my take on the new Australian “limit sugar” advice

Posted on February 19th, 2013

The missing link for a stack of folk out there when I bang on about how bad sugar (or, more specifically, fructose) is for us is this:how it has come to be that a) no one has told us this before and b) in fact, we’ve been told quite the opposite our entire lives.

And not just by the Big Bad Sugar Companies. By the Government and the health advisory bodies, too.

Sigh. It’s a very long and complicated explanation. And, unfortunately, it requires using the word “conspiracy” a fair bit, which turns a lot of us off. If you’re interested in a very thorough rundown of how the sugar industry dupes us and shuts down counter views in the US, check out this MotherJones timeline. It’s fascinating stuff. Much the same happen here in Australia, and around the world. (And, PS, the pictures I’ve used here to break up my rant are from their collection, too. They make an apt backdrop, don’t you think?)

But to news just in, here in Australia. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) – Australia’s main health adviser – yesterday published its once-a-decade update of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

And. Wait for it.

We’re finally being told to “limit” sugar!

This actually represents a toughening of official advice against added sugar, advising Australians for the first time to “limit” our consumption of added sugar, in the same way we have been encouraged to “limit” our consumption of alcohol.

Yes, this is a big deal. Why?

1. Because previously we’ve been told that sugar is OK in moderation.

Yes, the guidelines used to say to moderate sugar consumption. Which is just dumb, and scary and depressing when the evidence points to the fact sugar is highly addictive and we’re designed to binge on it. Moderation is fine for everything else. For most, it’s impossible with sugar.

2. Because the Guidelines survived strong opposition from various pro-sugar forces.

It’s hard to fathom, but a lot of our “health advisers” around the country lobbied against the wording. Yes, the University of Sydney’s highest-profile nutritionists campaigned against advice to limit sugar intake. Devastating, irritating, but true. These are the experts wheeled out by current affairs programs as scientific authority on the matter, over and over, with no disclosure of their interests in the sugar industry. No wonder we’re all confused!

Why would nutritionists do such a thing? Why speak out about it so passionately? And why do these “experts” actively seek out people like me, criticising us for wishing to “limit” our sugar intake? It’s one thing to disagree. But to campaign? That takes a bee under a bonnet. Or…

…an interesting interests in the sugar industry. You can catch up on this issue here. And you can read more about their fixation with showing that Australians are somehow eating less sugar, using sham statistics discontinued as unreliable by the ABS more than a decade ago here.

Amanda Lee, who chaired the NHMRC committee, says the new guidelines are based on thousands of peer-reviewed papers and backs up what I’m saying.

“The challenge is that there’s so many people out there in the community that have got a vested interest in the dietary guidelines,” she said.

“Our job is to make sure that the science is very sound and very robust and to spread the messages based on that science.”



But it’s not a perfect outcome. How so?

The Guidelines refer  to limiting “intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks”. The document reads:

Recent evidence indicates that it is probable that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks (soft drinks) is associated with
increased risk of weight gain in adults and children (Grade B; Evidence Report, Section 15.1), a finding
confirmed by a later longitudinal study…The literature review to inform the revision of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,
2010 found strong evidence that greater intake of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with increased
adiposity in children and moderate evidence that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with
increased body weight in adults.

My issue: it all very much reads to target beverages

I get this. Soft drink contains vast amounts of sugar (10 teaspoons in a can of Coke), easily consumed in huge quantities (due to being a liquid) and over-consumed by kids. But it doesn’t specifically mention the added sugar in other foods.

I guess I have to ask, if sugar is so bad in soft drink, why’s it OK in CocoPops? And BBQ sauce?

Afterall, it all adds up. If large amounts of sugar are bad, why not acknowledge the cumulative consumption of sugar from all food over a day is a problem?

My other issue: it specifies “added sugar”

I don’t get this. Why just added sugar? Does it matter whether its added or just comes in a product anyway? Apple juice contains just as much sugar as soft drink.

If 10tsp of sugar in a glass of Coke is bad, why isn’t 10tsp in a glass of apple juice bad?

The Heart Foundation has done the same – launched a campaign against soft drink. Soft drink is an easy target. And me thinks it allows them to dodge the bullet that is their own funding sources (Kelloggs et al). At least for a little longer.

I should also mention….

The Guidelines advise against all that Low GI guff, which is what the University of Sydney “experts” are vested in, and which can be used to justify extra sugar consumption (fructose is extremely Low GI, thus Nutella is a Low GI product):

The US review found strong and consistent evidence that glycaemic index and/or glycaemic load are not associated with body weight and that modifying either of these does not lead to greater weight loss or better weight management. There is considerable variability in these indices, depending on inter-and intra-individual factors and the form of food (including the degree of processing, stage of ripeness, cooking andcooling times), which may limit practical application. These factors were not included in the literature review to inform the revision of these Guidelines.

Oh, and the happy fat message!

The Guidelines also move from advising people to stick to low-fat foods. Can you believe it!??

The Heart Foundation waded in on this, saying the old guidelines lead to people thinking they should cut all fats out of their diet. Which is bad for heart health.

