Sugar not a cause of chronic diseases, research finds

Related tags Sugar Nutrition

New research shows that sugar's bad reputation as a contributary
factor in a number of serious diseases is unfair and contradicts
all the current science.

Sugar does not deserve the unhealthy reputation it seems to have acquired over the years, according to a study by Anne L. Mardis, M.D., MPH of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, United States Department of Agriculture.

The research, published in Family Economics and Nutrition Review, concluded that "the evidence indicates that sugar is not in itself associated with chronic diseases: diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity and hyperactivity."

Richard Keelor, Ph.D., president and CEO of The Sugar Association (SAI) in the US, said: "The sugar industry has always been committed to integrity and sound science in communicating to the general public, the government, and health professionals about the benefits of sugar.

"Therefore, while the findings are not new to the industry, to discover the article during the course of our normal scientific literature reviews was a pleasant surprise."

The news was particularly welcome following the recent statement by US Surgeon General David Satcher that "the typical American diet is too heavily laden with sugar"​. Satcher named diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity as ones which could be caused by excessive sugar consumption.

Charles W. Baker, Ph.D., vice president, scientific affairs for SAI, said: "There is no credible scientific evidence to support the Surgeon General's reference to sugar."

Mardis, who works for the federal health services in the US, was asked to review the scientific literature on the topic, and found that facts spoke for themselves.

"The government's own scientific review exonerates sugar as the easy target on this issue,"​ the SAI said.

Richard Surwit, Ph.D., professor and vice chairman for research at Duke University Medical Center, told the SAI: "The effects of nutrients on obesity and diabetes are complex and no single class of nutrient is in and of itself responsible. Certainly, there is ample evidence that in the absence of fat, simple carbohydrates are not associated with the etiology of diabetes and obesity.''

A dietary word of reasoning came from Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., FACSM, director of sports nutrition for Pennsylvania State University's Athletic Department. "Policy makers and consumers need to be aware that no diet that involves denying people portions of their favourite foods is going to be successful."

This is evidenced by the fact The American Diabetes Association in its recent position statement acknowledges that in its nutritional recommendations for people with diabetes that there is no evidence that refined sugars such as sucrose behave any differently from other types of simple carbohydrates.

The Sugar Association is a trade organisation representing US cane growers and refiners and sugar beet growers and manufacturers.

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