May 12, 2014

Sugar is being blamed for the rise in obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. There have been dozens of editorials, commentaries, and letters in scientific literature and numerous pieces in traditional and social media calling for measures to restrict and regulate sugar intake.

However, a recent Czarnikow Report “The Inconvenient Truth About Sugar Consumption (It’s Not What You Think)” analyzed UK sugar consumption trends and found that while obesity rates are increasing, sugar consumption has decreased. “While they [processed foods] do contain sugar, what the statistics show us is that sugar consumed indirectly is not adding to total consumption but instead displacing sugar that was previously consumed directly. Today only 20% of sugar usage is in table top-form.”

Key Findings from the Report:

  • The amount of sugar that is consumed per person on both an absolute and percentage basis is falling, not increasing, in the developed world
  • Trends using sugar availability and survey data show a decrease in sugar consumption in the UK, US, and Australia
    • UK sugar consumption per capita peaked in the post-war period and is now in decline
    • UK sugar consumption per person today is similar to consumption under post-war sugar rationing
    • In the US, NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) results show that between 1999-2012 caloric sweetener consumption per person fell by nearly 15%; during the same time period, obesity prevalence in the US increased from 31.1% to 35.7%
    • Australia Health Survey results reveal that sugar consumption per person fell by 17% between 1995 and 2012; overweight and obesity rates increased from 56.3% to 64.4% during this time frame

Report Conclusions

  • The rise in obesity is a significant problem for the world today. However, the data does not support an association between trends in sugar consumption and obesity; the statistical fact is that obesity has increased and sugar consumption has fallen. This is the “Inconvenient Truth”. Consequently, the focus on sugar is detracting from addressing the overall diet and other complex factors that are contributing to rising obesity rates.

Czarnikow is a sugar and ethanol trading advisory and supply chain management firm. Czarnikow has been analysing sugar trends and statistics since 1861 and circulates a Sugar Review to provide the sugar market with accurate information.