To describe sugar as “toxic” is extreme, as is its ludicrous comparison with alcohol (Nature 482, 27–29; 2012). Such sensationalism could damage the livelihoods of thousands of people working in the sugar industry worldwide, and will be felt in countries such as Australia, the United States, Fiji, Mauritius, Indonesia and India.
As the senator for Queensland, Australia, where sugar is the most significant agricultural crop, I wish to voice the industry's concerns. Consumers should be assured that sugar is a safe ingredient and suitable for consumption as part of a balanced diet.
Nutritionist Jennie Brand-Miller of the University of Sydney is not alone in her disgust that you published this opinion piece (The Australian, 4 February 2012). The Dietitians Association of Australia believes that it is simplistic and unhelpful to blame sugar alone for the obesity crisis.
Alan Barclay of the Australian Diabetes Council notes in the same article in The Australian that sugar consumption in Australia has dropped by 23% since 1980. But he adds that during that time, the number of overweight or obese people has doubled, while diabetes has tripled.
A literature review by Australia's National Health Medical Research Council, together with its draft dietary guidelines of December 2011, found that the evidence to support advice on added sugar and obesity was “limited, inconclusive or contradictory”.
Robert Lustig et al. have stimulated debate, yet have unnecessarily tarnished the image of sugar. There is no evidence to suggest that reducing sugar consumption will halt the rise in obesity. The contributing factors are far more complex.