Science writer Gary Taubes has a knack for subverting conventional wisdom. Sixteen years ago, he published a groundbreaking feature article in The New York Times Magazine arguing that decades' worth of government-approved nutritional advice was flat-out wrong, ideologically motivated, and contributing to rising rates of obesity and diabetes. Traditional dieting guidance attacking fatty foods and praising carbohydrates, he wrote, was based on "a big fat lie."
Back then, Taubes was excoriated. (Reason published pieces both attacking and defending him.) But today his thesis is gaining ground among health and nutrition researchers. His work has been highlighted everywhere from The New York Times to Time magazine. Protein-rich regimens have taken off after millions of Americans found that stocking their pantries with supposedly "heart-healthy" snacks such as granola bars and fruit juice failed to improve wellness.
Taubes' latest book on the subject is The Case Against Sugar (Knopf), which describes the sweet stuff as a toxic substance akin to cigarettes that can and does kill. "Something's triggering the epidemic everywhere, and it's probably the same thing everywhere," he says. The ingredient "at the scene of the crime"—one that's stealthily packed into even our diet foods, and one we've been consuming in ever-increasing doses over time, he argues—is sugar.
In January, Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Taubes in his kitchen in Oakland, California, to talk about food, science, and the politics of both.
Photo Credit: Cody Pickens