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Top Amsterdam health official calls sugar a dangerous drug27 September 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
The head of Amsterdam’s health service Paul van der Velpen said in a letter on the public health service’s (GGD) website that he wants to see sugar tightly regulated.
"Just like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is actually a drug," Van der Velpen wrote. "There is an important role for government here. The use of sugar should be discouraged and users should be made aware of the dangers."
Citing research published by endocrinologist Aart Jan van der Lelij in the Volkskrant newspaper, Van der Velpen said that sugar, unlike fat or other foods, interferes with the body's appetite by creating an insatiable desire to carry on eating.
He then accused the food industry of using effect to increase consumption of their products.
"Sugar upsets that mechanism. Whoever has sugar wants more and more, even when they are no longer hungry. Give someone eggs and he'll stop eating at any given time. Give him cookies and he eats on even though his stomach is painful."
Van der Velpen is arguing for a tax on sugar and legal limits set on the amount that can be added to processed food, as there is for salt. He also wants cigarette-style warnings on sweets and soft drinks, telling consumers that "sugar is addictive and bad for the health."
He wants health insurers to finance addiction therapy for their obese clients and for schools not to be allowed to sell sweets and soft drinks. He also thinks producers of sports drinks that are full with sugar should be sued over misleading advertising.
"Sugar is actually a form of addiction. It's just as hard to get rid of the urge for sweet foods as the urge to smoke."
Photo by Flickr user ReneS
"Therefore diets only work temporarily. Addiction therapy is better."
A recent survey that demonstrated the link between education and weight showed that nearly half of all Dutch people are overweight (have a Body Mass Index of more than 25).
Van der Velpen argues that the obesity epidemic is expanding and will lead to increased healthcare costs. These are exactly the kind of costs will be cut in the Dutch government’s 2014 Budget.
His argument is that the idea that more exercise will result in being able to control weight is false: sugar is at the root of the current problem with unhealthy weight and he wants to see it controlled.
"This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched," he concluded, "but sugar is the most dangerous drug of our times and can still be easily acquired everywhere."