Fat Chance Cookbook

Learning to cut the sugar

Dr Robert Lustig,  the American pediatric endocrinologist who is now famous as “Mr Anti-Sugar”, says he would rather be viewed as the “anti-processed food guy”, since sugar — while his biggest concern — is just one of a number of ills he sees in the modern American diet. He’s recently lauched a new book, “The Fat Chance Cookbook”, and discussed his concerns and new book in convesation with The New York Times

Q. Your lecture on sugar spread quickly and was viewed by millions of people. Were you surprised?

A. It blows my mind. I didn’t think anyone was going to watch it. I didn’t even know it was being taped. If I had, I would’ve worn a better tie.

Q. A lot of studies lately have extolled the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Do you favour one diet or cuisine over another?

A. I don’t have any money on any specific cuisine or diet. I think they could all work, and they all did work at one time. But now they don’t because they’re processed.

Pioppi, Italy, is where the Mediterranean diet was centered. Did they have pasta? No. It was meat and vegetables, and some red wine and olive oil. Pasta is an American invention. Where did chow mein come from? It’s another American invention. These dishes are not indigenous to these countries. They’re dishes that we created and then exported back. [History disputes this contention: The first concrete information concerning pasta products in Italy dates from the 13th or 14th century, accorinding to Wikipedia. Ed]

The bottom line is every country has its cuisine, and every cuisine works for that country. But there’s one thing that doesn’t work for any country: processed food. And any country that adopts processed food, which is now everywhere, is getting sick. This is why I want to be known as the anti-processed food guy, not the anti-sugar guy.

Q. What are your thoughts on diets that focus on calories?

A. I’m not against reducing calories. But if that’s all you’re doing, it can’t work. It depends what those calories are. Everything that comes in a 100-calorie container, half of it is sugar, whether it’s yoghurt, or cookies, or whatever. If a calorie is a calorie, then it should work. But it doesn’t, because a calorie is not a calorie. And this is the thing that we have to get past. That’s why I wrote the cookbook. Because the question is, once you realise that all calories are not the same, what do you do?

Q. You treat many obese children in your clinic. Do you ever end up treating parents as well?

Almost always, we see an obese kid come in with an obese parent. And when the kid loses weight, the parent loses weight, because the parent actually changed what’s going on in the home. They made the home safe for the kid and safe for themselves as well. But if the parent is hooked on sugar and they won’t get it out of the house, then the kid can’t get better. If a parent says, ‘Oh, it’s my kid’s problem, but I’m going to eat the cookies,’ then nobody gets better. We see a lot of that.

Q. How do you change behaviour?….

New York Times: Read the full article