Stop with all the sugar bashing! It’s making me eat the stuff! Newly illicit and exciting, it’s now almost as alluring as cigarettes once were. And this week, attempts to cast sugar as the new tobacco were ratcheted up a notch as Dispatches asked: “Are you addicted to sugar?” (C4, 8pm, 20 January).
Having set the scene with gratuitous footage of plus-size beauty queens, reporter Antony Barnett set out to investigate whether experts were right to point the finger at sugar. A number of familiar brands found themselves in the dock, including Dorset Cereals.
Predictably, the programme failed to make it clear the sugar in this particular bowl of cereal is from natural fruits, not refined added sugar. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Certainly Barnett didn’t - when he asked a boffin whether he was addicted to sugar, she responded that “food doesn’t release or block different neurotransmitters the way, for example, cocaine does”. However, Barnett went on to assert that it: “activates and potentially alters” the same areas of the brain as alcohol, cocaine or heroin.
The experts claimed it was a public health crisis rather than a matter of personal responsibility - and therefore the fault of big food companies and shady organisations such as the World Sugar Research Organisation - made to seem all the more shadowy for not appearing. The WSRO refused an interview, but the others? Then again, that might have humanised them and allowed them to put forward their side of the story, which wouldn’t do at all, would it?