The front page of notorious U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail — so notable for hyping scares about everything from cancer to foreigners that somebody made a “headline generator” to show just how ridiculous the paper can be — puts the nutrition nanny-state’s latest implausible claim in stark relief. If the Mail and Robert Lustig-backed pressure group “Action on Sugar” are to be believed, sugar is as bad as tobacco.
They shouldn’t. It’s a common-sense fact that cigarette smoke is harmful from the first inhalation while sugar can (and has) been consumed in moderation for centuries without incident. Likewise, you can’t “catch” obesity or pull it out of the air, like you can with smoky haze. All told, the supposed tobacco equivalence is a claim — like Lustig’s assertion that sugar is “toxic” — that stretches beyond lunacy and is in fact quite irresponsible.
All credible evidence indicates that targeting a single ingredient as the cause of obesity and not fostering a whole-lifestyle approach to weight control will not succeed in reducing obesity. While Lustig and his cohorts pull out of thin air a demand for a law requiring a 30-percent reduction in sugar content, food companies are following science and consumer demand to make changes that will actually help.
Remember the pledge to reduce calories in the food supply by 1.5 trillion per year? The partnership of companies that made the pledge declared success early last year, two full years ahead of schedule. Activists whined that it wasn’t enough (even though the reduction is more effective at reducing calories than the horribly unpopular soda tax they demand would be), and dour food scold Marion Nestle seemed to imply that the companies might be fudging the figures.
Well, the independent analysis is in—and the companies beat their goal by 400%, cutting total calories sold by 6.4 trillion. Consumer demand and voluntary action have succeeded where government programs have failed and will continue to fail. We think there’s a lesson for the Lustig crowd here, but we aren’t holding our breaths expecting them to take it.