A recent edition of Family Economics and Nutrition Review gave the sugar industry an unexpected, yet welcome affirmation.

Anne L. Mardis, MD, MPH conducted a review of the recent scientific literature while a researcher with the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The review concluded with confirming news for the sugar industry. The research brief, “Current Knowledge of the Health Effects of Sugar Intake,” concludes, “the evidence indicates that sugar is not in itself associated with chronic diseases: diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity and hyperactivity.”

Richard Keelor, PhD, President and CEO of The Sugar Association (SAI) responded: “The sugar industry has always been committed to integrity and sound science in communicating to the general public, the government, and health professionals about the benefits of sugar.”

He went on to say: “Therefore, while the findings are not new to the industry, to discover the article during the course of our normal scientific literature reviews was a pleasant surprise.”

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Of particular concern to The Sugar Association is that during the 13 December 2001 news conference announcing the Call to Action to Decrease and Prevent Overweight and Obesity, Surgeon General David Satcher stated: “The typical American diet is too heavily laden with sugar…” In an attempt to prove his point, he proceeded to name diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity — indicating sugar consumption as a causative factor in the obesity epidemic.

His remarks, alleged to be based on sound science rather than opinion and anecdotal information, have been widely repeated in the media and have created a stir in the sugar industry. Charles W. Baker, PhD, VP Scientific Affairs for SAI, asserts: “There is no credible scientific evidence to support the Surgeon General’s reference to sugar.”

When approached yesterday by the Sugar Association about the article Dr Mardis, a federal health official, said: “I was asked to review the scientific literature on this topic and write a brief report which resulted in this article.” Baker added: “The evidence stands on its own. Mardis is a researcher and not biased one way or another. This is good news for the sugar industry. The government’s own scientific review exonerates sugar as the easy target on this issue.”

The Sugar Association is expectant that the report will shed new light on this matter and that now the left hand of the government will know what the right hand is doing.

Richard Surwit, PhD, Professor and Vice Chairman for Research, Duke University Medical Center said: “The effects of nutrients on obesity and diabetes are complex and no single class of nutrient is in and of itself responsible. Certainly, there is ample evidence that in the absence of fat, simple carbohydrates are not associated with the etiology of diabetes and obesity.”

A dietary word of reasoning came from Kristine Clark, PhD, RD, FACSM, Director of Sports Nutrition for Pennsylvania State University’s Athletic Department: “Policy makers and consumers need to be aware that no diet that involves denying people portions of their favorite foods is going to be successful.” This is evidenced by the fact The American Diabetes Association in its recent position statement acknowledges that in its nutritional recommendations for people with diabetes that there is no evidence that refined sugars such as sucrose behave any differently from other types of simple carbohydrates.