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The following comes from a slide presented by (?) at the Low Carb Down Under tour.  You can click to enlarge, but here's what the slide says under the title "What changed in the 1900s?"

  • Sat fat down 83%
  • Veggie oil/margarine up 535%
  • Sugar up 1150%
Now, no doubt there are changes in eating habits, and perhaps "down under" people changed their eating habits even more dramatically than we Americans have, or are purported to have.  I've blogged many times that something's "off" with any stats indicating that Americans actually consume a low fat diet, but I'm not going to address the fat claims above.  It's the sugar claim that just screams -- that can't be so?!

Here's sugar consumption in the US from this article.  If we cheat downward to the two dips in the curve after that, and say we consumed 30 kg/individual in 1900 and 70 kg/individual in 2000, that comes to a 133% increase in sugar consumption in the 1900's.  Let's go back to ~1850 where sugar consumption appears to tick up starting around 8 kg/individual.  So from 1850 to 2000, this amounts to a 775% increase.  I guess this presenter is going back to 1750 where sugar consumption appears to be about 3-4 kg/individual so we've had a horrifyingly 1650% increase in sugar consumption!!  OK, if you're interested in hyperbolic statistics, there's your money game...

Now, look at the obesity curve there.  Yeah, it tracks somewhat in the latter half of the 20th century with sugar consumption, and unfortunately there appear to be points missing in the mid century and data only begins in late 1800's ...still I think we can safely extrapolate those low rates back to 1850.
  • 1850 - 1900 
    • Obesity flat around 3% 
    • Sugar consumption 8kg to 30 kg/individual = 275% increase
  • 1900 - 1950 
    • Obesity 3% to 9% = 200% increase
    • Sugar consumption flat, fluctuated up to 45 kg or 50% increase twice in the 50 year period.
  • 1950 - 2000  
    • Obesity 9% to 40% = 344% increase
    • Sugar consumption 30 to 70kg = 133% increase
Well, if we're going to play games with numbers like this ...   I'd rather we didn't, how about you?  Exaggerating to promote an agenda may work on some, but it will not go over well in the end.    {EDIT:  This is an odd study/graph, they use UK data - circles, and US data - diamonds, for the sugar consumption. I think this is still a useful example.}

Percent increases/decreases are the least helpful way of presenting these statistics because they are dependent on the magnitude of the starting point.  Well, least helpful to the consumer of the information anyway.   Case in point:
  • 1850-1900 sugar consumption increased by about 22 kg/individual which amounted to 275% because consumption started at around 8% in this time frame.
  • 1950-2000 sugar consumption increased by about 40 kg/individual which amounted to 133% because consumption started at around 30% in this time frame.
So the absolute increase in sugar consumption from 1950-2000 was almost double the absolute increase from 1850-1900.  And yet reported as a % increase, 1950-2000 was less than half that calculated for 1850-1900.  The absolute increases in sugar consumption are alarming enough in their own right and tell the better story.  No smoke and mirrors of percent increases necessary.


Unknown said…
47% of all statistics are completely fabricated
Lerner said…
The graph line that screams out to be included would be the one for non-sugar consumption, to see if it also tracks with obesity. Question: Is their some central site that has comprehensive historical figures for food and health, or do you have to search the data out by knowing a hundred different places to look?

Btw, I find myself rebelling against the rebels by defending sugar (especially PWO, though lately I've been using mostly cheese puffs or corn chips instead). But I don't actually consume that much sugar. Having three pounds of sugar per week (70kg/yr) doesn't seem possible. Is that another less-than-honest example from advocates? Did they see a range of figures for yearly consumption and choose the highest?

E.g.: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Sugar_UCM_306725_Article.jsp
"A report from the 2001–04 NHANES... showed that Americans get about 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day"

which is 85 lbs/yr, if there are 96 teaspoons in a pound.

LeonRover said…
. . . and the other 53+/-47 % are in-completely fabricated . . .
CarbSane said…
Of all stats, I think the sugar ones are most skewed. They've never seemed believable. There must be some serious sugar junkies who are dramatically skewing the mean or something. I also wonder if part of the difference in consumption might be that "sugars" on processed food labels are now included in "sugar" whereas before they were not (e.g. orange juice, tomato sauce).

