Sugar is so harmful to public health it should be controlled like alcohol and cigarettes, US scientists claimed.
Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco said Wednesday that the public's excessive consumption of sugar not only is contributing to a global obesity pandemic but also is critically altering people's hormones, metabolism and blood pressure and causing "significant damage to the liver."
In an article entitled "The Toxic Truth About Sugar," published in the journal Nature, the scientists said that sugar consumption tripled worldwide over the past 50 years and now is contributing to 35 million deaths a year.
"As long as the public thinks that sugar is just 'empty calories,' we have no chance in solving this," Dr. Robert Lustig said. "There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. But sugar is toxic beyond its calories."
The researchers said that the effects of consuming an excess of sugary foods and drinks mimic the effects of drinking too much alcohol -- which, they pointed out, is made from distilling sugar.
They recommended using taxation, controlling access to sugary products and tightening licensing requirements to sell sweet snacks and drinks in schools and workplaces.
Dr. Laura Schmidt, who was involved in the research, said, "We're not talking prohibition. We're not advocating a major imposition of the government into people's lives."