Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Health pundits are becoming increasingly concerned that all efforts to rein in food industry from making high sugar products and persuading consumers to cut down on sugar consumption are proving to be ineffective during the past two decades. From time to time there have been strident voices advocating stringent action against food industry which is raking in billions of dollars by churning out such sugar sweetened products after realizing the weakness of humans to sweet tasting foods. Whether there is any unanimity or not on this issue, excess sugar intake has been unequivocally implicated in many diseases which debilitate human beings reducing the quality of life for millions, with mortality rate progressively climbing up! Here is the latest scientific documentation that seems to justify clamping down on the food industry through coercive policies to restrict added sugar in processed foods. 

"As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bio-weapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease." In a 54-page regulatory petition filed today with the FDA, CSPI details the substantial scientific evidence that added sugars, especially in drinks, causes weight gain, obesity, and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and gout. In particular, a growing number of clinical trials have found that people who are assigned to drink sugary beverages gain more weight than those assigned to drink sugar-free beverages. Other clinical studies found that high-sugar diets increase triglycerides, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and liver fat. "If one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks," said Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The evidence is so strong that it is essential that FDA use its authority to make sugary drinks safer." Willett is one of 41 leading scientists and physicians who signed a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg in support of the petition. Willett and his colleagues have conducted epidemiology studies that strongly link consumption of sugary drinks to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and gout. Soda and other sugar drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet.Americans, on average, consume between 18 and 23 teaspoons—about 300 to 400 calories worth—of added sugars per day. Teens and young adults consume half again more than the average. About one-fifth of adolescents aged 12 to 18 consume at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugars, according to the government's 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. About 14 million people of all ages consume more than one-third of their calories in the form of added sugars. The FDA classifies high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and other sugars as "generally recognized as safe," or "GRAS" in agency parlance. To be GRAS, there must be a scientific consensus that the ingredient is safe at the levels consumed. CSPI's petition contends that the current scientific consensus is that added sugars are unsafe at the levels consumed. The petition asks the FDA to determine what level of added sugars would be safe for use in beverages, and to require those limits to be phased in over several years. The petition did not propose a specific safe level, but notes that several health agencies identified two-and-a-half teaspoons (10 grams) as a reasonable limit in a healthier drink. In 1982 and again in 1988, the FDA committed to undertake a new safety determination if sugar consumption increased, or if new scientific evidence indicated a public health hazard. Both of those conditions have been met, which CSPI says obligates the FDA to act".

If there is a convincing perception that sugar including High Fructose Corn Syrup is becoming a public hazard, governments in any responsible country is duty bound to take pro-active steps to protect its citizens from the consequences of such practices of the industry. While the evidence is clear regarding the ill effects of sugar, what is lacking is the will to restrain the organized industry which seems to have a vice-like grip on the governing class in most of the countries where it has predominance! One cannot but agree with the suggestions in the above critique that upper limits for sugar in foods and beverages must be enforced sooner than later.


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