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‘Misleading’ to single out sugar as a lead cause of obesity, says AB Sugar

Sugar has had a bad press recently, especially after campaign group Action on Sugar formed to tackle ‘hidden’ sugars in processed foods last month – but sugar industry proponents claim it should not be singled out as a leading culprit in the obesity crisis.

Major sugar producer AB Sugar approached FoodNavigator “to restore a sense of balance to the debate”, pointing out that sugar consumption – in the UK at least – has fallen over the past decade, even as obesity rates have continued to climb.

Indeed, added sugar intakes have declined about 9% in three years, to reach an average of 12.3% of total caloric intake in the UK, according to health department figures. That’s still higher than the 10% of calories from added sugars that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends for optimal health, but Action on Sugar is targeting a 30% reduction in added sugars in an effort to reverse rising obesity trends.

“We have seen that sugar has been singled out as a lead cause of the obesity epidemic and we think this is quite misleading to consumers,” said AB Sugar communications manager Sharon Fisher. “If you consume too much of any calories you will put on weight.”

The role of sugar

AB Sugar’s head of food science Julian Cooper added that sugar can have a role to play in a healthy diet, a position that is not far from that of the British Dietetic Association (BDA). The BDA says that added sugar is not necessary for a healthy diet, but also that sugar is harmless in moderation.

“The role of sugar in a healthy balanced diet is to provide a range of palatable products,” said Cooper. “…We would not advocate a high sugar diet with soft drinks and chocolate bars, etc., but it does have a role to play. As you know, it provides more than just being sweet and calories. It provides texture and can act as a preservative, so it does have some interesting functional properties.”

When it comes to obesity, Cooper said: “There are too many calories being consumed, rather than just sugar per se.”

He and Fisher also both urged caution around reformulating to replace sugar, saying that even though sugar can be replaced, in some high fat foods, the total caloric content can actually go up.

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3 comments

Are you kidding me?

The average American now consumes 152 pounds of sugar annually. The rate of sugar intake in this country directly correlates with the increase in obesity. We have had "low-fat" for many years now, it doesn't work. Sugar has no nutritional value, period. Added sugars (in any form- brown, white, HFCS) is NOT needed, period. Multitudes of experts would disagree with the title of this article and the article info. -MS in Health

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Posted by Bob
16 February 2014 | 20h06

singled out

To single out any ingredient or food and blame it for obesity is undefendable and ignorant. Want to attract the medical community as adversaries - vilify a food or category - I dare you.

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Posted by Suzy Badaracco
12 February 2014 | 03h57

Sugar high

I trust Julian Cooper is reported accurately when he states: "We would not advocate a high sugar diet with soft drinks and chocolate bars, etc.....", before agreeing that there are 'too many calories being consumed rather than just sugar per se'. So the sugar industry scientific opinion seems to be in agreement on the need to cut down on surplus calories, and to cut down on soft drinks and confectionery. Reducing added sugars across a range of other foods is part of an overall approach to cut down on calorie excess. How else to move towards halting the overall increase in population weight gain and eventually address obesity itself?

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Posted by Neville Rigby, International Obesity Forum
10 February 2014 | 19h12

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