SWEET AS: Ruben Meerman wants to dispel the
SWEET AS: Ruben Meerman wants to dispel the "extremism” around sugar. Eliza Goetze

Sugar is not poison, says myth-busting surfing scientist

IT'S a white crystal that has developed a dirty reputation.

But a Bundaberg-raised scientist is out to dispel the "extremism" behind the commodity that has built his home town.

"Sugar," says Ruben Meerman, "is not poison."

The physicist known to kids today as the ABC's Surfing Scientist has just written Big Fat Myths, a book attacking misinformation with science.

In today's diet-obsessed world, he says, people are confused and overwhelmed by "self-proclaimed gurus" who advocate total abstinence from sugar.

"The reason I came to research the biochemistry of fat is because I put on a bit of weight myself," he said.

"When I lost it, I had to know: where did it all go?"

In his research, including a paper published in the British Medical Journal in 2014, Meerman discovered exactly where fat goes when you lose it.


He determined the precise metabolic fate of a human fat molecule: 8.4kg out of every 10kg is exhaled, while the remaining 1.6kg becomes crystal clear water.

"About a fifth to a quarter of your weight is lost in your sleep," he said.

So why can't we all lose weight that easily?

Meerman is not saying that we should all go out and stuff ourselves with lollipops and Coke.

He is pushing a refocus on the simple science that to keep in shape we have to eat less and move more.

"It's common sense - atoms in and atoms out," he said.

"This is what we should be teaching in schools."

He visited his old stomping ground, Kepnock State High School, yesterday to pick up some dry ice for his presentation at the WriteFest Literary Lunch at the Burnett Club tomorrow.

He will also visit Thabeban State School at 2pm on Monday.

Pointing to a display showing the number of teaspoons of sugar in an array of popular drinks, he said "an energy drink like that is fine, if you're surfing your guts out all day".

The sugar town of Bundaberg, he said, "can breathe a sigh of relief".

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