Friday, January 18, 2013

Quitting Sugar

A while back I wrote about whether or not sugar really is the culprit for so many of the health problems and diseases prevalent today. You can read my thoughts here.

Since then the debate has really hotted up. Like a day at the Australian Tennis Open there has been much lobbing back and forth, shrieking and screaming! Well maybe not screaming but  definatley some spirited debate.

Sarah Wilson, the I Quit Sugar guru, has been called into question over the fact she eats fruit which contains fructose which is a form of sugar.

The story on A current Affair which raises the questions can be viewed here.

Sarah’s response can be viewed here.

Social media and forums have weighed in and it seems that sugar has its supporters. Don’t get excited though, nobody has come out with any evidence giving us the greenlight to gorge ourselves on Skittles and birthday cake. But Gillespie and Wilson definitely have their opposition.

The point has been raised that neither Gillespie or Wilson has any credentials in nutrition or dietetics and you wouldn't call a dietician to fix your plumbing so why call a lawyer (Gillespie) or a journo (Wilson) to give you advice on diet? It is fair argument. The opposition goes further to suggest that no health professional is championing sugar. In fact, the advice from all health organisations is to cut your sugar intake and to claim sugar is sigularly responsible for so many health problems is incorrect and naieve.

For example the Australian Heart Foundation sets out some guidelines for sugar intake on their website you can view here but states that the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) recently reviewed all available evidence and is the concensus that sugar does not cause heart disease.

And it goes on. There are dozens of studies that raise concerns about sugar including one where rats given high quantities of sugar experienced withdrawals that had the same impact on the body that heroin withdrawal has. In Wilson's books she makes the point that sugar is natural but so too is formaldehyde. It is also probably important to consider that throughout history we are guilty of forging on with risky consumption even when the evidence suggests it is time to stop, e.g. cigerettes.

I will make the point too that just because science can not definitively explain our bodies experiences does not mean they are not occuring. History tells us that the science has gotten wrong before. In the early nineties we wrongly accused fat and subsequently a smorgasboard of fat-free products were made available. And this brings me to an important point I would like to leave you on. When we get all excited and smell a rat we get very vocal, and the food companies are listening. They see the dollar signs. If we focus on sugar as being at the centre of all food-related illness and disease, do we not open up the flood-gates for a bunch of unhealthy products, that cut sugar but include alternatives that in twenty years we will back here debating over their safety?

We all want to find a solution to our health problems but perhaps the issue does not lie with fat, sugar or any other food. Perhaps the problem lies with us. Because until we find a way to bring balance and responsibility to our diets we will continue to swing from one health trend to another creating more issues and solving none.

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