5 Bad Tips About Sugar

5 bad tips about sugar (header)

Look like sugar has become public enemy #1.

Some of the newfound concerns are completely justified, but some are not. Actually, it’s become one of these black-or-white craze, where one website tells you to cut all sugar from your diet, whereas another one claims it’s harmless.

And to tell the truth, I’m kind of pissed off about everything we’ve learned regarding the industry in the last few years, so I agree that something has to change.

(And as it happens, I’m especially irritated by the whole juicing fad, which is totally related to this, although most people don’t realize it.)

Obviously, a single comic strip can’t cover the whole subject, but I’ve selected 5 common beliefs that, I think, come from a poor understanding of the core issues we’re facing here.

Nope, you won’t have to go sugar-free.

But yep, you may have to rethink how you eat quite a bit.

Many thanks to Catherine Lefebvre, dietitian, for inspiring and reviewing this comic!

Translated by Patricia Rainville; proofread by Stéphanie Alcaraz-Robinson.


5 bad tips about sugar (title)


Don't eat too much fruit, it's full of sugar (1)

Don't eat too much fruit, it's full of sugar (2)



Choose your sugar wisely and natural

Choose your sugar wisely like agave maple honey



Skip dessertadded sugar in processed food



Sugar doesn't cause diabetes

Free sugar is linked to obesity



Fat is more damaging to your health than sugarBig sugar strategies 1Big sugar strategies 2



Sugar recommended daily intake

Sugary drinks at the pharmacy




13 responses to “5 Bad Tips About Sugar

  1. thepharmafist


    Definition of “free sugar” by the World Health Organization:

    Overconsumption of sugar is a major contributor to obesity worldwide: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sugary-drinks-fact-sheet/

    Link between added sugar intake and cardiovascular disease: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2174010

    Today the link between fat intake and health is not clear at all: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/dietary-fat-and-disease/

    The “no doubt” quote: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2016/09/404081/sugar-papers-reveal-industry-role-shifting-national-heart-disease-focus

    George Irving, the scientist who assessed sugar safety for the FDA in the US, was the chairman of the scientific committee of the sugar industry: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign/2/

    25 grams of free / added sugar per day corresponds to 5% of the daily calories, which is recommended as “ideal” by the WHO: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/

    About Ancel Keys, the 7 Countries Study and related misconceptions: http://www.thenutritionwonk.com/single-post/2017/08/01/Ancel-Keys-and-The-Seven-Countries-Study-New-Paper

    “Minimally processed food a health goal”, article by Marion Nestle on processed (and ultra-processed) food:

    Nobody relies on the Food Guide… but maybe we should rely on Brazil’s, which includes very simple recommendations based on lifestyle, like avoiding processed foods and cooking at home: http://www.fao.org/nutrition/education/food-based-dietary-guidelines/regions/countries/brazil/en/

    Some may want to quote this article from Harvard in order to refute my point that there is no “good” sugar: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/choosing-good-carbs-with-the-glycemic-index. But please note that this post discusses different foods according to their composition in simple vs complex sugars. At no time is there any question of free sugar, or of a free sugar vs another. So Harvard quote fail.

    What about vegetable juice instead? Sure, there’s way less sugar in it… but it doesn’t have more nutritional value than a fruit juice. Juice is essentially water and sugar. And even though most vegetables contain less fructose than fruit, some have more, like the carrot: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2901?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=11124

    The Mediterranean diet, low in free and moderately fatty sugars, has been associated in many studies with better cardiovascular health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23432189

  2. Alyssa Andersen Chan

    Nice article. Now how about one on artificial sweeteners? From what I’ve read they are mostly safe to use in moderation. But I’ve heard some patients say their doctors advised against them due to insulin spikes. And there are studies linking them to obesity (although is that just correlation and not causation?) and the whole disruption of the gut microbiome thing. It’s a complicated topic, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • thepharmafist

      Hi Alyssa!

      Thanks for your question! It’s a complex topic indeed and each sweetener has to be considered individually.

      In short, as far as we know, they’re all safe for consumption within the recommended dose range. There is some evidence that they could be harmful at very high doses. As an example, cyclamate was banned in the U.S. when early experiments showed that rats fed with VERY high amounts of it had a higher risk of bladder cancer, but subsequent data and data in humans does not support such a risk:

      Also, systematic reviews (such as the one below) do not support the claim that sweeteners prevent weight gain. They could even be associated with increased weight and cardiac risk. But as you say, this is correlation and not causation; people using more sweeteners may have a worse diet overall, which could explain the association.

      Research on artifical sweeteners and the gut microbiome, as well as insulin resistance, also suggests possible risks. But as the authors point out in this review: “However, interpretation is complicated by the fact that [sweeteners] are typically consumed by individuals already suffering from metabolic syndrome manifestations”.
      So we should keep an eye on this.

      But at the end of the day, the way I see it is this: artifical sweeteners have no real purpose on a nutritional level. They’re simply a way to avoid calories, and using sweeteners is not an improvement of one’s diet overall. I’m no dietitian of course, but when people ask me if they should be concerned with sweeteners, that’s what I tell them.

      Thanks again!


  3. A good mix of real information and organic level fearmongered crap. Good luck figuring out what is what.

    Do you know how many times I have had this conversation? If you know what GI shows,, how fiber slows blood sugar spikes, and the difference between fructose and glucose, you should be able to see it yourself.

    • Hi Kip!

      I’m always open to criticism and to making changes in the comics if I’m wrong, but your comments here are not helping. They are vague contradictions.

      Let me give you a hand. Fill-in the blanks:

      “Dear (asshole/idiot/Olivier),

      I would like to point out that the info stated under Bad Tip # X is incorrect. This is not my opinion, but a fact that I can support with evidence.

