What if you heard that your food was contaminated with a toxin? It?s lurking in many things you eat every day; foods that are in your kitchen right now. It?s so insidious, that not only do you often fail to notice the substance, but when you do notice it, you actively enjoy it. Indeed, there is a high chance that, without knowing it, you?ve become addicted to this poison. And slowly, over time, it?s killing you.According to a handful of nutritionists, that terrible image is, in fact, a reality. The toxic substance in question? Sugar.
The most vocal of the new anti- sugar nutritionists is Robert Lustig, a leading expert in childhood obesity and a specialist in hormone disorders at the University of California. Back in 2009, Lustig posted a video called Sugar: The Bitter Truth on YouTube, in which he outlines his hypothesis - backed up, he says, by a number of studies - that sugar is at the root of a wide range of chronic and often fatal health conditions associated with western lifestyles: obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and various cancers. The video has now racked up 3.8 million views: pretty big numbers for a 90-minute lecture by a university academic.
Driven by Lustig and others of the same mind, the anti-sugar movement is now pushing into the mainstream. And it could mean the end of our 250-year-old love affair with sugar.
The comparison that scares food industry executives is one being made increasingly often: with tobacco. Food companies that sell heavily sugared products, runs the argument, are knowingly selling a product that causes the death of its users - just like the tobacco companies. Don Barrett, the lawyer who took on the big US tobacco companies and forced a $200 billion (Dh734.6bn) settlement out of them, is now targeting Big Food. Barrett says the food companies must start clearly labelling their products for sugar content and not hide behind vague, confusing euphemisms for sugar, such as the commonly used "evaporated cane juice".
Now, the food companies are paying attention. Just two examples, from two food companies in the firing line: in 2012 PepsiCo launched Pepsi Next, which has 60 per cent less sugar than standard Pepsi. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola introduced a smaller can in the UK. This comes after studies that show that drinking sodas can change the way our muscles metabolise energy and raise our risk of diabetes.
So is this really the end for sugar? Don?t hold the farewell party: Coca-Cola still sells 1.7 billion servings of its product every day and the New York mayor Michael Bloomberg recently failed in an attempt to ban the sale of supersized sodas in the city. But there?s little doubt that our unthinking love affair with sugar is coming to an end; to be replaced with a more considered, and quite possibly a more regulated, relationship. Prepare for a less sugared future. Or stock up on chocolate now. Just don?t be surprised if, one day soon, you find yourself huddled in a corner at the office with other candy eaters, hiding your habit from the disapproving glare of colleagues and friends.
? David Mattin is the lead strategist at trendwatching.com