Scientists compare soda to a ‘ruthlessly efficient bioweapon’


The health advocacy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest is petitioning the FDA to limit the amount of sugar in soft drinks “to safe levels consistent with authoritative recommendations.” Its position is that the quantity of sugar manufacturers put in soft drinks has become so large that it’s basically poisoning people.

“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.  “Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”

Yes, that sounds extreme when you first read it (and if you’ve seen statements by the CSPI before you’ll notice they like to use a little shock value to draw attention to health issues). However, their point is actually a valid one. As Yale’s Dr. David Katz has pointed out, sugar is one of many substance where the “dose makes the poison.”

The notion that sugar is a “poison” was established when a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig espousing that view went viral.

While the construction of alarming tables and figures demonstrating the calamitous effects of sugar (and specifically, fructose — Dr. Lustig’s particular nemesis) can be defended with legitimate science, it is nonetheless something of a distortion. Even more calamitous pathways could be mapped out for oxygen, which in excess is not just highly toxic, but lethal in rather short order. Oxygen, per se, is not poison of course. The dose makes the poison.

So, too, for sugar — including fructose. Our excessive consumption of it is the poison.

Basically what Katz and the CSPI are saying is that a modest amount of sugar isn’t going to harm anyone, but many people are currently eating (or drinking) way too much of it. The CSPI illustrates this by pointing out that while the American Heart Association recommends that women take in no more than 6 grams of added sugar a day and men no more than 9 grams, one sweetened 20-ounce soda contains 15 grams of sugar, far more than either recommendation. And that’s causing all sorts of health problems.

The bottom line for Weighthackers is that, because food companies are loading up their products with sugar so they can sell more of them and not because they’re good for you, it’s up to you to be aware of what’s in the things you’re eating and drinking. If you like soda, consider getting something like a Sodastream so you, not Coke or Pepsi, can decide what goes in your drink. That way you can keep your sugar intake under bioweapon levels.

Posted February 19, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

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