Sugar Association Finds Opinion Piece Published in Nature Non-Scientific and Irresponsible
A recent comment, “The toxic truth about sugar,” published in the journal, Nature1, lacks the scientific evidence or consensus on which the authors base their recommended policy interventions.
The claim that sugar consumption has tripled worldwide in the past 50 years is flawed. First, the alleged consumption assumes total supply equals human consumption. Total supply includes the amount sold for food plus what is allotted for unsold inventory.
Second, when the comment authors used total supply amounts to estimate consumption, they disregard the fact that reliable estimates of consumption require total supply amounts to be reduced by processing losses and consumer waste (estimated at 29 percent in the U.S.), the practice used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, people are estimated to consume 425 more calories per day than we did 40 years ago. Caloric sweeteners account for only 38 of these calories – just one calorie per year.2 In fact, loss and waste may be underestimated.3
During the same time that consumption of cane and beet sugar was decreasing, the obesity epidemic, which the authors cite as a “marker” for the metabolic dysfunctions that lead to many of these non-communicable diseases, increased.
We consider it irresponsible when health professionals use their platforms to instill fear by using words like “diabetes,” “cancer,” and even “death,” without so much as one disclaimer about the fact that the incomplete science being referenced is inconclusive at best.
The authors of the comment conclude their piece by proposing that the government all but takes over our food system. We are confident that the American people are perfectly capable of choosing what foods to eat without stark regulations and unreasonable bans imposed upon them.
There is an obesity problem in our country that can lead to the very serious health issues mentioned in the comment – but it originates from the combination of overconsumption of all foods and lack of exercise. To label a single food as the one and only problem misinforms, misleads and confuses consumers, and simply adds to the problem.
The First Lady said it best when she spoke of her food philosophy and the foundation of her Let’s Move! campaign:
I don’t think anything like that needs to be banned. Cupcakes and cookies, when eaten within reason are not bad for you. If that’s all kids eat all day, every day – that’s when it’s bad! A bake sale, dessert – those are special treats. And being healthy isn’t about eliminating all the fun stuff. The fun stuff is what makes life worth living, right? What would the world be like with no ice cream, no cupcakes, no French fries, and no hot dogs!
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
- RH Lustig, LA Schmidt, CD Brindis. The toxic truth about sugar. Nature (2012) 482: 27 – 29 (2 February 2012).
- Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture. Loss-adjusted food availability data sets, Food Guide Pyramid Servings spreadsheets. Last ERS update: Last ERS update: February 1, 2011. Available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/foodconsumption/FoodGuideSpreadsheets.htm. Accessed January 31, 2012.
- MK Muth, SA Karns, SJ Nielson, et al. Consumer-Level Food Loss Estimates and Their Use in the ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data. Technical Bulletin 1927, Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, January 2011. Available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/TB1927/ TB1927.pdf.
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