Opinion

Should sugar be taxed or banned?

2019-02-10 06:02 #0 by: Max

I'm old enough to remember the 70s when most people were relatively slim. That's not the case anymore especially in the West. Even in Asia, where most people are smaller, obesity is a major issue amongst the better off and diabetes is rampant.

The sugar industry made huge efforts to divert attention from sugar to fat throughout the 80s and 90s. The scientific concensus seems to be that the main culprit is added sugar and refined carbs.

So far the political feedback has been marginal. When a friend of mine became an MP 9 years ago I tried to encourage him to make introducing a sugar tax on soft drinks his issue. He didn't sadly but eventually the UK has woken up gradually to reality and introduced one. It's really too little, too late and it seems to me the world is on the precipice of a sugar induced heath disaster.

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2019-02-10 11:12 #1 by: Evelina

I definitely think sugar should be taxed and well as items that deemed “unhealthy”. I also think there should be more education with it comes to fitness and diet starting in primary school.

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2019-02-10 15:42 #2 by: Niklas

#0: In Sweden I'm pretty sure obesity is more common amongst people with lower incomes and less education, not those more well off. The cheaper types of food are often those that cause problems.

I'm for raising awareness of problems with overeating sugar and processed food. Perhaps combined with taxes on low-quality foods or tax breaks for unprocessed food. I have a feeling there may be a problem with too little unbiased research to feed information campaigns to the general public.

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2019-02-10 21:52 #3 by: Leia

I agree with the taxation of sugar, but I don't think banning it would be the way forward. I agree with Evelina, there is a need for education so people know how to create the balance, sugar is a treat, we're allowed treats!

All the best, Leia

Host of  Gluten-Free Living | News  | English Language Heart

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2019-02-11 20:08 #4 by: jordan

Personally I think education, and making fitness a priority would be a better long term solution that would please everyone. A sugar tax would help with this to prevent the masses getting to it, but I believe the option for 'junk foods' should remain there as a treat.

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2019-02-12 02:07 #5 by: Max

I think you guys are underestimating the problem - not surprising because I think you are representing mainstream opinion in the West on the matter. I got seriously interested in the subject a couple of years ago when I had to suffer a year of forced immobility. The lack of any exercise ended up with my blood sugar levels hitting pre diabetic levels which lead be to read up on the subject. Thankfully, once I was able to move around, my prediabetes symptoms seem to have gone but I have to be much more careful about my diet than I had been. If you are in your 20s and reasonably fit you tend to be largely oblivious to these issues. In my 20s I was seriously skinny despite having a notoriously strong appetite. As one hits middle age, one's metabolism slows and if you continue the same diet/exercise, you are going to start putting on weight. Since then I have spoken to doctor friends who have confirmed that Diabetes is now the no 1 health threat, with the proportion of diabetics increasing at a terrifying rate. Moreover, most of us will be aware of elder relatives/friends/former teachers who have developed alzheimers or dementia and will realise what dreadful diseases these are. These diseases have also been increasing at horrifying rates and there is plenty of evidence that they are also linked with diabetes /sugar intake.

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2019-02-12 02:37 #6 by: Max

Public opinion on the issue has largely been shaped by the debate between two nutrition experts in the 70s. John Yudkin in the UK had worked from 50s on his theory that it was sugar that was the cylpret for the emerging obesity/diabetes crisis. He published an influential mainstream book "Pure white and deadly" in 1972 which seriously spooked the sugar industry. The sugar industry including leading players such as coca cola fought back by sponsoring a host of studies purporting to locate fat rather than sugar as the main problem. The key person in this was (forgive the pun) Ancel Keys an American dietician who's lamentable unscientific 7 countries study shaped government policy on the subject and helped usher in 2 decades of food industry focus on reduced fat products. The main problem with reducing the fat in food is that you generally take away the taste. To compensate food manufacturing companies stuffed their product with sugar and refined carbs. Now, though the tide has turned in academic circles, our supermarkets are stuffed with processed foods full of sugar and refined carbs, even in products you would never believe have sugar in. In terms of doing sonething about it, besides increasing public awareness (which works primarily for the educated elite) I would focus on sugary drinks which accoubt for around 13per cent of our calary intake for no nutritional benefit. Governments have started this in a pussyfooted way. It requires cigarette level of taxation and forced heath warnings.

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2019-02-12 21:40 #7 by: Leia

You present a compelling argument, but I think this then raises another debatable question, Who has the responsibility of controlling our bodies? Ourselves or the government? 

Some countries have legalised Cannabis, however, it is then up to me if I want to put it in my body and suffer the consequences. In this way it is the same a sugar, just because we have easy access, it is a personal choice to consume it. 

All the best, Leia

Host of  Gluten-Free Living | News  | English Language Heart

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2019-02-13 10:29 #8 by: Niklas

#7: That’s an interesting thought too. In some areas, at least in Sweden, the government is the natural responsible controller of our bodies. Medicine for instance. There is a government agency (Läkemedelsverket) that has to approve all medicines before they can be sold. In the US I think the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) does the same thing. There are similar agencies regulating food in both Sweden and USA.

