Are top government nutrition advisers ‘Addicted to Sugar’?

Embargoed until 21/01/2014 00:01am GMT

The revelations from tonight’s Channel 4’s Dispatches entitled: Are you Addicted to Sugar? [Ref 1] regarding conflicts of interest between the food industry and members of Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) carbohydrate working group are deeply worrying, according to Action on Sugar - a group of specialists concerned with sugar and its effects on health.

The accusation that 5 out of 8 members of the committee have disclosed links to the food industry and to Sugar Nutrition UK (previously known as Sugar Bureau UK), whose only motivation is to protect the sugar producing industry, is deplorable.

It has been shown in a systematic review of sugar sweetened soft drinks and weight gain, that financial conflicts of interest are more likely to lead to biased conclusions [Ref 2].  As such, the SACN report on carbohydrates, which includes sugar, when it eventually comes out after 5 years of ‘deliberation’ (delay), will be, in our view, profoundly compromised.  

If the report’s final recommendations are any different to the recent call [Ref 3] for the WHO to reduce energy from added sugar to less than 5% (current recommendation is 10%), they should be viewed with great scepticism and ignored in favour of genuine, unbiased evidence from non-conflicted sources.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Action on Sugar says; “These revelations are shocking.  Added sugar is an unnecessary source of calories with no nutritional benefit whatsoever.  The huge amounts that the food and drink industry add to our food can easily be reduced by 30-40% over the next four years with slow, incremental reductions.  This will result in a reduction of around 100kcal per person per day, which has been predicted as enough to prevent children and adults becoming obese [Ref 4].

“Action on Sugar is calling on the government, the Department of Health and the food and soft drink industry to start reducing the added sugar content of all products NOW, and not to continue to dither whilst we become ever more obese.”
Dr Aseem Malhotra, Cardiologist and Science Director of Action on Sugar says; “It is well known that the food industry spends billions in junk food and sugary drink advertising, targeting the most vulnerable members of society, including children. Now it has been revealed they spend money to influence research too. It is up to our government to ensure that its nutrition advisers are acting in the best interests of the public, not of their own wallets.”


Notes to Editor
For more information or contact:

  • National PR - David Clarke: 07773 225516
  • Chairman of Action on Sugar, Professor Graham MacGregor: 07946 405617/,  
  • Cardiologist and Science Director of Action On Sugar, Dr Aseem Malhotra: 07786 075842
  • Nutritionist and Campaign Director of Action on Sugar, Katharine Jenner: 020 7882 6018 or 07740 553298,    

Tweet #LessSugar

Ref 1 – Global expert advisors of Action on Sugar:

Professor Andrew Rugg-Gunn
Professor Aubrey Sheiham
Professor David Haslam
Professor Jack Cuzick
Professor Jack Winkler,
Professor John Wass
Professor Peter Sever
Professor Philip James
Professor Simon Capewell
Professor Sir Nicholas Wald
Professor Timothy Lang
Dr Robert Lustig (US)
Dr Yoni Freedhoff (Canada)
Dr Mike Rayner
Malcolm Kane
Neville Rigby
Tam Fry


Ref 1 Dispatches and
Ref 2 Financial Conflicts of Interest and Reporting Bias Regarding the Association between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews - Bes Rastrollo et al.
Ref 3 Call for action on cutting sugar to 5%:
Ref 4 - Department of Health, 2011. Healthy lives, healthy people.