February 01, 2012

The commentary, "The toxic truth about sugar," which appeared in the February issue of the journal Nature is inconsistent with the large body of scientific evidence regarding sugar consumption and health. Thorough scientific reviews such as the Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) report, does not support the view that sugar is "toxic" and a cause of non-communicable diseases, including obesity, hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

The DRI report, which forms the basis of Canada's dietary guidance, reviewed all available evidence on the effects of total and added sugars on chronic disease and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to set an upper level of total or added sugars. Current dietary recommendations suggest a maximum intake of added sugars of 25% of total calories. In Canada, added sugars consumption is estimated to be 10-13% of total energy intake, well below the recommended maximum.

Consumption of added sugars is not increasing as the authors suggest. In Canada, consumption of sugar (sucrose) has declined over the past 4 decades and consumption of total added sugars is estimated to be stable or modestly declining as a percentage of total calories. Recent literature has also reported added sugars consumption to have either remained stable or declined in countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Obesity rates continue to rise, contrasting trends in added sugars consumption.

Added sugars and naturally occurring sugars are metabolized the same way in the body. Sugars (naturally occurring and added) are found in a wide variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables, dairy products, cereals and grain products. Sugar plays a vital role in many sensory and food safety aspects of food - sugar contributes to the texture, flavour, and appearance of foods, acts as a natural preservative, enables the fermentation process to occur, and exhibits antioxidant functions.

Scientific background:

Sugar is not toxic or addictive

"There is no support from the human literature for the hypothesis that sucrose may be physically addictive or that addiction to sugar plays a role in eating disorders."

Sugar consumption does not cause obesity and other chronic diseases

"Based on the data available on dental caries, behavior, cancer, risk of obesity, and risk of hyperlipidemia, there is insufficient evidence to set a UL for total or added sugars "

Other reviews:

Sugar intake does not cause diabetes

"Studies failed to demonstrate an obvious relationship between the intake of total simple carbohydrates and glycaemic control or risk to develop a type 2 diabetes and particularly specific evidence is missing in terms of sucrose effect on diabetes."

Other Links:

Sugar intakes have been stable or declining while obesity rates have been increasing

No one macronutrient is uniquely responsible for the rise in obesity rates

Added sugars consumption in Canada is well below the DRI suggested maximum of 25% of energy intake and well within dietary recommendations for total carbohydrate (sugars and starches).