Overall, this is what I think:

The shift acknowledges that something has to be done about sugar. It’s highly symbolic. It represents a (baby) step towards steering the corrupt beast that is our dietary guideline set-up towards the truth.

It also sticks it up the various bodies with vested interests who’ve had a stranglehold on what we put on our gobs. This, too, is highly symbolic and significant.

The two messages – eat less sugar and more full fat – go hand in hand. And to this end, what I’m overjoyed about here is that

this shift represents a move toward whole food eating

Eating as our grandparents used to eat, before vested interests intervened. This is huge!

PS You might enjoy this read by a Melbourne professor outlining how the Australian food industry will now try to bring down the NHMRC’s findings.

What do you think?



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  • It’s heartening that they are taking baby steps, but still it’s so frustrating that the truth is often mostly hidden. Joe and Josephine Average aren’t usually the ones to hit up the real health websites and find out that what they should and shouldn’t be putting in their mouths, instead they are in front of the TV laden with food propaganda ads. Hopefully it’s not too long until the truth becomes more popular. Keep up the good work 🙂


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Ta Rees. yes, that’s the point. The average person trusts the “official” advice given.


  • Donna

    Such a great article Sarah..I’m shaking my head and laughing at those old ads..
    I mean, if the “experts” even in this day and age arent telling it how it is then what hope did we have? until now 🙂 keep it up..the word is spreading!!


  • Jess

    I did note that they advise against full fat dairy. What is your take on this given lactose increases the percentage of sugar? Is this just about streamlining the message so it’s easier for people to understand?


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Lactose is fructose free and so is perfectly fine (unless you’re lactose intolerant)


    Anne-Maree Reply:

    Great article Sarah….it’s amazing how many people are ill informed, and I never stopped to think about the “vested interests” in the industry that you mention. But it makes complete sense!

    Just wondering though, why do you advise that lactose is ok but fructose isn’t??


  • Jessica

    Its certainly very interesting. Did anyone see the part where it says to avoid coconut oil? Thats the next step!


  • Well written Sarah, love that you are making it(the sugar/low fat conspiracy) public knowledge – congratulations.


  • Ian

    Yes, it doesn’t go far enough but generally small increments start a change process before a certain inflection point is reached and whammo…

    Keep believing, the wave will come…


  • Andie

    Great post, Sarah… I would agree hidden sugars are also a problem. As someone who doesn’t eat much sugar… at least if I drink soft drink or juice, I KNOW there’s sugar in it and I know I’m deliberately consuming sugar. But there is added sugar in sauces, bread, ready to buy marinated meat, savoury snacks, etc etc. I’m hoping these guidelines go towards educating people about how bad sugar is and encouraging them to read labels- then vote with their feet and not purchase products which add sugar (often as the first or second ingredient!!) when they’re not even ‘sweet’ products!!! Grrr that makes me so mad.


  • Those images are seriously scary!

    Progress is progress right?


    VE Reply:

    Mary looks like a dark haired Julia Gillard….:-)


  • mw

    Go Sarah !!


  • George

    This is important because sugar is one carbohydrate-dense food and is therefore part of a much larger problem – the overconsumption of carbohydrate-dense foods. Sugar/fructose on its own does not explain the crisis of obesity and diabetes we are currently experiencing. Diabetes has been around a lot longer than people have been consuming processed sugar. Nor does a stricter hand on regulating sugar solve the problem in one fell swoop. However, this development is perhaps a first step towards encouraging all players including nutritional experts, government regulators and other parties to actively intervene, re-educate the public and essentially change the way we eat as a society before its too late. A welcome dose of good news in a depressing saga!


  • tommy

    Sarah, If you have played any modest leve lof sport or looked into health at any decent level of interest you would have already have known not to eat sugar or saturated fats.The info has been around since the early 1900’s that sugar,alcohol,fat,smoking ect is bad for you.Just because people have refused to listen all these years does not mean the info has not been freely available for decades..


    Andie Reply:

    I have to say, I disagree with the first bit of this comment… playing sport myself and being around athletes, it’s astounding how little they know about the topic. Plus, the general population is presented with images daily of sporting teams chugging sugar as (sponsored) “recovery” after games… think AFL footballers downing that horrible blue sugar drink with some token electrolytes added.

    I agree there’s lots of information freely available- but this doesn’t mean it’s easily accessible to everyone in practice. People like Sarah Wilson add an important face to this freely available information, not to mention passion and research.


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Not so. It’s erroneous to suggest we have been fully informed since the early 1900s.

    Smoking was considered healthy up until about the 1960s, that’s why you’ll see pregnant women smoking in tv shows from the 50s. And everyone smokes in the office in Mad Men! Saturated fat was demonized in the 1950s, Sarah has mentioned the Ancel Keyes study before. And I think they only introduced high fructose corn syrup in about the 60s or 70s, prior to that our grandparents hardly ate any sugar or processed foods so it has only been a big health issue in comparitively recent times.

    Those posters Sarah has included that suggest sugar is healthy look, at a guess, like they are from the 50s as well!


