Published in the Leicester Mercury newspaper on 9 July 2014
Sugar is toxic and highly addictive. If the latest medical science is correct – and I firmly believe it is – we are sleepwalking into a monumental public health crisis.
I am not a medical expert; I am a lawyer. This article is based on the work of Professor Robert Lustig, a scientist and doctor whose research has been internationally acclaimed. My analysis of his findings shocked me into drastically reducing my own sugar intake. As a public servant I feel duty bound to raise awareness of this issue.
26% of Brits are obese and a further 38% are overweight. By 2050 more than 50% will be obese. Most of today’s primary school children will be obese adults.
Obesity is dangerous because it causes metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure etc. Average weight people get sick from these too, but obese people are at far greater risk.
There are different types of sugar such as lactose, maltose, glucose and fructose. At a molecular level, regular sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Aside from sugar, fructose is found in honey, agave, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and fruit juice. It is also in fruit but fruit’s perfectly safe to eat as it comes with fibre and other nutrients.
Glucose sugar is the ‘energy of life’ and an essential nutrient. Fructose sugar on the other hand, according to Professor Lustig, is the root of all evil.
The research indicates fructose is bad for several reasons. It is not properly processed by the body and mostly stored as dangerous internal fat. Fructose does not supress the hunger hormone ghrelin, leading to overeating. Chronic fructose exposure reduces the impulse to burn excess energy. Fructose is also extremely addictive, activating the same area of the brain as morphine, cocaine, nicotine and alcohol.
In summary, sugar and fructose in particular is a major contributing factor for obesity, which in-turn leads to metabolic diseases.
To me the logic and science is pretty clear. Millions of British people may be overweight or obese because they have been hoodwinked about the dangers of sugar, with tonnes of it having been added to everyday food and drink, over many years.
It is too simplistic to blame individuals. This isn’t about personal responsibility. That’s what everyone said about smoking until it became a public health disaster. The reality is that the sugar industry is the new tobacco industry.
Parliament needs to act because the industry will not. I urge every reader to demand action from their MP. I also sincerely recommend seeking medical advice with a view to reducing personal sugar intake.