- A funded by – WAIT FOR IT – the sugar industry claims Australians are eating less sugar than ever before.
- If this is true, researchers conclude, sugar can’t be the reason why people are getting fatter and sicker.
- But we smell a rat…
The study published last week in the was conducted by two scientists (one of whom, Bill Shrapnel, works for the ) and openly paid for by Bundaberg Sugar, Manildra Harwood Sugars, Sugar Australia and CANEGROWERS. They all want to assure us that Australian sugar consumption has been dropping steadily, and, therefore, can’t be implicated in the growing obesity crisis. In other words, please keep buying our products!
Naturally, no-one except the sugar industry is quite so convinced by this, and several to expose the politics behind the scenes. So we’ve gone ahead and broken down the issue for you, claim by dodgy claim.
Their claim: A paradox is going on, where, unlike the rest of the world, Australians are eating less sugar.
The truth: Déjà vu? This claim has already been debunked! Dubbed The Australian Paradox, the controversial paper claims that unlike the rest of the world, Aussies are eating less sugar. One of the scientists, Dr Alan Barclay, is also the Principal of the Glycemic Index Foundation. And guess what has one of the lowest GI scores? Yep, fructose.
The University of Sydney was hauled over the academic coals for pushing this flawed notion after a six-month investigation found that the paper “contained errors of a simple arithmetic nature”. The results were based on discontinued Australian Bureau of Statistics data which many researchers criticised for its inaccuracy…
Their claim: This study updates the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ discontinued (in 1998) data of apparent sugar consumption so we can have a picture of how much we’re eating today.
The truth: We really have been here before. The ABS discontinued the study (something that they hardly ever do) for VERY GOOD REASON. They realised that they couldn’t continue a study that was based on a grocery list from the 40s. Indeed, in the 1940s high fructose corn syrup didn’t even exist! It was deemed impossible to determine how much of our sugar was coming from overseas foods. This is the reason the ABS discontinued their data series. But by all means, keep touting the “ABS methodology” as an accurate measure.
Rory Robertson, a key campaigner against the Australian Paradox, sums it up pretty well for us: “In my opinion, this shonky sugar series is part of a sugar-industry-funded deception designed to misinform the public – pretending that sugar is not really a problem – and to rescue the industry’s business partners at the Low GI school of the University of Sydney.”
Their claim: Sales by Australian sugar refiners and the net balance of refined sugars imported and exported in Australia have declined.
The truth: The study defines “sugar” as sucrose (table sugar). How convenient of the researchers to leave out fructose, the most harmful form of sugar, as well as glucose, dextrose, honey and syrups. Anyone who has ever read food labels knows that sugar is not just “the white stuff” anymore. It hides and lurks in many forms, often posing as healthy alternatives.
Dietitian, Susie Burrell, agrees: “While [refined table] sugar may have declined, this analysis excludes other added sugars. Looking at supermarket products, honey is frequently used, as is glucose, which may explain why sugar itself has not increased as manufacturers look for clever ways to disguise sugar.”
So why would the sugar industry fund a study so fatally flawed as this? Sarah sheds some light:
“I’m being asked, why would the sugar industry fund this study? Well, because they are currently under attack. The World Health Organisation has come out with a damning indictment of sugar, recommending we eat only 6-9 teaspoons of it a day. The health impact of fructose (weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, even depression) continues to be confirmed by independent scientists across the globe.
“A line of defence is to grab at science that counters this… even if it’s bodgy-as. And presumably working to the assumption few journalists will bother to dig down and question the claims. Or the fact the study is dripping in vested interests.”
Luckily, journalists seem to be cottoning on and most are taking the research with a huge pinch of salt. The real question is: when will Big Sugar stop throwing good money after bad funding these shonky, dated studies? Your research methods may be from the 1940s, but the world has moved on quite a bit since then.
Can you believe the tactics the sugar industry will go to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.