    Tommy Reply:

    Not so? well that’s funny as I collect old sports books and magazines as a bit of a hobby.I have a few Boxing training manuals from the early 1900’s which clearly state that Drinking,smoking,eating sugar and fatty foods are to be avoided at all costs for an athlete looking to get into peak condition.I also have several bodybuiding books from the 30’s and 40’s stressing the same points.

    Smoking was never considered was promoted as healthy by the companies trying to sell their products..And gee,since everbody in Mad Men smokes it must have been considered healthy!!

    Get a clue and educate yourself before you start telling other people they are erroneous genius.


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    I can link some advertisements from the 40s and 50s showing doctors promoting smoking, if you would like? I daresay the opinion of doctors was slightly more widespread at the time than the opinions of bodybuilders. 🙂

    Sara Reply:

    I don’t get you Tommy. In another post you start ridiculing Sarah’s IQS message and now you’re boasting about how you knew it was bad for you before the dawn of time. Which is it? Do you agree we should eat less sugar or don’t you?
    Actually, if those magazines support the idea of avoiding sugar back in the day than they also support Sarah’s message which is that we used to not eat as much sugar. The sugar increase came on the back of the fat decrease message. Sugar was added to replace the flavour lost by reducing fat.

    How many people read boxing magazines from the 30s for god’s sake? BodyBuilding has always been extreme in terms of dieting as well and should never ben considered an appropriate diet for those who aren’t engaging in it (and the ex bodybuilders I do know have ravaged their bodies and now regret it so I’m not sure it should ever be applied).
    The messages of the last 30 – 40 years have been all about fat reduction without much caution about sugar. That is what the majority of people are reading and hearing and have access to and unless they are like you and have time to pour over old magazines (which most people wouldn’t use as a health directive anyway) I hate to break it to you but they ARE going to get their information from easily accessible mainstream sources and press releases issued by health bodies. And those message have NOT been about avoiding sugar. Sure there’s some info available but most people have jobs, busy lives, other interests and the time in which they can research these issues is limited. I’ve ‘known’ about low sugar for 3 decade due to my issues with sugar and the diet I had to eat as a child. I’m not going to wave it around in peoples faces and tell them their idiots to not knowing about it too.

    And the health industry absolutely promoted cigarettes as an anti anxiety solution. My grandmother (who’s husband was an AFL footballer and captained both Carlton and the Victorian state team so you’d think he would have had good advice) was told by her own doctor to take up smoking to combat her anxiety. In fact you ironically have brought up a very interesting point! The health concerns of smoking were masked by a health industry who gained from tobacco. In fact the ads Sarah posted are remarkably similar to the adds for tobacco back in the day. Because I can’t post pics let me just give you a few quotes:
    “As your dentist, I would recommend Viceroy”
    “For a slender figure no on can deny Lucky Strike”
    “Guard Against ThroatScratch”
    “More doctors smoke Camels”

    And to suggest the mainstream have warned against sugar or that there has not been a pro sugar message is a bit naive. I still think the Nutri-Grain marketing as ‘Iron Man Food’ is bordering on unethical. But it’s by no means uncommon and just one example of how the food industry promotes sugar. Have you rad the labels of baby food? Like Petit Miam? Have a look at that. Perhaps Mums should read the labels first but we shouldn’t have to live in that world. It should be OK and easy to grab something labelled ‘baby food’ and assume it is OK for kids.

    I still don’t quite get your angle Tommy but if it’s that everyone should know sugar is bad for you because magazines in the 30s said so and therefore Sarah is too late to the party than you’ve got a pretty darn small audience. That’s the only sense I can make of your original post?

    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    You raise an interesting point about bodybuilders, Sara. I used to work in the industry (NOT as a competitor!) and I’ve never heard any of them refer to competing as healthy. It’s about manipulating the body for the most impressive results, and not always through legal means. I used to love watching my mates compete, because damn did those bodies look amazing! But anyone who thinks it is healthy to live on just chicken breast and egg white for a week prior to comps, dehydrate for days, pump the body full of so many artificial chemicals or exercise so intensely is deluded. Often female competitors had no menstrual cycle around competition time, such is the physical strain of working out 3-4 hours every day and surviving on hardly any food.

    I don’t know a single retired competitor who isn’t plagued by injury or suffered severe hormonal burnout from what they put their body through. For them it’s worth it, so no judgement on my part, but again… NOT healthy or mainstream in any way. I think most people would be shocked if they knew what went on in that world.

    Sara Reply:

    Mia, that’s my very casual observation too! A good friend of mine was very into it, took steroids (“everybody did” according to him) and he’s now infertile. There’s no certainty that that is why but he’s pretty convinced of it. Sorry, a bit off topic!

    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    I’m sad for your friend. That must be hard. Although he’s not the only person I know who says “everyone does it.” Most competitors assume its a given (in both Naturals and IFBB) that everyone is juicing to some degree. I dont think drug detection is anywhere near sophisticated enough to keep up with the drugs that are out there. I guess we saw that in professional cycling too, with the Lance Armstrong thing.

    Even as far as legal substances go, my IFBB pro friend takes about 8 different bodybuilding supplements, multiple times per day. So many chemicals can’t be good for your liver or insides.

