Scientific and Nutritional Evidence Ignored
MOORHEAD, MINN. - March 6, 2003 - "The difference between opinion and reality lies in scientific proof, especially as it relates to sugar intake and its effects on human beings," states Jim Horvath, president of American Crystal Sugar Company and chairman of The Sugar Association.
Responding to a recently published news story on a "draft copy" of a World Health Organization (WHO) report that tries to link sugar to obesity and obesity related diseases Horvath said, "This report is nothing more than opinion. It directly ignores documented, scientific and nutritional evidence that disavows any link between sugar (sucrose) and obesity, diabetes, heart disease or hyperactivity. It has not even been approved, accepted or endorsed by the WHO."
"In the interest of fairness, as a nation and global community, we must open our eyes to the significant number of factors that contribute to obesity, particularly in the areas of inactivity and overall caloric intake. It is terribly irresponsible for any group, or report, to point to a single product segment as the main culprit. It is even more irresponsible to suggest that obesity can be averted by limiting the intake of a single product."
What? Only 15 Calories?
Commenting on the report's suggestion that only 10 percent of calories should come from sugar, Horvath rebutted the notion by pointing to a 2002 report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) which suggests that "not more than 25 percent of total calories should come from added sugars," meaning those sugars not naturally occurring in foods. The NAS study was concluded after nearly 3 years of work and a review of 279 research studies and certainly contradicts the WHO "draft" report. Also of note is that scientific reports indicate that Americans currently get about 15 percent of their calories from added sugars, well below the NAS cap.
"With a confluence of conflicting expert and journalistic opinions floating about, I believe the truth about sugar is not being fully understood. In a recent survey, when people were asked how many calories they believed are in a teaspoon of sugar we were astounded by the responses," Horvath continued. "Many people believed there are 100 calories, while some even suggested as high as 500 calories. The real truth is there are 15 calories per teaspoon of sugar. Obviously, as an industry, we look at this as an opportunity to inform the public about sugar and its role in a healthy diet and active lifestyle."
The Lumping Effect
"Further compounding the perception of sugar is the distinction between the terms 'sugar' and 'sugars'," according to Dr. Richard Keelor, president of The Sugar Association. "The term 'sugar' refers to sucrose, all natural and grown from sugarbeets and sugar cane. 'Sugars' is not the plural of sugar but a generic term meaning all caloric sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrups found primarily in American soft drinks. By lumping together all sweeteners under the term 'sugars', there is an injustice to sugar caused by the confusion. We are working on ways to remedy this reporting to further clarify sugar in the eyes of consumers and consumer groups."
Battle of the Bulge
"Attacks on sugar are not new," Horvath expressed. "Sugar has long been the sweetener of choice and an important and pleasurable ingredient in the world's diet." While the war of words about sugar will continue to change through time, Horvath believes the world's battle of the bulge will be won by people consuming moderate portions of food they enjoy and by pursuing healthy lifestyles complete with plenty of physical exercise.