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Doctors call for a war on sugar

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Sugar needs to be controlled like alcohol and tobacco say University of California (UC) health experts. They maintain that sugar is causing a global obesity problem contributing to 35 million deaths annually from diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The health experts, doctors in endocrinology, sociology and public health, recently made their case for a war on sugar in the prestigious journal Nature.

The experts believe that sugar’s potential for abuse, and its toxicity and pervasiveness in the Western diet, make it the cause of a worldwide health crisis.

At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters hormones and causes significant damage to the liver – the least understood of sugar’s damages. The effects of sugar also mirror prolonged alcohol use.

According to the U.N., diabetes and obesity now pose a greater health problem worldwide than infectious diseases. In the U.S., 75 percent of health care dollars are spent treating sugar related conditions.

Worldwide consumption of sugar has tripled during the past 50 years making it a key contributor of the obesity epidemic. According to the UC doctors, obesity is just a marker for the damage caused by too much sugar. This helps explain why 40 percent of people with metabolic syndrome — the metabolic changes leading to diabetes, heart disease and cancer — are not clinically obese.

The problem requires community-wide solutions, similar to what has occurred with alcohol and tobacco, one of the doctors said.

“We’re not talking prohibition,” emphasized Laura Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco. “We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”

Meanwhile, a recent study shows that Black and Hispanic families are most likely to buy sugary cereals that are advertised directly to children. The study, which appears in the journal Public Health Nutrition, shows that Ethnic Minority households purchase cereals advertised directly to children at a 13 times higher rate.

The findings may also explain why cereal companies have opposed stronger nutrition standards. Advertising to children appears to be extraordinarily effective at increasing sales the researchers noted. They suggest that improving the nutritional quality of cereals targeted to children could lead to healthier eating.

Courtesy of Healthy Living News

Posted 12:00 am, March 2, 2012
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