Scientists Suggest Restricting Sugar Sales For Youngsters

Arguing that sugar is as additive as tobacco or alcohol, scientists at the University of California San Francisco say that the sweet stuff should be regulated in much the same way as those products. That means taxes to discourage consumption and age-dependent restrictions on how much can be sold to a consumer.

“The only method for dealing with this is a public health intervention,” said one of the scientists involved in the study, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF. “Everyone talks about personal responsibility, and that won’t work here, as it won’t for any addictive substance. These are things that have to be done at a governmental level, and government has to get off its ass.”

Pointing to results that show that 20% of obese individuals have a normal metabolism and no ill health effects, while 40% of individuals whose weight is considered normal have metabolic issues that could lead to diabetes or heart disease, the doctor claims that over-consumption of sugar, and not mere obesity, is the culprit.

And like tobacco and alcohol, he says that consuming sugar causes you to want to consume more sugar.

“The gestalt shift is maybe obesity is just a marker for the rise in chronic disease worldwide, and in fact metabolic syndrome, caused by excessive sugar consumption, is the real culprit,” said another co-author of the study.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

In their paper, they argue for taxes on heavily sweetened foods and beverages, restricting advertising to children and teenagers, and removing sugar-ladened products from schools, or even from being sold near schools. They suggest banning the sale of sugary beverages to children.

The authors admit that such regulations would only work if there is also a push to encourage people to eat healthier by making those less-sugary options as available as the stuff people currently eat.

“Everybody yells, ‘Nanny state, this guy is trying to control our food,’ ” says the endocrinologist. “But it’s already being controlled. It limits consumer choice when so much of our food is controlled by these industries. I’m actually trying to undo the nanny state.”

Asks Consumerist reader Matthew, “So I’m going to get ID’d in the snack aisle?”

UCSF scientists declare war on sugar in food []


Edit Your Comment

  1. mike says:

    No news yet on HFCS. I see who paid these scientists.

    • Greg Ohio says:

      HFCS is sugar. The study specifically calls for restrictions on sugary beverages, nearly all of which are sweetened with HFCS.

      As for who paid them, UCSF is the University of California.

      • Slader says:

        …And from which company did the UCSF receive a generous “grant” to perform the study?

    • Yacko says:

      They may be using the word “sugar” as it is often used scientifically, as a superset of all sugars. Glucose, fructose, lactose and many others are sugar, monosaccharide sugars. See the following explanation from Wikipedia:

  2. Cat says:

    Let me be the first to say;

    Parents. What purpose do they serve, anyway?

    (Re-reads article)
    University of California San Francisco

    Never mind.

    • dangerp says:

      As a California resident, I wish San Francisco would just become a separate state. They are completely unlike the rest of California in every way, and quite frankly I’m annoyed that the rest of us often get lumped in with those nutjobs.

      • Snowblind says:

        Might give the rest of the state a chance to have their vote count.

      • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

        As a non-resident SF native who hopes to return, many people fail to see that many of the “nutjob” policies that SF and California come up with eventually make their way across the nation. Take, for example, a ban on smoking indoors, like at bars and clubs. California did this and a lot of people were up in arms with the “Ohnoes! Nanny state! Those whackjobs in California are taking away my precious right to kill others with second-hand smoke! Rabble rabble rabble!” And now smoking bans are pretty common. Yes, some of the measure California passes are ridiculous, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

        • Coffee says:

          Hey Round-eye…you there?

        • Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

          Let me correct this for you….

          “Who are those nutjobs taking away the rights of bar owners to choose rather to have a smoking establishment or not”. Since the smoking ban took place here in Michigan, we have seen atleast 3 bars go out of business, citing decline in business since the ban. Not only that, but now 2 of the bars in town have converted to bikini bars (no doubt trying to come up with a way to lure customers in).

          All these nanny state regulations take away the right of the business owner to choose how to run their business. I can understand somethings (restaurants are one that I could understand and deal with). The problem is, you give these people a inch, they take a mile.

