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 infectious diseases, 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 Western diet make it a primary culprit 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 liaisons 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 syndromethe key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancerare 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 sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get."
Provided by University of California, San Francisco
- Sugar as a potential health risk is getting a closer look May 04, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Study: High blood sugar a killer Nov 10, 2006 | not rated yet | 0
- Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages could yield sweet results May 13, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Sweetened beverage consumption increases in the US Dec 11, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Children's consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages Jun 02, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Calorie information in fast food restaurants used by 40 percent of 9-18 year olds when making food choices
A new study published online today (Thursday) in the Journal of Public Health has found that of young people who visited fast food or chain restaurants in the U.S. in 2010, girls and youth who were obese were more likely ...
Health 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—Implementation of systematic monitoring for medication adherence will allow for identification of barriers to adherence and tailoring of interventions, according to a viewpoint piece published ...
Health 4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—The Obama administration says more doctors and hospitals are embracing technology as adoption of computerized medical records reaches a "tipping point" in America.
Health 5 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Johns Hopkins researchers report that hospitals may be reaping enormous income for patients whose hospital stays are complicated by preventable bloodstream infections contracted in their intensive care units.
Health 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A University of Illinois researcher says that the cornerstone of our efforts to alleviate food insecurity should be to encourage more people to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) "because ...
Health 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Swiss scientists reveal the mechanism responsible for aging hidden deep within mitochondria—and dramatically slow it down in worms by administering antibiotics to the young.
9 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (5) | 0 |
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
9 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Until now, little was scientifically known about the human potential to cultivate compassion—the emotional state of caring for people who are suffering in a way that motivates altruistic behavior.
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 2 |
(HealthDay)—Migraines and depression can each cause a great deal of suffering, but new research indicates the combination of the two may be linked to something else entirely—a smaller brain.
5 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
A new approach for immunizing against influenza elicited a more potent immune response and broader protection than the currently licensed seasonal influenza vaccines when tested in mice and ferrets. The vaccine ...
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
In a series of lab experiments designed to unravel the workings of a key enzyme widely considered a possible trigger of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that in the most severe ...
8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |