Big sugar is poisoning us

The US Government published new dietary guidelines on January 13, 2005. These guidelines are updated every five years.

The Government did not take on the sugar industry by recommending that people should eat less sugar. Instead, the pitifully vague conclusion is that we should choose foods with "little added sugars or caloric sweeteners". It even dropped the advice in the 2000 guidelines that people should “moderate sugar intake”.

The complacency of this recommendation is alarming. There is growing evidence that consumption of sugar is a main cause of a serious epidemic of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, in both developed and increasingly in developing countries.

It is quite clear that the massive increase in our diets of refined sugars, added by the food industry to make the food cheaper and more addictive, are a major cause of this epidemic.

I have looked carefully at the scientific literature about the effects of eating sugar, and written a summary of it which you can read here.

Even the US Government’s own scientific advisory committee, which produces the background advice on which the advice is based, draws attention to some pretty damning evidence, though it reaches much more tentative conclusions:

A major concern with increasing postprandial glucose and insulin levels is that there may eventually be a diminished insulin response that could lead to diabetes. … … The findings from epidemiological studies indicate a possible relationship between the propensity of diets with a high glycemic load to raise blood glucose levels and increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes. … .. A followup study within the Nurses' Health Study confirmed the association between glycemic load and risk of type 2 diabetes. …

None of this finds its way into the final guidelines, which are little changed from the 2000 guidelines. While they do highlight the problems with artificially added sugar, they do not recommend an overall reduction in sugar consumption.

2005 guidelines on carbohydrates Eat fiber-rich whole fruits and vegetables and whole grains often. Eat and drink little added sugar or caloric sweeteners. 2000 guidelines on carbohydratesChoose a variety of grains, especially whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Choose food and drinks to moderate sugar intake.

The failure of the US Government to highlight the well-documented dangers of sugar should not be surprising. In 2003, the sugar industry took offense at The Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases by the World Health Organization. This said that sugar additives should constitute no more than 10 percent of a person's daily energy intake. The industry lobbied Congress to withdraw U.S. funding from the WHO unless this statement was removed. The Department of Health and Human Services tried to persuade the World Health Organization to remove the recommendation. They did not succeed, though the final recommendation was heavily downplayed in the publicity surrounding the report.

How is the industry so powerful? Well part of the explanation is that the sugar industry gave $2.9 million to US federal candidates and parties in the 2004 election alone. This is the worst sort of collusion between the interests of big business and government.

There is significant evidence that we are being systematically and cynically poisoned, on a grand scale, by the agribusiness, sugar and processed food industries. It is increasing clear that the sugar that they add to our foods is addictive and harmful to our health.

And yet Government stands by and lets it happen.

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