One of the interesting sessions earlier this week at the annual dietitians’ conference FNCE was a 2 sided discussion entitled “Sweet Scrutiny: Debating the Research on Nutritive and Non-Nutritive Sweeteners”. Why do we emphasize 2 sides? because not all sessions gave 2 opposing camps an opportunity to present their views. In fact, many sessions were sponsored or hosted by food companies with very specific agendas. But anyway, back to this sugar debate. The discussion was mostly about sugary drinks.
Representing the industry view that soft drinks are not the cause of obesity was Dr. Theresa Nicklas, a a pediatric researcher from Baylor College of Medicine. According to Dr Nicklas, evidence suggesting sugary drinks played a major role in obesity was… inconclusive.
Dr. Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, contends that soft drinks are contributing to our growing waistlines. Sugary drink are easy to consume quickly, yet the body does not feel as full from a 200 calorie drink as it does from a 200 calorie snack. He also tackled the “inconclusive” results of studies so far, reminding us how long it took for tobacco studies to finally be accepted and lead to limitation on smoking. Finally, Dr. Popkin reminded the dietitians in the room to follow the money trail and see who funds the studies that have favorable outcomes to the food and beverage industry.
So an agreement was not reached during the session. But you have to have your head in the sand to ignore the fact that we are consuming way more sugar than we used to. Whether in our soft drinks or in our cereal, America must make drastic cuts to its calorie consumption from sugar.
What do you think – do sugary beverages play a role in fattening up this country?