Sugar Blues Part 1
April 19, 2015
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Given that sugar entered the western diet through slavery it’s no wonder this sweet substance has been long clouded in controversy. Most of the four million slaves shipped to the Caribbean ended up on the sugar plantations, as did two thirds of the enslaved Africans transported to the Americas.
The sugar industry has an extensive history of manipulation and distortion. In the late 1950s you could see ads proclaiming the – Sensible new approach to weight control – telling readers “sugar can keep you satisfied on less food”!
One of the most horrifying ads from the mid-1960s, that was aimed at teenagers, gushed: “Mary got to school council early. She needs sugar in her life. Sugar swings,” along with a note to moms – “Play safe with your young ones – make sure they get sugar every day.” Or there was the Beatles themed – “Jenny needs a sugarless energyless soft drink like a Beatle needs a hairpiece. Sugar. It quenches fatigue.”
In 2012 the BBC produced a fascinating documentary series The Men Who Made Us Fat. It detailed how the Sugar Association had derailed any attempts by the World Health Organization to release guidelines limiting sugar intake. In 1990, they persuaded 40 nation’s ambassadors to demand the withdrawal of a WHO report, as it would do irreparable damage to countries in the developing world. And in 2003 similar WHO efforts were derailed with big sugar threatening the US would withhold funding to the health organization. They even got Bush administration Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (that’s right the health secretary!) to lobby against any restrictions on sugar in diets.
It was only in March this year that the WHO could release a guideline recommending adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake.
How did the Sugar Association respond? “It’s misleading. The preponderance of science and the data on caloric sweeteners do not support the suggested limit on sugars intake. All-natural sugar is a healthy part of a balanced diet.”