Is Sugar Bad?

English: A bowl filled with sugar

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Tony Falkenstein wants a tax on sugar. He is very vociferous about it and we have discussed his position before. The MacDoctor explained the fallacy of a tax on sugar quite well too.

Still there is a clamour for such silliness and so at every opportunity such silliness must be rebutted.

There are now calls for sugar to be treated and taxed in the same way as alcohol because it is alleged that sugar is toxic. There is an article promulgating this exact premise in Nature magazine. The control freaks are out in force clamouring their support for such a tax.

Sugar meets the same criteria for regulation as alcohol, the authors wrote, because it’s unavoidable, there’s potential for abuse, it’s toxic, and it negatively impacts society. They write that sugar is added to so many processed foods that it’s everywhere, and people eat up to 500 calories per day in added sugar alone. Sugar acts on the same areas of the brain as alcohol and tobacco to encourage subsequent intake, they wrote, and it’s toxic because research shows that sugar increases disease risk from factors other than added calories, such as when it disrupts metabolism.


Yes sugar is a contributor to the alleged obesity epidemic, however I would argue that indolence is a bigger contributor. Andrew Carroll objects though because to simply label sugar as inherently evil goes against the basic science and nutrition facts of sugar:

Any regular reader on the blog knows of my interest in obesity, and my concern that we are failing to address the problem adequately. But this seems to go a bit too far. There are legitimate reasons that we don’t allow children to purchase and/or consume alcohol. Sugar (as glucose), on the other hand, is necessary for life. It’s in lots of food, not just processed foods. And just because something “can” be abused doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to have it.

There are data that show immediate and serious consequences of drinking. As far as I know, no such data exist for sugar, teased apart from other unhealthy nutrients. We can have a serious and evidence based discussion of how food and tax policy subtly shapes our eating habits without resorting to age limits on a substance that the brain needs in order to survive. That’s not productive, and might even drive people away. The obesity epidemic can likely only be overcome with sustained societal behavior change. We need to work, with people, not against them.

Tony Falkenstein does great work with philanthropy in other areas but make no mistake that his drive for a tax on sugar and the flip side of his thoughts, the positioning of his own water company is more about shifting his huge inventory of water coolers that is currently collecting dust in warehouses than it is about stopping sugar addiction.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.