February 1st, 2012
03:33 PM ET

Sugar industry responds to controversial idea

This week the science journal Nature published a controversial commentary from researchers Laura Schmidt, Robert Lustig and Claire Brindis titled "The toxic truth about sugar." Schmidt wrote an opinion piece on the subject for CNN as well.

In the piece, Schmidt says that the public needs to be better informed about the science of how sugar impacts our health. She and her colleagues are recommending that the United States look at how it regulates alcohol to determine how we should regulate sugar.

The Sugar Association says the commentary "lacks the scientific evidence or consensus on which the authors base their recommended policy interventions." The association's statement goes on to say:

"We consider it irresponsible when health professionals use their platforms to instill fear by using words like 'diabetes,' 'cancer,' and even 'death,' without so much as one disclaimer about the fact that the incomplete science being referenced is inconclusive at best.

We are confident that the American people are perfectly capable of choosing what foods to eat without stark regulations and unreasonable bans imposed upon them.

There is an obesity problem in our country that can lead to the very serious health issues mentioned in the comment - but it originates from the combination of over-consumption of all foods and lack of exercise. To label a single food as the one and only problem misinforms, misleads and confuses consumers, and simply adds to the problem."

Read the Sugar Association's full response here

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Lincoln

    These are the same stalling tactics that the tabacco industry used, to some great success. "Incomplete science" "inconclusive results" and 'personal choice' are straight from the Phillips Morris playbook. The sugar industry wants us to wait until the evidence is complete, conclusive and incontrovertible, knowing full well that science is never that certain.

    February 1, 2012 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CarolT

      Yeah, Philip Moris always let the anti-smokers get away with scientific fraud. To this very day, they have never attacked it even once. This proves the so-called fight is RIGGED! By the time the health fascists decide to allow a phony "public discussion," they've already stacked the deck. Proof: The stepson of the head of the American Cancer Society was on the board of directors of Philip Morris for 20 years.

      February 2, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Do you disagree with their statement that it's not just sugar, but lots of food ingredients as well as lack of exercise, that lead to obesity? It seems pretty common-sensical that there's not just one single factor in the obesity epidemic.

      March 13, 2012 at 12:30 | Report abuse |

    used in MODERATION like anything cannot hurt you if its been FDA APPROVED

    February 1, 2012 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lincoln

      Sugar has never gone through an FDA approval process.

      In moderation there are all kinds of poisons that can't hurt you. (Carbon monoxide, for example.) That doesn't mean they aren't poisonous.

      Keep in mind that sugar has no nutritional benefit except raw calories. If it disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow not one person's health would suffer.

      February 1, 2012 at 16:21 | Report abuse |
    • medschoolkid

      Lincoln you are apparently uneducated. The vast majority of the energy from calories that your body uses daily is from sugar. The reason you call it "raw calories" is because it is able to be metabolized into sugar faster than fats.

      February 1, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
    • CDOG

      Dear medschoolkid,

      Your an idiot.

      February 1, 2012 at 22:41 | Report abuse |
    • BCAT

      Ah, the web-ubiquitous, auto-ironic, moronic "your an idiot", the implication of which CDOG is obviously in total ignorance.

      February 2, 2012 at 10:59 | Report abuse |
    • nutrition

      Re:medschoolkid- please reply after you've taken your first good nutrition class. And not the one taught by the 250lb German woman. Food for thought- cancer cannot survive without sugar! How do you like those sugar cookies now:-)

      February 2, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse |
    • medschoolkid

      @nutrition. I am aware at how cancer feeds itself, this is the basis of a PET scan. If you would like I can go into detail on the process of sugar metabolism (btw in the scientific community these are disaccharide carbs, sugar is too generic of a term). Just to clarify for others, glucose is the source of nutrition for cancer, but by no means does this cause cancer. That only pertains to those who already have cancer.

      February 2, 2012 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
  3. Robynn


    February 1, 2012 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. John W.

