Food and Behaviour Research

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2 Feb 2012 - BBC News - Sugar tax needed, say US experts

by Helen Briggs

Candy

Sugar is as damaging and addictive as alcohol or tobacco and should be regulated, claim US health experts.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

Robert H Lustig MD UCSF Professor of Paediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, gave a lecture called 'Sugar - The Bitter Truth' on 26 May 2009.  The following July, it was then posted on YouTube and to date has been viewed well over a million times.  In his lecture, Professor Lustig explores the damage caused by sugary foods.  He argues that too much fructose and not enough fibre appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin and other hormones.  (For a peer-reviewed account of Lustig's theory, see his 2006 review in Nature Endocrinology)

The New York Times published a review of this lecture on 13 April 2011 which you can view here:

Is Sugar Toxic? by Gary Taubes

Naturally, Lustig's proposal has also attracted criticism - see The bitter truth about fructose alarmism by Alan Aragon

According to a University of California team, new policies such as taxes are needed to control soaring consumption of sugar and sweeteners.

Prof Robert Lustig argues in the journal Nature for major shifts in public policy.

Industry body the Food and Drink Federation said "demonising" food was unhelpful.

Several countries are imposing taxes on unhealthy food; Denmark and Hungary have a tax on saturated fat, while France has approved a tax on soft drinks.

Now, researchers in the US are proposing similar policies for added sugar and sweeteners, amid concern about the amount of sugar in the diet.

The consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide over the past 50 years, with links to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

In a comment in the journal Nature, Prof Lustig, a leading child obesity expert, says governments need to consider major shifts in policy, such as taxes, limiting sales of sweet food and drinks during school hours, or even stopping children from buying them below a certain age.

The professor of paediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, told the BBC: "It (sugar) meets all the criteria for societal intervention that alcohol and tobacco meet."

The researchers acknowledge that they face "an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby".

But they write in Nature, that "with enough clamour for change, tectonic shifts in policy become possible".

"Take, for instance bans on smoking in public places and the use of designated drivers, not to mention airbags in cars and condom dispensers in public bathrooms.

"These simple measures - which have all been on the battleground of American politics - are now taken for granted as essential tools for our public health and well-being. It's time to turn our attention to sugar."