May 31, 2020

CSPI Urges FDA to Determine Safe Sugar Limits in Soft Drinks

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has started a petition urging the FDA to determine safe limits on high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners in soft drinks. Public health departments in various cities around the United States, including Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Baltimore are supporting this proposal. You can find the petition by visiting the CSPI web site.

Soft Drink Cola in GlassNutritionists say that a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 16 teaspoons (more than 5 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) of sugar from high fructose corn syrup. That is twice the daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association.

That organization says that “although sugars are not harmful to the body, our bodies don’t need sugars to function properly. Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food.” But the Harvard Medical School does say that sugar can contribute to inflammation in the body, which causes atherosclerosis that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, peripheral artery disease, and vascular dementia.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement, “as currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption. Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”

Walter Willett, profession of nutrition at epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health said, “if one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes, or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks. The evidence is so strong that it is essential the FDA use its authority to make sugary drinks safer.”

Soda and sugary drinks are the single biggest source of calories in the American diet. About 1/5 of adolescents aged 12 to 18 consume at least 25% of their calories from added sugars, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Since high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and other sweeteners are on the “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS list, there is a consensus that the ingredient is “safe at levels consumed.” But CSPI contents that the current consensus is that “added sugars are unsafe at the levels consumed.”

The Canadian Beverage Association issued a statement in response to the CSPI petition. They state that “research shows clearly that not one single food or beverage can be linked to obesity, and scientific evidence does not support that sugar, in any of its various forms, is a unique cause of health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or metabolic syndrome. Linking sugar causally to these issues is an oversimplification and helps no one.”

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