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More Controversy About Sugar

December 21, 2016
Plain English Version


There is natural sugar. It is better for you. There is refined sugar. It is worse for you. That is most of what you need to know.

So why is there a battle taking place over studies about sugar? The reason is that sugar equals money. Huge companies have a stake in adding refined sugar to their foods. That in itself would not be so bad. But, the problem is clear. Too much-refined sugar leads to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Public health programs try to limit sugar intake. They publish guidelines on how much sugar is wise to consume. Health workers all over the world use the guidelines.

There is a war over sugar guidelines. The sugar industry is on one side. The nutrition industry is on the other side. Science is in the middle. Science tries to find the facts. There is an old saying: You have a right to your own opinion. You do not have a right to your own facts.

A new study questions the sugar guidelines. A reputable journal published the study. A group with a long name paid for the study. From where did the money for the study come? Well, that is no mystery. It was companies in the sugar industry. They include Coca-Cola, General Mills, Hershey’s, Kellogg and Kraft Foods.

Guidelines are not rules. They are advice. They change over time as we learn more about nutrition.

Articles in journals go through “peer review.” That means experts review them for accuracy. It should not matter who paid for the research under review. But sometimes it does.

This article was about the guidelines for sugar in diets. It questions other studies, saying that the research supporting the guidelines was not good. It implies you could eat more sugar than the guidelines advise.

Alarm bells went off. Public health workers said the article and its criticisms are unethical. They say the journal should not publish those kinds articles.

Where does this leave the average consumer? Experts say you should always read the nutrition labels on foods. It is the best advice. But always ask yourself “does this make sense to me?”

Source: The New York Times December 19, 2016

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