Sugar Wars: The Public vs. the Personal
No matter where you sprinkle it, the consumption of sugar is up. Researchers at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco are so concerned about the health risks from sugar that they are advocating that sugar be regulated like tobacco and alcohol.
This is serious stuff. Remember Prohibition? They remind us that alcohol is fermented sugar and that many of the diseases related to chronic ethanol exposure are the same as those related to chronic exposure to fructose.
Obesity was the disease that I keyed in on. But, for the more medically astute they also mention hypertension, myocardial infarction, pancreatitis, hepatic dysfunction, and habituation if not addiction. The good news, fetal alcohol syndrome and cirrhosis of the liver are not sugar related.
Their paper suggests that many of the interventions that were used to control the consumption of alcohol and tobacco could be used to control sugar. Think taxes, licensing requirements, advertising bans, etc. Can you just imagine the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and SUGAR? I cannot, and in protest I am enjoying a bowl of ice cream as I write this blog.
Robert Lustig, MD, who likes to use hyperbole, says in his video "The Toxic Truth About Sugar" that sugar is the biggest health crisis in the history of the world and that "sugar is toxic beyond calories." Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH another author of the study says, "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." But Claire Brindis, DPH and third author, states the opposite, that "effective interventions can’t rely solely on individual change, but instead on environmental and community-wide solutions, similar to what has occurred with alcohol and tobacco, that increase the likelihood of success."
In conclusion, there are probably many good reasons to eat less sugar besides the obvious one that sugar contains approximately 4 calories per gram and can make us fat. The public should be informed about any emerging science that has health consequences. But what we do with that information should not require government intervention.