The following blog discusses the comments on the BBC1 programme, The Big Questions on 29th January, 2016, which addressed the question, “Should sugar be treated as a dangerous drug?”
To give you some background, I have taken issue in a previous post with this man’s (Prof Mike Lean of Glasgow University School of Nutrition) £2.5 Million research award from Diabetes UK, researching a low calorie diet and its effects on obesity and reversing type 2 diabetes. You can read the absurdity of this award here.
The show was hosted by Nicky Campbell and the following transcript only involves both Nicky and Prof Mike Lean; NC denotes Nicky Campbell and PML denotes Professor Mike Lean. My personal comments are denoted by CR and are not part of the transcript from the programme.
You can watch it on the YouTube link here.
Should sugar be treated as a dangerous drug?
NC – Sugar causes diabetes
PML – Well that is, dismiss that one completely
NC – What?
PML – The firmest science that we have is called a meta-analysis, when you take all the data that has been done since research started, in this case about the 1980’s; put it all together, re-analyse it and say where is the truth in all this.
CR – This meta-analysis that PML is referring to can be seen here (see section 6.23), but unfortunately it only uses three studies; hardly a meta-analysis, which usually collates many studies and in this case you would definitely expect more studies since PML also mentions that the research goes back to the 1980’s.
The problems are that this still DOESN’T prove that sugar does not cause diabetes. It offers “limited evidence” (3 studies) of “no consistent evidence of association” with heterogeneity too high and the studies too few to pool results. So there are two issues; firstly the study is not really a meta-analysis, certainly not a peer reviewed meta-analysis and secondly, lack of evidence for association is not evidence for no causation.
NC – So the NHS website is wrong
PML – If it has said that sugar causes diabetes, then it is wrong; Diabetes UK is correct on this, so is The European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the World Health Authority, which conducted a review last year. A very major meta-analysis has been conducted on this, and the answer is there is no evidence that sugar causes diabetes.
CR – Sugar DOES cause diabetes and here is a large (larger than PML’s aforementioned study) meta-analysis of 17 studies.
NC – Is sugar killing us; how dangerous is it?
PML – Sugar is not killing us; sugar has been, was created, invented roughly 450 years ago; it came to Europe on boats. Until that time, sweeteners, which is what you guys like Nicky, you like sweeteners, and the addiction is not to sugar, the addiction is, there was a very nice study at Aberdeen, the addiction to food, yes thank goodness we are addicted to food, or we would have died out as a species years ago.
So the sugar came over on these boats and suddenly, what do we do with it, and of course since then, people have been writing books, claiming that sugar causes every disease under its spell.
CR – Sorry, but sugar is killing us alright; see here. No Professor, sugar is a major part of food addiction and hijacks the brain’s reward centre; see here and here. In fact sugar is known to be more addictive than cocaine; see here.
NC – Causes obesity, causes obesity, does it cause obesity?
PML – And the answer is one by one, you go through these, and say no, I’m afraid it DOESN’T cause cancer, and it DOESN’T cause heart disease and no it DOESN’T cause diabetes.
What it DOES do is, if you eat excess calories from sugar, then you will gain weight, and the evidence says about 0.8Kg of weight, not obesity, and can I just finish this because what is important is the sugar if you analyse it says that; however if you look at sugary drinks, then you’ll find that greater consumption of sugary drinks does cause weight gain in children. Interesting!
What we’re seeing is an increase in food consumption; there is an addiction to food, there are foods you like and foods you don’t like. People who like more food like more food, and sugar is one of the things that contributes to weight gain if you eat more calories.
CR – Sorry PML, you can waffle on by stating the obvious, “if you eat excess calories from sugar, then you will gain weight”, “there is an addiction to food, there are foods you like and foods you don’t like” etc, but unfortunately sugar DOES cause cancer; see here , DOES cause heart disease; see here, here and here and DOES cause diabetes; see here.
Yes there is an addiction to foods and the main driver is sugar; see my previous comment above.
