Just a Spoonful of Sugar

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Helps to aid obesity, enhance diabetes and boost cancer tumour growth. Perhaps sugar isn’t as medicinal as Mary Poppins once claimed.

Chef Jamie Oliver in a recent interview with the Daily Mail stated that sugar “can frankly, destroy lives.” Yale University researchers have found in three animal studies that suggest sugar is more addictive than cocaine.

So, who wants another slice of cake?

Oliver compared sugar to “smoking and should be taxed in the same way as tobacco.” He states he isn’t a tax enthusiast, but that our diets need radical change. He isn’t wrong. With a surplus of obesity and the EU courts now encouraging that it can count as a disability, he believes Britain should follow in France’s footsteps and tax certain sugar products, although zero-calorie “diet” drinks are exempt from the charges, even though they hold excessive amounts of sugar under a different name. Did you know that a low-fat yoghurt has a whole load of added sugar to make up for the loss of texture and flavours? Large profitable companies couldn’t possibly do the same thing with zero-calorie drinks, could they?

When France introduced the tax on the sweet white stuff, Coca-Cola suspended a €17m investment, “protest[ing] against a tax that punishes our company and stigmatises our products.” France’s tax added a mere 1p to a can of fizzy pop and statistics from FoodDrinkEurope, the EU trade group, suggest that there is “no conclusive evidence that taxing products for public health purposes is an effective way of changing consumer behaviour.”

When I travelled to the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, in early 2014 I visited Berber villages that still made bread with homemade tools. It was shocking to see abhorrent Westernised brands: Coca-Cola posters on walls of bare-brick and corrugated iron homes. Jimmy Doherty, friend of Oliver’s, talked about his recent trip to Mexico where he visited a dental hospital, which treats “three-year-olds with no teeth because they drink so much Coke. But you go there and the dentists are sitting on branded Coca-Cola chairs, under Coca-Cola umbrellas. They’re saturated.”

Interestingly, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietics, (whom, by the way, pronounce themselves to be the world’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals) is sponsored by a handful of well-invested health conscious companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and PepsiCo.

Our lack of information, education and knowledge is problematic. The government scheme Change4Life is trying to engage the public’s attention and enhance their understanding about healthy diet options. Recently I heard an advert on the radio imploring I swapped my ‘sugary cereal’ for ‘plain cereal’ – I have eggs anyway. After reading ‘I Quit Sugar For Life’ by New York Times best-selling author and journalist Sarah Wilson, I discovered there are hidden sugars in everything. The scheme is trying to offer healthy alternatives, but really they just appear uninformed and are giving inappropriate advice. Personal Trainer at Go-Gym Sutton, London and food-nutrition-advocate Pierina Borrotzu stated on the subject: “the UK government scheme is not particularly well informed, especially when there has been much debate amongst nutritionists in other areas of the government’s nutrition guidelines. For example the EatWell plate, which is given out to many schools and even included in Personal Training Tuition as a good guideline to follow.” Note: it’s not. She also believes education is an issue: that the majority of people don’t understand “the effects of sugar on their bodies in terms of the highs and crashes that come about as a result of choosing fast-acting sugars.” Furthermore by introducing a tax “you end up almost ‘punishing’ the people who are health-conscious and do understand, and want to enjoy what they see as an occasional treat,” while those who binge will continue to do so. In response to Oliver’s war on tobacco she responds, “The increasing tax on cigarettes never seems to be much of a deterrent.”

Sarah Wilson, author of ‘I Quit Sugar’ promises that a life without sugar addiction equates to a lack of podge, bloating and brain fog, as well as offering other numerous health benefits. Supporters of Wilson state an overall improvement in focus, motivation, energy and happiness as a result of quitting sugar. She also indicates that your life is no longer controlled by a rollercoaster of sugar bursts, timeouts, energy dips and cravings. Dr. Nicole Avena has a Ph.D in Neuroscience and Psychology and explains how sugar affects the brain: sugar triggers pleasure. This produces behaviour and brain changes that resemble addiction. Dopamine is produced and creates a ‘high’ and in future stimulates a craving for more of the substance as the “brain requires increased amounts of the substance to arrive at the same level of dopamine release.”

Paediatric and endocrinologist Dr Robert Lustig at the University of California, San Francisco says “there is not one biochemical reaction in your body, not one, that requires dietary fructose. People say, oh, you need sugar to live. Garbage.” 58% of protein and 10% of fats turn into glucose, meaning we could easily live off meat, eggs, and vegetables and sustain a healthy lifestyle. Lustig beseeches “I’m not a fitness guru, I’m 45lb overweight!” He’s just a guy that feels violated by the idea of the human race surrendering to diseases caused by sugar. In a recent interview by Zoe Williams in the Guardian, an obesity counsellor told Lustig “the problem isn’t a knowledge deficit…there isn’t a fat person on Earth who doesn’t know vegetables are good for you.” Lustig says the only resolution is lawful intervention.

