Flippin’ hell! Just as the nation was breaking out its frying pans to celebrate Pancake Day, cooking up pancakes by the dozen before smothering them in sugar and lemon juice, England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, was telling a committee of MPs that ‘we may need to introduce a sugar tax’. No, what we really need is a public campaign to overthrow the tinpot dictators of the medical profession and their chums in Whitehall.
Davies backed up her demand with a series of statements so outrageous it beggars belief. ‘We have a generation of children who because they are overweight and lack activity may not live as long as my generation’, she said. ‘They will be the first generation that live less, and that is of great concern.’ This is errant nonsense. Life expectancies continue to rise. According to figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) released late last year, life expectancy at birth is increasing each day by four hours for females and six hours for males. According to the ONS, one-third of babies born in 2013 are expected to live to be 100.
Davies also predicted that ‘research will find sugar is addictive’. But that claim is also nonsense. If sugar is so addictive – rather than merely enjoyable – how can so many people reduce their sugar consumption so easily when they choose to? Indeed, the main ‘action’ that the crusaders at Action on Sugar want to take is to get the food industry to reduce gradually the amount of sugar in foods, assuming that consumers will barely notice. And it’s true: people can quite easily retrain that ‘sweet tooth’. Her claim only confirms how bastardised the idea of ‘addiction’ has become.
It’s not just fizzy drinks and chocolate bars, apparently. We all need to be educated/nudged/exhorted to understand that even fruit juice is bad for us. Perhaps Davies needs to start with the National Health Service, then, which still promotes fruit juice and smoothies as part of your ‘five a day’: ‘One glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice. Juice counts as a maximum of one portion a day, even if you have more than one glass… a smoothie containing all of the edible pulped fruit and/or vegetable may count as more than one portion but this depends on how it’s made.’
A more honest approach would be to say that medical researchers are divided on the issue of sugar. The mainstream view is that sugar is ‘empty calories’, but as long as you watch what you eat and don’t consume too many calories, you can enjoy sugar just like any other food. A minority of researchers think that sugar is actually particularly harmful, and we should try to avoid it altogether, regardless of the number of calories we consume overall.