The global obesity epidemic and related nutritional issues are arguably this century’s primary social health concern. With breakthroughs in the field of medicine, huge leaps in cancer research and diseases such as smallpox and polio largely eradicated, people around the globe are, on average, living much longer and healthier than they were decades ago. The focus on well-being has shifted from disease to diet. The whole concept of healthy living is a key pillar of our Credit Suisse Mega - trends framework – themes we consider crucial in the evolution of the investment world. In this report, we specifically explore the impact of “sugar and sweeteners” on our diets. ... Although medical research is yet to prove conclusively that sugar is in fact the leading cause of obesity, diabetes type II or metabolic syndrome, we compare and contrast various studies on its metabolic effects and nutritional impact. Alongside this, we question some of the accepted wisdom as to what is perceived as “good” and “bad” when it comes to sugar consumption, namely as to whether a calorie consumed is the same regardless of where it is derived from – sugar, fats, or protein – and whether solid foods are “nutritionally different” to liquids. ... What can we expect in the future? What should investors focus on? Although a major consumer shift away from sugar and high-fructose corn syrup may be some years away, and outright taxation and regulation a delicate process, there is now a trend developing. From the expansion of “high-intensity” natural sweeteners to an increase in social responsibility mes - sages from the beverage manufacturers, we see green shoots for dietary changes and social health advancement. Ultimately, we expect consumers, doctors, manufacturers and legislators to all play a crucial role in changing the status quo for sugar.
- Also: Financial Times - Sugar as the new tobacco? 5-15min
- Also: The Atlantic - The Power of Sugar < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - Cheaper Sugar Sends Candy Makers Abroad < 5min
- Also: Wall Street Journal - Sugar Processors Seen Defaulting on Federal Loans < 5min
- Also: Financial Times - London’s commodity lawyers hit by sugar rush < 5min
Burgers and fries have nearly killed our ancestral microbiome. ... A group of Italian microbiologists had compared the intestinal microbes of young villagers in Burkina Faso with those of children in Florence, Italy. The villagers, who subsisted on a diet of mostly millet and sorghum, harbored far more microbial diversity than the Florentines, who ate a variant of the refined, Western diet. Where the Florentine microbial community was adapted to protein, fats, and simple sugars, the Burkina Faso microbiome was oriented toward degrading the complex plant carbohydrates we call fiber. ... Scientists suspect our intestinal community of microbes, the human microbiota, calibrates our immune and metabolic function, and that its corruption or depletion can increase the risk of chronic diseases, ranging from asthma to obesity. ... Numerous factors are implicated in these disappearances. Antibiotics, available after World War II, can work like napalm, indiscriminately flattening our internal ecosystems. Modern sanitary amenities, which began in the late 19th century, may limit sharing of disease- and health-promoting microbes alike. Today’s houses in today’s cities seal us away from many of the soil, plant, and animal microbes that rained down on us during our evolution, possibly limiting an important source of novelty. ... But what the Sonnenburgs’ experiment suggests is that by failing to adequately nourish key microbes, the Western diet may also be starving them out of existence.
We read almost every week of new research into the deleterious effects of sugar on our bodies. In the US, the latest edition of the government’s official dietary guidelines includes a cap on sugar consumption. In the UK, the chancellor George Osborne has announced a new tax on sugary drinks. Sugar has become dietary enemy number one. ... This represents a dramatic shift in priority. For at least the last three decades, the dietary arch-villain has been saturated fat. When Yudkin was conducting his research into the effects of sugar, in the 1960s, a new nutritional orthodoxy was in the process of asserting itself. Its central tenet was that a healthy diet is a low-fat diet. Yudkin led a diminishing band of dissenters who believed that sugar, not fat, was the more likely cause of maladies such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. But by the time he wrote his book, the commanding heights of the field had been seized by proponents of the fat hypothesis. Yudkin found himself fighting a rearguard action, and he was defeated. ... In 1980, after long consultation with some of America’s most senior nutrition scientists, the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines shaped the diets of hundreds of millions of people. Doctors base their advice on them, food companies develop products to comply with them. Their influence extends beyond the US. ... We tend to think of heretics as contrarians, individuals with a compulsion to flout conventional wisdom. But sometimes a heretic is simply a mainstream thinker who stays facing the same way while everyone around him turns 180 degrees. When, in 1957, John Yudkin first floated his hypothesis that sugar was a hazard to public health, it was taken seriously, as was its proponent. By the time Yudkin retired, 14 years later, both theory and author had been marginalised and derided. Only now is Yudkin’s work being returned, posthumously, to the scientific mainstream.
