Casting a Dietary Villain – Sugar Takes Center Stage

Social history – too often ignored by science – reveals a consistent pattern of irrational beliefs about sugar. In 1974, pediatrician William Crook wrote a letter to a medical journal in which he named cane sugar “a leading cause of hyperactivity” (what we now call ADHD). This truism has been so persistent that it was immortalized on an Old Navy “Let’s Blame the Sugar” T-shirt for babies. Researchers debated Crook’s claim for decades. The scientific consensus now? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “more research discounts this idea than supports it.” They cite one study as a possible explanation for the myth’s persistence, in which “mothers who thought their children had gotten sugar rated them as more hyperactive […] compared to mothers who thought their children received aspartame.” It was belief about sugar’s ill effects that biased the mothers’ perception.

Going back further in time, the demonization of sugar gets increasingly absurd. In 1968, holistic lifestyle crusader Jerome Irving Rodale – founder of health and wellness behemoth Rodale Inc – wrote Natural Health, Sugar, and the Criminal Mind, the thesis of which is evident from the title. Murder; domestic violence; the rise of Nazi Germany: blame sugar!

Continue Reading

Death serves soda.Wendy Woloson via Library of Congress