Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Science: Bittersweet

I almost wrote a longer post about this article in NY Times...


For one, a longer post here is long overdue (but life gets in the way of art sometimes - or more likely often). Then, when something hits Slashdot, and NY times, and is a Youtube hit, and purports to be a scientific (or at least public health) breakthrough it probably deserves a bit more attention than a news short. But then I read further into the article itself (I admit I did not bother watching the lecture it comments on) and realised that there isn't really much more to say about it than would fit in the post this (small) size. Everything seems to sum up nicely as: everybody knows and agrees that all sugars we eat end up metabolised by liver into fat (the fructose part of them anyway, but all have it so...); everybody knows and agrees that too much fat is bad for you, and also that overworking your liver isn't the wisest thing to do with sugar - or any other thing, like alcohol; ergo, everybody knows and agrees that too much sugar is bad for you.

So, why the fuss then?

To me at least it is obvious: Robert Lustig is a master of PR, and while probably genuinely concerned about public health, is also not averse to being in the limelight - and making truckloads of money in the process. Why else he'd go on the public stage and foam at the mouth about something everybody already knows, but chooses to discuss in less emotional terms (toxic, toxin). And what amazes me as well is how Gary Taubes of NY Times patiently uses (wastes?) thousands of words to make this a newsworthy topic. He starts with admitting he's a convert (from what? believing a ton of sugar a day is OK?), and also makes it clear that he also subscribes to the conspiracy theory of scientific community at large hushing up secret knowledge Robert Lustig now bravely shouts from the rooftops. But look, what I said above about everybody knowing all these things and agreeing on them already actually comes straight from the bulk of Taubes's article! His article is in fact a review of the sugar-science history and state-of-the-art - and it actually is an argument against Lustig's hysteria. Go figure. But I guess something has to sell NY Times, just as something has to create lecture invites for Robert Lustig. Sad, really.

And as for me, I'm going to sweeten this bitter pill for you by including a nice photo at the top...