Is Sugar Bad?

English: A bowl filled with sugar

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • Anonymous

    The Labour party is bad. I think we should ban *it*.  

  • Kthxbai

    “people eat up to 500 calories per day in added sugar alone..”

    Hells teeth, who are these “people”?  Anyone that out of control is idiotic, and probably alcoholic and a drug addict to boot.  Or has parents who are.

    I smell selective sampling of the wider population in an effort to boost their thesis.  Otago University (remember the proposed fat tax?) would be proud of such thinking.

    • ‘who do you think buys/eats those walls of sugar/fat-laden boxes of cereals in the suprrmarkets..?

      almost everything between the fruit and vegetables section and the till is crap..

      ..and should be sin-taxed out of the markets..

      ..i could be the body shape of the host of the happy-feet-travel-blog if i didn’t watch it..

      ..and aside from not eating any animal -fats/bye-products.

      ..avoiding sugar is a large part of that..

      . phil(

      }{{{{{                   {}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}<<<<<<<<<<<<<{     <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

  • Anonymous

    Well, the leading cause of death is birth,so how about banning all births?
     They have already taxed food ,living and the air that we breathe ,so banning life is the next logical step.

  • Andrei

    This is what you get when you over educate women  – who outnumber men 4:1 in the ranks of control freaks. 

    I remember one –  a Phd no less,  waxing forth about all the sugar in Bread and the danger that presents to all and sundry.

    Proving that she is a stupid, stupid woman! And that a Phd is merely a bit of paper in the hands of a dolt in many cases. 

    As everyone with an elementary knowledge of science knows the sugar that goes into bread is acted upon by the yeast and transformed into CO2 and Water thereby causing the dough to rise and leavening the bread. 

    It is no longer present when you eat the bread. So even if you buy  into the premise that sugar is as toxic as plutonium, itself an inane idea, it don’t matter one whit.


    how about taxing food based on the calorie content per serving size? it’s high calorie food that makes people pork up, not just one sole ingredient. ie a packet of potato chips has hundreds of calories per serving size, whereas fresh fruit and veges or yoghurt etc have substantially less. 

    • SerSydney

      How about just taxing fat people.

    • How about…No

  • Gazzaw

    How about taxing water coolers?

  • Yoti

    Maybe Falkenstein could explain why a litre of his water costs more than a litre of cheap sugared soft drink, or even petrol. He is suggesting taxing sugar to make tap water in bottles look like a good deal.

  • I support a sugar tax.


    Because obeasity costs the Government money and it is only fair that the full cost to the health system be recovered. Why should thin people pay for the behaviour of fat people. We need some personal responsibility.

    Still a sugar tax is rather a blunt instrument. 

    •  i think we should sin-tax all unhealthy/obesity-causing crap-food..

      ..and no tax on the healthy..and in fact further tax-breaks for companies that produce food to certain set standards..

      ..and then let the market take care of it..

      [email protected]

  • whalewatcher

    NZ, & the West as a whole, is at the beginning of a massive epidemic of health issues and costs, from obesity and its downstream offspring, diabetes and renal failure, blindness, etc. It is already here, and getting worse. And this is not alarmist ‘global warming’ sort of stuff- it is real, here, now, at a corner near you.

    We, the taxpayers, simply cannot afford to pay for the medical treatment of these people, who often could have helped themselves (just like the smokers, drinkers, drunk-drivers, etc, etc..).
    One estimate is that the current health budget will be entirely consumed treating diabetes and kidney failure within 5-10 years, at NZ’s current rate of ‘growth’.
    There will be no hip or knee replacements, or cataracts, or any of those other elective operations that Grey Power demand, and that successive Govts find so easy to measure and brag about come election time.

    So we gotta do summut…

    • Gold

      I’m willing to take the hit cost-wise to avoid more nanny-state bullshit. 

    • James Gray

      Rather than more regulation and taxation, I think we should privatize healthcare, giving everybody the incentive to look after their own health better

      • Anonymous

        That would never, ever, be proposed by any political party in the country. Closest we could ever do is a voucher system, which would encourage personal responsibility and hopefully teach people that healthcare isn’t “free” like some plonkers would have you believe.

    • We are at the beginning of the epidemic…because some fool turned the food pyramid upside down without understanding tens of thousands of years of genetics.

      •  i disagree..

        ..a large part of the blame is those unscrupulous food manufacturers/retailers…

        ..who don’t care how unhealthy their products are..

        ..the industry that serves our basic needs is a wild west as far as any health-responsibilities are concerned..