    Our bodies run on sugar, but have not historically had the luxury of refined sugar. Our systems may not be able to handle the huge influx of ready-to-use energy that comes in every Big_Gulp. The unwitting consumer might think its a good thing, but it short circuits the satiety cycle too, so a less-favorable amount of sugar goes down the gullet before the brain realizes that its had enough. Seriously. Enough sugar is enough. There is also speculation about the role of Ghrelin and another on (can think of it now) the hormonal/signalling that says "Enough". Toxicity is in the dose.

    February 1, 2012 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. hamsta

    @lincoln the fda also spent a generation telling you that margarine is healthier than butter only to ban trans fat which is the main ingredient of margirine.

    February 2, 2012 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      I always knew idnnkrig anything but water (and mlilk maybe) is not really a good idea, bu finally I know why (the juice was a surprise for me though). The one thing I do not get though is whether fat is not bad or whether it is bad, but only as bad as sugar, the difference being everybody know fat is not good whereas sugar is GRAS.

      April 8, 2012 at 00:32 | Report abuse |
  6. Cryo

    Are people this stupid?? Sugar, or more accurately CARBOHYDRATES are not the CAUSE OF ANY DISEASE


    what they are trying to implement is CONTROL OVER THE POPULACE so that eventually fewer people can ACCESS ON THEIR OWN WHAT IT TAKES TO ACHIEVE HIGH PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE. and if you need me to spell out what I mean then YOU YOURSELF ARE A STUPID IDIOT

    February 2, 2012 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Locke

    The reason for all the confusion is that sugar is a general term that describe a class of molecules. Table sugar that are added to food is a combination of fructose and glucose. It is the fructose component that is the issue because of the toxic effects it has on the liver. Glucose is the sugar that is utilized in metabolism. Because sugar is used in such a general way it can lead to significant confusion in the general public.

    February 2, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Liz

    To Cryo – Actually, sugar and carbohydrates have been scientifically proven to harm your health due to their effect on your hormone regulation. Hormones, and their use and concentration in your body, ultimately determine your weight and in many ways your overall health. I'm sure that body builders and professional athletes need more carbs for their "mass exertion" and "high physical performance" but everyday folks who practice moderation need to eat them sparingly. Yelling at people via CAPS LOCK and calling them stupid idiots moreso reflects your own lack of intelligence, not theirs. Read Gary Taubes and actually do some research so that you have some clue of what you're talking about before you speak. You may find that life will be kinder to you as a result.

    February 2, 2012 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • medschoolkid

      All Cryo is trying to say is that sugar is not evil or bad. Its the over consumption of sugar (carbohydrates). The metabolism of glucose is the primary energy source of the human body. The hormone problems you refer to are typically the result of consuming high amounts of fructose in a short amount of time. Fructose is easily metabolized in the liver, but it doesn't trigger the natural hormone regulators that glucose does, such as insulin and ghrelin. Thus it alters blood sugar without being regulated as well. However this is for high amounts of fructose.

      February 2, 2012 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
    • Cryo

      Liz, I have to "yell via CAPS LOCK" because idiots like Dr. Lustig exist using the logic that 6 month old babies and children do not choose to be obese, and that there is an epidemic of obesity. It is an epidemic of STUPIDITY. Why people think they can eat whatever and then be surprised at weight gain is the height of ignorance. Yes, children do not choose to be obese, yet the PARENTS allow the kids to eat the food that make them obese. And guess what? Kids do not care what they eat! You give a kid something that tastes good, THEY WILL EAT IT. It is not about kids choosing what to eat, it is about Parents being responsible. We cannot overlook past education and then declare that there is an epidemic of OBESITY. THAT IS IDIOTIC. People just do not have self control. And I like how Dr. Lustig totally ignores the bodies own ability to metabolize compounds into energy. He uses logic like, things that make you feel good equate energy metabolism. That is the pinnacle of junk science. And notice how Dr. Lustig himself is no picture of health. Yes "every day folks" who have no athletic desire need to consider their caloric intake, but do not go pointing at fat people and cry wolf when it is OBVIOUS what the problem is, and then mandate idiotic principles and rulings because PEOPLE LACK SELF CONTROL.

