The latest media buzz flying across the news outlets and social media sites concerns the dangers of sugar. Like an earlier post from a few months ago I find I am riding the fence of this argument. Content not to choose a side since I see both sides of this issue. UCSF scientists published a study in Nature yesterday claiming that sugar is as toxic and addictive as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. This isn’t completely new to me due to numerous studies coming out of the Buck Center for Research on Aging right here in Marin County. I’ve attended several lectures from the Buck scientists that attribute Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many Cancers to chronic inflammation in our bodies. From a physiological perspective, our bodies are not designed to withstand long term inflammation and as a result the cell mitochondria die early and frequently causing illness. What do they attribute this inflammation to? You guessed it, our Western diet of sugar and caffeine mostly, among other things. Scientists have long linked the consequences of sugar to the demise of our health. Sure your dentist has lectured you on the corrosive properties of sugar, but psychologists have linked sugar with high rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, conduct and behavioral problems and then of course there’s the Twinkie defense. Here’s where my agreement with the findings of the UCSF team stray: they claim the necessary intervention is to control sugar via public policy. I believe in a government that acts in the best interest of its people but as a therapist I’m also aware that people need to learn to make responsible choices. If we legislate everything it creates an environment of learned helplessness and that’s basically the argument against welfare. Yes, sugar is bad for you but only if it’s a large percentage of your diet. Everything in moderation is ok, even sometimes good for you; such as red wine and dark chocolate, nature’s remedy for antidepressants and heart health, in moderation. There are better alternatives to sugar that should be discussed in these studies as well, as long we’re trying to educate people. Coconut sugar, agave and any unrefined natural sugar is better than the white stuff or the man-made substitutes. Better yet, learn to set limits for yourself that are based in a healthy lifestyle balancing reward with responsibility. Oh yeah, and in the spirit of education and responsible choices, the Buck scientists state the best anti-inflammatory diet to promote better aging and overall health is a Mediterranean diet, cumin and curry, blueberries, walnuts, omega 3 foods and whole, unprocessed grains. That’s my two cents, what’s yours?