Filed Under: Big Fat Lies Food Scares

Unscientific Rambling Stains Science Dinner

When most people think of “the most destructive force in the universe,” they think of astronomical phenomena like black holes and meteorites. And if those words were uttered at a swanky dinner of scientific research donors only a few days before a “city killer” asteroid near-miss, the speaker must have been a prize-winning astronomer speaking of the inevitable armageddon or galaxies colliding.

But he wasn’t. Instead, Rockefeller University’s “Celebrating Science” gala hosted Robert Lustig, the notorious gadfly physician who claims sugar is “toxic” and “a poison.” (Even food police chief and soda prohibitionist Michael Jacobson won’t go that far.) And The Wall Street Journal reported that “the most destructive force in the universe” Lustig identified wasn’t nuclear explosions or an asteroid impact, but sugar, a completely safe food ingredient that has been consumed by people for roughly 10,000 years. No wonder he has told the Chicago Tribune “we are going to have to do some of this [regulating of sugar] on the fly”—apparently it’s the only way he can keep his agenda safe from scientific scrutiny.

And that wasn’t Lustig’s only scientific and historical howler. He proclaimed obesity “bigger than the bubonic plague.” Um, no. The largest bubonic plague pandemic (The Black Death) killed off up to one-third of Europe’s population (between 75-200 million people) over about a decade. An earlier plague pandemic killed up to 5,000 people every day in the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Given that evidence shows that mild overweight and Grade I obesity are linked with longer lives, Lustig’s claim is easily shown to be pure unadulterated hyperbole, not science.

So if the advancement of science isn’t Lustig’s motivation, what might be? Book sales are a possibility: Lustig’s manifesto Fat Chance is on sale. More generally, Lustig hopes to help trial lawyers win judgments against food companies for daring to sell food people like—he’s already taking law classes to prepare the way. If Lustig gets his way, adults should get ready to line up at the Sugar Control Board store in your state (if you can still afford sugar), and little girls better not be baking cookies.

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