Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sugar: Education Not Regulation

Marion Nestle, Food Politics writes today that a prestigious science magazine in the UK has published a commentary that "sugar is toxic and should be regulated". We regulate tobacco and alcohol for public health's sake; why not sugar?

Their rationale?

  • Consumption of sugars has tripled over the last 50 years.

  • Many people consume as much as 500 calories a day from sugars (average per capita availability in the U.S. is about 400 calories a day)

  • High intake of fructose-containing sugars induce metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, insulin resistance), diabetes, and liver damage.

  • Sugars have the potential for abuse.

  • Sugars have negative effects on society (mediated via obesity).

  • Too much of a good thing can be toxic.

I am strictly laissez-faire when it comes to people's right to choose. Chacun a son gout. I also have an abiding faith in human nature: when we know better, we do better if we want to.

"Want to" is crucial.

If people want to smoke, they're going to smoke even when they know the consequences. If people want to drink... and so on. We cannot legislate a health consciousness. But we can create public awareness to set the table for lifestyle change, as the tobacco industry has learned.

As someone who is interested in real food, good food and good health, would you knowingly eat 400 sugar calories a day? At 15 calories per teaspoon, that's 26.7 teaspoons of sugar every day! Added sugar, not naturally occurring.

The fact is that sugar and its evil twin high-fructose corn syrup is "hidden" in so much food that people buy for supposed health, they simply don't know how much of it they ingest. reports:
Ruby red grapefruit is a health gem, but as juice, it brims with sugar. In fact, a 10-ounce glass of grapefruit juice contains 10 packets of sugar! Before you quench your thirst with this sweetened beverage, be sure to check out these five nutrition label facts.

Breakfast cereal for kids has so much sugar, we might as well feed them cookies for breakfast.

So why not label the damn products honestly to make people aware of their true sugar consumption?

Then we get to choose our poison as it were.

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