WAYS TO REGULATE THE USE OF SUGAR
As more evidence emerges about the harmful effects of sugar, the question arises; should governments intervene to reduce sugar consumption?
Since sugar contributes to creating an acidic environment in the body and to growth of non- beneficial bacteria in the gut and since it is linked to diabetes, obesity, infertility, heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, arthritis, asthma and almost every condition that is aggravated by inflammation and poor gut flora, it is irresponsible not to take steps to reduce its intake. Research also indicates that it is far more addictive than cocaine. Hence it would seem that sugar is as much a health hazard as tobacco and should also be regulated.
This would not be the case if we had a clear idea of how much sugar we are consuming. But, playing on our addiction, industry hides sugar in virtually every manufactured food we buy.
Our bodies could not produce energy without carbohydrate and sugar, just as we could not live without proteins that build tissues and enzymes, or fats that are essential for cell, brain and nerve functions. Glucose is the enzyme that manages sugar metabolism, converting excess sugar to glycogen for storage until it is needed for energy. Leptin is the enzyme that regulates fat metabolism by reducing hunger when fats are ingested and by converting fats into their useful components. When sugar and fat are consumed repeatedly and in excess, the body develops insensitivity to both glucose and leptin causing a cascade of physiological problems to ensue. Quantity and frequency of intake are what matter and since sugar is ubiquitous in manufactured food, it is consumed way in excess of its need and beyond the ideal ratio of food groups which is 25%-35% of fat, 45 % Carbohydrate and 20% protein. Who would imagine that one can of coke contains 7 tsp of sugar or that one can of Red Bull has 7.5 tsp.
Regulating sugar by means of a sin tax, as with alcohol, is unlikely to be effective since it is virtually impossible to monitor the amount of sugar added to the vast range of products that contain it. Surveys in the US indicate that most people consume approximately 35% of their sugar intake from energy drinks, 10% from fruit juices, 18% from desserts, 6-8 % from sweets and 15 % from general products. In many instances the form of sugar used is HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) which is far worse than cane or beet sugar.
Certainly HFCS could either be banned or if added, require a danger warning; ” CONTAINS HFCS. ”since it is artificially produced from GMO corn and it is converted mainly to trigylceride, an unhealthy fat. It is cheaper than sugar and therefore benefits manufacturers while harming consumers. It has becomes almost impossible to find an ice cream that is produced without it.
South Africa dealt with unhealthy trans fats by means of an outright ban. In time that could be the way to deal with HFCS. But in the meantime the public deserves information on the amount of sugar that has been added to their food. Any product to which sugar is added should carry a legible warning label ; ” CONTAINS SUGAR x tsp per 100 gr or x tsp per cup”.
At least in this way consumer awareness will grow and freedom of choice will be preserved. It would also be a wise move to ban sugar sales at tuck shops, thereby creating awareness among our kids that sugar is unhealthy and discouraging them from becoming sugar junkies.
MamaEarth invites any parent who would like to join the advocacy group of Moms Against Sugar and Starch Abuse, MASSA, (dads, sisters and brothers likewise) to sign into our facebook page and add your voice to our campaign against excess sugar, HFCS and refined carbohydrate (as much a problem as sugar). The more the voices raised against unhealthy manufactured food, the more likely we are to effect change.
Dr Ruth Rabinowitz (MamaEarth Director)
Watch this discussion on sugar regulation on youtube and contribute to the debate!