    Yeah, we strayed off topic there, didn’t we! Oops.

    Tommy Reply:

    Yes Sara,I agree we all should eat less sugar.No,a treat here and there won’t hurt you if you are eating an otherwise balanced diet.Just because a few misinformed or corrupt doctors may have promoted smoking to their patients doesn’t mean the health industry as a whole promoted smoking.

    As for the bodybuilding,whatever abuse the current generation put their bodies through bears no resembalance to what happened in the pre steroid era.Before steroids hit in the late 50’s bodybuilders were among the healthiest people around stressing fresh, clean and unprocessed food and healthy exercise.The only point I’m making is that it’s all been said before…

    Sara Reply:

    So it shouldn’t be said again? Is that your point? I’m still not sure what your issue is and if you agree with the message why you wouldn’t support it being repeated. Are you saying it’s all be said before as in it was said in the early 1900’s or do you mean recently? I just don’t get why you’ve got your knickers in a twist about Sarah’s message? Particularly given you seem to agree with it? Sorry, but I’m honestly confused. I also think you’re misinformed as to the public message about cigarettes. Ask anyone over 70 what the public perception about cigarettes was and it was that they were fairly harmless. I can’t help get the feeling you’re very young perhaps?

    And re body builders in the 1900s I’ll take your word for it but it has no bearing on the health messages that have been pushed in mainstream health for the last 2 – 3 decades. I did go off on a tangent with Mia so apologies for that. But it sounds like their diets very closely resembled what Sarah’s promoting anyway so once again, what’s your point and if it is that this message is correct, just merely ‘old news’ (to you), why the problem with it?

    Lisa (Yrlocalmarkets) Reply:

    Tommy you need to read up on saturated fats. They’re not bad for us, especially those derived from grass-eating animals. They contain omega-3s and are good for our bodies and help to ease hunger pains. Fat is not bad for us! In fact, good fats are good and we should probably eat more and stop the crazy merry go round of eating low fat this and low fat that, which has led to a massive increase in the consumption of carbohydrates and overly processed foods. Unprocessed, simple (but not dull) real food, straight from the source (preferably organic) is where we should be.

  • Jeff

    What the hell does ‘no added sugar’ mean? Or no added preservatives etc.

    If a product states no added MSG, does this still mean there is MSG?

    I can hesitate to guess that this means their normal dosage of whatever (suagr, msg etc) is included, but no added volume above this level.

    You either have sugar or you don’t. Time for siome simplified labeling procedures.


    seeker Reply:

    yes i think this can be confusing,
    i was further confused and sorta disappointed to find out that msg can be naturally occuring in some foods like parmesan cheese and miso – its that powerful deep salty taste … however the added stuff which sometimes goes by a “flavour enhancer” label or a code number, is not necessarily all that natural …. i think that’s how it works anyway – personally i steer clear of anything with added flavours or “flavour enhancers”, but still eat miso and parmesan to my heart’s content (which, of course is in moderation!!!)

    i always thought the “no added sugar” label means there are (probably) natural sugars in the product but nothing sugary added – i may well be misinterpreting that – anyway just sounds and looks like yet another gimmick to make something look whole and healthy that probably’s not so much!


  • Courtney

    Love that you’re not afraid to “sugar coat” your thoughts about this


    Courtney Reply:

    *That was supposed to have a thumbs up emoticon at the end*


  • Dear Sarah
    I’m afraid I don’t share your conspiracy view of nutrition guidelines and have to speak up for my industry you so readily dismiss as biased. In my 20 years working in health and wellness, I have worked and met with many nutrition scientists and all are passionate about their work and in their mission to improve health through better diet (and lifestyle). I have no doubt there are instances of misuse of research or funding – there are in every industry – but this idea that we give our advice specifically about sugar because we have a financial reason to do so is quite frankly ludicrous and demeaning. People are not in nutrition science for the money, but for the real quest to understand how foods affect us. It’s complex and that’s why nutrition degrees are a minimum of 4 years study. I have dedicated my working life to the cause of healthy eating because I know it makes such a difference. In this we concur:) But I do take objection to being accused of giving advice for any other reason, particularly financial.

    Yes scientific knowledge has evolved and changed over the years and we must always be open to changing our ideas, not be caught in the grasp of old thinking. Every other science moves with the times including medicine, and we in the nutrition science industry must do the same. Secondly I want to make absolutely clear that nutritionists are not pro-sugar. With every respect you are making everything revolve around one dietary aspect. None of us experts are saying go ahead and eat as much sugar as you want. This was not the advice 20 years ago and it’s not the advice now. The point is the research clearly shows excessive intake of sugar is bad for our health but that there is no evidence that a little sugar is harmful. It’s a quantity issue. Natural sugars are entirely different because such foods are nutrient-dense (and usually also have a low energy-density). Soft drinks, lollies, biscuits and cakes etc are nutrient-poor and energy dense. These are clearly not good foods to consume regularly. But if my kids have a healthy meal of homemade burgers with vegies and have a little tomato sauce with it, are you honestly suggesting this is the problem? If I exercise regularly, eat loads of plant foods, fish and so on, and I enjoy an occasional dessert or piece of chocolate is this killing me? Of course not.

    The GI goes beyond sugar and none of the nutrition experts I know at Sydney University promote eating excess sugar, nor the specific sugar fructose. You are misinterpreting what they and I have said in those current affairs programs you mention – although as you have previously pointed out they are prone to edit to provide as sensationalist a story as possible. These guidelines are absolutely correct in asking people to limit added sugars, it also states quite clearly which foods and drinks are the issue – not specific nutrients. This is a lesson we have learnt with other nutrients. The evidence is there for soft drinks, but the evidence is also there for increased fruit consumption reducing risk of heart disease. The GI has not been clearly associated with weight control across the board… at least not yet. But there are few studies on the ground. However there are for it’s relation to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. This doesn’t mean every low GI food is healthy … Nutella is a good example and dietitians complained in droves when it was allowed to use the low GI symbol. The point is that the GI tells you how foods affect your blood glucose levels and correspondingly eating low GI foods reduces how much insulin your body has to produce. To me it is science explaining how those minimally processed foods are better for us. The GI has highlighted that refined starch is a massive problem in modern diets. So I’m not quite sure why you are so adamantly against listening to this research.

    I admire your passion in spreading a message and of course I have no argument with raising awareness of how often sugar is added to foods, especially those you least expect. But there is no need to cut out all sugar, there is a very definite benefit to including fruit and other natural sugars in your diet, there is benefit of added sugars in endurance sports (I know because I’ve done them) but these products are not intended for general use, and finally there are many other crucial aspects of diet that must be highlighted – yet they are being lost in the crusade against sugar. When I see people in a TV report frying processed meat for breakfast and touting how we must give up sugar, that makes me crazy. Conflicting advice is only hindering our attempts to change Australia’s dismal overweight figures.

    I would be most happy if we could all sing the same song… to eat more natural minimally processed foods, enjoy a good relationship with food and with our bodies, exercise daily, manage stress, sleep well and enjoy a laugh with family and friends. These are proven factors that increase our health and wellbeing.
    With best intentions


    seeker Reply:

    hi joanna,

    i was glad to see your comment on here, it’s good that you contributed.
    i have four questions that i’d love to hear your view on:

    1). do you believe processed sugar is a poison?

    2). am i right in concluding from what you’ve said in your comment, that you don’t agree with the theory that high levels of fructose in the body is damaging or something that all people should be aware of.

    3). if a person has no history of heart disease in the family, eats plenty of salad and plant based & whole foods, no junk food or lollies or fizzy drinks etc (or extremely minimal amounts) but is overweight, do you believe they still should be eating lots of fruit, say three to four pieces a day, because it’s natural and they think it’s healthy and harmless?

    4). after all this time and all these debates on the matter, do you still really believe that sarah is advocating that all people should completely cut out all sugars from their diet?!

    as someone who loves food, lives to eat not eats to live, has studied nutrition, and is passionate about wellbeing and getting the most out of life, i’m afraid i sort of feel that your view (just from your comment above) is sort of missing the point of Sarah’s & her reader’s journey. that is why I ask you those questions, just because I want to try and break down your view to help me understand a little better …

    …. i find your final statement a little curious:

    “I would be most happy if we could all sing the same song… to eat more natural minimally processed foods, enjoy a good relationship with food and with our bodies, exercise daily, manage stress, sleep well and enjoy a laugh with family and friends. These are proven factors that increase our health and wellbeing.” ….

    … because to me, that is PRECISELY what sarah’s blog is all about and why i read it!! i can see how some people might get the wrong end of her stick – especially if only some of the more shocking/confronting points are taken as truths without the supporting story & posts –

    … but overall it seems to me that if that’s what you consider the proven factors to improve health and wellbeing, then we already ARE singing the same song.



    David M Driscoll Reply:

    Well said, not sure if you are one of the people referred to in a previous blog
    “It baffles many why a scientist or dietician would be so hell-bent on slamming people like me who argue we shouldn’t be eating so much sugar. It seems an odd thing to get fired up about if you’re engaged in nutrition, no? Unless there’s a vested interest…….?! I can pretty much name all such experts and dieticians who do the hell-bent media slam…they’re the same names wheeled out over and over…I’m guessing they stick their hands up for the gig…and all of them have sugar interest somewhere in the vault.”


    KM Reply:

    “Conflicting advice is only hindering our attempts to change Australia’s dismal overweight figures.”

