August 29, 2014
Taking Aim At Added Sugars To Improve Americans’ Health
Michael Bernstein, American Chemical Society
Now that health advocates’ campaigns against trans-fats have largely succeeded in sidelining the use of the additive, they’re taking aim at sugar for its potential contributions to Americans’ health conditions. But scientists and policymakers are still wrangling over the best way to assuage the nation’s insatiable sweet tooth, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society.
In the article, Stephen Ritter, a senior correspondent at C&EN, notes that growing evidence suggests the overconsumption of sugar could be to blame for a host of serious health issues, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and liver disease. Although Americans have reduced their consumption of added sugars over the past 15 years, they still take in more than twice the amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Because of this emerging picture, food manufacturers have been turning to alternative sweeteners — artificial and natural — to lower the calorie counts of their products while maintaining sweetness. And scientists are trying to understand how sugar and other sweeteners work in the body.
But many health advocates and policymakers are not convinced these efforts are enough. Some argue that although individuals are responsible for their own nutritional choices, unhealthful habits can have long-term economic consequences for everyone in the form of increased health care costs and lower productivity. Curbing sugar consumption through policy, however, is not easy, but some places are attempting to do so through proposed soda taxes and nutrition education.