Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Is Sugar as Toxic as Alcohol?

By Various experts

Experts evaluate a commentary published in Nature* arguing that added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol.

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“A focus on added sugar is most timely, with increasing evidence of its negative health effects.

“The public health arguments for intervening are indeed strong, with perhaps the most important consideration, not highlighted by the authors, [being] the imperative of governments to protect vulnerable members of society, especially where the capacity for well-informed decision making is limited or non-existent.

“Because eating habits and taste tend to be influenced by what we eat as infants and young children, an unhealthy habituation or addiction to sugar, which influences lifetime health, can be established from a very young age when the ability and capacity to make informed eating choices are simply unavailable. This provides a strong case for governments to intervene to encourage healthy food choices, by children and thus families. And as the authors argue, excess sugar is a crucial aspect of current poor food choices and thus an important focus of such policies.

“While at its extreme alcohol may have more damaging effects than sugar, excessive consumption of sugar is considerably more prevalent than excessive alcohol consumption, part of the reason why population level strategies make sense.”

Prof Leonie Segal is Foundation Chair of the Health Economics & Social Policy Group at the University of SA, with an international profile in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

*Lustig H.L. et al. (2012), The Toxic Truth about Sugar. Nature 482, 27–29.
Source: AusSMC