      The correct info is Y.

      Because if this incorrect info, your central thesis is skewed and should be adjusted to Z.

      As you’ve provided references for every statement in your comic, I have to do the same. There it is : [reference]

      (Best regards/go to hell)”


      • I’m stealing that. Nice to meet you Oliver.

        Apologies, I’m mobile. But this is a good start : A Doctor Watches What the Health //youtu.be/skIGCoopR-g

        • You may steal it 😀

          “What the Health” and similar documentaries are garbage, I’m with you there.

          I don’t see how it relates to my comic. Is it because of the denunciation of industry practices? These documentaries do tip towards (or are fully into) conspiracy theories.

          But there’s no conspiracy here. It’s just the standards of big business. There’s a full, factual analysis of that in JAMA, describing how the sugar industry used strategies similar to that of the tobacco one:

          To me, pointing out dishonesty in business is not fear-mongering. It’s because of practices like this that people lose faith in science and the healthcare system. So we can both be against this, and against pseudoscience. Bullshit should be opposed in any of its forms.


          • OK. 1 and 2 are goo.
            3… The idea of added sugar is good, but then you pick on bread. You know bread needs salt and sugar to have taste. Like #1, if the bread has fiber not wonder, don’t worry about the sugar. Soup needs sugar to offset acid. So it will be in tomato and tomato like soup often. Not a big worry. Until we accept MSG as the flavour king, we need some salt and sugar. (look at how much both went up when they took msg outa TV dinners!)

            #4, I think says it all under the picture. Badly explained science leads to this. Sugar does not cause Diabetes, ADHD or tooth decay, the way we think. People fighting obesity and/or diabetes should know that empty calories are not good, so no Mountain Dew for breakfast.

            And #5. It could actually be true that fat is not as bad as the sugar. Its starting to look that way. But a conspiracy of PR and bought scientists, even if true, does not show that. This is the same logic anti GMO, anti Vaccine, Anti Nuclear people use, and it is a lie. Just in farming and agra tech industry I have seen many scientists and management type cross from government, regulatory, industry, and back. This is normal and not a way to discredit their work. This was the main red flag I saw in your list.

            PS: good answer on artificial sweeteners in the comments. Not harmful as used so no need to fear, but also not a way to lose weight and they taste bad.

          • thepharmafist

            I see you haven’t followed my advice on how to disagree. But OK, let see…

            #3: This is exactly what the comic says.

            Copy-paste: “Indeed, most processed foods don’t ‘need’ the extra sugar. (except sometimes in small amounts, like in order to activate yeast in some recipes of bread, or in tomato sauce to cut its acidic taste)”

            #4: This is exactly what the comic says.

            Copy-paste: “My teachers were 100% right: sugar doesn’t cause diabetes or heart diseases. (…) All I’m saying is: There is an increasingly clear link between the overconsumption of free/added sugar and obesity, which in turn is linked to a whole lot of heart diseases. So when we talk about diabetes, let’s not forget to mention that.”

            #5: What you are doing here is called a straw man. That is, you are deforming what I said in order to make it easier to contradict.

            I no way did I say, or even suggest, that sugar is “bad for your health” because some scientists have been bought. There is already plenty of evidence that free & added sugar is detrimental to health.

            The point here is that research efforts were spent in order to downplay the detrimental effects of sugar on health. Even is sugar was fine for health, that would still be an issue worth discussing.

            But also, how is that even surprising? Let me give you an example. What if I told you that the pharma industry does exactly the same to present drugs in a favorable way? Would you say it’s a “lie”? Because again, there is plenty of factual, published, peer-reviewed evidence that they do. I have personally worked 6 years in the industry and saw it with my own eyes; they don’t even hide it internally. Does that make drugs bad? Of course not. I’m a pharmacist and I work with drugs all day long. But it’s a good thing to be aware of the lack of transparency, publications bias and questionable influence campaigns if I want to do my job right.

            You are also doing a straw man in mentioning the anti-GMO / anti-vaccine propaganda, as they have nothing to do with sugar. Putting these together serves only to make my point #5 look “more conspiratory”. I’ve done a full comic on vaccines, debunking common misconceptions but also pointing out that yes, vaccine makers want to make money and yes, that have done bad things. How is that incompatible? The same could be said about sugar.

            What I don’t like in the skeptics community is that in order to debunk conspiracy theories, they often reject any possibility that big companies do bad stuff. Well, they do. And to me, that’s part of the bullshit and pseudoscience I want to fight against.

            Sorry if I’m being somewhat rude in my answer, but I will not accept personal opinion presented as evidence.

            Otherwise, I hope we can agree in my next comics (there won’t be any conspiracy involved, I promise).


  4. I hadn’t heard of the concept of free vs non-free sugars before. Is it related to starch carbohydrates vs sugar carbohydrates?

    • Hey Leon! No it’s not related. Here’s the actual definition by the World Health Organization:

      “Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.”



  5. What counts as a processed food? I legitimately don’t know. Does cutting them out mean I should look for a certain label when shopping?

    • Hi Alita!

      Here’s a very simple article on the topic:

      One could argue that almost any food is processed; like a washed apple.

      But practically speaking:

      “Processed is code for junk foods – foods of minimal nutritional value. These crowd the center aisles of supermarkets, add loads of unneeded calories, rely on added nutrients for health benefits”

      The goal is therefore not to stop eating all processed food, of course, but to prioritize minimally processed food (fresh, canned, pasteurized, frozen, etc.), and avoid ultra-processed food (which usually contains loads if unnecessary ingredients, incl. sugar).

      Thanks for your question!


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