Big Sugar gets tricky

By December 1, 2008Uncategorized

Lyn and Ron spotted something a little strange a few weeks ago.  They were leafing through the November/December issue of Diabetic Living magazine when they came across a full-page advertorial for fruisana Fruit Sugar.

Having just finished reading Sweet Poison, they were quite naturally gobsmacked.  Diabetic Living is a magazine from the Better Homes & Gardens team targeted at folks with Diabetes.  It is full of recipes and tips for living with Diabetes apparently including a recommendation that they should eat powdered fructose instead of sugar.
The advertorial is full of gems like this:
Just because you’re watching your weight or managing diabetes, you don’t have to miss out on the sweeter things in life.
If you or or your child has diabetes, up to 30-40g of Fruisana Fruit Sugar can be eaten (in place of sucrose) daily.
Elsewhere in the magazine, the editorial team use the powdered fructose to make some ‘mini corn meal, almond and blueberry friands‘ (whatever they are).
Naturally, I thought that the editors of a magazine which is bought by 43,000 diabetics and read by 198,000 people should be aware that they are promoting a substance which is proven to be harmful to everyone but especially to diabetics.  So I immediately dashed off the following email to the editor:

On page 103 of your Nov/Dec issue there is a full page advertorial for fruisana fruit sugar. The advertorial positions this added fructose product as a suitable addition to the diet of a person suffering from diabetes.

In 2002 the American Diabetes Association (ADA) reversed its previous advice to diabetics that they should consume fructose.

The ADA’s new position is that added fructose should be completely avoided. They explain their change of heart by saying that notwithstanding its proven lack of insulin response, “fructose may adversely effect plasma lipids”. That’s doctor-speak for eating fructose may increase the amount of fat you have circulating in your bloodstream. And there is no shortage of research which shows that fat in the blood from fructose leads to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

I ask that you stop publishing advertising from fructose manufacturers. I would also like you to publish editorial information concerning the ADA statement of position and the research on which it was based.

David Gillespie
I had to wait almost two weeks but I finally got a reply.  Well, when I say a reply, I mean I got an email from the ‘National Advertising Manager‘.  I still haven’t heard from the editor.  This is what she had to say.  It’s quite lengthy so I’ve highlighted some interesting bits:

Dear Mr Gillespie,

Thank you for your feedback dated 13th November 2008. We have investigated the information you provided and discussed your concerns with our health professional team. We have confirmed that Fruisana is in fact safe for people with diabetes and we have provided information to support the decision, as sourced from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008. These findings are detailed below.

All sugar substitutes, including Fruisana, are deemed safe for human consumption by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). Most of the fructose scare is around large doses of fructose. Large doses are found primarily in consuming large amounts of diet style products, and particularly consuming large amounts of sucrose (sucrose is glucose and fructose together). Our body then breaks it down into glucose and fructose. The biggest concern of fructose is when manufacturers add high fructose corn syrup to products to lower its Glycemic index but keep the sweetness. Fruisana is not corn derived (corn syrup). The American Diabetes Association is recommending companies to not use high fructose corn syrup to sweeten food.

As you can see from the paper below shown below, a safe level of fructose per day is considered between 25g and 40g per day. We only included one recipe using Fruisana, which recommended 2 mini muffins per serve, which gave 16.5g of total carbohydrates, 6.7g sugar and 4.5g fructose, well below the safety amount. All fruit and vegetables contain fructose naturally, for example, one apple contains around 12-15g of fructose per medium apple.

Fruisana is considered safe in Australia for general consumption for people with and without diabetes. It is part of the GI symbol program which is run by Sydney University, Diabetes Australia NSW and JDRF, and has to fit into a strict criteria as well as being low GI. There is a lot of research showing the benefits of low GI foods, and Fruisana has a lower kj content making it beneficial for weight management.

In large doses, all sugar substitutes would be considered unsafe, including fructose. We recommend everything in moderation. The amount we used in our recipe was well within the limits.

[She then pastes in an abstract of this journal article]

We appreciate you taking the time to express your concerns. It is our commitment to readers to ensure that everything appearing in Diabetic Living is accurate and the products we promote are safe for people with diabetes. All advertising, particularly food products, must go through a thorough screening before being allowed to book. Your email was taken very seriously and we can assure you that Fruisana, when consumed in moderation, is safe for people with or without diabetes. Thank you again for your feedback.

The journal article that she relies upon was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical nutrition.  It does indeed say that it is safe to consume fructose in the amounts the advertorial suggests.  There are however a few itty bitty problems with it, most of which were pointed out in a highly critical editorial analysis of the article which appeared in the same issue of the journal.  They are:

  1. The study is a highly selective overview of 42 of the 3,331 available studies on fructose ingestion;
  2. The meta-analysis was seriously flawed in that it involved comparing randomized and nonrandomized studies of differing designs, mixed populations (diabetic and nondiabetic, lean and obese), different control diets (including some sucrose-based diets that contained fructose), different study durations, and limited endpoints; and
  3. Most damning of all, the authors were paid to do the study by Danisco Sweeteners. Danisco is one of the world’s largest sugar products manufacturers, with an annual turnover of $5.5 billion (AUD). Danisco is also the manufacturer of Fruisana.
It really does look to me like Big Sugar is starting to go the way of Big Tobacco.  Not content with hiding behind the likes of Kerry Armstrong, they are now creating ‘research’ to show we should all be eating ‘poison’ and even better than that, we’ll be healthier for it!  
Naturally I have written back to the editor pointing all of this out and asking her to reconsider her advertising manager’s position on fruisana.  I am yet to receive a reply.  If I do, I’ll post it here for your enjoyment.

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • wise23girl says:

    Well David I do not know if I will enjoy their response (and I know enjoy is “tongue in cheek” for you too but I am absolutely appalled . So what is the next move…just keep gnawing away or an almighty onslaught???

  • Wren Dillon says:

    I found this mag in my local library and thought it might make good sensible diet related reading…not so! most of the articles had direct correlation to what was being advertised on and around the editorial pages…making it obvious that they where more advertorial and anything else.

    Perhaps a good tongue lashing from media watch is due?

  • I think I might give them just a bit longer to respond to my last email (it was sent a week ago). And then depending what (if any) response I get, I’ll decide what sort of audience needs to hear about this … stay tuned 🙂

  • What was the outcome David? I’m viewing your website after listening to you on Richard Fidler’s ABC Radio program. I’ve worked out that everytime I consume sugar, I am SO tired and brian fuzzy – trying my best to cut it out but being a chocoholic it’s very hard!

  • What was the outcome David? Checking out your website after listening to you on ABC Radio this morning. I have felt this about sugar more and more as I am SO tired after drinking a Mocha!

  • Unknown says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Fiona says:

    The ADS, and AHS have programs in place to MAINTAIN ones disease, not reverse it. Type II is totally reversible and Dr. Rosedale have been doing it for 20 years, but not if one follows the ADA guidelines. They are funded by too many, that reversing the disease is not appropriate. This is very clear with the actions.

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