Quick Takes: UCSF Request to Regulate Sugar

Government Regulation on Sugar Will Prove Ineffective

Researchers at University of California, San Francisco concluded that sugar is “toxic,” and recommended that it be regulated like tobacco and alcohol. They bring up a good point: eating too much sugar causes obesity, and with roughly 70 percent of Americans considered overweight (having a BMI larger than 25), it would be wise for individuals to change their unhealthy habits. However, using government regulations to manipulate people’s sugar intake is a strategy that has proven time and time again to be ineffective.

Modest regulations on sugar repeatedly prove ineffective at curbing obesity. Several studies have shown that school bans on soda vending machines did little to change kids’ diets. When soda was no longer available at school, students satisfied their sweet tooth with other unhealthy treats.

According to a 2004 study funded by the federal government and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, taxes on soda are ineffective at improving health. The national survey followed 7,300 fifth graders for two years, recording their heights, weights and overall soda and sports drink intakes. When comparing children in states with different soda taxes, there appeared to be no difference. This governmental research, therefore, shows that taxes pose no significant barrier to those who are determined to get their soda fix.

The only solutions that gleam promising results are far too heavy-handed and intrusive. Some states like New York proposed placing a hefty 20 percent tax on sugar, and a Feb. 1 article “Public Health: The Toxic Truth About Sugar” in the science journal Nature suggests applying age limits and price controls to sugary products.

Based on past governmental health efforts, imposing a sugar regulation will prove fruitless in making kids healthier.

-Chris Roteliuk
Staff Writer

Sugar Taxes Would Be a Step Toward Healthier Lives

team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco contends that because sugar poses health risks far beyond just “empty calories,” Americans should substantially reduce their sugar consumption by making sugar beverages a controlled substance like alcohol and tobacco. Their research shows that the country as a whole should take major strides to reduce our sugar intake, especially when it comes to soda.

The reasons why sugar consumption is such an issue are apparent in the facts. The average adult in the United States swallows 22 teaspoons — over 600 calories — of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association. In the last 40 years, our sugar consumption has increased by about 19 percent. Beyond its calories, sugar has a host of negative health effects. A little sugar is not a problem — but excess sugar can alter metabolism, raise blood pressure, skew the signaling of hormones and damage the liver. When we consume calories from liquids, our bodies do not feel as full, so we down extra calories from sugar as a result.

Because sugar beverages have particularly insidious health consequences, they should be the first to be regulated. Other countries, including France, Denmark, and Greece, have soda taxes. Penny-per-ounce taxes on sweet drinks are currently being considered in at least 20 U.S. cities and states. The intention in adding this tax is to make healthier drinks less expensive than soda in order to encourage a change in diet. While we may still have cravings for ice cream or chocolate chip cookies every now and then, regulating soda is a step toward cutting back on our excess sugar consumption.

-Arik Burakovsky
Senior Staff Writer