Are we wrong to focus on sugar to try to tackle obesity?

This week’s story didn’t make a big impact. I spotted it on a left hand side page (p22) in one of the Saturday newspapers, occupying just a few column inches with no picture. The BBC covered the story a couple of days earlier. The headline of the story was a caution not to focus on sugar as a cause of obesity, because calories and fat mattered more. The study was from Glasgow University, which piqued my interest because a senior nutrition professor from Glasgow University, Mike Lean, was on the BBC1 Big Questions programme on 24 January 2016 vigorously defending sugar. Given that sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever, this seems a bizarre thing for a nutrition professor to be doing. Lean was challenged by a journalist on the show about his Coca-Cola funding and he went wild! He leapt to his feet on live TV, finger wagging, and raged his complete denial of any connection with Coca-Cola. It took about five seconds, while watching the programme, for me to find a study funded by Coca-Cola with Lean as the key contact. Back in the 1950s-80’s, a war took place between Dr Ancel Keys and Professor John Yudkin. Keys said that fat was the enemy, Yudkin said that it was sugar. Just as the tide seemed to have turned in Yudkin’s posthumous favour, Glasgow University appear to have resurrected a defence of sugar...

 

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