In February 2011, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, published a report in the journal Nature entitled “Public health: The toxic truth about sugar”. This dismissed the popular notion of sugar as “empty” calories. On the contrary, they were bad calories: “A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly.”

We’ve known for years that refined sugar is also implicated in damaging the liver and kidneys and is the main cause of the worldwide spread of Type 2 diabetes.

“If these results were obtained in experiments with any illegal drug, they would certainly be used to justify the most severe form of retribution against those unfortunate enough to be caught in possession of such a dangerous substance,” writes Michael Gossop of the National Addiction Centre at King’s College, London.

But is sugar actually a drug? Gossop thinks so. As he puts it, if a casual visitor from another galaxy were to drop in on planet earth, he would assume that human beings were even heavier drug users than we already are.

Why? Because vast numbers of us ingest a white crystalline substance several times a day.

We become agitated if we run out of supplies, and produce lame excuses for why we need another dose. We say we rely on it for “energy”, but we’re deluding ourselves. The energy rush from sugar is followed by a corresponding crash: it’s physiologically useless. But it is strongly reminiscent of the ups and downs associated with, say, cocaine.

Evidence published by Princeton scientists in 2008 demonstrates that rats can get addicted to sugar in the same way that they get addicted to cocaine and amphetamines. In contrast, there’s no such damning data in the case of fat. You may have a deep love of Kentucky Fried Chicken and get fat as a result, but you’re less likely to eat it until you feel sick.

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