I guess if anything was going to drag me out of semi-retirement on my little vineyard in Orange it would be yet another highly misleading story about sugar on the ABC, in this instance the Lateline program on Tuesday night. Why the ABC, my preferred source of news and current affairs, bothered to essentially repeat the same biased story about sugar it ran two years ago on Radio National is beyond me.
Again, the focus of the ABC story was a former economist who gave up sugar and lost weight. Yes, I know, anecdotal evidence. And yes, if he had given up fat he would have lost weight too, or starch or alcohol. Cutting down on calories does induce weight loss. However, the man’s personal experience was with sugar and having been enlightened he apparently embarked on a mission to rid the Australian diet of the root of all evil.
But he had a problem: Australia’s leading expert on carbohydrates and health, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller from the University of Sydney, was not overly concerned about sugar. Her view was that health effects of carbohydrate-rich foods were related to their blood sugar-raising potential or glycaemic index. Viewed through this perspective, foods rich in refined starch, which strongly raise blood glucose, may be just as bad, or even worse, than foods rich in sugar. Despite considerable scientific support such permissive views on sugar could not be tolerated so a kind of fatwa was issued: Brand-Miller had to be beheaded, in a profession sense. And the ABC and the economist have been after her ever since.