Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Sugar

Commentary: Sweet policies

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 11 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h780
  1. Peter Anderson, professor, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, UK, and Faculty of Health, Maastricht University, Netherlands,
  2. David Miller, professor of sociology, University of Bath, UK
  1. peteranderson.mail{at}

If we consider harms from addictions and lifestyles in contemporary societies,1 sugar is high on the list of offenders.2 Ecological analyses show that humans have evolved to be active and functional in seeking out sugar from food sources, primarily fruits and honey.3 Indeed, there is an overlap with alcohol, with airborne alcohols from fruit potentially serving in smell driven localisation of sugar-containing food resources.4 5 No wonder then that when sugar is so easily available in such refined and potent form2 we take so much of it—a global average of 50 g per person a day; no wonder that the heavy sustained use of sugar is similar in some respects to that of alcohol and other drugs.2 6 7 And, no wonder because our bodies are not used to taking so much of it,3 sugar causes so many health problems— increasing dental caries,8 cardiometabolic risk,9 overweight and obesity10 (and subsequent effects on cancers), diabetes,6 and liver dysfunction.6

To reduce the harm done by sugar, last year the World Health Organization launched a consultation on revised sugar guidelines, noting that …

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