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Sugar shaming — are we going too far?

Anti-sugar sentiment is an all-time high, but how healthy is it?

Image credit: Laurence Monneret/Getty

Chances are, you or someone you know has jumped on the “I quit sugar” bandwagon, either briefly or for the long haul.

And if your social media accounts are anything like mine, you’re probably bombarded with dozens of images of sugar-free dishes and desserts every time you log on.

There’s no denying a high-sugar diet has concerning health implications. Scientific evidence links excessive sugar intake to increasing rates of obesity, premature ageing, tooth decay, addiction and fatigue, among other serious conditions.

In a way, sugar is becoming the new tobacco. It’s chastised by health bloggers around the world and it has been labelled more addictive than heroin and cocaine by famed author, Sarah Wilson.

Anti-sugar sentiments aren’t only reserved for books, blogs and news articles, though. They’re now extending into the schoolyard, according to recent reports.

Last week, parents revealed how they’d been “sugar shamed” by teachers who had been instructed to write letters to them about the contents of their kids’ lunch boxes.

Parents told they’d been advised to leave unhealthy snacks and sweet treats at home, with teachers even sending home certain snacks that weren’t compliant with their school or day care’s nutritional rules.

Panel members on Channel Ten’s Studio 10 program called this attitude “completely and utterly ridiculous” and “nanny-state nonsense”, with Ita Buttrose claiming she’d be “furious” if it happened to her.

The women pointed out that there’s a need for parental control in this sort of situation and also argued that lunch box items should be chosen at a parent’s discretion.

With anti-sugar sentiment seemingly at an all-time high, it’s not surprising that critics like nutritionist, Cassie Platt, have been hitting out at some of the more extreme attitudes. Platt is the author of a controversial book published last year, Don’t Quit Sugar, which aims to promote healthy sugar options — particularly fructose, found in fruit.

As long as the anti-sugar phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, intelligent debate focused on the real issues and evidence about the health concerns related to excess sugar intake are welcome. Enter the points raised by Guardian journalist, Alex Renton, who, late last year, took aim at the hyperbole and pointed out that the real sugar crisis is not among “you or I”, but is among the poor — and, often, these people don’t have access to paraphernalia about quitting sugar.

Renton also argued that governments should take more responsibility for the unhealthy products being sold and marketed and address the root of the cause. “We do need concerted action on sugar: We don’t need more healthy people fretting about their health,” he wrote.

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