    I agree with you on this. There are APD’s like Susie Burrell promoting processed foods like Body Science protein powder, yogurt tubes and the appetite suppressant Zotrim…and at the other end of the scale, another APD, Arabelle Forge who is the Melbourne chapter leader for the Weston A Price foundation, which has a strong focus on unprocessed foods. Same accreditation, but two totally different approaches to health.


    rory robertson (former fattie) Reply:

    Dr Joanna,

    I’m puzzled why you think the University of Sydney’s influential nutritionists are not pro-sugar. After all, they:

    X publish and distribute pro-sugar low-GI diet books;

    X operate a low-GI business stamping sugar and sugary foods as Healthy:

    X published (and defend with false information) an obviously faulty “peer reviewed” paper exonerating sugar as a driver of obesity, in a pay-as-you-publish E-journal published while the lead author operated as “Guest Editor”: ;

    X went out of their way to rubbish the NHMRC for its (correct) assessment that added sugar is a menace to public health (“myth” not evidence!):

    x allowed the sugar and sugary food industries to use their “shonky sugar study” as an intellectual spearhead to try to kill the NHMRC’s planned tougher advice against added sugar:

    How’s that for fighting the good fight for better public health!

    Dr Joanna, WHAT ELSE would the University of Sydney need to do before you would concede that it is “pro sugar”?


    Sara Reply:

    Well said Joanna. I don’t blame you for taking exception to being accused on being corrupted by money. I do however think Sarah aims this criticism at a very small few, not the industry as a whole.

    I for one certainly do not think (or take from this blog) that nutritionists or anyone in the health industry are corrupt or even wrong.

    I have felt the messages have been quite similar throughout however I don’t think anyone could deny the GI system is not the whole piece of the puzzle. Anything that rates cake as OK has got some flaws. I do think the GL in particular has value but it’s not enough. How would you address this? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how it can be used without falling into the trap of assuming all low GI = good, all high GI = bad (or maybe it’s as simple as MOST high GI = bad, MOST low GI-= good provided it doesn’t included X amount of fructose which is low GI but has other impact upon insulin)

    I’m also interested to hear your thoughts on the difficulties of moderating food intake due to sugar’s ‘addictiveness’. I think this is key because if we could all moderate our sugar intake we’d be fine but if the theory holds true that sugar (and I say all sugar, not just fructose) creates the desire for more than all the good intentions and knowledge can go out the window and we have to take human psychology into the equation as well. Do you believe sugar creates hunger/ is addictive? Or at least COULD be? I’d long thought it could be watching my father binge in the middle of the night on sweet food. In every other aspect of his life and with food he has a lot of self control but a tiny bit of sugar and he can’t stop himself. My mum and I would literally wrestle it out of his hands as it gave him migraines.

    I’m honestly curious to hear you thoughts given both your expertise and your clear and level headed manner.


    Meg Reply:

    I think Sarah was referring to (paid?) endorsements like this:


    Jason Reply:

    The 170 gram tub of Ski Activ contains 23.1 grams of sugar. Not life threatening but a little high in sugar for a nutritionist to endorse??

    David M Driscoll Reply:

    How much is naturally occurring lactose?

    Sara Reply:

    Got it, thanks Meg. Yeah, I have to say I avoid flavoured yoghurt and in fact made a comment about how sugary Petit Miam is in a former post so I agree that I think it’s a little sketchy for nutritionists to give flavoured yoghurt the green flag. Will be interesting to hear the response as I do think Joanna has been pretty reasonable.

    Sara Reply:

    Typically natural yoghurt is about 5 grams/100 (less for Greek yoghurt). Ski Activ natural is 7 grams per 100 so assuming that is all lactose and based on 26 grams per 175 (which is the figure I have, though the passionfruit version is 28 grams) I’d estimate the added sugar in their flavoured versions is about 8 grams per 100 grams or around 14 grams for a serve or 2 -3 teaspoons.


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Hey all, yes. That yoghurt is what I had in my mind.
    Sara – dairy is generally about 4.7g/100g lactose. Anything more than that is added sugar, either as inulin or another disguised sugar. Even “natural” yoghurt can have this added. The passionfruit one is 16% sugar. In one small serve it contains about 5-6 tsp of sugar (28g-4.7g, divided by about 4). Check out the rest of the ingredients, too – gums and additives and all kinds of crazy stuff.
    Dr McMillan also gets paid to endorse a cereal range. This one – the “healthy heart” one - is 18.7 % sugar.
    I don’t like “dobbing” people in. But this stuff has to be said.

    Sara Reply:

    I thought even my admittedly conservative estimate was too high in sugar to be considered anything but a treat. And that cereal is really deceptive. Joanna, you must have some kind of idea as to what constitutes a ‘healthy’ intake of sugar. As a layman I’m willing to listen to those more versed than me but these are ‘everyday foods’ being endorsed as healthy options – a license to eat them daily. If I was to eat these foods that would be about 8 teaspoons (I’m not counting lactose) in my ‘healthy’ options before I dug into my minimum 2 pieces of fruit and then decided to treat myself to a little bit of ice-cream thinking I’d been eating healthy all day. Isn’t that a pretty high intake from my ‘healthy’ foods?

  • It’s definitely a step in the right direction!


  • Alicia

    I think that this is a great nudge of the pendulum, to swing back to a more balanced and simple approach to eating. When it comes to what i consume, I personally listen to the needs of my body. I have never had an issue with my weight and find that I can handle a little sugar; normally an apple per day. However, I (a 22 year old female) would never have had any inkling about why the extra sugar i am getting from so-called healthy “low fat” yogurts (as Joanna McMillan, above, promotes) is bad for me. Reading into women’s magazines as I grew up made me think that fat is the enemy! Since including a lot more animal and vegetable fats in my diet and avoiding the low fat “health” goop (salad dressings, sauces, yoghurts, breads etc), I really have never felt better. My energy is sustained, my hunger is satiated, i have certainly not gained weight and i feel more ‘on’. Not to mention my craving for something sweet and sugar laden after a meal has vanished! Seriously, just by cutting out the hidden sugar laden crap.

    If we continue to move along in the same direction as what has always been promoted by the outlets I listened to in the past, then how the heck will people know? I really applaud you, sarah, for causing a fuss and bringing much needed attention to this issue.


  • Brooke

    may thoughts on this post in 2 words…… love it!


  • The NHMRC’s Professor Warwick Anderson has explained very clearly on ABC TV the reasons for Canberra’s new, tougher official advice on added sugar/fructose:

    It appears to be game, set and match to David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson. Professor Anderson also appears to give the University of Sydney’s “academics” a well-deserved poke in the eye (at around the one-minute mark).

    My take on the latest state of play is at


  • Gail

    I think we have to think back further than “the way our grandparents used to eat.” As a kid growing up in the ’50’s and ’60’s I remember my grandmother’s meals very well. She loved salads out of bags, vegetables out of cans or the freezer, the new sliced “wonder bread,” her meat and veg overcooked, and salad dressing from bottles. This was the all new convenience of life after WWII. And lots of pie and ice cream for dessert! The one good thing about meals then though was that the portions were much smaller.


  • Bridget

    I don’t think that Sarah is trying to say that her message is new, but that it has never been quite so vehemently and absolutely stated in the past that ALL sugar is bad for us in the long run, so best to avoid it as much as possible! Perhaps nutritionists have warned against eating too much sugar in the past, but never has anyone before said as unequivocally as Sarah and David Gillespie have that sugar is a actually pretty deadly thing and it’s in everything, and if people care about their health they should avoid it like the plague. Make sense? On the other hand, I don’t necessarily believe that it’s all been one giant conspiracy to pull the wool over our eyes. I think that most people had the right intentions especially in the beginning; perhaps it wasn’t until later on that elements of corruption did seep in but only then with just a few groups or individuals but who may then again be the main controllers of the food industry so in actual fact yes, they are controlling us all! LOL I talked myself into a full circle then, didn’t i?

    I do agree with George that carbohydrates are just as bad as sugar – because all carbs turn to sugar in the body. The old food pyramid is a joke, or the high carb/low fat diet that nutritionists advocate or perhaps we can say now that they used to advocate.

    I’ve since learned from the work of science journalist and author Gary Taubes that carb/sugar overload can cause insulin resistance which makes it impossible for some people to lose weight no matter how little one eats or how much exercise that they do – and all because they listened to what the scientists told them to eat. Now we’re paying the price with obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemics as a result of this bad advice. Taubes also says that obesity is a hormone issue – the reason that people are overweight is because they suffer from a metabolic syndrome that causes them to store fat no matter how little fat or how little they eat full stop – as long as they’re eating some form of carbohydrates or sugars. This is because they have way too much insulin being released by their pancreas as a result of ingesting far too many carb/sugar-heavy foods over time. And insulin is also the fat-storage hormone in the body. Too much of it = uncontrolled weight gain.

    The other thing he says is that the nature of most carbs and sugars is that they don’t provide satiety and people end up starving even after they’ve had a big carb-heavy meal, and so they overeat. And of course they gain more weight. It’s a vicious cycle.

    I’ve also learned that eating lots of carbs along with having taken antibiotics in the past, or taking birth control pills, or drinking alcohol (and other factors) can easily cause a systemic overgrowth of the organism/fungus called Candida Albicans in the body. If left unchecked and untreated, it can cause numerable health problems (and I’m not talking just with the genital area) but things like panic attacks and anxiety (Candida attacks the nervous system), skin rashes and problems, nail infections, dandruff, chronic fatigue, etc. Candida can also cause you to eat more sugary and carb-heavy foods because of course that’s the food that it thrives on! Talk about invasion of a body-snatcher! Another issue with regard to eating carbohydrates and sugars.

    Gary Taubes is saying that for people who can’t lose weight or have become insulin-resistant, perhaps the way to go is to follow a High Fat/No Sugar/No Starch diet, let the body burn fat for energy instead of glucose. The other advantage of ingesting a lot of fat is that it causes satiety; no more need to over-indulge or feel starved after a meal.

    I quit sugar and starch 4 weeks ago and so far have lost 8 kilos. I ingest a lot of dietary fat mostly in the form of organic cold-pressed coconut oil which has MCTs and gets used up like carbohydrates as immediate fuel for the body. I feel extremely full but eat less than 1/4 of what I used to eat and just focus on the fat. Have never felt better or had so much more energy (though it wasn’t fun in the beginning). I thank Sarah for being one of those who are sending out this great message out there. Sugar (and carbs) = Public Enemy # 1 for me these days.


    don Reply:

    I actually emailed Gary Taubes about his view of the new guidelines are an improvement with limiting sugar intake and his response was “Better, but the dietary fat stuff is as skewed as ever.”


