularly.

Finally, I wish you the best of luck. It takes some effort to eat well but it's obviously not impossible.

Mike wrote: "The argument is best presented in "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes, which is a potentially revolutionary book, flawed by the fact that he resorts, at the end of the book, to a weak recommendation for what amounts to an Atkins diet. He's not very interested in the question of what to eat, in other words. But his theory is extremely interesting."

"Why We Get Fat" is sort of the Clift Notes version of Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" that was written to simplify the science in GCBC. It indicts easily digestible carbohydrates (sugars, processed white flour, simple starches) as the basic cause of dietary problems in modern life. But you have to eat something, and when your only choices are protein, fat, and carbohydrate, and you identify one (carbs) as the bete noir, you're left with the fact that a very-low-carb, high-fat diet is healthier than the alternative high-carb, low-fat diet. The "Atkins diet" may have a poor reputation, but continuing clinical trials have shown it to be safe and effective. Follow the science.

Yes, I experienced all of this in the summer of 2010 when I became severely ill and my condition was largely tied to sugar consumption. During that time I had to count grams of sugar and worry about the sugar content of everything I ate, as if I were a diabetic. It was an eye-opener, all right, in some ways it was like being thrown in the ocean, time to swim ready or not. Changed the way I eat and drink forever, even though I'm very grateful to be out of the woods now and can indulge sometimes.

Ice cream just breaks my heart. The amount of sugar in it for volume is astronomical, and it's long been one of my favorite things in the world. Those new ice creams sweetened with splenda are a little better, but the flavor variety isn't the same.

I've also discovered I'm allergic to peanuts, so no more PB&J for me anyway ;)


How is the statue of David not work-friendly? Surely that's taking it too far.

Thanks Mike for your informative site.
It is part of my morning routine.
Your sugar article was excellently timed.

We are told that excessive levels of sugar, salt, trans fats etc found in food are due to consumer demand.
The UK government tells us that if food ingredients are presented to consumers we will be able to buy the healthier option if we want.

But here is the problem - as others have pointed out - if you go into a supermarket where can you buy a loaf of bread that contains a healthy amount of salt?
There is not a free market, we are given what it is most convenient for food producers to deliver and sell.

I also agree with others who said making your own food is healthier.
I bought a bread machine for this very reason, now I can make my own bread with less salt (I need the energy for my cycle to work).

Dear Mike et.al.,

I get what Speed means. There is a huge amount of faddism and demonizing that goes on in the nutrition business. In part that's because humans prefer demons to complex and subtle problems. The obsession with fructose makes it seem much worse than refined white sugar, which is much worse than honey. Not really! On a scale of 0 (bad) to 10 (good), fructose may be a 0, but honey doesn't get you above a 1. Relative to other sources of sugar, it's good. Relative to anything else, not.

Also, almost every single diet study you see has been funded by some segment of the diet or nutrition-supplement industry, with some particular profitable ax to grind.

A major, non-industry meta-analysis (Harvard I think, can't find the paper) found that no weight loss method worked for the majority of people. There are simply too many different causes of obesity. About half is genetic or epigenetic. (A remarkable fraction of childhood obesity is caused by a common viral infection that alters the behavior of fat cells in the body. Ultra-weird but true.)

Consequently, lots of people try one diet after another and yo-yo, under the theory of “if at first you don't succeed…” The problem? Yo-yoing kills you faster than obesity. Kaiser took dieting off of their list of primary recommendations for obesity, because well over 90% of diets failed and yo-yoing caused more health problems than being overweight did.

Counting calories works badly because some careful medical studies have found that almost none of us can count calories accurately enough. It doesn't take a very big error. 10 cal is one baby carrot, or 3 of those Altoid peppermints. Adding 10 cal a day for a year adds 1 pound of body weight, and there's your middle-age weight creep that everyone talks about!

Even a little bit of sugar added to processed food adds up over time.

A sedentary lifestyle? Define sedentary, Between 1950 and now, automatic timers and thermostats and light switches, remote controls, and the like have reduced our calorie burn by roughly 50 cal a day, doing exactly the same things. Guides to how many calories you're burning a day are even less accurate than guides to how many you're eating.

