LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Sugar fear-mongering unhelpful

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In his recent piece “Is obesity a disease?” (Web, June 19), Dr. Peter Lind refers to high-fructose corn syrup and other “manufactured sugars” as “poison” that will “guarantee storage of fat in the body.” Not only is there no scientific evidence to support this claim, but this sort of hyperbole only causes unnecessary fear among consumers and inhibits the development of thoughtful solutions to our nation’s serious problem of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

Current scientific research strongly indicates that obesity results from excessive calorie intake combined with a sedentary lifestyle. The fact is, Americans are consuming more total calories now than ever before. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our total per-capita daily caloric intake increased by 22 percent from 2,076 calories per day in 1970 to 2,534 calories per day in 2010 — an additional 458 calories, only 34 of which come from increased added sugar intake. A vast majority of these calories come from increased fats and flour/cereals.

Surprisingly, the amount of caloric sweeteners (i.e. sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, etc.) Americans consume has actually decreased over the past decade. We now consume 16 percent fewer caloric sweeteners and more than 26 percent less high-fructose corn syrup than we did in 1999. Yet during this time, obesity rates continued to increase sharply. There is no evidence to suggest the consumption of sugar or other sweeteners uniquely contributes to raising obesity rates.

What we do know is the key to battling obesity is living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. In order to achieve a nutritious diet, people should consume plenty of fruits, vegetables and grains, along with moderate amounts of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and beans, low-fat dairy products and healthy fats. They should follow the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

We need to continue to study the obesity epidemic to see what more can be done, but demonizing one specific ingredient accomplishes nothing and raises unnecessary fears that get in the way of real solutions.

JAMES M. RIPPE

Founder and director, Rippe Lifestyle Institute

Shrewsbury, Mass.

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