NZ Sugar spins up a story on sugar

By August 13, 2009Uncategorized

Apparently sugar doesn’t make you fat. It doesn’t give you tooth decay. And it also doesn’t make children hyperactive.

Now, stop giggling. There’s really true research to ‘prove’ all of this and you can get your own free copy of it from the Sugar Research Advisory Service (SRAS). I know this because Donnell Alexander was good enough to write in to the Waikato Times last week (Letters, August 5) and spill the beans. And Donnell ought to know. After all, she describes herself as being from the ‘secretariat’ of the SRAS and she’s a ‘NZ Registered Dietician’ to boot.

The SRAS ‘aims to encourage appropriate use and enjoyment of sugar as part of a healthy and balanced diet’. It does this by highlighting research that shows that far from being bad for you, sugar is really quite a good thing to have in the diet. The SRAS is wholly funded by the New Zealand Sugar Company, but I’m sure that doesn’t influence them in any way whatsoever.

Donnell must have only just scored her job with the SRAS because try as I might, I couldn’t find her profile on their website. I did however find quite a fulsome profile of her at Network PR, a public relations firm that helps ‘clients to convey complex information in ways that will help change attitudes and effect behaviour change around serious health problems such as obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis’.

Network PR describes Donnell as a ‘key member’ of the ‘food group’. And it seems Donnell is ‘expert at interpreting complex information for use with different audiences’. They go on to froth, ‘she recently assisted organisations such as New Zealand Sugar and Coca Cola Oceania prepare submissions to the Parliamentary Select Committee into Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes’. There are no prizes for guessing what those submissions said.

Let’s just put aside the possibility (remote, I know) that Donnell was trying to influence attitudes and change behaviour on behalf of an entity that makes a living from selling sugar. I sure she was just trying share genuine ground-breaking research that dispels all those awful myths about sugar.

It seems the core study is a summary of a workshop which took place in 2002. The workshop came up with the astounding recommendation that up to 25% of your diet could be sugar. The only reason they stopped at 25% was that they concluded if you ate any more than that you wouldn’t have room for stuff in your diet that you actually need to stay alive.

The workshop was sponsored by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), ‘ a nonprofit, worldwide foundation that seeks to improve the well-being of the general public through the advancement of science.’ ISLI gets its money from folks such as The American Beverage Association, Cadbury, Nestle … well, you get the picture. But once again, I’m sure the financial interests had absolutely nothing to do with the ‘scientific’ outcome.

Strangely though, when you look at research that hasn’t been paid for by Big Sugar, you get entirely different results. I don’t want my research paid for by Big Sugar and then ‘communicated’ by people, expert at ‘changing behaviour and attitudes’. The (independent) science is done, the evidence is in and it’s unequivocal. Sugar consumption is the most significant factor in the accelerating incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and a raft of associated illnesses. In that context it’s outrageous for the New Zealand Sugar Company to be propagating dangerous nonsense about sugar being good for you.

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