Healthy living

Sugar should be controlled like cigarettes and alcohol

Sugar should be controlled like cigarettes and alcohol 'Toxic beyond calories'

Sugar is a modern-day menace to health and should be controlled in a similar manner to alcohol and cigarettes, experts say.

In an article called "The Toxic Truth About Sugar," published in the journal Nature, US scientists argue that sugar is more than just "empty calories that make people fat."

As well as fuelling a global obesity pandemic, too much dietary sugar can change the body's metabolism, raise blood pressure, critically alter people's hormones and cause "significant damage" to the liver, the scientists from the University of California said.

"As long as the public thinks that sugar is just 'empty calories,' we have no chance in solving this," said Robert Lustig, a professor of paediatrics and child obesity expert. "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."

The scientists also said the effects of consuming too much sugar largely mirror that of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out, is made from the distillation of sugar.

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled during the past 50 years, and is linked to 35 million deaths a year from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the researchers said.

To reduce sugar consumption, the researchers recommended controlling access to sugary food and drinks, including age restrictions, stricter regulations on vending machines in schools and snack bars and even taxing sugar containing products.

Dr. Laura Schmidt, who co-authored the paper said: "We're not talking prohibition. We're not advocating a major imposition of the government into people's lives.

"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."

This article was published on Thu 2 February 2012

Image © Lori Martin -

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