Are We Really Eating Too Much Sugar?


To the Editor:

Re “Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive,” by James J. DiNicolantonio and Sean C. Lucan (Op-Ed, Dec. 22):

One-size-fits-all rarely stands the test of time in the field of nutrition. “Sugar Season” highlights the health dangers resulting from the ubiquitous occurrence of “added sugar” in our food supply.

Unquestionably, there is no benefit from high intakes of added sugar, and for most people there are adverse effects. However, when we pinned all our diet woes on fat, we saw a proliferation of fat-free foods that were high in sugar. When we pinned all our diet woes on carbohydrates, we saw a proliferation of low-carb foods with similarly questionable benefits.

The only thing we have consistently seen through all these diet fads is an upward trend in body weight. Rather than trying to isolate a single dietary culprit, perhaps what we should focus on is the whole picture. And one way to do that is to heed the advice summarized in a Dec. 22 online Upshot column, “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like,” and start preparing our own food, choosing our own ingredients and not relying on others to make those choices.

ALICE H. LICHTENSTEIN Boston, Dec. 25, 2014

The writer is a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University and the director of its Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory. 

To the Editor:

There is currently no evidence that a single nutritional substance can elicit a substance use disorder in humans, as determined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-5 criteria.

Craving can be a characteristic of addiction, but does not equal addiction. Eating is a sensory and emotional experience, and food preferences are based on many stimuli, including flavor, aroma and texture, not addiction.

Eating disorders that result in overeating are real and a serious problem for some people, but the scientific evidence doesn’t indicate that sugar is addictive.

Agriculture Department data show that per capita consumption of real sugar (sucrose) is 34 percent lower now than it was 40 years ago. Additionally, more than 90 percent of the caloric sweetener supplied for beverages in the United States is high-fructose corn syrup, not sugar. The writers consistently and wrongly lump natural sugar together with high-fructose corn syrup.

COURTNEY GAINE Washington, Dec. 23, 2014

The writer is vice president of scientific affairs for the Sugar Association.

To the Editor:

The overdose of sugar consumption in the American diet is a major contributing cause of this country’s alarming rate of obesity. The writers accurately relayed the evolution of sugar craving over the past centuries.

Unfortunately, and despite the onslaught of sweets we are bombarded with at this time of year, we now exist in a time in which we are drinking most of our sugar-laden calories. Consuming such large quantities of sugary drinks can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases.

One significant intervention that should be considered is to increase the price of sugary drinks at the retail location. In Mexico, which levied a peso per liter tax nearly a year ago, sales of sugary beverages were reduced by 10.5 percent when compared with the previous year.

I encourage all government leaders to pursue an appropriate tax on sugary drinks as a necessary tool to motivate healthier beverages as the preferred option.

PAMELA BONNEY Huntington, N.Y., Dec. 24, 2014

The writer is a nutrition and health consultant.

To the Editor:

As a person who has not eaten sugar or other sweeteners since 1977 (out of choice to improve my energy level), I find that grocery shopping can be a frustrating experience.

Even in the healthier markets, products that don’t have added sweeteners are constantly discontinued, and products containing “organic cane sugar” (as if that doesn’t hold the addictive power of nonorganic sugar) are added.

Label after label includes added sugar or other sweeteners in items that could easily be made without.

I have never regretted my decision to give up sweeteners, but it has required a real change in my thinking. This change needs to occur on a national level, even within the health food industry, which is still catering to most people’s addiction to sweets.

IDA SCHMULOWITZ Providence, R.I., Dec. 24, 2014

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