Sugar Nation by Jeff O’Connell
Written by Ashley Kelmore, Posted in Reviews
This is another book where I should have read the description more closely. I thought this would be a book about the ills of sugar, and in a way, it was. But what it more specifically was about was one man’s experience with type-two diabetes (including learning from his father, who lost most of his leg and his life to the effects of the disease). It was a compelling story, but the mixture of arrogance and naïveté that the author manages to put forth left me feeling like I could have better spent my time learning about this subject.
Mr. O’Connell is a writer, so that helps. Books by doctors can be a challenge if they don’t also have the skill of being able to explain very scientific terms in ways that those of us not in the medical field can understand. He has written for Men’s Health magazine, and Muscle and Fitness which, for me, left me a bit skeptical. I enjoy magazines like that on occasion (I used to subscribe to Fitness and Self, both of which are aimed at women), but I also am fairly distrustful of some of the articles, especially ones that suggest that something that medical professionals have discussed for years are have ‘obvious’ answers. And Mr. O’Connell, unfortunately, falls into making those claims often. It’s possible he’s correct, but that’s where the arrogance gets to me.
The naiveté, however, comes in when the author talks about how he was able to take control of his type-two diabetes. He had access to many different tests that I don’t think most insurance covers (which could be a problem in itself, although he doesn’t discuss that), and has a job with the flexibility that allows him to do things like eat every two hours. I could do the same, but I’m fairly certain that most non-office jobs don’t allow for that – in factories pregnant women have been fired for needing to just leave to go to the bathroom more than once a shift. And the type of food he says we need to eat is what we usually hear these days, but the cooking time and the cost can be prohibitive, especially to those who might most benefit from it. Plus, he includes loads of (mostly unsubstantiated) supplements to the point that I was reminded of those magazine articles I used to skim skeptically. Even if they work, if anyone has walked into a vitamin or supplement store lately, you know how expensive that all is. And he doesn’t really touch this at all.
I think the information he shares is, for the most part, helpful, and some of it does seem very scientifically sound. He makes strong cases for errors that the entities we most trust on these issues – such as medical associations, including the American Diabetes Association – are getting a lot of the issues around type-two diabetes wrong, but at the same time he spends three chapters arguing that something that only one doctor (his) thinks is a huge issue, but other medical professionals definitely do not. Is his doctor the lone correct voice? Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe. But I don’t think this author is in a position to determine that, and he speaks as though he is.