Is the U.K. Shooting Itself in the Foot Over Sugar?


Obviously, much of the tumult in the United Kingdom has coalesced around the upcoming sugar tax, which kicks in early next year. Many fizzy drink manufacturers have already re-engineered their recipes to include lower amounts of sugar and escape the tax.

Fear of sinking profits has inspired companies to scout independent craft-type operations in hopes of acquiring the Next Big Niche Beverage. Sure, that is a contradiction in terms, but since when has a little thing like illogic stood in the way of the industry?

Naturally, once the sugar tax had finally been passed and assigned a start date, its opponents wanted to go back to Square One and re-argue the whole premise. Some had predicted all along that manufacturers would reduce the sugar in their products and substitute it with chemical additives instead.

Why? As journalist John Naish wrote for Daily Mail:

Because, quite simply, whenever sugar is taken out of a product, something else has to take its place to make it equally appetizing.

One of those “something else” chemicals is sucralose, 650 times sweeter than sugar. Sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin are seen by some researchers as even more harmful than sugar, or at least as constituting a much greater risk to health.

Naish wrote:

Of course, these kinds of artificial sweeteners are supposed to help us to lose weight. But evidence from a wide range of authoritative studies now shows that they don’t. In fact, they can actually make some people pile on pounds.

This is because these chemical substitutes can interfere with our metabolisms in subtle, yet sometimes dangerous, ways. Some of them may even increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

He went on to cite equally dire studies having to do with the negative effects of these chemicals on blood sugar and blood pressure, and hyperactivity, insomnia, and cravings. They also have a devastating effect on our essential tenants, the microbiota.

Some critics have gone so far as to call the entire sugar reduction movement a con game. Does this mean people are deliberately engaging in cynical and malicious manipulations of the public trust? Maybe not, but the effect is just as harmful.

Look at me!

The whole sugar tax debate has provided the opportunity for much free publicity all around. Anybody can get press coverage about allegedly new recipes, whose changes are essentially meaningless. John Naish does the math to show why sugar reduction claims are largely nonsense.

One company changed a popular candy bar’s sugar content from 22 grams to 21.3 grams, and made a big noise about it. Everyone patted them on the head, and failed to mention that such a reduction is nowhere near the 10% promised by the self-policing confections industry.

Despite progress, organizations like Cancer Research UK are relentless about reducing sugar. Their studies found that the average British teen drinks a bathtub full of soda every year. There is an accepted, allowable amount of sugar that is considered reasonable, but they consume three times as much.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why the war on sugar could be BAD for your health: Government plans to reduce childhood obesity could have the opposite effect,”, 03/30/17
Photo credit: osiristhe via Visualhunt/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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