Sugar is so harmful it should be regulated, scientists say

Sugar is so harmful to public health it should be controlled, US scientists claimed.

Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco said Wednesday that the public's excessive consumption of sugar not only is contributing to a global obesity pandemic but also is critically altering people's hormones, metabolism and blood pressure and causing "significant damage to the liver."

In an article titled "The Toxic Truth About Sugar," published in the journal Nature, the scientists said sugar consumption tripled worldwide over the past 50 years and now is contributing to 35 million deaths a year.

"As long as the public thinks that sugar is just 'empty calories,' we have no chance in solving this," Dr. Robert Lustig said. "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. But sugar is toxic beyond its calories."

The American Beverage Association (ABA) disputed the researchers' claims.

"There is no evidence that focusing solely on reducing sugar intake would have any meaningful public health impact," the ABA said in a statement. "Importantly, we know that the body of scientific evidence does not support that sugar, in any of its various forms -- including fructose, is a unique cause of chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome."

But the University of California-San Francisco scientists said their research showed the effects of consuming an excess of sugary foods and drinks mimic the effects of drinking too much alcohol -- which, they pointed out, is made from distilling sugar.

They recommended using taxation, controlling access to sugary products and tightening licensing requirements to sell sweet snacks and drinks in schools and workplaces.

Dr. Laura Schmidt, who was involved in the research, said, "We're not talking prohibition. 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."

The ABA said taxes on sugar would be ineffective in combating public health problems.

"Taxing sugar-sweetened beverages will not reduce obesity, nor will it have a truly meaningful impact on obesity-related health conditions such as diabetes, coronary disease or metabolic syndrome," the ABA said in a release. "Importantly, a wide range of factors contribute to these health conditions and singling out one ingredient -- or one set of products -- in such an overly simplistic manner only undermines efforts to combat them."