Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Chief Medical Officer misleads parliament about sugar and obesity...again


This is 'normal service':

She said she believes "the research will find sugar is addictive" and that "we may need to introduce a sugar tax".

I sorry but it simply is not true - not even a tiny little bit - that sugar is addictive. Except in the 'it's very nice and we like to eat it' sense of addiction.  The 'research' as the Chief Medical Officer is already there - lots of it - and it says that sugar isn't addictive. Here's Jan Ulbrecht, associate professor in biobehavioral health and medicine in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University arguing that sugar isn't addictive:

"Since the human body does not become physically dependent on sugar the way it does on opiates like morphine and heroin, sugar is not addictive," 

The idea - commonplace amongst the purveyors of New Puritan junk science - is that, because sugar stimulates the brain to produce dopamine in the same way as cocaine therefore it is addictive.

The central issue here, however, isn't about addiction but about obesity - firstly whether we have increasing levels of obesity and secondly whether that obesity is caused by our increasing dependence on sugar.

Both of these things are false.

On the growth in obesity - here's a chart of mean BMI (body mass index) for the UK 1993-2007:

On average we really haven't got much fatter. And we know that childhood obesity is falling something that probably reflects the other unhelpful fact for anti-sugar campaigners - children are consuming less sugar (in every form).

Indeed sugar consumption has fallen - all forms of sugar not merely the white stuff in the sugar bowl but the scary 'hidden sugar' the campaigners keep telling us about. Our consumption of 'non-milk extrinsic sugars' has fallen by more than half since the 1970s and by 10% over the past decade. Sugars now represent about 16% of our total energy intake compare to about a third three decades ago. If there's a single culprit for the increased levels of obesity it isn't sugar. Indeed nothing other than fruit and fruit juices has increased compared to 1970.

So why, given the availability of this real information - that there isn't an 'obesity epidemic' and that sugar consumption has halved - does the Chief Medical Officer make out to MPs that sugar is a problem that requires regulation or a new tax?


1 comment:

George Speller said...

It is true we have a dependency on sugar. No organism can exist without it. It is every bit as "addictive" as oxygen.