    • Coffee says:

      UCSF is a top 5 medical school in the country, Cat, and if you know anything about prestigious universities, you know that their faculty are from everywhere (Lustig, one of the researchers, for example, is from New York City). I fail to see how the location of the university affects the research they’re conducting.

      San Francisco may have its quirks, but this study isn’t a byproduct thereof.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    teenager..i figure they should be old enough to decide for themselves. younger kids…where do they get the money to buy it?

    I’m more concern about where my fruits, vegetables and meat come from than anything else.

  4. dolemite says:

    Having the government gain further control over us is never a good idea. It will start with sugar, sodas, then move to cookies, then high fat beef, then anything with HFCS (all processed foods). Eventually, it will simply be a tax on the poor since they do not have enough money for fresh fruits and vegetables and low fat meats.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      i never understand why people don’t think fresh fruit and vegetable are NOT cheap.

      for under 2 bucks, I get enough banana to last me a week.

      I remember watching something where the parent said it’s cheaper to go to the drive thru than the supermarket… can’t they just go to the supermarket, pick up an apple or plum for a few cent each??

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Don’t know where you’re shopping but fresh produce costs more than every other food group in my grocery cart, even meat, and especially so during winter when the farm stands are closed. Typical price per lb of apple here in central PA is $2, that works out to around $1 per apple. I mean yeah, that’s not breaking the bank, but it sure isn’t “a few cents” either. The only things cheaper than apples are bananas, neither of which is particularly nutrient packed.

        • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

          Me too – I live in central PA, and I have limited choices on where to buy groceries, like Wise and Walmart. If I want to drive over 25 miles one way, there’s a Giant, Wegman’s, and Aldi.

          Prices here are high, and I can see why people who have limited money don’t pay $2.00 for one red pepper. You want black grapes? $3.99/lb. But you can go to the frozen food aisle and pick up a big tray of OnCor junk food relatively cheaply.

      • Such an Interesting Monster says:

        This. You can always find cheap produce so long as you’re willing to eat what’s in season and you pay attention to sales.

        • Jules Noctambule says:

          Untrue, especially when you have a very limited choice of vendors.

          • Such an Interesting Monster says:

            I keep hearing about these mythical places were there are no markets of any kind. Where pray tell might they be?

            • VintageLydia says:

              Google “food desert”. Be surprised.

              • Such an Interesting Monster says:

                You mean there are places that are literally cordoned off, with no away of traveling in or out? Cause yes, I would be very surprised.

                Don’t believe everything you read. Rationalization and excuses are very powerful tools. So is human will.

                • Kate says:

                  There are a lot of people who don’t have a reliable car to use. And getting into the more sparsely populated areas, you can drive a long way to find a good market.

                  • Such an Interesting Monster says:

                    So that’s an excuse to eating poorly? “I have to drive a few miles”, or “I need to take the bus”? Have we all become so fat and lazy that even getting to a place that sells real food is now too much effort?

            • bluline says:

              Many inner city areas have no supermarkets, especially the type that offers plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods. Those areas typically are populated by convenience stores and small mom-and-pops, along with fast food joints in numbers that are far out of proportion to more affluent areas.

      • Gertie says:

        A few cents each? It’s about $2 for a pound of apples, which equals around 3-5 apples. If you have more than one child times the ~recommended~ 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, that really adds up, especially if you are struggling already. One bunch of bananas (6-8 bananas) lasts for less than a day in our house. And you can’t survive on fruits and veggies alone. Proteins are incredibly expensive these days, along with milk, cheese, and eggs.

        I agree the argument that fast food is cheaper is stupid and untrue. But produce is expensive in many places.

  5. az123 says:

    Every time I hear raise taxes to cut sugar I want to strangle someone… most of the sugar products use corn syrup (which I don’t really care if they use or not) but the government spends a fortune on subsidizing corn… So we pay taxes to make the corn cheaper so that you can go charge me more taxes so I will not eat one of the major products made from it????

