I came across a tweet from a high profile doctor advocating that we should treat sugar like tobacco. This was quite concerning to hear. Is sugar like tobacco? A nutrient that our body uses for energy vs a habit that has direct links to cancer and disease?
We know from the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) that we are eating too much sugar (in regards to the government recommendations) and that over eating sugar could risk leading to weight gain (SACN Carbohydrate and Health 2015). But we also know from NDNS that we are not eating enough fruit, vegetables and fibre (foods that are lower in calories and filling).
It is clear cut that smoking increases the risk of cancer. It is not clear cut that sugar alone causes disease, but more likely to be due to a poor diet (low in fruit and veg) with higher intakes of sugar.

Demonising a single nutrient is not helpful. Diet is complicated, a combination of nutrients and their interactions.

It is not over eating one single nutrient, but eating too much as a whole that causes weight gain and obesity. We don’t just eat sugar on its own, it is generally in combination with other nutrients especially fat e.g. cakes, biscuits, doughnuts. Demonising sugar could lead to obsessive behaviour as sugar is found in a lot of foods. Total avoidance is very hard and time consuming. It will mean cooking from scratch and not being able to use many convenience foods.

Some people need more energy in their diet (if they are underweight, have an illness such as cancer or are recovering from disease or surgery). Diabetics need sugar to treat a hypo and metabolic patients that I work with need sugary drinks when they are unwell to prevent a metabolic crisis. An easy way to increase calories into the diet could be to add a spoonful of sugar into foods such as porridge. Sensational headlines making people believe that sugar is bad or toxic could hinder their recovery or treatment of these people.

Yes as a nation we need healthier diets, we need to embrace healthy eating and how to maintain it and we need healthy options (of which could include a small amount of sugar). We do not want people feeling guilty if they can’t maintain their sugar free diet, we don’t want this to lead to cycles of guilt that can lead to binge eating and yo yo weight loss and re gain.

The latest NDNS in the UK showed that only 27% of adults were meeting the 5 a day recommendation of fruit and vegetables and this has not increased over time.

Fibre intakes are also below recommendations. How about focusing more on foods that we should include more in our diet. How about singing the praises of fruit and veg and encouraging people to eat more instead of telling us what we shouldn’t eat at all.

By increasing fruit and vegetable in the diet, this in return will displace the higher calorie foods and bring down over all calories and weight. There is plenty of evidence to show that fruit and vegetable help reduced the risk of disease and obesity, lets focus on this instead!
Such extreme accusations about diet should not be made in the public domain to confuse and undermine people. We should not treat sugar like tobacco. Lets promote good healthy sustainable messages regarding better diets for our future.
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To get an idea of a healthy low sugar, high fibre diet then link through to our post here.
To read more about sugar we have posts in the archives; Don’t be Scared of Sugar and The Truth about Sugar…?
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