I too find myself defending sugar. I have no dog in that fight as I consume very little myself, even in my heavier days.
CarbSane said…
And there's no statistical significance between complete and in-complete fabrication :-)
Hornet0123 said…
I bet there is some skewing of the data as I know some serious sugar junkies! Funny thing is they are all scrawny.
Galina L. said…
There are so many things changed at the beginning of 20-th century - whole life-style changed and became pretty much the way it is now - mass culture, women started to dress in short dresses, cut their hair and wear pants, mass-production of clothes, masses of people leaving their traditional life-styles and moving into cities.
Anonymous said…
Much of the uptick in sugar is probably due to soda consumption, but even then that number seems high.

Still, it's quite a stretch to immediately tie one with the other. I'd be willing to bet the increase in sedentary lifestyles will track much more consistently with obesity rate without all the exaggeration and no doubt inventive definitions of sugars and fats.
Puddleg said…
Yeah, there's a smaller subset of people eating most of the sugar, and a smaller subset of people getting really fat.
How well do these 2 subsets correspond? Isn't that the real question?

Good point about % increases. Is there a reliable difference between a 79% increase and a 179% increase in popular reporting? Should the baseline be included as the first 100% or not? There has to be a better way of putting it.
Jason Sandeman said…
"Sugar" could also contain HFCS consumption, which is just about anything processed. It's not such a stretch when you think of all those cake mixes, jars of ore-made sauces, soups, Starbucks, fat-free "creams," flavored anything, soda, the size of sodas, one thing I noticed while visiting Florida was how sweet EVERYTHING was. Sweet tea, etc. I remember being in the states a year ago and actually finding a Tim Hortons - one Ice Cappacino later, with whipped cream and obligatory caramel on top - and EVEN after covering it with the usual dose of insulin I'd need, I was still pushing 14 right after. It tasted sweeter than usual IIRC.
People cook less these days (indeed, many people my age couldn't make a birthday cake without a mix!) so that may very be well what skews that statistic.
I'm from Australia and last I read was that Australian sugar consumption has fallen. It probably has to do with the increase of diet soda and other artificial sweeteners. I think fried and other fast food is the biggest problem here.

I listened to jimmy moores talk online last night and it was just painful. No logical person would listen to that talk and decide low-carb/keto sounds like a positive lifestyle change, seriously. The biggest take away you could get from it was that it's possible to survive if you ever find yourself shipwrecked on an island which has nothing but coconut and avocado trees.
Unknown said…
There was an argument I came across on some forum while researching Ray Peat's work. A certain member claimed to consume somewhere in the vicinity of 300+ grams of sugar per day, which provoked a perplexing reaction from other members on how that cannot be considered healthy. So that member clarified his claim by saying that he didn't literally consume 300 grams of actual table sugar, but rather, a variety mix of complex and simple carbohydrate foods such as tubers and fruits, which contain their own sugar content, with only some added table sugar.

I believe that the original claim of 300 grams of sugar was being made in a sort of tongue in cheek fashion against that dogmatic level of low-carb perception where even whole food carbohydrate sources are looked upon as inferior 'sugar burner' food.
CarbSane said…
Don Matesz' wife Tracy did a month long raw vegan challenge which meant changing from cooked grains to raw fruits with accompanying veggies. http://thefoodway.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-month-long-raw-food-challenge-ended.html (look in October archives for more posts)

I followed with interest, and awe -- how many bananas for breakfast? Eight!!! Ohh my. I imagine if one added up the "sugar" in her diet for that month she was easily topping 300 g = 1200 cal as she eats a little more than twice that/day.

It's really difficult to produce fructose damage with anything resembling whole sources. Even Frasetto's paleo diet had quite a bit of OJ in the lead in period that can't be ignored given the short length of her paleo diet study. (see Is This Your Paleo Diet?, search or chrono list).

If fructose is bad b/c it's converted (mostly in excess) to sat fat, then is sat fat bad?
CarbSane said…
I just listened to it. Yes, painful. And I wanted to scream at my monitor "Liar!". This man has NO shame. He did not just have a few kilos creep on each year starting in 2006. He was NOT doing the same thing. Indeed the one thing he chose to minimize in telling his 2004 story was the exercise. He did "a little bit"?? Bullshit. Fat won't make you fat. He wasn't eating enough fat and too much protein? Oh it makes me wanna hurl. Pass me the high osmolar Gatorade please!

Unknown said…
I gave a random shot to one of his videos from that tour. Somewhere at the 20 minute mark of the 'Nutritional Ketosis Lecture (known here on as: protein and salad bashing lecture)' with the line, "if you eat too much protein it is just like eating chocolate cake," I just deemed the whole thing a bit too tragic to even be considered funny.
Unknown said…
It's becoming like a Monty Python bit, there's no shortage of really fit people selling books telling you what to eat, he needs to get himself quite a bit healthier before he has any business telling people how much protein to eat.

