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Here’s “The Sugary Truth”

sugar media kitFirst off, let’s get this straight. I love sugar. Always have. It’s been a big part of my life since well, the beginning. My mom’s a great cook and is quite the pastry chef. Growing up, I remember my dad, brother, and I wouldn’t even be halfway through our chicken fried steaks before we were eyeing the counter for dessert. There was always something: chocolate cake, banana pudding, oatmeal cookies, pecan pie… always something. Something sugary — and delicious.

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more concerned with what I put into my body. I have high cholesterol and have been on statins for years. That’s always puzzled me — I eat so little fat. I laid off eggs, butter, and fried foods, but it didn’t seem to matter. I figured it must be genetic.

Then while looking for something read on a flight home from Oregon, I picked up a book called Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. In it he argues that the low fat diets that have been promoted non-stop over the last few decades are just… wrong. He contends that carbohydrates — specifically refined carbohydrates like sugar, white flour, and starches — are the true cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Wait, what?

Right then I began to look at food very differently.

Could Mr. Taubes be right? I mean, I thought was eating a pretty low fat diet. I’d eat lots of turkey sandwiches, fruits and vegetables, nuts. That’s good, right? But almost every day I’d also drink a Dr Pepper, a handful (or two) of peanut butter M&Ms, and maybe a candy bar that caught my eye at some checkout counter. A little here. A little there. No big deal.

Then last year I watched Dr. Robert Lustig on “60 Minutes” telling Dr. Sanjay Gupta that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are basically poisons.


I started digging. I watched Dr. Lustig’s YouTube video “The Bitter Truth” and read Gary Taube’s cover story in The New York Time Magazine titled “Is Sugar Toxic?”. I began to look at nutrition labels closely. The news just got worse and worse.

I pitched the idea of making sugar the topic of Tremendousness’s first video release. We knew we had an improtant story to tell and the supporting data was everywhere. But we wanted to make sure that it would be a story that kids, adults — everyone — would want to watch. Our hope was to make a movie that didn’t just trot out the insane amounts of sugar in food, but instead told this story on a more personal level — one that people can picture themselves in. We wanted to make a movie that talked about what sugar does to your body and the effect it has on our health over time.

Here it is.

We knew we needed expert advice to make sure that what we said was accurate. We wanted to tell a story with the most powerful, up-to-date statistics possible. So we reached out to Gary Taubes, the man whose research started this whole thought process for me. He not only returned my call but also became a helpful collaborator on the project. We are very appreciative and thankful for his advice and insights.

We hope this movie will become a conversation starter for families and friends everywhere, and that kids and parents will see that the solution is not avoiding sugar completely, it’s more about helping kids — helping everyone, actually — make smarter choices when no one is watching over their shoulders.

The Sugary Truth” closes with a quote from Ann Wigmore, an early holistic health practitioner, nutritionist, and whole foods advocate.

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

We think we’ve made a pretty clear, compelling piece — but that quote probably says as much as this video, or any article or book could.

Please let us know what you think of the project.

[Update: we just posted a printable PDF / blog infographic version of “The Sugary Truth.”

Media kit

Download The Sugary’s Truth’s PDF explainer here and hi-resolution screenshots here. Embed the video here.

Comments (19)

  1. Andrea

    Great video. I found it on the Diet Doctor blog. The only thing I would change is the picture of bread and beans as sources of fiber but that’s just me. I might show it to a few people who question how I eat and what I feed my children. My mother still expresses her concern about not letting my children drink non-fat milk. It’s basically sugar water….

  2. bill


    I think you misunderstood Gary Taubes. He says
    that carbohydrates turn to glucose in your body.
    Why are you advocating eating bread at the end?

    It’s carbohydrates that are the problem. Go back
    and read the book. You missed the main point.

    • Bill Keaggy

      Bill, the video is our project — not Mr. Taubes’. It’s not just another version of his book although his research and feedback were very valuable to us.

      We drew facts and opinions from a variety of sources and many advocate for an appropriate amount of fiber and exercise vs a strict low-carb diet.

      Andrea & Rawolf, I think this addresses your comments too. Thanks everyone!

      • bill

        Gosh, since the first 3 of only 6 citations were from Gary Taubes,
        I thought at least you could have addressed his main theme.

        Just what is it you disagree with Gary Taubes about?

        Please enlighten us.

        • Bill Keaggy

          You seem pretty upset. Dr. Robert Lustig believes in the importance of fiber and exercise and he’s also a source. Mr Taubes feels they are not helpful in getting people to their ideal weight. But our video is not specifically or exclusively about weight loss, or diabetes, or food labels, or exercise.

          The Sugary Truth was created to help people understand our processed sugar problem. It’s about an overall approach to a balanced diet and good health.

          · Too much or zero sugar = extreme
          · Some natural sugars = good
          · No fiber = extreme
          · Some fiber = good
          · No exercise = extreme
          · Some exercise = good

          To us, that is balance. Another approach might be better if you just want to lose weight. We thanked Mr. Taubes specifically because it was his information that first got us thinking about how we eat and he was helpful in the early stages of the project. He didn’t concept, write, or design the video and we felt no obligation (even from him) to simply reproduce his entire book in video form.