        ..and they are not going to stop those practices voluntarily….

        ..but stop them we must..

        ..for any hope of avoiding the crippling health costs in the near-future..

        .which is where regulation on contents/tax-incentives/disincentives are the easiest/most obvious tools to achieve that change…

        ..doing nothing/leaving it to the market..aren’t really options…

        ..’cos that way lies diabetes-epidemic etc etc…

        [email protected]

  • Euan Rt

    Can we somehow tax everyone who doesn’t do an hour of serious exercise each day? I hear that has something to do with obesity.

  • captain kidd

    I find it hard to comprehend anyone who is in favour of more taxes,rules and laws what the fuck is wrong with them.This guy is a classic case of those who look down upon the masses as cretins who need to be controled by people such as himself with his own world view.If he really wants to fix the problem just dont let the fat fucks into hospital when they need it,

    • is just that unscrupulous people make/market/advertise salt/sugar-laden crap masquerading as food..

      ..and they currently have too much power/control the market..

      ..and the obesity-epidemic is the end result.. ain’t rocket-science…

      ..crap in..obesity out..

      [email protected]

  • Thorn

    Half-truths are worse than lies, coming from Tony Falkenstein who is a self-serving Kapo of the food Nazis. 

    The truth is the increase in obesity is one of the direct consequences of the Smoke-Free crusaders. And what’s more, the health costs relating to obesity are far higher than those of smoking related diseases.

    So Tony, you are what you are, the corner of the square where no one goes.

    •  can i nominate the above for funniest-comment-of-the-day..?

      ..end obesity..!..bring back smoking..!

      ..(a novel/fresh approach..ya hafta say…

      ..and it does have a certain ring to it..)

      [email protected]

      • dad4justice

        “bring back smoking”

        but your bong has been red hot since birth hasn’t it phool?

  • Harry

    Personally, cutting out  all cereals, breads, pastas and rice from my diet about a month ago and replacing it with bacon and eggs and beans etc for breakfast and constant salads (bean and legume ones as well as green salads etc) throughout the day and meat and salads at night minus the pasta/rice/bread is, so far, proving the second best thing I’ve ever done for my health.
     The first was quitting was 10 year, pack a day smoking habit.

    Already my energy levels have shot through the roof, I am not longer tired throughout the day and no longer bloated. My permament headcold (which I always put down to allergies or hayfever) has lifted. My day-to-day stress levels have reduced and I’ thinking more clearly. I was already an active gymgoer and don’t have much weight to shift – but if I was fat I reckon I’d be shedding it off as well. What’s this got to do with this thread? Not much, except in regard toTony Falkenstein’s sentiments I can now see where he’s coming from.

    • Wheats is the enemy…it is in in those cereals, breads, pastas but not the rice.

  • Johnboy

    I replaced all my sugar intake with two really greasy pork chops for breakfast instead of cereals.
    I also got rid of all the disgusting carbohydrate shit by changing to a bacon buttie between two chunks of fried chicken instead of bread. I’ve lost 200kg and can root all night without the aid of viagra as long as I drink a forty ounce of Scotch before each shag.

    I’ve never felt healthier!

    • Gazzaw

      I’ll buy that Johnboy. It makes about as much sense as all the other theories. Moderation in everything along with a good life-balance is the way to go.

      As for Falkenstein’s magic waters. Forget em along with all the other brands. I have a great doc whose answer to my query about how much water I sould drink daily was simply ” When you’re thirsty & straight out of the tap when you’re in NZ “. His description of people with a water bottle permanently attached to their hip wasn’t printable even here.   

    • Anonymous

      Fuck JBoy, patent that diet immediately!
      I`d pay  a grand a week to have it delivered to my door.

    •  johnboy…have you thought of writing letters for penthouse..? should audition.. seem to have quite the creative flair there…

      ..and a central nervous system depressant as an

      ..go figure..!

      ..can i suggest you pop down to your local tinny house..

      ..and try a stimulant as an aphrodisiac..? could go for a ‘never mind the width..fell the quality..,!’

      [email protected]

      • Thorn

        Phailure, you have the losing form here.

        Like you Pol Pot, Hitler, Charles Manson were universally despised, drug-addicted, and other useless antisocial vegetarians. And they all loved dogs.

        Hope you did not pass on your defective DNA to your dogs. They deserve better.

    • Thorn

      Avoid water, fish f*ck in it.

      •  actually thorn..fact/reality-check..

        hitler was not a vegetarian..

