Sugar Isn’t Just Making You Fat—It’s Making You Sick

Scientists compiled 8,000 studies about the dark side of America’s favorite sweetener and put all the findings into one user-friendly website.

(Photo: Ian Hooton/Getty Images)

Nov 14, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

You never hear anyone say, “I shouldn’t have eaten all those Skittles, they’re totally going straight to my endocrine system.” But based on new evidence from the researchers behind SugarScience.org, sugar might be more of a health risk than more people realize.

Scientists from University of California, San Francisco; University of California, Davis; and Emory University reviewed a combined 8,000 clinical research studies on sugar’s role in the metabolic system, then compiled all their unbiased findings in a user-friendly website, which describes itself as “the unsweetened truth.”

The site’s focus? The areas where the researchers say the medical data is strongest: diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease.

The scientists are no longer simply focusing on the relationship between sugar and obesity—a concept espoused so often that we’ve become numb to its meaning. They’re trying to explicitly tell people that this is a matter of life and death. If you consistently overconsume sugar, your risk of chronic dietary disease will increase significantly.

The rotating infographics that dominate the home page display simple but poignant messages set against cartoon backgrounds. “Added sugar is hiding in 74 percent of our packaged food.” “Too much fructose can damage your liver, just like too much alcohol.” “The average American consumes 66 pounds of added sugar per year.”

If you dig deeper into the site you can find the extensive methodologies used to put together the data, but it’s clear that the site is more concerned with informing people than espousing scientific jargon. It also offers a SugarScience resource kit that contains easily shareable information, a SugarScience Alerts System that sends you pertinent new data, and an invitation to Ask a Sugar Scientist any question that hasn’t been answered on the site.

This is really an extension of the war on sugar that was spearheaded by SugarScience founder Robert Lustig, a professor of endocrinology at UCSF School of Medicine, back in 2009. He published a 90-minute lecture on YouTube called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” that has more than five million views to date in which he argues that sugar’s effect on the endocrine system should legally classify it as a toxin.

SugarScience’s launch was strategically timed with the end of the midterm elections. Since many of the researchers are employees of public universities, they had to seem impartial toward Berkeley’s and San Francisco’s proposed excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.

But now that Berkeley’s one-cent-per-ounce tax has passed, making it the first tax of its kind in the U.S., SugarScience seems to be in a perfect position to capitalize on that sweet, sweet, anti-sugar momentum.