One day in the future, you might stop off for a slice of pizza with your friends and get carded. No, it won’t be for a glass of beer, but for the super-sized sugary soda you just ordered.
While it seems far-fetched, this type of crackdown on sugar sales is what researchers at the University of California are suggesting. Their goal? To reduce the consumption of sugar by Americans. Sugar, they say, is a toxic and addictive substance that should be regulated just like alcohol and tobacco.
Sugar has long been vilified by nutritionists as a source of “empty” caloriesproviding no nutritional value but adding greatly to our waistlines. However, the researchers write that “there is nothing empty about these calories,” pointing to mounting scientific evidence of the real dangers of sugar: liver toxicity, altered metabolism, and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. “A little [sugar] is not a problem, but a lot killsslowly.”
Americans definitely consume a lot of sugar22 teaspoons a day on average, according to the American Heart Association. That’s like drinking two cans of soda and eating a chocolate bar. Some surveys found that teens eat even more34 teaspoons. In addition to obvious sources, sugar also sneaks into diets in breads, cereals and other processed foods, often labeled as corn syrup, fructose or hydrolyzed starch.
To nudge Americans toward better eating habits, the researchers advocate using similar methods that worked to reduce the use of alcohol and tobacco. This includes special taxes on sweetened foods and beverages, restrictions on advertising to children and prohibiting sales of soda and other sweet drinks to teenagers and children.
The researchers aren’t suggesting a prohibition, though. So unless you are under age, you won’t need to start filling bathtubs with sugar.