Researchers deem sugar harmful, recommend regulation
A new study deems that sugar is a significant public health hazard and should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco published the scientific paper, entitled “Public health: The toxic truth about sugar,” online on February 1 in the journal Nature.
They noted that the public's excessive consumption of sugar is not only contributing to a global obesity pandemic but also critically altering individual's hormones, metabolism, and blood pressure as well as causing "significant damage to the liver." They explained that over the past 50 years sugar consumption has tripled worldwide and is currently contributing to 35 million deaths a year.
Lead author Dr. Robert Lustig noted, "As long as the public thinks that sugar is just 'empty calories,' we have no chance in solving this… There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. But sugar is toxic beyond its calories."
According to Dr. Lustig and his team, the effects of consuming an excess of sugary foods and drinks is comparable to that of drinking excessive alcohol, which they noted, is made from distilling sugar. They recommended using taxation, controlling access to sugary products, and strengthening licensing requirements to sell sweet snacks and drinks in schools and workplaces.
The American Beverage Association (ABA) contested the findings and claimed that the authors' comparison of sugar to alcohol and tobacco lacked scientific merit. In a statement, the ABA said, "There is no evidence that focusing solely on reducing sugar intake would have any meaningful public health impact. Importantly, we know that the body of scientific evidence does not support that sugar, in any of its various forms, including fructose, is a unique cause of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome.” Not surprisingly, the Sugar Association agreed with the ABA. They claimed that it feels that the authors are being irresponsible by using their platforms to scare people, especially when using terms such as “diabetes” or “cancer.”
Study author Dr. Laura Schmidt, countered, "We're not talking prohibition. We're not advocating a major imposition of the government into people's lives." She added, "We're talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people's choices by making foods that aren't loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get."
According to a study released July 19, 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite a steady mantra of warnings that obesity causes serious health problems and increases the risk of premature death, it has become a problem in every state. Furthermore, obesity prevalence was 30% or higher in 12 states in 2010, compared to nine states in 2009. In 2000, no states had obesity rates that high. Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia all had obesity rates of 30% or higher in 2010. According to the report, obesity rates vary by region, led by the South at 29.4%, followed by the Midwest at 28.7%, the Northeast at 24.9%, and the West at 24.1%. Mississippi had the nation's highest obesity rate (34%) and Colorado the lowest (21%). The CDC notes that obesity has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Medical costs of obesity reached $147 billion in 2008.
The CDC report notes that no state reported that less than 20% of adults were obese in 2010. That denotes that not a single state met the national Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15% by the end of the past decade. The CDC percentages are based on the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey that gathers information from 400,000 adults aged 18 and over. CDC Director Thomas Frieden stated in a news release that heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer are the leading causes of death related to obesity. "It will take time and resources to win in the fight against obesity," William Dietz, director of CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, says in the news release. "This epidemic is complex and we must continue to change the environments that make it hard to eat healthy and make it hard for people to be active." He added that by taking such steps, "we not only help today's adults, we also invest in our children and grandchildren, so they won't have to endure this serious and costly health burden."