NEWS ALERT: Americans are consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar!

I don’t think the above statement should come as a surprise, especially with all of the health problems our country is currently facing.  Unfortunately, certain diseases and ailments are becoming more and more commonplace.  Personally, I believe mandatory nutrition education should start at the elementary school level and continue into high school.  I also wish more American corporations would offer nutritional programs and incentives.  Show me the money though, right?

Well, it just so happens that other people are also trying to improve America’s health dilemma.  Go figure!  According to a WebMD article (Americans Sweet on Sugar: Time to Regulate?) I read the other day, Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor at UCSF’s Center for Obesity, Assessment, Study, and Treatment, believes that added sugars (those not naturally occurring in foods) need to be regulated.  He asserts that personal intervention is not enough since sugar is addictive.  It encourages the brain to continue consumption.

Lustig links excess sugar intake to:

   – High blood pressure
   – Diabetes
   – Increase in triglyceride levels
   – Obesity
   – Liver problems

sugar-tax (1)

According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their intake to no more than nine teaspoons a day, and women should not consume more than six teaspoons.  To put things in perspective, the average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day.  Some people are consuming so much sugar that it adds up to half their caloric intake. 

Since soda accounts for so much of the extra sugar consumption, Lustig believes that the same models used to regulate alcohol and tobacco should be applied to soda.  He suggests that soda be taxed at a hefty rate, availability be limited, and an age limit be put in place for purchase. 

In addition, Lustig thinks the FDA should remove fructose from the Generally Recognized as Safe list.  And a good next step would be to list the amount of added sugars on nutritional labels and not lump all sugars into one number.

The FDA responded to Lustig’s suggestions by essentially saying that consumers need to be their own advocates by inspecting ingredient lists for added sugars. 

This isn’t as simple as it sounds though, since added sugars have many names, including:

   – Corn syrup
   – High-fructose corn syrup
   – Fruit juice concentrate
   – Maltose
   – Dextrose
   – Sucrose

sugar is bad

And obviously, the American Beverage Association doesn’t believe that “focusing solely on sugar intake would have any meaningful public health impact.”  All of Lustig’s suggestions are “extreme.”

So my initial thoughts when reading this article fell into three buckets.  One, even though I instinctively know that excess sugar is not good for the human body, I don’t think a single ingredient should be taken out of context and it’s effects studied.  My personal belief is that the argument against sugar would be much stronger if directly linked to other contributing factors, such as the presence of other ingredients, a lack of exercise, an overall poor diet, etc.  My second set of thoughts were directed towards the government.  After reading Food Matters and In Defense of Food, I’ve come to understand more about how our government supports the food industry and how that support works against the general public.  Not only do we never get the full truth, but nothing is done to uncover that truth and present it to American consumers in a simple way.  And my final set of thoughts was about Lustig’s suggestions.  While I fully support simplifying nutritional labels and being more transparent, I don’t know if taxing sugary food items is the answer.  Not only because it would never be approved but also because that solution is not nipping the issue in the bud.  I still firmly believe more education is the way to go, with the “why” being answered every step of the way.

What are your thoughts around instituting a sugar tax?  Do you believe our nation’s overall health would improve with more education?

By Parita

11 thoughts on “Regulating Sugar”
  1. A sugar tax? What is this, 1776? The next thing will be a tax on tea.

    Just joking, of course – it was the history nerd in me that had to say something.

    I think that sugar is the culprit of a lot of Western illnesses we see in the US and UK that are not seen in countries otherwise. Look at a ton of European countries – they thrive and live for so so long! They are eating fresh, whole food – not the prepackaged stuff we have over here.

    Rant over.

  2. Great post, P- very thought provoking! A while back I did read about the US government flirting with the idea of sugar taxes but like you said, I think they need to get to the bottom of the issue: i.e. ignorance! Rather than find a way to take more of their citizens’ money, the government should use their own funds towards educating consumers! And they also need to take into account substitution: sure this might get consumers to reduce their intake of sugar, but chances are they will find something else (possibly as dangerous) to replace their consumption with!

  3. Sugar is definitely a big reason for all the health and weight issues in the US. Although, I agree I am not sure it will ever get passed and in the end I am not sure it would do anything. The tax would have to be stupid high for it to have any effect.

  4. I heard about the whole “taxing soda” thing and, while I don’t think it’s the worst idea by any means, I think there needs to be much more education about why the tax is happening and sugar consumption should happen first. People really have no idea about the excess in which they eat it- and how it’s found in pretty much everything before you even add extra into it.

    Sigh. Not that I’m an expert by any means, but it’s really quite sad how little people know about what they’re eating.

  5. I agree with you – I think we should focuse on education rather than taxing. Sames goes for other “unhealthy” items (why tax more for booze?!).

    That said, I am a huge proponent of removing sugar from our diets to the extent that possible. There is no reason I need a cereal with 15g of sugar! I’d rather be left to sweeten it myself with some fresh fruit.

  6. I don’t think a tax would make any difference without education. Kind of like cigarettes, all the tax in the world didn’t make people stop buying them, it was the education and awareness that changed our society. Although i believe in limiting sugar intake, I hate all the sugar substitutes and think they are ruining foods at the grocery store and never buy anything with sucralose in it. Not only does it taste bad, but it upsets my stomach for the remainder for the day! I don’t understand why people think this is okay. If I want a soda, then I need to accept that it has sugar and only have 1 instead of having 10 a day because it’s now “sugar free.” We are substituting one evil with another! We’ve got a long way to go!

  7. Most definitely. if we educated the kids earlier, the overall health would improve.. but i also think the large corporations need to change and stop adding corn syrup to every darn thing. if i can only purchase soda with corn syrup, that’s not good, there have to be other options. but at least by educating the kids, they will learn to make more conscious choices.

  8. You know my thoughts on sugar and not just the ones found in processed foods! (haha I didn’t quit sugar for the fun of it :P) I think people all over the Western world are consuming way too much sugar than what is necessary and there is concrete science to back up the claims that sugar DOES in fact cause these diseases. It’s funny like you said, it seems that the government has a vested interest in these industries and will obviously oppose such a thing.

    If you think about for how long we have been fed the “fat=bad” line and the amount of effort that goes into marketing “low-fat” food, it’s quite scary.

    But the tax is an interesting idea – I think like the othershave said above, that it wouldn’t necessarily be the best idea but perhaps a part of the solution. I think education IS key – to bunk those myths, clarifying food labels, to educate parents about thinking what they feed their children (and I’m talking about things like juice and “rewarding” behaviour with sugary treats as well).

    Remember 4g of sugar = 1 teaspoon…so you can see how easily it all adds up!

  9. just wanted to add – the tax is probably taking it to the extreme, but you know what – at least we are FINALLY talking about it! Better late than never right?

    And now we can hopefully put this health issue to the forefront and think of practical, beneficial solutions to it.

  10. I totally agree on you this one girl! the problem with obesity, heart disease etc is not just only because of sugar! We do eat lot of more sugar than needed but our society is obese prone, look at the fast food, zero activity and nutrition education-forget it. They are cutting out time for PE, nutrition education is far far behind in the back burner! I wish there was more postive reinforcement rather than taxing one ingredient.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.