One subject that came up in Dr. Lustig’s recent interview on “Sugar and Health” is the need to formulate public policy in order to reduce fructose consumption.
I think, as advocates of real traditional foods that will invariably have differing political dispositions, we need to make sure we don’t become divided over politics, but the politics are still a reality that we need to deal with.
I agree that we need to modify public policy in order to reduce incentives to make and eat junk food. One thing I would support would be ending corn subsidies. As Dr. Lustig pointed out in Sugar: The Bitter Truth, one of the main reasons high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) replaced sucrose is because it is dirt cheap. The cheapness of plastic bottles over glass bottles and of HFCS over table sugar has, according to this view, greatly increased the consumption of sweetened soft drinks. As a result, these factors have greatly increased all the addictively sweet tastes, potentially metabolically damaging fructose, and nutritionally empty, unsatiating calories that come with these drinks.
Nevertheless, this is an area in which we need to tread very carefully. I think it is very important that we avoid setting the precedent or accepting the principle that the government should be determining how people eat.
The reason is simple. If they come for our fructose, they will come for our fat next.
Two years ago, Daniel Steinberg and two other colleagues wrote a review in Circulation entitled “Evidence Mandating Earlier and More Agressive Treatment of Hypercholesterolemia.”
Here’s a snippet:
The Ultimate Long-Term Solution
If indeed the low pre-Westernization CHD rate in Japan was, as discussed above, due primarily to lifestyle differences (diet and exercise), then our long-term goal should be to alter our lifestyle accordingly, beginning in infancy or early childhood. Is such a radical proposal totally impractical? It would, of course, take generations to achieve and would require an all-out commitment of money and manpower to reeducate and modify the behavior of the nation. Is that impossible? No. We have already shown that even a frankly addictive behavior like cigarette smoking can be overcome (eventually) with the right combination of education, peer pressure, and legislation. Would it be safe? Data are now available to show that instituting a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet in infancy (7 months) is perfectly safe without adverse effects on growth, development, and sexual maturation. . . .
The NIH has already committed itself to “wars” on obesity and diabetes mellitus. The weapons for those wars—education and behavior modification—are the same as those needed for a war on CHD. The overlaps are obvious. A concerted national public health program might dramatically reduce morbidity and mortality resulting from these 3 major chronic diseases.
Daniel Steinberg has published hundreds of papers on cholesterol, and was the chief architect of the Coronary Primary Prevention Trial and the chair of the NIH Consensus Conference that shortly followed, determining cholesterol policy for decades to him. Steinberg carries much more weight when it comes to public policy than anyone currently bashing fructose does.
As much as I’d love to see an end to modern junk food, I think this is going to have to be achieved without accepting the principle that the government should determine what we can and cannot consume. If we accept that principle, we are in big trouble.