  • bethem

    If anyone is going to give up table sugar only to substitute it for chemical sugar, they are sadly misguided. I have given up sugar, except when making the occasional jam recipe and limit my intake. Quality, rather than quantity is most important
    Xylitol – read this article:
    but my main concern stems to the recommendation that corn syrup is an acceptable substitute. Sarah, you haven’t done your homework. This product is probably the worst product to hit our food industry in history… don’t eat it. Go back to eating sugar, but be mindful about it’s addictability and your blood sugar levels. I’ve done it and it works for me.


    Sara Reply:

    Hi Bethem,

    I might have missed it but where does Sarah or anyone suggest corn syrup? I think you’ll find everyone is in agreement that it’s as bad as table sugar.

    By the way Thank You for that article! I couldn’t agree more that subbing sweetener is not the solution. I wasn’t allowed sugar as a child so promptly got addicted to diet coke, Pepsi Max, then Coke Zero as an adult. I drank litres of it a day! I dread to think what I did to my body. I also used Splenda when it came out but have quit that too now. I have been using a stevia based product for my home made coffee (I got without for coffee shop coffee) and for the occasional sweet treat. But it has Erythritol. I’ve used xylitol before but stopped simply because it’s not as easy to get but I’ll switch back after reading that. The taste of pure stevia is too metallic for me. I also have 85% chocolate for a treat. It has sugar but not a lot and it’s so intense a couple of squares is all I need.


    emmy Reply:

    Hi Bethem, Sarah has NEVER mentioned corn syrup!!! She has suggested “rice” syrup… Everyone knows about corn syrup, so to think that Sarah hasn’t quite funny!


  • Caz

    And for those who have no time at all to exercise, this documentary on BBC2 called Horizon: The Truth About Exercise, proposes the 12 minutes a month way to fitness. Some people are genetically predisposed not to get benefits from exercise and there is a test to prove it. Anyway if you can watch it, it is quite interesting. Here is a link to an article on that episode if you can’t find the video. Take it as you will.
    Also a link to a short clip from the episode on Youtube:


  • Angela Sinclair

    Yes Sarah you are right on all counts the real shame is we have to wait 10 more years for the next baby step.
    The best and only way to avoid sugar is to eat unprocessed, whole foods. Not that hard folks!


  • Nicole

    As someone else suggested, the ‘official’ advice re sugar intake simply does not take into account the addictive nature of sugar that I (and I suspect many others) struggle with. Yes, a moderate amount of sugar in an otherwise healthy diet may well be ok but the problem comes for those that can’t stop there. In a society that struggles with obesity and diseases such as diabetes, would it not be sensible to encourage those people to stay away from sugar as much as they can.
    I’m not sure if I can give up sugar without being locked away at a health spa for 6 weeks but it would be a damn sight easier if ‘nutritionists’ didn’t spruik for multinational food companies who don’t actually care about their consumers welfare. Sorry, rant over!


  • Julian Skinner

    I think consciously or unconsciously the sponsorship arrangements you have are influencing your comments. You Sarah Wilson and David Gillespie are all saying essentially the same thing sugar should be limited to occasional use. The difference comes in the emphasis you often seem to be finding reasons why sugar is not all that bad, and snaking is not that bad. To me that is at least partly because you are involved with selling a snack containing sugar. You think people should exercise enough to be able to eat that much sugar, at least that’s what you told me once on twitter. As for pretending that Alan Barlay eat al are not pro sugar well that just damages your own credibility.
    I believe if you had no sponsorship arrangements you would be saying limit sugar but if you never eat it that’s fine too.


  • Shanaz

    Just had my first cup of coffee, with full fat milk and no sugar.
    It sucked big-time. But I think it was worth it.

    I am going to either reduce or avoid my sugar intake from now-onwards.
    There is no turning back.

    Thank you for all of your advice. You are awesome and inspiring.

    And the truth needs to get out to everyone !!

    Thank you again. Pray I Stick to my low/no sugar thing permanently !!



  • Wow Sarah, amazing article, truly brilliant. You really inspire me to keep going to undercover the truth and educate the masses where bodies like the Heart Foundation are failing so miserably. Again I am going to share my petition here for all your readers to get involved


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  • Alfred, Melbourne

    Thank you for a nice and very important article. 🙂

    Some of you may want to know why the “Australian Paradox” is false. It is best explained here:

    I am 63 and my BMI has been under 22 for over 40 years. I eat well and am never hungry. I also eat lots of things that advertisers don’t want me to eat, and I eat almost none of their crap. My three kids (8, 12 and 22) are tall, slim and healthy. We don’t eat or drink sugars or their substitutes. My wife is a GP and slim.

    The Australian Family Physician just published a rubbish article entitled “Obesity – Recommendations for management in general practice and beyond”

    This article totally skips over the role of sugar. It was written largely by a doctor on the Board of Nestlé – one of the world’s biggest suppliers of sugar in foods and drinks. I wrote a letter pointing out the nonsense in their article and they refused to publish it.