Imo eating too much protein is just like eating too much protein.
CarbSane said…
See, even the 230 lb Jimmy could be a role model. Not ideal, but a long ways from 410 and someone saying "this is how I took off 180 lbs, kept it off and improved my health" can often carry more weight than a fit man who has never fought with obesity, etc. But that's not what you get from Jimmy as he has not maintained the loss in any sort of sane fashion, his idea of "healthy" is highly debatable. At this point I do believe it's important for others like Dayspring to speak up and say it like it is, or if they believe he's healthy, then put your name on the line too. Because too many people believe Jimmy's translations.

I couldn't believe that chocolate cake line Kade. What's even more sad was how after LC cruise 2009 and LC cruise 2010, he was questioned about trying IF and he was adamant that EVERY expert was against it on the LC cruises. Now in the talk he's mockingly saying how everyone is wrong who says that. Right or wrong, it was what HE channeled all along to his readers/listeners.

BTW, you can't get grass fed sour cream and cream cheese?

CarbSane said…
Welcome! I agree, soda is a huge contributor. I grew up right through this whole thing and there just were no big gulps and such. The coffee craze and other drink crazes too.

Definitely activity too. Younger people don't even know NOT having a remote control, cordless phones, cell phones, power everything standard in everything. It really does all add up!
The possibility of protein being first converted to glucose and then to fat via novo de lipogenesis extremely unlikely. The more rational explanation would be that it's the beloved heart healthy dietary fat that's being deposited on your ass. Oh no, that doesn't sound right because fat doesn't make you fat right?

A chocolate cake probably has more fat calories than sugar/carbs anyway so it's hardly a fair example.
The part on his "stellar" lipid panel was just awkward, his numbers have both the Conventional wisdom and the Atkins/lowcarb crew both reeling over in horror.

Facepalm. One of the many reasons low-carb/high fat advocates are seen as such fringe lunatics. If they stopped by in Newcastle on the Australia low carb tour I probably would of went along for the comedy relief.
Unknown said…
Yes, I don't even pay attention to his meal frequency bits due to the sheer inconsistency (IF good -- IF bad -- Maybe -- Not maybe).

"The more rational explanation would be that it's the beloved heart healthy dietary fat that's being deposited on your ass. Oh no, that doesn't sound right because fat doesn't make you fat right?" - Screennamerequired

Of course. I believe that there's a post on this very blog where Evelyn talks about how--at best--carbohydrate is the vehicle while dietary fat is what primarily gets deposited into the body's adipose reserves.

As for stellar lipids. I think that particular joke's gone too far and this 'cholesterol numbers don't matter' meme has really started to mislead a lot of people who could benefit from keeping an eye on their numbers.
Unknown said…
That challenge and its results don't surprise.

There are plenty of raw vegans out there eating a high fruit diet and not having outright weight issues. Although I do believe that the extreme forms of this regimen over the long term can produce other deficiencies and problems that ultimately result in some form of lowered metabolism and even shift in body composition and health. There's a whole website dedicated to 30BaD drop outs with many of them reporting problems relating to thyroid decline and other hormonal dysfunction including generally poor quality of health (skin, energy levels, etc.) over long term fruitarianism.

Also, I think it should always be stressed that on such diets, there's a considerable level of digestive burden and loss of calories through malabsorption.

None of this would be an argument against raw veganism per se, but rather, extremely limiting diets where some level of supplementation or nutrient variation might be required.

"If fructose is bad b/c it's converted (mostly in excess) to sat fat, then is sat fat bad?"

Context, right?

There's been some recent comments on this very blog from individuals who are concerned about their lipids and saturated fat intake. I think as it stands, there's a bit of a risk/gamble for using saturated fat as a primary staple in the diet.
Unknown said…
Same here. . . But I've got a question in addition. Are these slim/scrawny folk healthy? I know quite a few who are sugar junkies and while skinny, their general health also tends to be borderline.
Ron said…
Wow, this web site is venomous. You people should team up with Durianrider.
Unknown said…
I don't think anyone here is pure enough to be welcomed into the shaky grace of Harley's puritanical raw vegan 'master race' kingdom. There may be overlaps at play, but we're just not nasty or "raw fit, mayte" enough to be worthy of standing alongside Lord Bicycle Skeletor.