UCSF: Sugar consumption responsible for chronic disease
- UCSF scientists declare war on sugar in food
Erin Allday, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is a toxic, addictive substance that should be highly regulated with taxes, laws on where and to whom it can be advertised, and even age-restricted sales, says a team of UCSF scientists.
In a paper published in Nature on Wednesday, they argue that increased global consumption of sugar is primarily responsible for a whole range of chronic diseases that are reaching epidemic levels around the world.
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Lustig has written and talked extensively about the role he believes sugar has played in driving up rates of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes. Excessive sugar, he argues, alters people's biochemistry, making them more vulnerable to metabolic conditions that lead to illness, while at the same time making people crave sweets even more.
It's sugar, not obesity, that is the real health threat, Lustig and his co-authors - public health experts Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis - say in their paper. They note that studies show 20 percent of obese people have normal metabolism and no ill health effects resulting from their weight, while 40 percent of normal-weight people have metabolic problems that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. They contend that sugar consumption is the cause.
In other words, not everyone gains a lot of weight from over-indulging in sugar, but a large proportion of the U.S. population is eating enough of it that it's having devastating health effects, they say.
"The gestalt shift is maybe obesity is just a marker for the rise in chronic disease worldwide, and in fact metabolic syndrome, caused by excessive sugar consumption, is the real culprit," said Schmidt, a health policy professor who focuses on alcohol and addiction research.
22 teaspoons a day
Americans eat and drink roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar every day - triple what they consumed three decades ago - and most people aren't even aware of the various ways sugars sneak into their diets, often via breads and cereals and processed foods. Terms that identify sugars on labels include sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, hydrolysed starch and invert sugar, corn syrup and honey.
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