Someone once said that if sugar had been discovered last year instead of in antiquity, it would now be a controlled substance. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it does have certain things in common with actual controlled substances: it’s pleasurable enough to be addictive, it’s terrible for your health, and efforts to curtail its use are usually futile.
That’s why, when I posted this news item about a federal advisory panel’s recommendation for sugar consumption, it was with some skepticism. The panel wants to lower the recommended allowance for added sugars from 10% to 6% of total calories. Part of me says, Yes, we should all consume less sugar; a far larger part of me says, Six percent? Yeah, right. Keeping to 10% would be hard enough for most people; according to a helpful graphic accompanying a Wall Street Journal article, that would be one 16-ounce Starbucks pumpkin spice latte.
What really caught my eye in the Journal article was a quote from the panel’s chair, who heads the nutrition department at a major university. She said the panel members figured how many discretionary calories are in a healthy diet, and split them between fats and added sugars, allocating slightly more to the former. The sugar component came out to 5% of total calories, but they made it 6% because “we weren’t trying to be unreasonable to how people eat.”
Oh my goodness, professor. I appreciate your intentions, but if you think one percentage point is going to make a difference, I have a sugar farm on Florida swampland I’d like to show you.