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Should Sugar Be Regulated?

By Justin Chan | February 29, 2012

Photo: dmolsen

 

Most people are aware of the consequences of consuming too much sugar, but one report suggests that the effects are more serious than they appear to be. In fact, the piece recommends that sugar itself is a toxin that should be regulated. According to Time, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco released an opinion piece that advocates controlling the sales of sugary products and rejects the popular idea that the sugar is simply “empty calories.”

“There is nothing empty about these calories,” the piece says. “A growing body of scientific evidence is showing that fructose can trigger processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases. A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly.”

The piece comes at a time when sugar consumption has come under more scrutiny. The average American adult consumes at least 22 teaspoons of sugar daily, and the average teen swallows at least 34 teaspoons of sugar. At least 17% of American children and teens are obese, while the sugar intake across the world has tripled in the past five decades. In order to reduce health risks related to high sugar consumption, the report says that the sales of sugary products to those under 17 should be controlled. It also suggests taxing foods high in fructose.

“We’re not talking prohibition,” said Laura Schmidt, one of the authors of the piece. “We’re not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives. We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”

Some places across the world have already taken the initiative to reduce sugar consumption. France, Greece and Denmark, for instance, have levied taxes on soda, and at least 20 cities and states in America may follow suit.  Last summer, Philadelphia nearly passed a legislation that would impose a 2-cents-per-ounce soda tax.
Still, some critics have pointed out that the effects of sugar regulation can transcend health issues. Scott Dailey of the Wall Street Journal, for example, jokingly warned that the social effects of such regulation can be drastic. “As parents, we’ll need be to especially vigilant,” Dailey wrote. “First, we’ll have to clear out the liquor cabinet so we can lock up the sugar and baking supplies. Then we’ll need to be on the alert so our kids don’t circumvent our most conscientious efforts.”

As serious as the researchers’ concerns may be, the authors concede that the regulation of sugar is difficult since many consider it a necessary vice. “We recognize that there are cultural and celebratory aspects of sugar,” said Claire Brindis. “Changing these patterns is very complicated.”

Do you think sugar should be regulated in order to help stop the obesity epidemic?

Photo: dmolsen

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