By combining John Yudkin’s data (Nature, 1972) showing sugar intake in the UK from 1700-1970 with FAO data from 1961-2013, we can plot the following:

2013: 91 lbs/year/person, obesity 26%
1913: 95 lbs, obesity rare

Indeed, for many periods in the first 50 years of the 20th century, sugar intake exceeded today’s intake.

What’s more, obesity doubled from 15% to 29% during an historical low of sugar intake in the United Kingdom (1995 to 2013)! This is strongly at odds with the narrative common in the United Kingdom blaming sugar intake for obesity. As a matter of historical correlation, this simple hypothesis seems highly improbable.

For the record, Yudkin provides no indication where he got his figure. Here is a screepcap from his paper:

And the reference where he provides this figure.

I used Plot Digitizer to convert the data into Excel. Here is what it looks like lined up with the FAO data. Middle column is Yudkin’s, right is FAO’s. The data are rounded to the closest whole number.

So there is some inter-dataset reliability for the tiny amount of data we have. Beyond that, I don’t know how “appopriate” it is to splice these datasets together, but I did it because I don’t know of any alternative to figuring out what was going on before 1961.

If anyone knows where Yudkin got his data, I would be very interested to know it, so that I can evaluate what I have done here better.



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