          Gary firmly believes that exercise is not important when it comes to *weight loss.* That’s fine, but is it important to overall health? Yes. Is promoting exercise a good message to pass on to our youth? Yes. Is suggesting some carbs to slow digestion and help people feel more full instead of snacking on junk food OK?

          We think so. And that’s why the video uses Taubes’, Lustig’s, and others’ research as opposed to it all coming from one source, and one perspective.

          • Dan

            ITs not about whose research is the source. It is about your addition of those now-infamously glycemic “healthy whole grains” to your fiber prescription. That’s the main objection to this otherwise good video and it is a REAL problem because they are proven to have as high or higher glycemic index as sugar itself. Why not edit them OUT of your fiber section and make your video better?

  3. Job

    Very well done! Comprehensive and informative capturing the essentials without being too extreme.
    Being too extreme is informations greatest enemy.


    I have a question, is all kind of sugar poison? Or only the manufactured one? Meaning, fructose is also a kind of sugar, but if all sugars are bad for us, is fruit also bad for us?

    • W. Scott Matthews

      Jorge, fruit does contain fructose but in smaller amounts. Fruit also contains fiber, which slows digestion and helps the body deal with it effectively. The biggest problem is with added sugars in processed foods. Because those foods contain little or no fiber, their sugars are quickly digested which increases your insulin production to counteract the sugars. It’s all about the rate at which we are consuming the fructose. Here’s a link to the 60 Minutes segment with Dr Robert Lustig:


  5. Rawolf

    Excellent video, but you do not have to consider bread and beans; they are packed with carbs. We are not monkeys, we do not need fiber at all. HFLC diet, with not too much protein, is enough.

  6. bill

    How can anyone have a discussion with you
    if you trot out the line: “you seem pretty upset”?

    No, I’m pretty confused. Your statement of
    purpose says “We turn YOUR ideas into
    absurdly great visual communications” [emphasis
    added] and you repeatedly cite that the
    ideas come from Gary Taubes as here:
    “Sugar expert Gary Taubes worked with
    us on this” and here: “…information from
    Gary Taubes” along with the citations I
    alluded to in my first post.

    But you didn’t turn anyone else’s ideas into
    anything. You turned your own ideas into
    something, while giving the wrong impression
    that Gary Taubes believes this.

    I’m stating that you couldn’t have read his
    book, Good Calories, Bad Calories and
    have an understanding of it yet still put
    out this rehash of conventional wisdom
    that has done nothing to improve the
    progress of nutritional knowledge.

    So stop with the ad hominem please and
    consider what I’m saying. I asked a question
    in the post “What is it you disagree with
    Gary Taubes about?”

  7. Anna

    Love the video. Unfortunately as the others have said, the bread goes counter to your argument. It is just as carb-laden as sugar. The starch in bread and other floury products turns into sugar right in your mouth, as soon as your saliva hits it.

  8. Bill Keaggy

    Hello again!

    I want to let you know that we’ve posted a printable PDF / blog infographic version of The Sugary Truth… and we have removed the bread reference in it. The bread is dead. The last thing we want is for people to feel like they can’t use this to help friends and family understand health and nutrition a little better because breads have carbs that turn to glucose. Your points have been taken, and accepted, and are very appreciated.

    But please note this point: the video we made specifically is about *added* sugars in our food. Our goal was to explain that health problem. As I say in the new post:

    “The video is not about the carbs that are a natural part of fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads — and other unprocessed or unrefined foods… It’s not specifically about diabetes, or weight loss, or a certain diet, or exercise, or Gary Taubes‘ excellent book “Good Calories Bad Calories,” or Dr. Robert Lustig‘s eye-opening research. It touches on each of those subjects but the video wasn’t created to say all sugar is always bad — it was created to help people realize that we are consuming *too much sugar*, and that is bad. Yummy to many, but *deathly bad* to everyone.”

    We have added an annotation to the video that addresses the bread issue. YouTube does not allow its users to replace videos, otherwise we’d be happy to edit and re-upload it. Deleting the video would break all existing links, embeds, and views. Here’s a link to the annotation: http://youtu.be/EFlnlGx0B5U?t=3m35s

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

    And here’s the new infographic: http://tremendo.us/ness/2013/07/25/heres-the-sugary-infographic/

    • Bill Keaggy

      Bill, I appreciate your passion and I see and understand your viewpoint. Like I said, we’ve updated the video with an annotation explaining that bread actually adds to your sugar consumption — and the new infographic doesn’t include bread at all.

      I’m sorry, but for now this is the last comment of yours that I’m going to approve. We’ve always approved all comments on the blog and we always will — until they devolve into mean-spiritedness, circular uselessness, or trolling. Feel free to continue to submit comments but if they’re just more of the same then they fall into the “circular uselessness” category. You’ve definitely made your point and your perspective will remain here for all to see.

      Everyone, we honestly look forward to having more conversations about the problem of added sugars and this project.


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