Researchers: Societal control of sugar essential to ease public health burden

Sugar should be controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health, according to a team of UCSF researchers, who maintain in a new report that sugar is fueling a global obesity pandemic, contributing to 35 million deaths annually worldwide from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Non-communicable diseases now pose a greater health burden worldwide than , according to the United Nations. In the United States, 75 percent of health care dollars are spent treating these diseases and their associated disabilities.

In the Feb. 2 issue of Nature, Robert Lustig MD, Laura Schmidt PhD, MSW, MPH, and Claire Brindis, DPH, colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), argue that sugar's potential for abuse, coupled with its toxicity and pervasiveness in the make it a primary of this worldwide health crisis.

This partnership of scientists trained in endocrinology, sociology and public health took a new look at the accumulating scientific evidence on sugar. Such interdisciplinary underscore the power of academic health sciences institutions like UCSF.

Sugar, they argue, is far from just "empty calories" that make people fat. At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver – the least understood of sugar's damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled during the past 50 years and is viewed as a key cause of the obesity epidemic. But obesity, Lustig, Schmidt and Brindis argue, may just be a marker for the damage caused by the toxic effects of too much sugar. This would help explain why 40 percent of people with metabolic syndrome—the key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer—are not clinically obese.

"As long as the public thinks that sugar is just 'empty calories,' we have no chance in solving this," said Lustig, a professor of pediatrics, in the division of endocrinology at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF.

"There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates," Lustig said. "But sugar is toxic beyond its calories."

Limiting the consumption of sugar has challenges beyond educating people about its potential toxicity. "We recognize that there are cultural and celebratory aspects of sugar," said Brindis, director of UCSF's Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. "Changing these patterns is very complicated"

According to Brindis, effective interventions can't rely solely on individual change, but instead on environmental and community-wide solutions, similar to what has occurred with alcohol and tobacco, that increase the likelihood of success.

The authors argue for society to shift away from high sugar consumption, the public must be better informed about the emerging science on sugar.

"There is an enormous gap between what we know from science and what we practice in reality," said Schmidt, professor of health policy at UCSF's Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies (IHPS) and co-chair of UCSF's Clinical and Translational Science Institute's (CTSI) Community Engagement and Health Policy Program, which focuses on alcohol and addiction research.

"In order to move the health needle, this issue needs to be recognized as a fundamental concern at the global level," she said.

The paper was made possible with funding from UCSF's Clinical and Translational Science Institute, UCSF's National Institutes of Health-funded program that helps accelerate clinical and translational research through interdisciplinary, interprofessional and transdisciplinary work.

Many of the interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption can be models for addressing the sugar problem, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces.

"We're not talking prohibition," Schmidt said. "We're not advocating a major imposition of the government into people's lives. We're talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people's choices by making foods that aren't loaded with comparatively easier and cheaper to get."

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kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2012
US food tastes very strange and then the fools add not sugar, but CHLORINATED SUGAR. Discovered while accidentally taste-testing new insecticides.
julianpenrod
2.2 / 5 (6) Feb 01, 2012
The complacent and suicidally gullible have only themselves to blame. They championed government restrictions on guns, alcohol, tobacco, fats, cell phones, pseudephedrine, all for "for safety". Now, there is talk of establishing mandatory controls over the sale and distribution of sugar! To "protect the people from themselves". Rather than establish that society has an innate ability to maintqain itself, many if not most preferred a model in which sociey, on the whole, was a witless dullard, that needed a dictatorship, plain and simple even if it didn't call itself that, to monitor and manipulate everything! "For safety". Face it, everything can present a danger! And, when you lower the level of threat society can handle itself, then something as minor as a sneeze can be defined as "dangerous", and people will be ordered to spend their lives either eating, sleeping or working to make the New World Order richer!
3432682
Feb 01, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
dogbert
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2012
This article advocates just another government intrusion into people's lives. The nanny state never improves the public. By treating adult citizens as morons, the government implements programs which cannot succeed because the citizenry are not morons and do not need the government to tell them how to live.

These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.


Ethanol is distilled from a mixture of water, ethanol and carbohydrates. Distilling does not yield sugar, it extracts the ethanol from the mixture.
Cynical1
Feb 02, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Pattern_chaser
1 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2012
It's not "societal", it's "social".
rubberman
5 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2012
"This article advocates just another government intrusion into people's lives. The nanny state never improves the public. By treating adult citizens as morons, the government implements programs which cannot succeed because the citizenry are not morons and do not need the government to tell them how to live."

Over 60% of Americans are overweight, with 33% considered obese. If there's a county on earth that needs a lock on the candy jar it's America. Below is brief run through of the dangers of sugar...

http://olsonnd.co...arettes/

I like sugar, I still eat it knowing all of these negative effects. Just way less now.
kochevnik
5 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2012
By treating adult citizens as morons, the government implements programs which cannot succeed because the citizenry are not morons and do not need the government to tell them how to live.
Eating sugar when stevia is available is a red flag for stupid. Stevia is a healing herb, which heals the skin damage done by toxic US sugar. Wonder why grandmothers in Russia look better than Americans? They grew up with cane sugar from Cuba. Not that bleached beet crap and fortified corn cocktail you eat.

Nobody is stopping you from drinking chlorine bleach. Oh, my bad, you ARE drinking chlorine bleach. Well have fun with your freedumbs.