In 2009, Lustig created a viral YouTube video with 5.3 million viewings as of Dec 29, 2014. The lecture articulates the dangers of fructose, identifying it a poison. In the Daily Mail this Sunday, UK TV presenter Davina McCall declares: “I’ve never felt this fantastic!” She’s brought out a new health book and yes you guessed it: “Davina’s 5 Weeks to Sugar-Free: Yummy, Easy Recipes to Help You Kick Sugar and Feel Amazing” is on the shelves. Her recipes include sugar swaps such as honey and organic maple syrup however both are nearly 50% fructose – wrong again! Celebrity endorsement will help a wider audience become aware but Borrotzu says there’s a risk of creating a new fad and taking things to extremes: the ‘I Quit Sugar’ blog feel “there are still those people who perceive sugar-quitters as quirky, hippie-dippy types…urging others to give up their most favoured food group.” They note in brackets, “Sugar is not a food group.”

Are you still going to have your cake and eat it?

Me too. Or three.

References regarding A Spoonful of Sugar

Authority Nutrition, (2014). 10 Similarities Between Sugar, Junk Food and Abusive Drugs. [online] Available at: http://authoritynutrition.com/10-similarities-between-junk-foods-and-drugs/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

BBC News, (2014). Obesity ‘could be a disability’ – EU. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30529791 [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Bbc.co.uk, (2015). BBC – What’s The Right Diet For You? A Horizon Special – Media centre. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2015/02/whats-the-right-diet-for-you [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Drnicoleavena.com, (2015). Home – Nicole Avena | Why Diets Fail. [online] Available at: http://www.drnicoleavena.com/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Eatright.org, (2015). Current Corporate Sponsors from the Academy. [online] Available at: http://www.eatright.org/corporatesponsors/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

EurActiv | EU News & policy debates, across languages, (2015). ‘Fat taxes’ do work, EU report finds. [online] Available at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/agriculture-food/fat-taxes-do-work-eu-report-finds-303748 [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Farmer, B. (2015). Jamie Oliver: Sugar can destroy lives and should be taxed like tobacco – Telegraph. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/11323096/Jamie-Oliver-Sugar-can-destroy-lives-and-should-be-taxed-like-tobacco.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

I Quit Sugar, (2014). Dietitian’s Association claim Paleo is bad for us… true or false? – I Quit Sugar. [online] Available at: https://iquitsugar.com/dietitians-association-claim-paleo-bad-us-true-false/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

I Quit Sugar, (2014). IQS Expert: “Giving up drugs was easier than sugar.” – I Quit Sugar. [online] Available at: https://iquitsugar.com/giving-up-drugs-was-easier-than-sugar/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

I Quit Sugar, (2014). Neuroscientist explains: How sugar affects the brain – I Quit Sugar. [online] Available at: https://iquitsugar.com/how-sugar-affects-the-brain/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Look Better Nakedâ„¢, (2014). WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY THE HOUR AFTER DRINKING A COKE?. [online] Available at: http://lookbetternakedblog.com/2014/10/04/what-happens-to-your-body-the-hour-after-drinking-a-coke/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Mail Online, (2011). France approves fat tax on sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola and Fanta. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2079796/France-approves-fat-tax-sugary-drinks-Coca-Cola-Fanta.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Mail Online, (2015). Davina: ‘I’ve never felt this fantastic’. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2892362/Davina-ve-never-felt-fantastic.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Mail Online, (2015). Jamie Oliver back on TV with Jimmy Doherty on how he faced burn-out. [online] Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2894271/As-approaches-40-…oherty-faced-burn-surviving-just-three-half-hours-sleep-night.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Roumeliotou, E. (2014). Addiction To Junk Food: More Than Meets The Eye. [online] The Epoch Times. Available at: http://m.theepochtimes.com/n3/860726-addiction-to-junk-food-more-than-meets-the-eye/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Williams, Z. (2014). Robert Lustig: the man who believes sugar is poison. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/24/robert-lustig-sugar-poison [Accessed 6 Jan. 2015].

Wilson, S. (2013). I Quit Sugar: The Complete Plan and Recipe Book. Sydney, NSW: Macmillan Australia.

Wilson, S. (2014). I Quit Sugar for Life: 148 Recipes + Meal Plans for Families and Solos. Sydney, NSW: Pan Macmillan Australia.

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