Friday 11 January 2019

The facts about sugar

More or Less, the BBC's much needed fact-checking show, began its new series today with a look at sugar consumption. I urge you to listen to it.

Last week Public Health England told us that British children have eaten 18 years' worth of sugar by the time they are 10. This claim and others like them, such as the claim that kids have eaten their annual allotment of sugar by June, is the result of Public Health England halving the sugar guidelines in 2015. It is not because sugar consumption has been rising.

I was interviewed for the show and explained that sugar consumption has been falling for many years and that the guidelines were halved for no good reason. More or Less took a look at the figures and agreed with me but that is not why I want you to listen to it.

I want you to listen to it for the interview with Public Health England's Louis Levy who thought he could bluff his way through by asserting falsehoods with confidence. He flat out denied that sugar consumption has fallen at all, he made claims about the health effects of sugar that are not borne out by the evidence and - having been challenged by the facts - ultimately resorted to repeating the claim that people are eating twice as much sugar as the guidelines recommend.

Which, of course, is a circular argument. The fact remains that nobody has ever been able to explain what harm will come to you if you consume 10% of your calories from sugar, as opposed to the 5% now recommended, so long as you do not exceed the daily calorie guideline. There is no convincing answer to this question because the risk doesn't exist. The goalposts were moved to create the illusion of a worsening problem. It was, in effect, a political decision.

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