    If you want to raise the cost cut the subsidizing funds and let the market deal with it

    • Hi_Hello says:

      but but people will be out of a job… people will lose their home and farms without those subsidize.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      That’s what I came here to say. I can’t believe this guy is demanding a tax instead of just addressing the subsities.

    • hmburgers says:

      I see you have a grasp of how the government works…

      …and what part of you the government has within their grasp.

      • Yacko says:

        But lacks a grasp of chemistry. They are all sugars, sucrose, dextrose, high fructose etc. See the pattern -ose? I suspect the proposal is to look at all the sugars consumed and not just the white crystals you colloquially call table “sugar”.

    • Mit Long says:

      The problem is that corn is used to make a lot of things that aren’t HFCS…not that I’m a big proponent of farm subsidies in their current form.

  6. kataisa says:

    Why not ban those thousands of sugar cereal, candy, and McDonald’s commercials during children’s shows instead? Many countries already do this. The incessant marketing and propaganda our children are bombarded with at such a young age should be illegal.

    • Cat says:

      Why not ban those thousands of sugar cereal, candy, and McDonald’s commercials during children’s shows instead?

      If you have children, PBS and Netflix are your friend.

      • Potted-Plant says:

        That’s the method we use. Works like a charm and it saves money for fresh fruits and vegetables. :)

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Unless your kid has an income source and mode of transportation of their very own the buck stops with you, the parent.

    • Cerne says:

      Yah seriously freedom of speech is totally an outdated concept. And in this day and age why do we still expect parents to stand up to their children?

  7. JeremieNX says:

    This is absurd.

    I am not surprised that this idea is coming from San Francisco. It seems the ONLY solutions to ANY problems they can come up with are taxes or bans.

  8. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    Sugar flavored with kool-aid packets was a hot contraband item in middle school. Kids would sell filled baggies of it, charing $1-5 dollars. I never did it, I figured all it would take is one suspicious teacher and all the kids would come up under drug-related suspensions.

    • caradrake says:

      I brought some of those baggies to school. Never bought/sold, it was just a yummy snack. Didn’t catch on to the drug suspicion until a teacher pulled me aside (very kindly). That was in fourth or fifth grade.

  9. dougp26364 says:

    Nothing like parenting through the political system. If you outlaw sugar for being bad for you, there’s a big list of things that will be next. Besides, who are they kidding. If you don’t think parents will just buy enough to keep the kids stocked up they’re wrong. It will never work but, it will waste time and money at the political level. Time that could be spent on more meaniful issues.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      that remind me of the time when a school banned vending machines and parents were supplying kids with soda and candy bars during recess…

  10. sirwired says:

    I’m against the over-marketing of sugary-foods as the next concerned citizen, but these guys are smoking something. Sugar is a food. Period. It’s not a very healthy food. It’s not good for you when consumed in excess. But it’s not an additive, like, say, MSG, it’s a core ingredient.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Meh, yeah it’s food, but it’s not necessary for you to live or something. Don’t get me wrong I think the scientist’s conclusions are dumb, but refined sugar is an additive. We can get more than enough natural sugars present in fruit and veg to maintain energy.

      • sirwired says:

        Additives are something you add to food to enhance it, but you’d be able to make the food without them.

        Preservatives are additives. Trace flavorings and colorings are additives. “Flavor Enhancers” such as MSG are additives. They are never going to form a major part of a food. You don’t add additives by the cup to any sort of normal-size recipe.

        I could understand MAYBE thinking to regulate salt as an additive, but that’s way borderline and would never fly in the real world. (And I personally think it would be stupid…)

        I’m all for restricting the marketing of foods that do not meet certain nutritional criteria to children. But “additive” has a very specific legal meaning that opens it up to all sorts of regulatory fun that probably isn’t appropriate for something any active home cook can easily and quickly consume by the 5lb bag.

