Will Sugar Become as Evil as Cigarettes?

If you haven’t seen the 60 Minutes piece “Is Sugar Toxic?”  Watch it here.

It’s inspired from this lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” from Robert H. Lusting, MD, that’s had over 2 million views on YouTube.

Health food gurus have been telling us sugar is toxic for generations, but now the scientific evidence is becoming overwhelming.  Will we ban sugar like we’re banning smoking?  Will eating sugar attain the same negative social stigma as lighting up?  Will most people give up sweets to live longer?  Should sugar abusers become targets for healthcare reform?

On the same day I saw the sugar report, I saw a news report that said young women are getting skin cancer at 8x the normal rate because of using tanning salons.  They said this was especially true for women who have used a tanning bed more than 30 times.   I asked several young women at work about this and they all said they had used a tanning bed more than 30 times.  I asked them if they were going to stop.  None of them said they would.  One said, “Everything is bad for you, so what can you do?”

It took decades of public awareness messages to really put a dent in smoking.  Even now with all the evidence and costs of smoking, lots of kids still take up the habit.

There are many big health food movements going on in our country right now, including vegan, vegetarian, eating local, organic, eating unprocessed foods, raw foods, and a zillion different weight-loss diets.  Many of these diets still try to incorporate sweets and deserts, but Dr. Lustig is saying all sweets are bad.  Other than having an orange or apple, you’re hurting yourself when you eat sweets.

The medical evidence he gives is rather overwhelming, and a lot of it goes back decades, with studies using very large test populations.  I’m not doubting that he’s right.  I’ve abused sugar all my life and now I’m paying for it.  I could do testimonials for the guy.  However, I just don’t see an anti-sugar movement catching on like the anti-smoking movement.  But could it?

If you watch these videos you’ll see that a case could be made that sugar is actually more harmful than cigarettes.  I can see an anti-sweets movement snowballing into something big.  There is one thing about the anti-sweet case that’s different from cigarettes – sugar makes us fat.  It’s very visible.  Unless being fat becomes sexy, anti-sugar sentiment might catch on faster than the anti-smoking movement did.  Taking decades to get cancer just isn’t the same scare tactic as you’ll get fat and won’t get laid.

It’s been obvious for decades now that Americans are getting fatter, but the assumption was we’re overeating everything.  That’s a bit different than learning that sugar is the real problem.  If they prove that sugar, and even artificial sweeteners, are the culprits, will we start to pay attention?  Will Coca-Cola and pop disappear?  And candy bars?  And cakes, pies and cookies?

Dr. Lusting suggests that men can get buy eating 150 calories a day from sugar and women just 100, and that’s counting the hidden sugar.  Is anyone that disciplined?

JWH – 4/4/12