Cover of the book I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson.
Cover of the book I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson. Sarah Wilson

Sugar's biggest threat: The health guru

AFTER 150 seasons of growing, harvesting, droughts, floods and disasters, the Australian sugar industry is now facing off against a new threat - the health guru.

Australian author Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar  was a nationally top-selling book in 2013.

It fits with western trend of crowing about the dangers in consuming sugar.

Along this theme, sugar's reputation is being tarnished as the cause of diabetes and obesity, even occasionally likened to the tobacco industry.

In Queensland, more than 60,000 people are employed by the cane growing industry.

Mackay farmer Paul Schembri heads Queensland industry group Canegrowers.

He is frustrated by the attacks, saying sugar - like everything - is fine in moderation.

"As an industry, we have recognised that in the last five years, we have witnessed a very significant escalation in this campaign to demonise sugar," Mr Schembri said.

"As you know, the basis of it is that a whole range of people are alleging that sugar is giving rise to a range of health issues.

"We strongly refute that.

"We are very proud of the product we produce - we don't take kindly to having our brand trashed by a whole range of people.

"We have consistently said that sugar, like any food, if consumed in moderation can be part of a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet."

Mr Schembri's view is supported by Nutrition Australia spokeswoman Aloysa Hourigan who said sugar is not the issue, the entire diet is the issue.

She said eating a little extra sugar occasionally could be healthy while consuming litres of soft drink a day would certainly be unhealthy.

Cutting out all added sugar would have no impact on health so long as those carbohydrates were consumed through other foods.

"It's not the fact we're eating sugar, it's the amount of sugar and the amount of food we consume in total," Ms Hourigan said.

"It is our total energy intake that's the biggest problem.

"We need to cut our portions down.

"However, sweetened drinks like cans of soft drink can have 10 teaspoons of sugar - that's an excessive amount of sugar."

Mr Schembri said there was no financial impact on growers from the trend so far, but growers were now considering an industry response..

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