  11. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    Obviously the only solution is the passage of new anti-sugar laws, followed by hundreds of millions in cash grants and subsidies to develop safer alternatives to those sweet, insidious killer crystals. After all, draconian government legislation is the only answer to any problem, be it real or imagined.

    And now I’m going to eat my own poop.

  12. Tim says:

    It’s a good thing scientists don’t make laws.

  13. Kavatar says:

    I would be all for restricting sale of sugary stuff to kids, but there is absolutely no way to do this in a practical manner, without imposing too much on consumers.

  14. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:


  15. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    “That means taxes to discourage consumption and age-dependent restrictions on how much can be sold to a consumer. “

    Instead of a 5 lb bag of sugar costing $3.50 or more, it will go to $5.00+, and then will you have to turn over the personal information about your family in order to buy it? Will they limit how much you may buy in a given period of time? Will you have to swipe your driver’s license and sign a book, so you can’t go to the next store and buy another 5 lb bag of sugar that same day? (don’t laugh – they already do this with pseudoephedrine to prevent meth cooking).

    Before you say oh, it’s just sugar, and we shouldn’t have so much anyway, they could apply this same logic to salt, caffeine, saturated fats, bacon, beef, etc.

    I agree with not feeding children a steady stream of raw sugar, but really this comes down to parents making the decisions on how to feed their children and what to feed them.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      By gum, if they’re going to mess with my bacon, I’m going to go and occupy something.

      Probably a cardiac clinic, but still.

  16. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    While this idea might be too far in the opposite direction, he has a point when it comes to being too controlled by corporations selling sugary foods.

    There is no Big Vegetable, so we must solely endure the temptatious advertisements for candy bars, cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, chocolate, and the like.

    Further, preparing healthy takes more time than simply grabbing a sugary snack in a packet or wrapper. Human nature is hard-wired to do what is easiest, not what is healthiest.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      It also takes more time for me to make a cake than to eat an apple; time isn’t the only factor when it comes to the poverty food gap.

      I’m a big fan of fresh, whole foods but also have sugar in my diet – not ‘sugary’ HFCS, but real cane sugar, usually in the form of homemade pastries – and the idea that sugar is addictive on the same level as cigarettes is just laughable to me.

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        Lucky you. I crave sugar so badly I can’t even eat fruit without triggering massive cravings. Cooked carrots or beets are about the sweetest thing I can tolerate. I wish it weren’t so, but we deal with the cards we’re dealt.

    • exconsumer says:

      “There is no Big Vegetable”

      This is an important aspect of the issue for me. To pretend we’re on even ground is to ignore what’s really going on. We expect ourselves and are expected by others to teach our children . . but is that how learning takes place. A couple words about what is right (too much sugar is very bad for you) from one person, and a million dollar campaign on the other? Is that how we teach our children to tie their shoes?

  17. yabdor says:

    How do I get off this planet?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I’m taking reservations on my intersteller cruise ship, the S.S. Farnsworth so this is your lucky day! That’ll be $1,000,000 per passenger wired to my bank account in Nigeria. It’ll be another $500,000 for the balcony upgrade. We set sail in search of new and exciting adventures June 3rd, 2013, mark your calander!

    • operator11 says:

      Sounds awesome. I’ll see you guys there. I’ll bring the cigarettes and Twinkies. It’s gonna kick ass.

  18. gman863 says:

    Does this mean the Mexican sugar cartels will start smuggling churros and Twinkies to sell at nearby playgrounds?

  19. Cerne says:

    “Everybody yells, ‘Nanny state, this guy is trying to control our food,’ ” says the endocrinologist. “But it’s already being controlled. It limits consumer choice when so much of our food is controlled by these industries. I’m actually trying to undo the nanny state.”

    That’s some serious bullshit right there. People are free to make a choice on the food they eat. Don’t like the sugar in processed food? Cook your own, It’s cheap and easy.

    It’s ridiculous that anyone believes that our society has become so pathetic that we need regulation of sat & sugar it’s time for Ragnarok.

