Is sugar the new tobacco?

Low sugar going big: Your news round up

Unless you were off skiing last week, you might have seen a number of news headlines hit home around sugar.  To remind you of some the key points, and in case you missed any of it, I’d thought I’d do a quick lowdown on the things you might be most interested to know. For more information and background, head over to read why eat less sugar.

The Credit Suisse report

Things really started to kick off back in September when Credit Suisse published their report ‘Sugar: at the crossroads’. Some of their findings were as follows:

  • 43% of the added sugar consumed comes from drinks.

  • 4.8 million die of diabetes every year.

  • 86% of their globally sampled doctors agree that sugar is linked to Type II diabetes, obesity & non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  • Over 85% of the doctors recommended Government intervention in reducing sugar consumption.

  • It was noted that colourful packaging could be replaced with plainer tones to reduce the appeal of products.

There’s also a video you can watch summing up the report.

Halving our guidelines

Then over Christmas (whilst everyone was polishing off the chocolates!) the World Health Organisation (WHO) leaked a recommendation that the advised sugar levels should be cut in half (reported in the Sunday Times 29.12.13) A few things to note here:

  • Cutting in half would mean the added sugar guideline going from 10% to 5% of total calorie intake. Note that is a maximum, you could actually live with 0% if you want.

  • That is a guideline of 8 teaspoons (32g) for men a day and 6 (24g) for women (including fruit juice and honey).

  • These guidelines have not been updated since 2003.

  • When WHO last recommended a limit, the sugar industry kicked off (in a big and  aggressive way).

  • Sugar Nutrition, who have opposed the changes, are owned by Associated British Foods, who made £435m in profit from the sugar business in 2013 (just saying).

  • Last week, Action on Sugar was launched – an organisation set up to encourage big companies to reduce added ‘hidden’ sugars by at least 30%  in their products over the next few years. To keep things balanced you can read an argument against it here.

  • A great video animation also surfaced showing you how sugar affects your brain, specifically your pleasure dopamine receptors. It explains nicely why we crave it so badly!

  • Forbes also reported on a systematic study on systematic studies around sugary beverages (I know confusing!). It concluded papers may be inclined to draw conclusions in line with sponsors interests e.g. Coca-cola sponsored papers not finding a significant relationship between drinks and obesity.

So is sugar the new tobacco?

  • This was the headline news last week. Sugar is addictive yes, but even Dr Robert Lustig claims not quite as much as tobacco and drugs. Is it really new tobacco? Well, let’s just wait and see how it plays out in the political field. I have to say, I think I’m in the yes camp.

  • Andrew Langley (ex-health minister) disputed the tobacco-sugar analogy and claimed we need to reduce on an incremental basis so not to shock consumers.

  • However, as Dr Malhotra rightly points out in another good article, the problem with sugar is that it’s consumed more widely that tobacco, so you could argue it’s even worse. It’s even so pervasive it’s hard to avoid when we want to (don’t we know it?!). What do you think?

Other random news

  • Lidl claimed they’re replacing checkout sweets with healthier options, to help reduce child pestering (I was one of those kids – sorry Mum!).

  • Monkeys at a zoo in Devon are now restricted with bananas – keepers are reporting they have better skin and calmed aggression. Interesting…

Also to note: I contributed as the expert for a piece in The Mail on Sunday about sweeteners & substitutes. I want to be clear that this article was to educate and I didn’t have full reign over it. To reiterate, once you are successfully ‘off’ sugar’, you don’t need these very often, if at all. I don’t eat any of these day to day. My comments were to help educate the public on what I think is a very confusing area at the moment, in light of all this news, rather than say it’s a good idea to drizzle a large amount of honey on your porridge.

So what do I think?

All in all the wider awareness of sugar is great. It seems there really is a bit of a movement starting. Starting this blog essentially was done for that reason and so it’s fantastic that so many people will take note now, look at sugar like you and me do, and start reducing it in their own lives – leading to improved health all around.

It’s also great because the sugar content will now reduce and lower sugar options are likely to emerge, as consumers like us vote buy buying the better options. Whilst low sugar produce is generally good news for the general public, I would still advise eating whole real unprocessed food as much as possible.

Not always an overnight job…

In response to the awareness, some people will just stop eating sugar and that will be that (I’ve found men can do this easier than women). However, if you’ve tried to cut sugar and you are anywhere near to what I was like with it, you’ll know it’s a longer, harder and potentially more emotional journey. Sometimes it can be nothing short of a depressing not-that-fun uphill struggle.

So take this news as continued motivation to keep going. Get talking to your friends and family, and convince them along for the ride. Do share this article if you think it will help someone you know get their head around all of this.

What are your thoughts on any of this? Is sugar the new tobacco and should Devon’s zoo monkeys be deprived of their bananas?!

3 replies
  1. nomoreevilS
    nomoreevilS says:

    Thanks Laura!! Brilliant piece, i will definately be sharing. Its incredible how everyone is more aware of the evil sugar!! Thanks to people like yourself. Youve helped me alot! Its my wedding 1st March and i lost nearly 5kg and cutting my sugar was one of the main reasons for the weight loss. I feel so much better for it :)

    • Laura
      Laura says:

      Congratulations! I hope you had a beautiful wedding and felt truly proud of your achievement, I’m so thrilled for you :)


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