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sugar and health – what does the evidence say?

Sugar has recently been branded as ‘toxic’, ‘addictive’ and ‘the new tobacco’.  Campaigners have suggested that sugary drinks should come with obesity warnings and that a tax on sugar might be beneficial to consumers.

But what does the evidence say?

Experts came to the SMC to talk about things including:

  • Does sugar cause obesity?
  • Does sugar directly contribute to diabetes, independent of its effect on obesity?
  • Is sugar addictive?
  • Is sugar worse for our health than fat?
  • Is a calorie a calorie when it comes to obesity or are sugar calories different from other types?
  • Are there differences in the impact on health of different kinds of sugars and the foods that contain them? Are some sugars worse than others?
  • How does sugar compare with other substances such as alcohol and tobacco in terms of its impact on health?
  • How does sugar compare with sweeteners and sugar substitutes in terms of its impact on health?
  • Would a sugar tax work? Are there other measures for addressing the levels of sugar consumed?



Prof Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health, University of Oxford

Prof Tom Sanders, Head of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division, King’s College London

Dr John Menzies, Research Fellow in the Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, and member of NeuroFAST (which investigates the common neurobiology involved in eating behavior, addiction and stress)

Prof Jim Mann, Professor in Human Nutrition and Medicine, University of Otago

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