  20. Outrun1986 says:

    If they made fruits and vegetables and healthy foods cheaper then we would have less of this. Processed and fast foods are cheaper and faster for most people to get their hands on then healthy foods. Its very cheap to make a box of Mac & cheese or grab some 50 cent burritos from the frozen foods department of any store and heat them up for a quick, cheap meal. You don’t see McD’s offering a full line of healthy meals including fruits and vegetables. Adults work 8 hours a day and sometimes more so unless the family wants to eat at 8pm or later cooking after coming home from work is impossible, and kids spend many hours sitting behind a desk in school and recess has been removed from many schools because it is now too dangerous. Kids get hungry so after school its off to McD’s then home to sit and do homework, watch TV, play video games or read a book. Gym class now involves running laps which equates exercise to work and group games cannot be played because it hurts the children’s feelings if there are a couple kids who cannot keep up with the others and god forbid if one team loses and the other wins the losers feelings are hurt and gosh darn we can’t have that happening now can we. Children are not allowed to get a zero on a test here or on any assignment either, irrelevant, but true. I think the lowest they can get is a 50, which is just enough to fail.

    There are also a ton of bad foods masquerading as good foods out there, cool whip should not be allowed to have an all natural label, neither should potato chips. I have seen both. Some kids cereals contain enough sugar to make them hyper for a whole day, however these foods also have labels like “whole grain” and then parents are like OMG its good for my kids so they stock up and keep feeding it to them. This is a huge fundamental problem, people believe they are feeding their kids good stuff, when in reality they are feeding them everything they shouldn’t eat.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      In regards to your 2nd paragraph:

      “This is a huge fundamental problem, people believe they are feeding their kids good stuff, when in reality they are feeding them everything they shouldn’t eat.”

      I think the fundamental problem is people don’t take 5 seconds to read the damn label. If I sit here and tell you that all natural potato chips are good for you are you going to just take my word for it? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that question.

  21. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    We can’t have the populace making decisions involving personal responsibility, therefore we should use regulations, taxes, fees, redistribution and other “incentives” to dictate how everyone should live, eat, raise their kids, use resources, and spend their money.

    Sounds like a reasonable political platform.

  22. Don't Bother says:

    I can see it now… Children of all ages will be writing into Consumerist because Target cashiers are scanning the backs of their ID’s because they are trying to purchase candy bars.

  23. Lisse24 says:

    This may now be a good time to remind people that Ron Paul is running for the Republican nomination and seems to be the only candidate that takes personal liberty seriously.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Man where the hell are you people coming from? I’ve already had several Facebook posts hijacked by various Ron Paul supporters saying pretty much the same thing you did here, now they’ve made it to Consumerist. Is this part of his campaign or something??

      • Coffee says:

        It’s much easier to label someone broadly because of a small set of values they possess, especially if you happen to support them. People ignore the fact that with Paul, for every dimple, there’s an ugly, ugly wart.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      Yeah, but he doesn’t do much in the way of personal responsibility, at least not when it comes to owning his racist past — or maybe I should say ‘supposed past’.

  24. k1b8sn1 says:

    So I will have to visit the Pharmasist for my Sudaphed and sugar items now?

  25. bricko says:

    Nonsense…they are lying to your face. The purpose is to TAX it or Control it….the same as all Leftist do….same every time. Nanny, Nanny etc. Sort of having your very own Bloomberg in
    your pocket.

  26. Unicorn-Chaser says:

    California….even your scientists are nucking futs.

  27. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    What, so are they gonna card you now when you buy sugar?

  28. Zowzers says:

    I’m curious as to how the researchers came to the conclusion that taxing something means people would stop buying it.

    Doesn’t seem to have done much to curb the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol.

  29. exconsumer says:

    “What about freedom of speech”

    Yes, freedom of speech is important, but some of us are tired of pretending that their isn’t a multimillion dollar industry designed to feed our children misleading information, manipulate them emotionally, all to get them to eat substandard food at a profit.

