Sugar to our health is as damaging and addictive as alcohol or tobacco and therefore should be regulated, claim US health experts.
The consumption of sugar has tripled worldwide over the past 50 years, its unregulated use has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Prof. Robert Lustig, a leading child obesity expert, says governments need to consider major shifts in policy, such as taxes, limiting sales of sweet food and drinks during school hours, or even stopping children from buying them below a certain age.
According to a University of California team, new policies such as taxes are needed to control soaring consumption of sugar and sweeteners.
Several countries in Europe are imposing taxes on unhealthy food; Denmark and Hungary have a tax on saturated fat, while France has approved a tax on soft drinks.
Industry body the Food and Drink Federation said ‘demonizing’ food was unhelpful.
Researchers in the U.S., however, are proposing similar policies for added sugar and sweeteners, amid concern about the amount of sugar in the diet.
They acknowledge as well, that they face ‘an uphill political battle against a powerful sugar lobby’.
Researchers write in the journal Nature, that ‘with enough demand for change, shifts in policy become possible’.
Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the UK Food and Drink Federation, said they recognized the worldwide health burden of non-infectious diseases and agreed action was needed.
She explained that the causes of these diseases pertain to many factors and demonizing individual food components, however, does not help consumers to build a realistic approach to their diet.
Dr. Peter Scarborough of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at the University of Oxford, said taxing certain food products was something policymakers should consider.
But he said taxing only one type of food could have unintended consequences, such as people cutting back on fruit and vegetables to save money for other purchases.