EFSA: Sugar Not Linked to Obesity

April 7/Drug Week --  Advocates for severely limiting sugar intake in the name of fighting obesity received another set back at the hands of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The EFSA, Europe's food regulatory body, found no scientific evidence to recommend a limit on the amount of sugar people should consume. This finding is consistent with the 2002 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine report, which stated scientific evidence did not justify setting an upper level for sugars intake and found "no clear and consistent association between increased intakes of added sugars and [body mass index]."

Sugars have become a focal point of the obesity debate, and some are advocating for strict limits that would target many everyday foods, such as a cup of yogurt, a carton of chocolate milk, or an unbuttered piece of toast with jelly.

"Obesity is a problem that America must address," said Andy Briscoe, president and CEO of the Sugar Association, "but dietary guidelines need to be the result of sound science and common sense, not emotion or someone's opinion."

The EFSA, he said, should be commended for putting science first, and he is hopeful U.S. officials will follow this same model for all U.S. nutrition policy efforts.

In addition to science, Briscoe points to sugar consumption over the past decade as proof that sugar is not the culprit in the country's obesity epidemic.

Caloric sweetener consumption is down nearly 10% over the past 10 years, according to the USDA, yet obesity rates have risen.

"Clearly, sugar is not the problem. It's about eating in moderation to control caloric intake and exercising daily," he concluded. "If anything, adding a few calories of all-natural sugar has proven to boost consumption of essential vitamins and minerals by making healthy foods taste a bit better."

From the April 26, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition