Subscribe to the podcast at
Full show notes are available at
The front pages of Gary Taubes’ new book on sugar feature a blurb excerpted from the magazine Scientific American:
“Taubes is a science journalist’s science journalist who researches topics to the point of obsession – actually, well beyond that point – and never dumbs things down for readers.”
Gary’s most recent obsession is documented in “The Case Against Sugar,” a book that argues that increased consumption of sugar over the past 30 to 40 years has led to a diabetes epidemic not only in the United States, but an epidemic that’s now spreading around the world.
Episode 37 of STEM-Talk features a more than two-hour conversation with Gary about his latest research as well as a look back at other nutrition and science topics that have dominated Gary’s journalistic investigations since the 1980s.
Gary first burst onto the national scene in 2002 with an article in the New York Times Magazine titled, “What If’s It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” Gary made the point that Robert Atkins and his high-fat, low-carb diet had a better history and scientific record of helping people lose weight than the low-fat diet that was and remains the centerpiece of the nation’s health policy and food pyramid.
The article had an immediate impact. As Michael Pollan pointed out in the introduction of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” in the fall of 2002 bread “abruptly disappeared overnight from the American dinner table.” Virtually overnight, wrote Pollan, Americans changed the way they eat.
Gary did not set out to become a science journalist. He graduated from Harvard College in 1977 with an S.B. degree in applied physics and went on to earn an M.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University. But while at Stanford, he realized he wasn’t that passionate about becoming an aeronautical engineer and decided to enroll in the Columbia School of Journalism to become an investigative reporter.
In the ‘80s, Gary became fascinated with flawed science and started writing a series of magazine articles about bad science. That eventually led to a pair of books: “Nobel Dreams” in 1987 and “Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion” in 1993. After “Bad Science,” Gary turned to nutrition reporting and that resulted in the 2002 article in the New York Times Magazine.
He followed up on his research for the article with two books: “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in 2007; and “Why We Get Fat” in 2010. Both books detailed how refined carbohydrates are largely responsible for America’s rising obesity rate and a primary cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases of the Western diet. His new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” takes this argument a step further and shows how the explosion of sugar consumption and sugar-rich products in the United States has led to a global diabetes epidemic.
Dan Barber, author of “The Third Plate,” wrote in a New York Times review of Gary’s book, “Comparing the dangers of inhaling cigarettes with chowing down on candy bars may sound like a false equivalence, but Gary Taubes’s “The Case Against Sugar” will persuade you otherwise. Here is a book on sugar that sugarcoats nothing. The stuff kills.”
Below are links to Gary’s books:
“The Case Against Sugar”
“Good Calories, Bad Calories”
“Why We Get Fat”