Right now, the global bottled water industry is in one of those strange and energetic boom phases where every week, it seems, a new product finds its way on to the shelves. Not just another bland still or sparkling, but some entirely new definition of the element. It is a case of capitalism at its most hyperactive and brazenly inventive: take a freely available substance, dress it up in countless different costumes and then sell it as something new and capable of transforming body, mind, soul. Water is no longer simply water – it has become a commercial blank slate, a word on to which any possible ingredient or fantastical, life-enhancing promise can be attached. ... The global market was valued at $157bn in 2013, and is expected to reach $280bn by 2020. Last year, in the UK alone, consumption of water drinks grew by 8.2%, equating to a retail value of more than £2.5bn. Sales of water are 100 times higher than in 1980. Of water: a substance that, in developed countries, can be drunk for free from a tap without fear of contracting cholera. What is going on? ... There now seems to be no limit on what a water can be, or what consumers are willing to buy. It is no longer enough for water to simply be water: it must have special powers. ... At some point, surely, we will reach “peak” water. Perhaps it will be the moment consumers lose faith in the cellulite-eradicating powers of Buddha water or wonder if it’s really worth paying over the odds for birch sap.
Blue is a rarity among plants and animals. When it does occur in nature, it often isn’t truly blue, but rather a trick of diffraction, or the scattering of light, which is the case for bird feathers, sky, ice, water and iridescent butterfly wings. ... In response to growing pressure from consumers across the globe, Mars announced in February that over the next five years it would remove artificial colors from all the processed foods it makes for human consumption, and that pigments found in natural substances would take their place. ... In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved Mars’s petition to use the microscopic algae spirulina to make the first natural blue dye approved for use in the United States. As a result, any food manufacturer in the country can legally use spirulina as a colorant. Mars spent years researching spirulina’s safety; in order to overhaul 1,700 or so recipes and update its global manufacturing capabilities, the company desperately needs a substitute for synthetic Blue No. 1, as does the rest of the industry. But right now, there isn’t nearly enough spirulina dye to go around — and in any case, sometimes it doesn’t yield just the right blue, or the color degrades and comes out blotchy, or it tastes odd. ... Humans are color-seeking animals, and food companies learned to manipulate that trait early. ... One Mars executive told me that to convert only its blue M&Ms to spirulina blue, the company would, in his estimation, need twice the current global supply. ... last year the global market in natural colors was worth an estimated $970 million, up 60 percent since 2011. Natural colors now represent more than half the food-colors market in dollar terms.
Now, with The Case Against Sugar, Taubes launches his toughest crusade yet: to prove that we've been bamboozled into thinking that cookies and soda are simply "empty" calories and not uniquely toxic ones. That's the result, he argues, of a long history of deception from the sugar industry and its support of shoddy science. ... With his new book, Taubes will likely have his largest platform, and an audience poised to listen. By now, nearly everyone believes that Americans eat too much sugar. Most experts agree that it's a major contributor to our nation's grim health: More than a third of adults are obese, and one in 11 has diabetes. This understanding has spurred campaigns for soda taxes nationwide — five measures were approved by voters in November — and moves by big companies to ban sugary drinks from workplace cafeterias. ... Even these new anti-sugar crusaders, he says, are motivated by a naive, and ultimately dangerous, "less is better" view of sugar. To Taubes, the answer to our obesity crisis isn't more expensive soda and less sweetened cereals. It's to stop poisoning ourselves altogether. ... By rooting through archives and obscure textbooks, he has uncovered, he says, evidence that sugar is not just the harmless, empty calories we indulge in, but that it may well be toxic, dangerous even in small amounts.
Whatever their aspirations, people keep right on gorging. Americans now eat a total of 76 pounds in various sugars every year, up 8% from 1970. ... That’s the problem for Big Food: It’s built on the stuff. Some 74% of packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. contain some form of sweetener ... the final factor that is pressing heavily on packaged food companies: the ever-more-ravenous appetite for “natural,” unprocessed products. ... Think of food companies’ plight this way: The finest scientists in industry have spent decades trying to find or invent a no-calorie sweetener that tastes and feels as good as the stuff extracted from pure cane. And now, after they largely failed to master that complex, arduous task, the level of difficulty is being raised even higher: This improbable concoction cannot appear to have been engineered by scientists. ... Most people in the business believe that a “systems approach”—a blending of ingredients rather than a single molecule—is the future of the natural-sweetener industry.