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The problem with sugar

obesity
Michael Bloomberg who used to be mayor of New York, has been very successful with regard to health issues and implementing policy that help protect people from abuses from various food companies. In particular he is the one who started a movement against trans fats, which are hydrogenated oils often used in deep fryers. Nowadays these dangerous cholesterol spiking oils are practically banned in the USA.

But when it came to fighting sugars, Michael Bloomberg faced an uphill battle and he could not get similar laws to be applied. He targeted large sodas as these beverages contains various sugary content and have been credited for the rise in obesity all over the world. It is not just about natural sugars but industrialized varieties are also part of the problem, like high fructose corn syrups.

Banning these products is not an option as such attempt would be met by a barrage of contest reminiscent of the Prohibition. But something must be done. According to specialists a tax on sugar or products with excess sugary content would be hard to monitor and very unpopular. The only way would be to modify the regulation about labeling. Most ingredients of food products have a daily limit, such as cholesterol, fiber of fat, but there is none for sugar. This is due to lobbying by the large soft drink companies.

But experts believe that the total sugar content (both natural sweetener like stevia and artifical sweetness enhancer) could be reduced by as much as 75% without changing the taste of these beverages. The burden will be in the hands of the US Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of the process for food labeling. Even though drink companies are selling more and more low-calorie or even zero-calorie items, these are the ones with large quantities of natural and artificial sweeteners.

One of the issues is that consumers are not aware of how much sugar they are eating every day, as more than 50% of added sugar intake comes from solid food, such as buns, hanburger, barbecue sauce, meat, cereal, yoghurt, etc. As these food items should not have sugar in them, but they do thanks for the food industry.

One of main targets a few years ago was high-fructose corn syrup, but the concern seems to have faded away so that companies which replaced it with natural sugar are now putting it back. One reason is that there are various types of sugars at play and labels are not clear about it. For example food industry experts do not agree if natural sugar and artificial sweetener should be all treated the same way or if they should be differentiated on the package labels.

In all the consumers are certainly misinformed one way or the other. If we were aware of all the sugar we eat on a daily basis from such processed food, we may reconsider what we buy and what we eat. Not only is the world facing an obesity epidemic (not just the USA), but diabetes is also on the rise with millions of people suffering from it. And excess sugar intake (natural or not) is clearly the main culprit.

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