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The Los Angeles Times reports that scientists at the University of California San Francisco argue in the newest issue of Nature that “the added sugars in processed foods and drinks are responsible for so many cases of chronic disease and premature deaths that their use ought to be regulated, just like alcohol and tobacco.”

The researchers “aren’t claiming that sugar should be illegal or removed from the diet completely,” the Times writes. “They are focused on added sugars, which they define as ‘any sweetener containing the molecule fructose that is added to food in processing.’

“In this country, most added sugar is in the form of high fructose corn syrup, of HFCS. But sucrose from cane sugar, sugar beets and other caloric sweeteners also would be subject to scrutiny.

“Why? Because even the United Nations recognizes that the greatest threat to public health now comes from non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Together, these play a role in more than 35 million deaths each year. And they get a big boost from the choices people make about tobacco, alcohol and diet.

“Of these three ‘risk factors,’ only tobacco and alcohol are currently subject to regulation, the authors write. Of course, these differ from food in that they are not necessary for survival. But added sugars – and the items made with them – aren’t necessary either.”
KC's View:
The Times also notes that despite the call by these researchers, it is not likely to have any impact in the short term. “Public health advocates have spent years trying to enact a soda tax to discourage consumption of added sugar, and none of their efforts is close to succeeding,” the Times writes.

Still, I think the findings of these scientists have to be taken seriously, and be the subject of discussion. I’m not calling for legislation here, but the impact of what we eat on the nation’s health care system and economy needs to be the subject of public discussion, if not public policy changes.