It's a complex issue. Anyone who thinks they have a simple answer is very likely wrong.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

P.S. Oh, almost forgot-- this is a good one!

Sleep deprivation strongly correlates with obesity, in both adults and kids. The causative link isn't as established as with the viral infection, but serotonin and melatonin levels are under suspicion.

So, if you, or your kids, are living an extra-active lifestyle that results in getting less sleep, well... you might want to rethink that.

And, no, you can't make it up on the weekends.

I didn't mean that exercising like a maniac would rid you of all the excess weight. Too many calories is too many calories. But a regular daily exercise would certainly mean that you don't have to switch to artificial sweeteners but you could just take a bit of care with sugar, wouldn't it?

Hm. And then I think about the prevalence of sugar in everything and anything, and ask myself whether it's possible. BTW, it's possible here and people still use Natreen and similar stuff. (I hate the taste of saccharin.)


I completely understand that you don't like cooking, but I'd like to suggest you try making your own bread. There really is nothing like it. My favourite recipe is Delia Smith's "Doris Grant" loaf, a wonderful wholemeal bread that requires no kneading, and only enough sugar to activate the yeast (and you probably don't even need that). The technical skill required to make a Doris is lot less than that for developing black and white film - and the results are no less satisfying. A wonderful relaxing way to spend part of a Sunday morning making a loaf: you don't even need a breadmaker, just a couple of bread tins and your oven. Best eaten fresh and still slightly warm.

You can find the recipe at:

Along with the sedentary lifestyle to which Ctein refers, sitting in front of the "boob tube" doesn't exactly burn many calories, not to mention that it's very easy to snack while watching T.V.

Snacking while reading, however, smears the pages with grease and salts the binding of the book, making it advisable to avoid snacks while reading.

I can't take sugar in coffee without getting the sugar lows. I don't get the sugar high, so I just avoid sugar. I use Sweet N Low. (Jack Anderson had a funny column about the artificial sweetener concerns in the '70s. He opined that the lab rats were so pampered that they naturally got sick when fed the (sweetener) equivalent of 50 cans of diet soda per day!)

I also don't like to cook, like Mike J. Sometimes, I'd rather miss a meal than dig through the fridge to find vegetables, meat and whatever else is needed for a decent meal. And if I'm in the darkroom, I'm not coming out to eat, even if someone else does the cooking!

Sugar, also known as "White Death!"

Maybe Mike is thinking himself to be too sweet?

Nah that's not going to happen.


Guess that means when you come to Miami, I will have to take you out for some black cuban coffee and a sugar free pastalito instead. Better yet, since the pastalito dough is made with sugar, and the guava is a guava paste, we will just have coffee and guavas from the tree.

Re: US Government Involvement.

Sugar prices are held artificially high by US Government policies. These include guaranteed prices, trade restrictions and production quotas. "The Government Accountability Office estimated that federal sugar policies impose costs on sugar consumers of $1.9 billion annually."

These policies tend to favor fructose as a sweetener.

Aha! Cerement's comment defused my skepticism. The "secret" is quantity.

Just guessing here, but it wouldn't surprise me if a can of Coke has as much fructose as a whole bushel of apples.

This is a DVD a nutritionist friend of mine made: http://www.marytoscano.com/sweetfire/

She makes many of the same points you've discovered, and more.

Define sedentary

Well, sitting in front of your computer all day, for instance. And then relaxing by sitting in front of TV. Using the lift for anything higher than the ground floor. Using your car for anything farther than a three minute walk.

Since I returned to my hometown I've been taking hikes out to the hills. The hikes are not long, 50-minute to an hour and a half in one direction, but they are often across some pretty steep slopes. When I started, I couldn't walk for five minutes without stopping to catch my breath. My legs burned. Now I can walk there normally.

It also helps that the town itself is built on a hilly terrain -- it has a couple of thousand stairs in the old part. So a photo-walk through the old part is a pretty good exercise, too.

All in all, I'm not extreme-sport fit, but I'm in a much better condition than when I started.

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