Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Sugar and obesity

Letsblameobesityon

I don’t dispute the fact that most of us likely consume too much sugar. As with too much of anything it’s also likely doing more harm than good. However, I do take exception to the sentiment I’ve seen from some vocal supporters of Action On Sugar on twitter. There’s the dichotomy that you’re either with them or against them. Along with that, there’s the implication that any dietitians questioning the assertion that sugar is toxic must be in the pocket of the food industry.

Why can’t it be possible that some of us think there’s a middle ground? That perhaps, as with other nutrients before (e.g. fat, salt, carbs) it will turn out that there is nothing intrinsically harmful about sugar, and that some dietary sugar is perfectly safe as part of a healthy diet.

I resent the implication that if I dare to question the sensibility of demonizing sugar that I must be brainwashed by the food industry. After the harm we’ve seen done by demonizing nutrients in the past, you would think that we would have learned our lesson. The likelihood that a single nutrient, such as sugar, is the cause of the obesity epidemic is extremely unlikely. Reformulating products is not the solution. We’ll probably just end-up replacing sugar with something that will turn out to be even worse for us. Instead, we should be teaching people to cook and to consume fewer highly processed calorie-dense, nutrient-light foods.


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Is sugar the “new tobacco”?

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The headline reads “Why are health experts calling sugar the new tobacco?” Because it’s catchy and makes for great headlines, duh!

I know that a lot of people are going to be pissed off with me for not taking up the cause and demonizing sugar. Sorry guys. I agree that most of us consume too much sugar (and too much of anything is a bad thing). I agree that excess sugar can cause cavities. I agree that the vast majority of us like sweet foods. However, I don’t believe that sugar is truly addictive… There is a difference between addiction and desire. Just because rats like oreos and sugar “lights up pleasure centres” in our brains doesn’t make it addictive.

I keep seeing claims that our bodies process calories from white sugar differently than calories from other foods. This makes no sense. The common definition of a calorie (technically a kilocalorie) is: the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius (1). There is no way for your body to differentiate between “types” of calories. There is only one type! Your body also can’t distinguish between sucrose in white sugar and sucrose in an apple. It is a chemical compound. It is what it is.

Calling on the food industry to reduce sugar content of foods is a dangerous proposition, in my opinion. Remember when we asked food manufacturers to reduce fat content? They added salt and sugar. Remember when we asked food manufacturers to reduce sodium? Not that much ever came of this. Point being, when they take something out they put something else in to replace it. We now know that fat is not inherently bad for us, nor is sodium, nor is sugar. No one of these things alone is causing obesity. Rather than asking food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content of their foods we should be calling for less heavily processed foods.

Sugar is not the new tobacco. It’s the new scapegoat in the obesity wars.