File this one under “facts speak louder than scary words.” Dr. Richard H. Adamson, formerly of the National Cancer Institute, writes in a blog for Scientific American that the outlandish rhetoric of some of the soda scaremongers does not help us have an informed discussion on obesity.
These are old monikers for regular readers here, but it’s nice to know why we call them what we do: Kelly “Twinkie Tax” Brownell, Robert “No Cookies Under 18” Lustig, and New York Times columnist and resident food snob Mark Bittman. Their offense, according to Dr. Adamson, is their inflammatory language that trivializes those who want to take a serious look at obesity. Specifically, Adamson takes issue with Lustig’s admonition of sugar as “toxic,” Brownell’s equating of fast food and cigarettes, and Bittman’s labeling of certain foods as “dangerous.”
Raising the specter of soda, or any specific food or drink, as “bad” and as a singular factor in obesity lowers the debate on obesity and causes people to tune out, Dr. Adamson explains. In light of recent studies showing the average intake of calories from alcohol is just short of that of soda, Dr. Adamson wonders if these food activists would dare to call wine from a vineyard owned by Brownell’s center’s namesake, Rudd, “toxic” too.
The ultimate problem, as Dr. Adamson notes, is that the rhetoric from this terrible trio lack facts. They attack the soft target of soft drinks because it grabs headlines. Rather than making hay and scaring people out of having a sip of a sugar-sweetened beverage, doctors and other medical experts ought to spend time considering the science and not try to find a magic bullet cure.