Jamie Oliver vs. Sugar


In Jamie Oliver’s world, sugar is “the next tobacco” in the sense that it should be shamed, educated, taxed, and hounded out of existence wherever and whenever possible.

Last autumn, Oliver’s production company released the documentary film Sugar Rush whose creation took him to a London hospital where a six year old devotee of fizzy drinks was having six teeth extracted. In the 5-to-9 year age group, 26,000 kids in the United Kingdom are admitted to hospitals with severely deteriorated teeth every year.

Oliver quotes a statistic which is probably reliable, given that he is a very public figure with many critics eager to point out his smallest mis-speak. Regarding the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, he says “68 per cent of every case that goes through the NHS is diet-related.” But his concern doesn’t end at the national borders. He is outraged at how “parts of South America have been raped” by low-quality, nutrition-less products.

In Mexico he filmed a woman feeding her baby “alternating between breast milk and Coke,” and visited a village where every inhabitant quaffs two liters of Coca-Cola on a daily basis. Mexico reportedly also has 3-year-olds who lack teeth because the world’s favorite SSB has already rotted them, and multitudes of dentists who furnish their patios with branded chairs and umbrellas that are gifts from the corporation. Oh and by the way, type 2 diabetes is the country’s leading cause of death.

The Opposition

A rebuttal was written by a fellow named Rob Lyons who calls Oliver’s anti-sugar campaign “simple-minded” and who offers some flabby arguments. For instance, in regard to the £30 million ($43 million) the NHS spends each year to pull teeth, and the fact that dental caries are biggest single reason why children are hospitalized, Lyons says,

As it happens, infant tooth extraction would have happened in dental surgeries in the past. It’s just that it is now compulsory to bring children into hospital when they need to go under anaesthetic. So pulling kids’ teeth isn’t new – the hospital figures reflect changing medical practice as much as the state of our children’s teeth.

To this, the only possible reply is, “So what?” Whether it occurs in a hospital or a dentist’s office, it’s still a heap of misery inflicted on children, and because the NHS would be paying either way, it still costs a ton of money that the country can’t afford. That silly excuse does nothing to change the fact that sugar is a plague and a scourge.

In reply to complaints of massive amounts of sugar being present in processed commercial foodstuffs, Lyons disingenuously points out that “There is an easy way to find out the sugar content… read the label.” This remark totally ignores the years of grueling conflict it took for activists to gain something as elementary as a label that discloses the sugar content – a victory achieved only after fighting every step of the way with sugar apologists like Lyons.

Coincidentally, just after the Sugar Rush movie came out, Coca-Cola released a new ad campaign to familiarize the populace with its sugar-free and low-calorie products.

Jamie Oliver has successfully swayed public opinion and government activity before. Years ago, his “Feed Me Better” campaign and petition drive stimulated the British government to invest the equivalent of a billion dollars to improve school lunches. In a New York Times article, Alex Witchel included a couple of typical Jamie Oliver quotations:

It’s harsh to say, but these parents, when they’ve been to the doctor and keep feeding their kids inappropriate food, that is child abuse. Same as a cigarette burn or a bruise.

Every child should be taught to cook in school, not just talk about nutrition all day. Good food can be made in 15 minutes. This could be the first generation where the kids teach the parents.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “As he approaches 40, Jamie Oliver,” DailyMail.co.uk, 01/02/15
Source: “Don’t Rush to Join Jamie’s Sugar Crusade,” spiked-online.com, 09/04/15
Source: “Putting America’s diet on a diet,” jamieoliver.com, 09/10/09
Image: Amor Ministries via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND


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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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