      February 3, 2012 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  9. Hopeful

    Dr. Lustig has been lecturing on the topic of sugar for a long time with research to back-up his claims. Check out the UCSF video on his research, link at end. To those who think glucose is the same as fructose, they are not. They are metabolized differently by the body with different consequences and implications for health. That's not to say that we should never eat and enjoy sugar, only that moderation is best, exactly like alcohol. For those who are interested, the lecture is called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" by Dr. Robert Lustig (If you want to perform your own Google search). The link: http://uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=16717

    February 2, 2012 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hopeful

      Glucose is the basic fuel of all life. Fructose is the sweet stuff that we all enjoy. They are different compounds molecularly and biochemically.

      February 2, 2012 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
  10. Hopeful

    Sorry, sucrose is the sweet stuff, which contains fructose. Fructose is what is toxic in metabolic pathways.

    February 2, 2012 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cryo

      Well, I just forced myself to watch the full video. Dr. Lustig, after stating how horrendous fructose is, says that fructose is fine if you are an athlete because fructose replenishes glycogen stores rapidly. Dr. Lustig just revealed his own inadequate level of knowledge and reason. Something cannot be bad, and be good. It is either bad, or it is good. He also stated that fructose in and of itself is fine, it is the way it is being marketed that is bad. Dr. Lustig is an idiot, who thinks he can cleverly double talk and expect to not have it noticed. It is clear that he is vilifying something for no sound reason, other than to promote an agenda. If one has sound facts, then one does not need to manipulate data to prove something. I urge people who have watched the "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" video to watch it again, and allow yourself to be fully aware, and analyze how he puts forth his facts.

      February 3, 2012 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      @ Cryo... something CAN be good and be also bad. Water is necessary for life but drinking too much water can kill you. Same with the oxygen you breathe. Acetaminophen is really good when you are in pain but too much could destroy your liver.
      But you can call me an idiot too if that makes you happy.

      February 3, 2012 at 21:36 | Report abuse |
    • Cryo

      Chris, the thing is, the way Dr. Lustig is spinning it does not allow for their to be a good side. His whole basis is that fructose is bad, especially high fructose. he never says that it is "good" because then his entire "career" is gone. In fact, he invalidates himself by saying that there is no problem with fructose as long as you consume fiber. Again and again, Dr. Lustig provides bad and erroneous facts that leave his entire "research" with gaps, holes and craters. If there are any atheists out there, then you should find Dr. Lustig as looney as a street preacher. And if you do not, then I am surprised you that you consider yourself an atheist.

      February 13, 2012 at 05:07 | Report abuse |
  11. tacc2

    While I believe that Americans eat WAY too much sugar, I don't think levying taxes on it will help anything. The absolute best thing that can be done is to end subsidies for corn producers. This would have the effect of increasing the price of HFCS and hopefully make it not so attractive to put in every food product under the sun.

    February 3, 2012 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      I agree with you.
      And it would reduce government spending a little tiny little) bit. A win win solution.
      But the lobbyists won't let that happen.

      February 3, 2012 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
  12. KJC

    I think one of the main problems with the original argument I read was the idea that sugar should be regulated, because it causes the same liver issues as alchohol, and alcohol is regulated. However, this argument assumes the liver problem is the only reason alcohol is regulated. I think the liver issue is probably a small part of the reason alcohol is so regulated. The bulk of the reason is that consumption of it also causes people to become intoxicated and impairs their judgement, motor abilities, etc. The issue is more in the fact that this intoxication can put OTHER people in danger through violence, drunk driving, property damage, etc. Over-consuming sugar, on the other hand, may put someone on a sugar "high," but this does not cause the same levels of neurological impairment as alcohol, and thus does not pose the same threat to OTHERS.

    February 3, 2012 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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