Imagine you just walked into a convenience store to get a bottle of soda and the cashier asks for your ID before she will ring up your purchase.
Then, imagine going out to your car and handing the soda to your child. The next thing you know, you’re in handcuffs for providing sugar to a minor.
Sound far fetched? Maybe.
But if researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have their way, sugar may soon be regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco.
The research team, led by Dr. Robert Lustig, concluded that the world-wide rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome is directly related to the consumption of sugar.
More specifically, sucrose, the added processed sugar that is found in nearly everything we eat, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). (1)
While makers of HFCS insist it is perfectly safe in moderation, the problem seems to be that moderation is virtually impossible for people who eat primarily processed foods.
The theory is that, if regulated, a reduction in sugar consumption will not only bring down the numbers of obese people, it will also help prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease which are linked to obesity.
Sounds logical, right?
Not everyone agrees with Lustig’s conclusions, however.
Data from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) shows that obesity seems to be connected more to an overall increase in calories, not an increase in sugar consumption. (2) In an age of super-sized junk food, today’s consumer seems to think bigger is better, especially when bigger seems to be a better economical choice if not a better health choice.
Diabetes expert Dr. Alan Barclay of Australia criticized Lustig’s findings saying sugar consumption in Australia has dropped 23 percent since 1980 and yet the obesity rate had doubled and the rate of diabetes had tripled. (3) So…that means sugar is perfectly safe?
Sugar and Your Health
A diet high in sugar can certainly lead to health problems including diabetes and high cholesterol. It taxes the liver and suppresses the immune system. (4, 5)
However, natural sugars such as those found in fruits don’t seem to have such bad effects. So is the sugar bad, or is it the food the sugar is in?
Consider that most processed foods containing added sugars are low in fiber and have very little nutritional value, and you may have your answer. Candy offers no nutrition; an apple offers vitamins and fiber. Both offer sugar in different forms.
So while sugar isn’t a health food by any stretch of the imagination, the bigger problem seems to be the processed foods that are considered staples in every home.
Our sugar consumption has gone up and our consumption of vitamins, mineral and fiber has dropped drastically. By eliminating, or greatly limiting, processed foods and basing their diet on whole, natural foods, many people will not only find a balanced weight but also see improvements in overall health.
Is Regulation the Answer?
But back to Lustig’s research. He maintains that we can’t make the personal decision to improve our diets on our own. Instead, he recommends adding taxes and increased regulations making it difficult to sell sugary foods to children.
Is that the answer? More government regulation? Have we as a people become so weak-minded that we need to government to tell us what we can eat? Say it isn’t so. While Dr. Lustig has some great points, his solution to the problem is highly flawed. The last thing we need is for the government to create even more regulations.
Everything in moderation, as they say. That includes sugar, fast food, alcohol and especially government regulations.
References & Image Credits:
(1) sxc.hu – Sugar
(2) Robert Lustig
(3) Sugar Should Be Regulated As Toxin, Researchers Say
(4) International Food Consumption Patterns
(5) Australian expert slams US study ‘sugar as toxic as alcohol’
(6) 10 Immune System Busters & Boosters
(7) Sugar in Diet Hurts cholesterol Levels, Too