The miserable rise of the anti-sugar brigade

This week in prohibition news: the people who brought you Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) have started a spin-off group called Action on Sugar (AoS). Making extraordinary claims like ‘sugar is the new tobacco’ and ‘the alcohol of childhood’, the organisation is lobbying the Department of Health to introduce creeping regulations on sugar. AoS hopes to force food producers to slowly cut the levels of sugar in their products by up to 30 per cent, and recommends that the regulations are backed by fines and/or taxes. The group believes that the gradual reduction of sugar will mean that the gormless public will barely notice their snacks becoming less tasty. 

Not only is Action on Sugar a deeply patronising group, but it also seems to be painfully ill-informed. One of the stated aims of the proposed regulations is to reduce type-2 diabetes. In doing so, AoS are perpetuating the myth that sugar consumption in itself is a cause of the disease. A Diabetes UK spokesperson said that while she welcomed the AoS recommendations, ‘the evidence that sugar has a specific further role in causing type-2 diabetes, other than by increasing our weight, is not clear’. In other words, there is little reason to believe that sugar is any worse for us than the other calories we consume each day. AoS also seems oblivious to the fact that sugar consumption in the UK appears to have fallen across every age group and gender over the last decade.

Despite the fact that detailed nutritional information on packaging gives people all the information they need when purchasing food, AoS still seems infuriated that people won’t do what they’re told and eat healthily. Speaking like a member of some far-advanced species, unaccustomed to our primitive ways, the organisation’s science director, Dr Aseem Malhotra, seems baffled as to why anyone would want to consume sweetened foods: ‘Sugar has no nutritional value and the body doesn’t need any added sugar.’ One might almost feel sorry for the miserable souls at AoS for not understanding the simple pleasure of a bar of chocolate or a can of Coke - that is, if they weren’t trying so hard to impose their misery on the rest of us.

Rossa Minogue is a documentary maker living in London.

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