NC – Some foods are not going to make you fat
PML – If you swap sugar for other calories, and this has been subject again of a meta-analysis, there is no difference in weight. What is important is that sugary drinks are associated with greater weight gain in children and that is very important, because what it tells us is that it’s not the sugar, but the pattern of eating, which is associated with weight gain and ultimately diabetes.
We’ve been demonising sugar for centuries; the science says it’s not dangerous, but I’m not a lover of sugar. Do you know I’m probably the only person here that’s never tasted Cocoa Cola or Pepsi Cola or any other Cola in my life? Is there anyone else here that could claim never having tasted the wretched stuff. It is very bad for teeth, it is absolutely tragic for Scottish teeth, in a country which has no fluoride and you know we are a fluoride deficient nation, and we will lose our teeth if we eat sugar. I’m no supporter of the sugar industry and no supporter to sugar addition to foods.
CR – PML states that if you swap sugar for other calories, there is no weight difference. This is complete nonsense and I would like to see this meta-analysis. The quality of calories is far more important than quantity; see here. The body processes an avocado differently than a Snicker bar and they both have similar amounts of calories.
He, PML is back on the sugary drinks and weight gain in children theme; he seems to have hammered this blatantly obvious point. However he omits the fact that all drinks, sugar or diet will not only affect children, but also adults as will sugary foods. He mentions the pattern of eating as the cause of weight gain and diabetes; I have no idea what he is waffling, but I suspect he is using this as some sort of smokescreen or he just doesn’t have a clue, a bit of both in my opinion.
He, PML also states that “the science says it’s not dangerous”. What a load of nonsense and we have covered this throughout the blog as to why it is nonsense. After his apparent personal disdain for sugar, another irrelevance, he makes the point about the lack of fluoride in Scottish water and appears to blame this for the incidence of tooth decay. Well if he had only the slightest clue on the damage fluoride can do to the body and brain, then he would not make such a silly statement.
Flouride has an endless list of health dangers including brain damage, thyroid damage, cancers and hormone damage to name a few. See here.
NC – Are we being puritanical?
PML – Well you’ve just got the science up the creek; the science says, I’m sorry it DOESN’T cause cancer, it DOESN’T cause heart disease and it DOESN’T cause type 2 diabetes and quite correct. If it contributes to extra calories, then it’s a very bad thing and we need to limit it for that reason.
CR – No we did not get the science up the creek, you, PML have and sugar DOES cause all of the aforementioned health conditions. Yes it DOES contribute towards many extra calories since it is addictive. Even if it wasn’t addictive, it would still make you eat more calories since sugar is devoid of nutrition and the body will crave more calories as a result.
Sugar also depletes magnesium, see here, the body’s most important mineral that is responsible for over 300 metabolic reactions, and magnesium deficiency is linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; see here.
Incidentally magnesium is depleted by soft drinks, sugar or diet types due to caffeine and phosphates, which are present in both. See here. Therefore irrespective of the sugar element, soft drinks have other issues involved in the potential onset of diabetes.
This man, PML is either in the pockets of big business or deluded; not sure which to be honest. One thing for sure is that he (Glasgow University) received £2.5 million for a red herring study from Diabetes UK.
He, PML rants on about a meta-analysis with only 3 studies, he waffles about how sugar came across on boats and has been with us for 450 years that have absolutely no relevance to the debate and the issues at hand and he mentions that everyone is conspiring against sugar.
He repeats the sugary drinks and weight gain in children connection, which is only part of the picture, in an attempt to detract from the bigger picture.
This reeks of a man who is hiding an agenda and clearly on the back foot in this programme. He is involved in a “healthy” pizza company; take a look here. Talk about a misnomer and a conflict of interest.
If this is the level of knowledge and/or deceit that is influencing our decision making ability regarding our health and wellbeing, then God help us.
Academics should be taken with a pinch of salt. They have spent too much time sheltered from reality with no accountability for their actions and conclusions. They are also surrounded by vested interests in their continual quest to attract research funding, which in its very nature leads to biased findings.
You find a similar scenario in drug research; where the efficacy and safety of most drugs are grossly exaggerated.