by Carol Lloyd
News that some scientists were recommending that sugar be treated like a controlled substance had my children jumping off the walls.
“It’s NEVER gonna to happen Mom!”
“No way! Nu-huh.”
There was a rabid quality to their voices - something desperate and unhinged as if they were prisoners who needed to make their case before the jury adjourned and sealed their fate forever.
“But they have evidence that sugar is addictive,” my husband said.
My younger daughter, age 8, squinted with steely-eyed resolve. “So? All kids are addicted to sugar.”
“Addictive like a drug,” he enunciated.
My girls are so anti-drug they lecture me when I pop an ibuprofen. But this metaphor didn’t seem to phase them.
“We know what addictive means, Dad, ” my 12-year-old scoffed.
"The toxic truth about sugar," an opinion piece by three researchers at University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, was published earlier this month in the science journal Nature. Since then, the idea of a sucrose-based prohibition has spun a storm of controversy like a global cotton candy machine gone out of control. In many corners, it has generated overt derision exemplified by this Fox News headline: “Sugar as a Controlled Substance? What an Idiotic Idea." Other reporters went all Hunter Thompson by giving up sugar and chronicling their withdrawals.
The researchers have been focusing on getting out the “sugar is toxic” message for nearly a decade. (Check out this surprisingly popular 89 minute (!) Youtube video by one of the Nature article authors. Dr Robert Lustig, sugar-hater-in-chief). They argue that sugar (like alcohol and cigarettes) is a primary reason for some of the major medical ills that effect our population, including obesity, metabolic disorder (leading to high blood pressure), diabetes and liver damage. These scientists conclude that we should treat it accordingly: with higher taxes, distribution controls, age limits, labeling, licensing and new zoning laws. (Excuse Misses, said the Sugar inspector, I don't think your shop is zoned for cupcakes.) I love crazy ideas – even the ones that would transform me overnight into an doughnut hoarding outlaw -- but let’s face it, when even nutrition pundits won’t endorse the idea of controlling sugar, we're assured we can continue to have our cake and eat another piece, too.
Most of us probably don’t want Uncle Sam getting in our business every time we plan to bake brownies with our kids. But I do wonder if growing alarm about sugar from a small cadre of scientists will help temper our national, bottomless love affair with all things sweetened. A few years back, we lived in a small town in Costa Rica where there were fewer sweetened foods to choose from and as a result, I had far fewer conflicts with my kids about eating. Now back in the US, my kids seem more addicted to sugar despite my best efforts to keep their diets healthy because high-sugar foods are ubiquitous here. So as much as I don’t endorse unleashing the sweet police, I wouldn’t mind some back up now and then. Sometimes I get tired of being the only one on duty.