In response to the article (read scan below) which appeared in The Times on Sept 20th in response to the assertion by David Benton a UK psych professor, that sugar was addictive, I wrote this back to the SA Sugar Association. Mindful of course of the fact that their job is to sell sugar!

(An edited version was published in The Times on Sept 25th)

The letter entitled “No evidence sugar makes you fat” from Priya Seetal of the SA Sugar Association would be a Laugh Out Loud moment, if  the disinformation it contained were not so dangerous to the health of many South Africans.

To be blunt, it contains not a whit of truth. Sugar consumption makes many of us fat and sick and this truth is backed up by so many studies and medical journal articles that it would require a special printing of The Times to list them all.

Sugar is unique. Unlike other starch and carbohydrate sources, sugar contains a 50:50 payload of glucose and fructose, with no fibre to slow its uptake. It is the fructose that does the real damage. Fructose can only be dealt with by the liver, where it is converted into fat and then stored in the liver itself or around the internal organs. Fat in this form is quite different to the external fat which people spend so much time trying to lose. This stuff is a medical time-bomb and the fatty liver which results from sugar intake has become the single most common medical condition in America today. In addition, the deadly intra-abdominal fat becomes the precursor of many life threatening conditions.

It is interesting to note that some of the earliest medical warnings about the dangers of sugar came from the very area the SA Sugar Association is situated in. In Nov. 1963, Dr G. D. Campbell working at the King Edward Hospital published an article in the SA Medical Journal. His research connected the sudden rise of obesity and diabetes among the urban Natal Zulu’s to an increased consumption of sugar. Campbell ‘s sugar consumption estimates were 6 lb per head for tribal Zulus and 60 lb per head for urban workers. He connected the increase in diabetes and obesity to the consumption of sugar and pointed out that these maladies were virtually unknown amongst the tribal Zulus.

Dr Campbell’s work was cited by various authorities, notably in a book about the dangers of sugar called “Pure, White and Deadly”, written by John Yudkin, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of London from 1954 to 1971. Over thirty years ago, Yudkin tried to warn us that sugar consumption is bad for our health. He wrote “if only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other food additive, that material would promptly be banned.”

I strongly suggest that for the sake of their health, all South Africans ignore all the suggestions made in the article by the SA Sugar Association. Over and above this, I take exception their biased and subliminally discriminatory statement that blames “obese and overweight people” for consuming excess energy. As a society we can do without the subtle discrimination against fat people by the SA Sugar Association, who seek to perpetuate the fallacy that fat people are lazy and eat too much.

Dr Howard Rybko