    Of course parents should be parents, and of course they should have the final say; but that’s difficult when you’ve got such a large organization trying their best to subvert that process. Parents also get tired of countering the same message over and over again. I can tell my children that too much sugar is bad for them, but they’ll be told a thousand times by a thousand people that it is perfectly fine, maybe even healthy, totally normal to eat for breakfast, and that it will make them happy. How many times should I have to tell them otherwise before I go after the organization that spreads that information? How many times would you allow a person to tell your children the Earth was flat? Would getting a restraining order on that person be an affront to their freedom of speech? Would you be ‘a bad parent asking the state to do your job for you’?

    • Cerne says:

      Would getting a restraining order on that person be an affront to their freedom of speech?

      Yes, yes it would. Be any legal, ethical or moral sense that is an infringement on freedom of speech.

      Would you be ‘a bad parent asking the state to do your job for you’?

      Yes, yes you would.

      You do know you can control the media you expose your kids to right?

      • exconsumer says:

        No, that’s nonsense. No one would allow someone to spend time with their child in order to teach them the earth is flat, including you. I suppose you could, but you’d be foolish to do so.

        “You do know you can control the media you expose your kids to right?”

        Myth. My wife and i have an annual budget of about $50,000 with which to provide our family with all needs (food, shelter, education, etc.) Big sugar pours millions of dollars solely for the purpose of brainwashing my children. We, as a community, permit them to buy their attention in this manner.

        If we, on the other hand, were to prevent them from misleading our children in the first place, well, that would be something.

        • Cerne says:

          You don’t have let them spend time with kids and you don’t have to get a restraining order to prevent it.

          If you and your wife are incapable of teaching your kids healthy eating habits like you claim, please contact your local children’s aid society as you are obviously unfit parents.

  30. shepd says:

    MC Pee Pants doesn’t just want candy–HE NEEDS IT!

  31. oldwiz65 says:

    Next thing you know we will need to show ID before we can buy a bag of sugar. sheesh.

  32. tooluser says:

    Eat whatever you like.

  33. Conformist138 says:

    “Everyone talks about personal responsibility, and that won’t work here, as it won’t for any addictive substance. These are things that have to be done at a governmental level, and government has to get off its ass.”

    Ironic since countries that have relaxed laws or fully legalized drugs saw the numbers of addicts go down, along with related crime.

  34. Libertas says:

    Here’s a revolutionary new idea: Mind your own fucking business.

    Perhaps I should suggest mandating bullet wounds for certain people.

    • exconsumer says:

      “Here’s a revolutionary new idea: Mind your own fucking business.”

      You think that advertisers should keep to themselves, stop communicating with our children directly, and respect that we as parents wish to build their dietary habits ourselves?

      We are in total agreement!

  35. waicool says:

    I believe they should slap a tax on all of these goofy so-called “scientists” and “researchers”. Hell, according to some guy named Gore, the polar ice-cap should be completely melted this year, um, ain’t happening. The only thing happening with this kind of junk science is someone or some business gets a largesse of money. Sugar is sweet, so what.

  36. AngryK9 says:

    Clerk: Can I see your ID?
    Kid: I’m 5 years old, I don’t have one!
    Clerk: You can’t buy that without an ID
    Kid: It’s just a lollipop!
    Clerk: You must be 18 to buy that!! (presses alarm button, summoning the Sugar Cops)

  37. maruawe says:

    If the children were not so sedated with medications that they are tired all the time, then the sugar probably would not hurt their bodies as they would use the energy to play and work outside at various activities…..Ban most of the over active medicine for children and most of the other problems would go away… It seems like every time you have a normal active kid some doctor will show a correlation between that and some problem (ADHD) or such and prescribe a sedative for the child.. AS posted in a medical site about half of the problems were misdiagnosed by the first doctor

  38. jbandsma says:

    Oh! Sugar is addictive as tobacco. Which was said to be -more- addictive than heroin.