Saturday, November 13, 2021

Book Review: Sugar Proof

Next up for review is Sugar Proof, by Dr. Michael Goran and Dr. Emily Ventura. Dr. Goran is a pediatric professor at USC Medical School and Dr. Ventura is a nutrition educator and cook.


As the name suggests, this book is all about sugar. It describes all of the dangers of feeding sugar to our children and has several programs designed to reduce sugar intake. The book contains 368 pages. It is well written and I really enjoyed reading it.

5 Things I Really Liked About Sugar Proof

1) I think the authors did a good job detailing all of the potential harms of consuming sugar. The mood swings, fatigue and difficulty concentrating associated with high sugar consumption can make our kid’s lives much more difficult. There is also a significant long-term increase in risk of chronic disease associated with sugar consumption.

2) I like the chart that has all of the different names that manufacturers use on food ingredient lists for sugar. This makes it much easier for the reader to identify the sources of sugar in a product.

3) Similarly, there is a very useful chart that has the amounts of sugar in everyday foods. Many readers will be surprised at how much sugar is added to commonly consumed foods.

4) I like the section where the authors detail the addictive aspects of sugar. The research is beginning to show that sugar addiction is real.

5) I also like that the authors mention that sugar changes kid’s palates. When a lot of sugar is consumed, kids don’t want to eat healthy foods like proteins, fruits and vegetables. I have seen this with my client’s kids for years.

5 Things I Didn’t Agree With in Sugar Proof

1) I did not understand how the authors handled references in this book. There were no reference markers in the text whatsoever. In other words, the authors would describe a study, but there was no way to find out what study they were talking about.

2) Similar to point #1, there were no citations at the end of the chapter or the back of the book. There was a link to a separate website that had the references. This is very unusual for a research-based book and highly inconvenient.

3) There were some very curious claims in this book, particularly about non-nutritive sweeteners:

For example, on page 11, the authors are talking about non-nutritive sweeteners and mention: “These compounds can cause symptoms ranging from acute gastrointestinal distress to long term effects on the brain, contributing to cognitive decline later in life”. 

There is no reference given for this claim in the text, at the back of the book or even when I searched on their website under Chapter 1 references. Saying that artificial sweeteners cause cognitive decline is quite a serious claim. Not providing a reference to support this claim really undermines the validity of the book in general.

Another example is on page 19: “Dramatic new research shows that their developing bodies are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of too much sugar. In fact, sugar can disrupt the normal growth of the heart, brain, liver, gut and more.”  Again, no references are given anywhere to support this claim. 

Now I am no advocate for sugar consumption. But to say that it stops the development of a growing heart, brain and liver without providing references is just surprising from a research based book.

4) The authors go to great lengths to mention that sugar is extremely addictive. I couldn’t agree more and increasingly, the research literature backs this idea up. However, the author permits up to 24 grams of sugar per day for older children. For the vast majority of my clients, having sugar at all doesn’t work. It is so addictive that if you have it even a few times a week, you want it all the time. It sounds ironic, but giving up sugar 100% is far easier than giving it up 75%. After a few weeks of withdrawal, my clients don’t really miss it at all. Would you tell an alcoholic that 1 or 2 drinks a day are OK? Would you tell a smoker that 3 or 4 cigarettes a day are fine? With addictive substances, the answer is to give it up. I know it is not easy at first, but it is really the only way.

5) Some of the substitutions the authors recommend for sugar will cause as many problems as sugar itself. Replacing sugar with rice crackers, popcorn, dried fruits, fruit smoothies and pita bread will cause a very similar spike in blood sugar and insulin. The real key is to eliminate sugar and replace it with low glycemic load carbs like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Is Sugar Proof Worth Reading?

Absolutely! The main message of this book is to reduce sugar in our children’s diet, which is very important. I do not think that many people realize the damage it does to their quality of life today and their risk of long-term disease tomorrow. 

Having said that, the book’s handling of the research literature could be a little more organized. My only other complaint is when you eliminate the sugar from your child’s diet, don’t replace it with other high glycemic load carbohydrates.




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