There are good calories and bad calories, but sugar is 'toxic beyond its calories' and should be controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health. So argues a team of University of California, San Francisco researchers in a report published in Nature two weeks ago.
Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled in the past 50 years, and the researchers say sugar is fuelling a global obesity pandemic and health crisis. It has contributed to 35 million deaths annually worldwide from such non-communicable diseases as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Obesity, they say, is just one marker of damage: 40 per cent of people with metabolic syndrome - the key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer - are not clinically obese.
Far from 'empty calories', at the levels consumed by Americans - 70,000 calories in sweet drinks alone consumed by the average person per year - the researchers say the health hazards of sugar mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol (which is the distillation of sugar).
Their suggestion: use similar interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces.
Are you sugar smart? Take the test.
1. The main source of added sugar in our diet comes from:
c. bread and bread products
2. For a man whose recommended daily energy intake is 2,000 calories, dietitians advise that his daily sugar intake be limited to:
a. four teaspoons
b. five teaspoons
c. six teaspoons
3. Which of these is not a natural sugar?
4. Which country leads the world in sugar production?
a. United States
Answers: 1. a; 2. b (or 25 grams); 3. a; 4. c