        ..(this is confirmed in the biographies of his personal cooks..) was just all part of the myth built by goebbels..

        ..the aim to present hitler as the ascetic-warrior..

        [email protected]

  • Euan Rt

    My cat is fat and it doesn’t eat any sugar. 

    • Boss Hogg

      Have you read the label on the can???

      • Euan Rt

        My wife (GP) checked all the ingredients on the label and says there are a scary number of preservatives, but no added sugar.

      • Boss Hogg

        Good work Euan – just checking.  Good on the Cat, fat cats look happier I reckon.  My Farmer Bro used to have a very fat cat, trick is he never ever feed the bugger.  It would leave rabbit feet on the door step and then sleep for two days on the sofa !!  Burping and Farting (Stink !!!)

        The Boss is getting a bit chubby as well………not sure why

    • Tristanb

      Preservatives aren’t scary! They’re the reason you can get food in a can, instead of having to slaughter an animal to feed your cat.

      • Euan Rt

        yeah but I only feed the balanced dry food. Can’t stand the stinky cans in my fridge.

  • Boss Hogg

    If tobacco tax was used to assist dying smokers into a grave and petrol tax and road user charges were used to build good roads then a sugar tax used in a similar way would look a slightly less stupid idea.

    Until we elimimate all welfarism the majority of taxes must be considered to be theft.

  • Tristanb

    This type of thing depresses me:
    – In NSW they are planning to ban sunbeds, I saw a poll on some Aussie website 80% support the ban.
    – In NZ there are sensible people who support a “sugar” tax

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with sugar. There’s nothing inherently wrong with UV radiation.

    Some people might have too much of those things, but that’s their problem. People need to realise that it is not a good idea to have the government controlling our everyday lives. It’s a matter of principal. Forcing us all into communal exercise yards every day would also improve our physical health – it’s disgusting that people find this sort of thing okay!

    How about we make the tax optional? So if you think this is a good idea, then you can pay some extra tax at the till. Why should you be able to force this on me?

    Control and take responsibility for your own life – you do not want the government to start doing it for you.

    • Ploughman

      Couldn’t agree more, but I would like all fast food to be labelled with the calorific content and the saturated fat content.  I believe that we should all take responsibility for our actions, but we need to be able to make informed choices.

  • Greg M

    I may have a solution.
    If you turn up at hospital, obese with diabetes, there will be a part charge.
    If you are a smoker, there will be a part charge for your treatment.etc etc,.
    Get the message out there that if YOU make unhealthy lifestyle decisions, at some stage it is going to cost YOU, not every other hardworking bastard that doesn’t make poor decisions.
    Right across the board, I am sick of paying for other peoples choices.

    •  did you change yr name ‘cos of the flashbacks..?

      [email protected]

      • Greg M

        Nope. I changed my name for two reasons.

        1: As WO said, using your real name, as you do, makes the blog more civilized
        2: I am sick of the cowards at the KKK, whoops! i meant the standard hiding behind aliases. I am prepared to use my real name , and photo, and I will stand behind comments I post here, and damn the torpedoes.

        Cheers , Greg.

      • Boss Hogg

        I will come out of the closet as well Greg.


        Stacey Hoggard aka Hoggy-san and Boss Hogg.

  • Bruce

    So close but so far from the truth at the same time. It is not sugar in itself that is bad for you but is the quantity of sugar added to foods to make them taste nice now that the fat has been removed. Fat is a taste carrier and without it food tastes like cardboard and that is why there is so much added sugar in processed food. Also if a food tax was to be required it should be a tax on the carbohydrate content not the calorie content. Carbohydrates are converted to sugar by your digestive system, which raises your insulin levels which then causes you to get fat. If we as society did not eat so many carbohydrate containing foods ( flour, rice, pasta, grains, corn, sugar, potatoes, bread ) then we would not have an obeisty epidemic. Replace carbs with saturated ( animal ) fats or coconut oil and everybody would be much healthier.

    •  rubbish bruce..!

      ..that is the atkins diet..

      ..a proven turkey/health-hazard.. animal fats..minimal sugar..and less protein than you think.. the/a proven way to go…

      [email protected]

  • we need to know yr last name there greg…

    ..we still know no more than before..

    ..and what you will both experience is the power that comes from standing beside/behind what you believe..

    ..a power far greater than the one delivered by an alias from behind which to fling crap.. anonymous…no matter how erudite/clever/timely yr quip.. one really knows who the fuck said

    ..i hope you are both the start of a trend…

    [email protected]