‘Sugar shaming’ leaves bitter taste

Sir, – Brian Boyd is correct that "sugar shaming" is a sanctimonious sham (Opinion & Analysis, May 25th). When you query a member of the anti-sugar brigade if they know what sugar is, their eyes begin to take on that confused and fearful look that a politician gets when asked about their expenses.

Confronted with the fact that potatoes, bread, maize, corn, rice, and yes, even organic-vegan-hipster favourites like bulgar wheat and quinoa, are largely composed of glucose, the sugar police typically need a sit down.

Upon learning that fructose is a major component of fruits, honey, and root vegetables like parsnips and carrots, while lactose is in milk, and maltose in seeds, the sugar police might try to weasel out of their previously broad anti-sugar rants by focussing on “processed” sugar. Surely that is bad? By processed sugar they typically mean sucrose, another naturally occurring compound of glucose and fructose found in sugar cane and beet, which is broken down into its two components immediately after consumption.

In fact sugar, frequently known by the names starch or carbohydrate, is the primary source of food energy for the entire human population of the world. Humanity’s incredible population growth in recent centuries is entirely down to our learning better ways to produce and distribute sugar, mainly via improvements in agriculture, food preservation and transport. It goes without saying that we are all “addicted” to sugar. We need regular doses day after day, and the usual effect of long-term withdrawal is starvation and death.

It is correct that overconsumption of sugar can cause ailments such as tooth decay (if you don’t brush afterwards) or obesity (if you don’t exercise in a manner proportional to your calorie intake) and can cause diabetes (as the body essentially gets too used to a high blood-sugar level and forgets how to make insulin). Other than these manageable risks, sugar is a perfectly natural, pleasurable and indeed vital form of nutrition.

The lifestyle gurus and celebrities whose views proliferate in the guise of health advice on the pages of weekend supplements should really pick up a few biochemistry textbooks and look up terms such as ATP, catabolism and the glycolytic pathway.

Remember also that “nutritionist” is neither a medical qualification nor a regulated profession, and the title is easily purchased with little or no formal or reputable training. If you want dietary advice, speak to a qualified dietician, a career that is regulated in most countries and requires lengthy medical training. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.