Earlier this week, British science journal Nature published a commentary called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar“, in which authors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis (all researchers at the University of California medical center in San Francisco) argue that “added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol.”
The paper details some of the specific ways in which increased sugar consumption has been linked to a rise in obesity and related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It also goes into the ways in which sugar’s effects on the body can be similar to those of alcohol (by acting on the brain, for example, to encourage further consumption). By using alcohol and tobacco as two other substances that have been linked to disease and are now regulated, the authors make a case for doing the same with sugars.
So what would regulating sugars entail? Possibilities discussed include tax, limiting sales during school hours and placing age limits on purchase. For information, you can read the original piece, which I originally accessed through Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics. Dr. Nestle herself writes:
“Sugar is a delight, nobody is worried about the fructose in fruit or carrots, and diets can be plenty healthy with a little sugar sprinkled here and there. The issue is quantity. Sugars are not a problem, or not nearly as much of a problem, for people who balance calorie intake with expenditure. Scientists can argue endlessly about whether obesity is a cause or an effect of metabolic dysfunction, but most people would be healthier if they ate less sugar.”
Cheers to that. Of course, it’s hard to simply “eat less sugar” when it’s lurking in all kinds of seemingly healthy (though usually pre-packaged) foods you wouldn’t think to add sweetener to: whole wheat bread, soy milk, low-fat yogurt, salad dressing, tomato sauce and many more. While it’s not clear where these items would fall under some of the proposed regulation measures, I would absolutely support an effort to limit the sale of these items—or how about limiting the addition of sweeteners in the first place?
In the meantime, if you’re concerned about the amount of sugar you consume, why not make an effort to consumer fewer added sweeteners? In the beginning, at least, there’s a lot of label reading involved in addition to retraining your tastebuds to be satisfied with less. For most of us, it’s easier said than done, but there’s something to be said for how much more you enjoy a little bit of the good stuff when you’re not eating as much mediocre crap.
What do you think? Do you think sugars should be regulated?
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