I welcome the response from Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK to my article entitled “the dietary advice for added sugar is need of emergency surgery.”
I do believe that the majority of those within her organisation are well intentioned but my question was over their relationship with their sponsors and how that may influence specific policy statements. Diabetes UK’s website states “partnerships (with corporates) are tailored to meet their corporate objectives,”and that “this approach guarantees mutually beneficial outcomes.”(1) Abbott,which is listed on their corporate acknowledgements page(2) and is the parent company of Abbott nutrition has declared financial support to Diabetes UK for conference exhibition fees and sponsorship totalling £44,302 in 2012. (3) This is at best a branding opportunity (and association with a respected Diabetes charity) for a company that produces formula milk whose excessive sugar content is implicated in infant obesity.(4) It is also worthy to note that a 240ml serving of Abbott PediaSure fortified milk (which is marketed for 1-3 year olds) contains a staggering 32.4g added sugar(5) which is just over 8 tea spoons and is significantly higher than the upper limit from all added sugar calories recommended for a 12 month old baby based on current UK dietary reference values. A 330ml can of cola contains 9 tea spoons of added sugar.
Barbara Young mentions only one recent study implicating sugary drinks with obesity and type 2 diabetes failing to acknowledge several other robust observational studies and RCTs linking the aforementioned.(6)(7)(8)(9 ) It also begs the question, given this wealth of scientific evidence why their website continues to state “eating sweets and sugar does not cause diabetes, but eating a lot of sugary and fatty foods can lead to being overweight”.(10) A longitudinal cohort study by Basu et al, involving 175 countries that looked at sugar availability revealed for every additional 150 calories of sugar consumption there was an eleven fold increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes independent of body weight and physical activity.(11) There is a clear scientific consensus that added sugar has no nutritional value and contributes to excess calories, obesity and type 2 diabetes. I therefore urge Diabetes UK to update their policy statements and website to reflect this evidence and maintain their reputation as a credible organisation that has independent interest for those who have, and are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes; a condition which is rapidly increasing in prevalence and represents a serious threat to public health.(12)
(4)Sugar: the bitter truth. University of California Television. www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM.
(6)de Ruyter JC, Olthof MR, Seidell JC, Katan MB. A trial of sugar-free or sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight in children. N Engl J Med2012;367:1397-1406
(7)Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Després J-P, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease risk. Circulation2010;121:1356-64.
(8)Malik VS, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and health: where does the evidence stand? Am J Clin Nutr2011;94:1161-2.
(9)Singh G, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Katibzadeh S, Lim S, Ezzati M, et al. Mortality due to sugar sweetened beverage consumption: a global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment. EPIN-PAM 2013; New Orleans, 19-22 Mar 2013. Abstract MP22.
(11)Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH. The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: an econometric analysis of repeated cross-sectional data. PLoS One2013;8:e57873