For the first time in human history, long-term diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes now pose a greater health burden worldwide than infectious diseases, according to the United Nations, contributing to 35m deaths annually. "There are now 30% more people who are obese than who are undernourished," said the UCSF scientists. "Economic development means that the populations of low- and middle-income countries are living longer, and therefore are more susceptible to non-communicable diseases; 80% of deaths attributable to them occur in these countries."
International bodies concerned with public health must consider limiting people's intake of sugars such as fructose, high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose, said the scientists. Rather than focusing on limiting fat and salt, food regulators should turn their attention to "added sugar", which the UCSF team defined as any sweetener containing fructose that is added to food during processing.
Sugar induces many of the diseases associated with "metabolic syndrome", including high blood pressure, diabetes and accelerated ageing. "It can also be argued that fructose exerts toxic effects on the liver that are similar to those of alcohol," said the UCSF scientists. "This is no surprise, because alcohol is derived from the fermentation of sugar."