The fiery controversy over Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S)’s sugar cane operations on Maui–and specifically its use of the wasteful, toxic, ancient practice of burning cane in the field before harvesting–has mostly died down lately, but for those who hungry for more sugar bashing ought to check out this Mother Jones investigation on the efforts to damp down publicity of the detrimental health effects of sugar. Specifically, the magazine explores the little known advertising and lobbying efforts from Big Sugar in the 1970s that helped gum up peoples’ understanding of how sugar helps cause heart disease, diabetes and a host of other diseases.
Put simply, sugar is not good for human consumption:
In fact, a growing body of research suggests that sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars. Robert Lustig, a leading authority on pediatric obesity at the University of California-San Francisco (whose arguments Gary explored in a 2011 New York Times Magazinecover story), made this case last February in the prestigious journal Nature. In an article titled “The Toxic Truth About Sugar,” Lustig and two colleagues observed that sucrose and HFCS are addictive in much the same way as cigarettes and alcohol, and that overconsumption of them is driving worldwide epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes (the type associated with obesity). Sugar-related diseases are costing America around $150 billion a year, the authors estimated, so federal health officials need to step up and consider regulating the stuff.
But the nation’s sugar industry found that it didn’t have to discredit individual scientific reports show sugar’s harm–it only had to build an impression in Americans’ minds that there was no “consensus” of medical opinion that sugar was, indeed, a harmful substance (a tactic put to much use these days by critics of climate change):
The Sugar Association dusted off what has become its stock response: The Lustig paper, it said, “lacks the scientific evidence or consensus” to support its claims, and its authors were irresponsible not to point out that the full body of science “is inconclusive at best.” This inconclusiveness, of course, is precisely what the Sugar Association has worked so assiduously to maintain. “In confronting our critics,” [Sugar Association President John] Tatem explained to his board of directors back in 1976, “we try never to lose sight of the fact that no confirmed scientific evidence links sugar to the death-dealing diseases. This crucial point is the lifeblood of the association.”
Anyway, you can check out the entire Mother Jones story, in all its sickly-sweet goodness, here.
Photo of sugar cane: Wikimedia Commons