Patt Morrison for February 3, 2012

Should there be a legal drinking age…for soda?

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

A shopper passes a display of 12-packs of Pepsi at a market March 6, 2006 in Des Plaines, Illinois. Some studies reportedly link sugary sodas and drinks to the obesity epidemic.

Is sugar as dangerous as alcohol and tobacco? Dr. Robert Lustig and his colleagues at UC San Francisco seem to think so. They’ve published an article in the journal “Nature” likening sugar to alcohol and tobacco in that it meets four criteria the government has used to warrant regulation: it’s unavoidable in society, it’s toxic, it can be abused, and it’s bad for society.

Added sugars in processed foods and drinks, according to Lustig and his co-authors, are responsible for so many cases of chronic disease and premature deaths that their consumption should be regulated similarly to alcohol and tobacco. Some scientific evidence suggests that sugar, not obesity, can directly lead to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, among other diseases. The authors aren’t pushing to have all sugar outlawed or banned, but simply for the regulation of added sugars, which they define as “any sweetener containing the molecule fructose that is added to food in processing.” At a minimum, say Lustig and his team, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should remove fructose from its list of items “Generally Recognized as Safe.”

WEIGH IN:

How safe do you think “added sugars” are? How closely should the government regulate our diet? What are the most effective and appropriate methods for encouraging healthy eating habits among Americans?

Guests:

Laura A. Schmidt, associate professor, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies in the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania


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