By JR on Sunday, November 01, 2015
The war on sugar -- another example of how governments are incompetent, careless and can't be trusted
For decades, officialdom condemned fat and salt in our diets. As contrary evidence piled up however, they have had to walk that back and the usual advice in 2015 is that LOW consumption of fat and salt is most likely to be harmful.
But control freaks have to have something to prove their wisdom by, apparently, so in the last year or two sugar has been made the big demon. It's utter nonsense, of course. These days sugar is in almost everything -- including fruit straight off the tree -- and we have all been consuming piles of it for decades. So are people dying like flies? Far from it. Lifespans have continued their upward rise.
And what about the effect on our waistlines? There is no way increased weight can be clearly tied to sugar consumption. To claim cause and effect is pure speculation. There have been all sorts of lifestyle changes in recent years and the sheer cheapness of food these days is actually the most likely culprit for "obesity". Within living memory it was a real worry for parents to put enough food on the table for their families, but big advances in agricultural practice, distribution (big supermarkets) and international trade have steadily brought real food prices down to the point where no-one in the developed world need go hungry. These days Oliver Twist can always have "More" if he wants it. And many people now DO want it.
After the about-face on fat and salt, I think that alone should make us cynical but there is also no good research backing up this latest fad. There is research but it is all flaky. I spent many years as a health blogger so I know what the evidence against sugar is: It is all either in vivo (rodent studies) or epidemiological. But rodent studies generalize poorly to humans and you CANNOT infer cause from epidemiological studies. If you want to know what rubbish is spouted in the name of epidemiology, grab John Brignell's little book: The Epidemiologists: Have They Got Scares for You!
IT’S becoming a public enemy up there with the likes of fat, salt and smoking.
Now a much-anticipated report has put sugar barons on notice, recommending a 10-20 per cent “sugar tax” on soft drinks and moves to limit the marketing and promotion of sugary foods to children.
Public Health England’s document has been more than a year in the making and has slammed the food-friendly environment that has left the UK bulging at the seams.
“The whole food environment and culture has changed slowly over the last 30 to 40 years. There are now more places to buy and eat food which is, in real terms, cheaper, more convenient, served in bigger portion sizes and subject to more marketing and promotions than ever before,” it said, adding that the continually expanding swath of restaurants, cafes and fast-food means simple labelling laws aren’t enough.
The public health body is calling for a 10-20 per cent tax on sugary drinks which are the main single source of sugar for school-aged children. It also wants to see a crackdown on marketing and promotions that target children directly, better labelling an overhaul of public facilities and messages like the “five a day” campaign to ensure they are cutting through.
“It is likely that price increases on specific high sugar products like sugar sweetened drinks, such as through fiscal measures like a tax or levy, if set high enough, would reduce purchasing at least in the short term,” the report said.
Sugar is becoming in the latest battleground in the fight against global obesity following on from fat and salt. It’s estimated to make up 12-15 per cent of UK diets, much of which is disguised in sauces, mayonnaise, cereals or alcohol. The public health body wants it cut back to less than five per cent in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines, to prevent a host of health problems from obesity to diabetes and dental decay which cost billions a year in healthcare.
But despite the high-profile support, the recommendations are unlikely to come into effect. A spokesman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would not support the idea. The British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington said they “recognise industry has a role to play in tackling obesity” but don’t believe it has had a significant impact.
Nutritionist Susie Burrell said she would “absolutely” love to see a “junk tax” introduced in Australia that goes beyond sugar to cover fast food, confectionary and soft drinks.
“Isolating sugar is failing to look at the complexity of nutrition and the way people eat. Portion size and fried foods are just as big an issue as sugar is,” she told news.com.au. “Any scheme that would generate revenue to be used in the treatment of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease would be welcomed.”
UPDATE: In case it was unclear above, I was talking about the advice emanating from government bodies. Actions by governments have so far been muted. That is unlikely to last, however