What’s the first thing you think of when you imagine a birthday, wedding, or anniversary celebration? When your kid has a great game or brings home a great report card, what do you reward him with? (We bet it’s not a kale-cicle.) If you’re like me, your answer centers on…SUGAR. And according to this EconTalk guest, author Gary Taubes, that’s dangerous. Taubes calls sugar’s role in creating insulin resistance a “pandemic” that threatens to overwhelm health care systems worldwide.

Does this sound hyperbolic, or does the claim hit close to home? Can Taubes convince you of the merits of a different sort of diet, one that’s high in fat and low in sugar? (As one twitter follower hilariously tweeted this week, “Taubes may have stolen our sugar, but at least he left the pastrami.”)

Use the prompts below to start your own conversations offline. No matter how you respond, please keep being lovely!

1. In his effort to debunk the “empty calories” claim about sugar, Taubes notes that research has shown that slimmer people tend to consume more sugar than heavier people. How is this example illustrative of his larger critique of scientific research?
2. A good bit of the conversation deals with Taubes’s standing as an “outsider” in the science community. Who does Taubes see as his allies in his “case?” His enemies? Why? Can a “bootleggers and Baptists” argument be made here?

3. What is the likelihood of the Western world making the sort of “nutrition transition” Taubes would like to see? What are the greatest obstacles to such a transition, and why? What could be done to help ensure such a transition?

4. Taubes is critical of the influence of psychologists in obesity research, but at the same time it’s clear that he’s advocating behavioral change. To what extent is this a contradiction? What influence will this week’s episode have on your own behavior?