After a recent research of the University of South California found that a high consumption of proteins steeply increases the incidence of cancer among middle-aged people, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now warning against health risks connected to high sugar consumption.
On March 5 the WHO released new draft guidelines that recommend to drop the amount of sugar from 10 to 5 per cent of the total daily intake of calories. The quantity corresponds roughly to 6 tablespoons for an adult of medium body mass.
The WHO’s decision to revise previous recommendations reflects growing concerns about the role played by sugar in the development of diseases and came after an increasing number of studies exposed the damages sugar can cause to health.
Producers of sugar and food companies around the world are not going to like the new draft guidelines and are likely to respond with lobbying campaigns aimed at undermining the validity of the new conclusions, as it has often happened in the past.
As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization warns that in America and in the Western World the consumption of sugar is higher because the latter is hidden in processed food in the form “free sugar,” such as glucose, fructose and sucrose.
Free sugar is added in substantial concentrations to almost all varieties of processed foodstuffs, even to products that are not considered sweets.
World Health Organization experts said, for instance, that each tablespoon of ketchup contains as much as a teaspoon of sugar, while a single can of soda can have a staggering 10 teaspoon of sugar in it or 40 grams.
The high intake of food containing sugar is a commonly mentioned cause for illnesses such as dental decay and obesity, as well as attendant conditions such as heart diseases and diabetes.
In 2009 Robert Lustig, a professor at the University of California, posted a lecture on YouTube titled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” where he talked about the late and long-forgotten British professor John Yudkin, author of a 1972 book on the negative effects of sugar called “Pure, White and Deadly.”
According to Prof. Lustig, Yudkin was prophetic in his belief that sugar was the main culprit for the outburst of heart diseases that occurred in the Western World in the late 1960s. The study attracted the rage of the food industry and was published at a time when fats were blamed for causing heart disease and other deadly illnesses.
Prof. Lustig is credited with sparking the “anti-sugar movement,” a campaign that lobbies for the treatment of sugar like a toxin. He believes sugar produces a strong urge to eat – that eventually leads to obesity – and regards it as the main cause for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer.
Lustig’s words echo those of Dr. Sally Davies, a British chief medical officer who believes that sugar is addictive and should be taxed by the government to limit its consumption.
Dr. Davies said that British population counts as one of the fattest in Western Europe and that the current generation of children will most likely be the first one to live less than their parents on grounds of their high obesity rates.
The new draft guidelines released by the World Health Organization puts a number of diseases in correlation with sugar consumption and should, therefore, act as a serious warning against developing a sweet tooth or as a strong encouragement to get rid of it.
By Stefano Salustri