Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Is Sugar Toxic?"

Gary Taubes in the New York Times Magazine.  He'll also be doing a Q&A

"But some researchers will make the case, as [Lewis Cantley, director of the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School] and [Craig Thompson,  president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center] do, that if something other than just being fatter is causing insulin resistance to begin with, that’s quite likely the dietary cause of many cancers. If it’s sugar that causes insulin resistance, they say, then the conclusion is hard to avoid that sugar causes cancer — some cancers, at least — radical as this may seem and despite the fact that this suggestion has rarely if ever been voiced before publicly. For just this reason, neither of these men will eat sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, if they can avoid it. "
My major issue is with this article is that it never mentions the role of linoleic acid in this process. 

Taubes spends a good part of the article discussing how fructose causes Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which can lead to cirhossis, and then liver cancer; just like alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease does.  (Getting NAFLD means you're well on the road to insulin resistance and diabetes, if you don't have it already.)  It seems that the liver metabolizes alcohol and fructose in a similar manner.  What does this have to do with linoleic acid (an omega-6 fat)?

"Dietary linoleic acid is required for development of experimentally induced alcoholic liver injury."
The same appears to be true for fructose-induced NAFLD, although I can't find as clear a link as the above.  Stephen Guyenet has posted on this in the past.

But the point is: if fructose and saturated fat do not cause NAFLD, but fructose and linoleic acid do, as appears to be the case, then is fructose causing NAFLD or is it linoleic acid?

But it's an excellent article, as usual.

Use up one of you 20 free article views on this.  (The Times' site is now mostly subscription-only.)

P.S.  I had some related thoughts on this topic back when Jimmy Moore passed along a question of mine to Gary Taubes during an interview.

P.P.S. Instapundit takes note.