In my mind refined sugar is as bad a drug as many of the ones that has been banned. I often fall back into my sugar addiction. It is extremely difficult to stay away from it.

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2019-02-13 23:33 #9 by: Leia

#8 So you do think the government or other agency should have the responsibility of controlling the bodies of the masses?

All the best, Leia

Host of  Gluten-Free Living | News  | English Language Heart

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2019-02-14 00:06 #10 by: Max

#9 My general position is that Government should keep its nose out of people's business as much as possible. I think the case for intervention is compelling, though sadly at the current time my views are in a small minority. My prediction is that my position on this will become more and more mainstream over the next 20 years or so. I think in 20 years back we will look back and think what the F were we doing pouring fizzy drinks loaded with a dangerous toxin down our kids and advertising nice wholesome family breakfasts stuffed with sugar laden orange juice. I think this will look as perverse then as it does now to see 50s movies with Bogart et all lighting up a cigarette at every opportunity or allowing attractive young promo ladies to hand out packs of cigarettes to everyone at nightclubs (which they used to do when I was your age).

There are several reasons that Government action is desperately needed in the fight against sugar.

1 The pervasive incorporation of sugar into c 80per cent of the processed foods in our supermarkets means that the majority of people, especially those relatively poor /uneducated in the West or ironically rich /Educated in the Third World, have little real choice in being fed the stuff, this is especially true of children who by and large have to eat what their family provides.

2. There are huge externalities (in the economic sense) with sugar. The most obvious is the ballooning of heath budgets with our waste lines. Though of course not the only cause, the obesity epidemic is responsible for a huge amount of health care expenditure associated with diabetes etc. We are at the start of this trend. As the sugar fattened youth reach their middle age a heath care time bomb is in the making. There is increasingly good evidence that sugar is a major factor in the increase in aszheimers and related mental degenerative diseases. These diseases are not only a tragedy for those suffering, but are also a huge burden and life style constraint for those family members who have to live with /look after their sick relatives.

3. There is increasing evidence that though sugar is not addictive in the same wss as say nicotine, the body becomes increasingly tolerant so that higher and higher dosages are needed to attain the sugar high.

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2019-02-14 16:22 #11 by: Niklas

#9: I wouldn't frame it like that. I think the government should be responsible for stopping companies from selling food that causes more harm than good. I also think they should be responsible for informing the public of health and fitness research findings so they can make informed decisions of how they want to live. I don't know about the UK but this is sort of how it works in Sweden. It is a slow process when it comes to adopting new findings but better than nothing.

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2019-02-14 17:12 #12 by: Niklas

#10: I recently read that researchers predict that the generation that is born now will be the first to live shorter than their parents.

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2019-02-14 23:01 #13 by: Leia

#12 That's frightening! We're supposed to be developing not taking steps backwards. 

All the best, Leia

Host of  Gluten-Free Living | News  | English Language Heart

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2019-02-14 23:05 #14 by: Max

#12 Yes I heard that too. I think it's definitely true in the parts of the US (the Confederate states) where diabetes is now most prevalent. The basic problem is that it is human nature to massively discount problems where the impact will be felt in 10 or 20 years time rather than say next week. Thus for example we regularly get salmonella scares where maybe 10 people will die next week and the Government will swing into action, whole food categories will be removed from the shelves etc. On the other hand we have sugar where, say conservatively 20 million people will die say 10 years earlier than they need have taking the EU as a whole and its "no problem" we may talk about putting a tiny piece of labelling on food packaging in maybe 5 years time, so people can be informed or a 2-3 per cent tax on soft drinks, that's it. There is a complete and utter underappreciation of the scale of the problem which is going to take a minimum of a decade to resolve.

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2019-02-18 09:53 #15 by: Niklas

Perhaps it’s hard putting money on something that today's politicians will not have ta answer for as long as the general public doesn’t ask for it, and they don't ask because they don't know there is a problem.

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2019-02-20 11:48 #16 by: Max

Most politicians are not high quality and few will take the lead on an issue which in the short term would be politically unpopular. One potential vector for change is Bill Gates. I'm not aware that Bill had given much time to the issue so far but he has been great at championing some important causes where there was the lack of political will such as the control of malaria and eco toilets. His leverage is through his buddy Warren Buffett who owns 9.4% of Coca Cola through Berkshire Hathaway. BH is a talismanic investor for CC so they have to listen to him. Someone needs to get Gates on the case and him in turn to get Buffett to substantially change CC s policies.

Last time I looked Westerners were taking in about 13 per cent of their total calory intake through sugared drinks, so moving to elimate them would be huge progress. The evidence on zero cal drinks seems to be mixed, but one thing is for sure the sugared drinks are killing us.

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2019-02-21 12:51 #17 by: Leia

#16 I think you're right, people look to politicians too quickly when there are an array of influencers elsewhere, I had not thought of it like that before!

All the best, Leia

Host of  Gluten-Free Living | News  | English Language Heart

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