Speaking in advance of the programme, Barbara Gallani, FDF director of regulation, science and health, said: “The title of Channel 4's forthcoming programme ‘Are you addicted to sugar?’ does not take into account that recent reviews have shown no evidence that food addiction exists in people, either to specific foods or nutrients like sugar or fat.
“Based on what has been reported thus far, we have concerns that tonight’s Dispatches will miss the opportunity to reflect the balance of scientific opinion which exists within the science and health communities.”
Dismissed by experts
Gallani quoted the study ‘Obesity and the brain: how convincing is the addiction model?’ by Ziauddeen, Farooqi, et al, which questioned the link between sugar and food addiction. Last month, sugar’s addictive properties were dismissed by experts who attributed rising obesity levels to excessive calorie intake and the over-eating of high density foods combined with sedentary life-styles.
But a press release issued by the Dispatches team questioned whether cutting food consumption would help many people lose weight. “Experts say that the real problem lies in the quantity of sugar hidden in the food we eat,” claimed its press statement. “So, is Britain addicted to sugar?”
The programme makers further claimed: “Dispatches investigates how sugar affects the way our brains work; exposes how the food industry has rapidly increased the sugar in many of our favourite foods; and reveals how a powerful group of companies have tried to fight off any attempt to reduce the amount of sugar we all consume.”
Demonising individual ingredients
But Gallani said that demonising individual ingredients and foods does not help people to build a realistic approach to their diet. UK food manufacturers had led the way in providing clear, simple nutrition and ingredient labelling on-pack to help inform dietary choices, she said.
Recent media coverage of sugar had highlighted that some commentators still take an over simplistic approach to tackling obesity and its associated diseases. “Sugars, or any other nutrient for that matter, when consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet do not cause obesity, to which there is no simple or single solution,” she added.
“Channel 4’s attack on the professional integrity of members of scientific advisory committees is disgraceful as it fails to recognise that the system in place in the UK is firmly based on transparency and includes very robust processes to ensure that scientific advice is developed by the best experts in a field and that potential conflicts of interest can be identified and addressed,” said Gallani.
Watch a clip of the programme here.
Meanwhile, Gallani was one of a number of food scientists included on a hot 100 list of top scientists compiled recently by the Science Council.
Did you watch the programme? Then, why not take part in our poll to gauge readers' views?
What was your view of Channel 4's 'Are you addicted to sugar?' programme
A stitch-up job designed to smear food and drink manufacturers, which will mislead consumers.38%
It delivered fair criticism of area in which manufacturers should make more effort to improve.57%