Food and Behaviour Research

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15 March 2013 - BMJ Group Blogs - Sugar is the new tobacco

By Balaji Ravichandran

Sugar is the new tobacco. It is dangerous, addictive, and toxic, and it cannot be controlled by education or legislation alone. This is a war, between public health and private industry, and one that is best waged through the courts.

These were some of the more dramatic pronouncements heard at what was ostensibly an academic symposium on sugar, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. But then the keynote speaker of the event was Professor Robert Lustig, a paediatric endocrinologist from University of California, San Francisco, known as much for his forthright manner and the theatricality of his presentations as for his academic research. He was the star of the entire conference, the uneasy knowledge of which permeated the words of every other academic on the stage.

The two-day symposium was organised by Food and Behaviour (FAB) Research, a charity that furthers research into the link between nutrition and human behaviour.

It was extremely well-attended, especially by people who described themselves as “nutritionists” or “nutritional therapists,” but also by general practitioners, cardiologists and, interestingly, members of the public. Dr Alex Richardson, a founder of FAB, was in no doubt as to who drew the crowds and attracted such media attention. All credit to Dr Lustig, she told me, who achieved fame after his lecture on the health effects of sugar went viral on YouTube.