Big Sugar Disguises Health Repercussions


,Sugar and health photo

Big Tobacco spent decades convincing its consumers that cigarettes were elegant appetite suppressants that on occasion were a relaxing treat. The reality was far less merry: cancer sticks that blanket smokers with a potent stench before causing addiction and even death.

In the same way, Big Sugar was able to convince a population that sugar was a fanciful treat in the face of oh-so-uptight opposition. This according to an article in Mother Jones entitled Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies. 

Big Sugar has been able to create what The New York Times once called the “villain in disguise.” Even to the extent that both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association have approved it in moderation. 

The story outlines how research on the subject seemed to dry up when scientists realized it meant the end of their careers. According to Mother Jones, "Big Sugar used Big Tobacco-style tactics to ensure that government agencies would dismiss troubling health claims against their products. Compared to the tobacco companies, which knew for a fact that their wares were deadly and spent billions of dollars trying to cover up that reality, the sugar industry had a relatively easy task. With the jury still out on sugar's health effects, producers simply needed to make sure that the uncertainty lingered. But the goal was the same: to safeguard sales by creating a body of evidence companies could deploy to counter any unfavorable research."

In 1973 a link was found between sugar and diabetes and since then the sugar industry has focused on the work of researchers who were skeptical about the connection while making sure that no researchers ever came to a consensus. 

Sugar in Your Diet

Sugar is a larger part of the daily diet than we often think because it’s added to so many foods including juices, sauces, yogurt, bread, and many of the processed foods we hold near and dear. Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco and author of Sugar: The Bitter Truth thinks that 75 percent of health problems including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease can be prevented by limiting sugar to 150 calories per day in men and 100 calories per day in women. Today, because sugar and high fructose corn syrup are easier than ever to process, we eat sugar by the truck fulls, nearly 130 pounds of it per person per year. 

No matter how brilliant the marketing and public relations tactics, it's time to wake up to the fact that as our intake of sugar has risen so too has instances of obesity and diabetes. The CDC reports that 90 to 95 percent of the 23.6 million diabetes cases in the U.S. are Type 2. Cases are on the rise so much so in fact that at this rate, 1 in 3 Americans will develop diabetes sometime in their lifetime.

For more, watch this video.

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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