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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Should sugar be taxed to reduce health problems like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes?

Should sugar be taxed to reduce health problems like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes? BBC News reports today that "Sugar is as damaging and addictive as alcohol or tobacco and should be regulated, claim US health experts. According to a University of California team, new policies such as taxes are needed to control soaring consumption of sugar and sweeteners. Prof Robert Lustig argues in the journal Nature for major shifts in public policy." And this is countered by the Industry body the Food and Drink Federation saying that "demonising" any particular foods is unhelpful. - Well that's true inasmuch as it's unhelpful to the Food and Drink Federation and its profits!

The Food and Drink Federation like to sell addictive food and drink to their customers. Addicts return to buy again the products to which they are addicted - to buy them over and over and over again. - I heard the subject of whether sugar should be taxed - because its heavy consumption is causing widespread damage to people's health - being discussed in the last minutes of Radio 4's PM programme today. I think the interviewer was Eddie Mair.

There was Prof Robert Lustig on the phone from America, supplying the voice of reason, and suggesting a heavy tax on sugar stuffs in order to produce a really significant reduction in consumption. And there was a guy from the Food and Drink Federation spouting his ritual rhetoric about sugar not being the baddie - many factors are associated with non-infectious diseases, not just sugar. Think of insufficient exercise, sedentary life-styles, etc. - We need a balanced diet, more exercise, etc etc. - There's no evidence that sugar causes disease... Burble Burble. Burble Burble.

Actually I wondered whether this robotic guy was deaf? - Prof Lustig (Eddie Mair kept calling him Dr Lustig) was explaining that there is actually a great deal of evidence that sugar is definitely being consumed in too high quantities, that it is addictive, that it is actually toxic in that it causes serious metabolic changes to the body - fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, etc. - Prof Lustig knows his sugary science (listen to his lecture The Bitter Truth) and he knows his sugary statistics, but his unheeding interlocutor continued burbling about no evidence to support the taxation of sugar, and repeating that it's a matter of a balanced diet, no new evidence, burble, burble, burble. - I think I can hazard his idea of a balanced diet - the sort of balanced diet the Food Industry might find profitable to supply the products for: a Sugar-crammed, intensely sweet cereal breakfast with additive-laden fruit drink, balanced by a salt-laden sandwich for lunch and an over-salted processed ready meal for tea, with snacks throughout the day of biscuits (high in sugar and salt), crisps and maybe a token apple (high in pesticides) added to impress the 'healthy food' brigade.