Sure, too much sugar can rot your teeth and grow your waistline. But is it "the most dangerous drug" of our time? Yes, at least according to a Dutch public health official.
Paul van der Velpen, the head of Amsterdam's health service, says sugar is an addictive drug that should be "tightly regulated."
"Just like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is actually a drug," he wrote in a column on the agency's website. "The use of sugar should be discouraged. And users should be made aware of the dangers."
Whether it's crystals in your coffee or powder on your pastry, sugar adds calories with no nutritional value. The average American man consumes 335 calories in added sugars, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - that's 13 percent of his recommended daily calories. And women aren't much better; getting an average 11 percent of their recommended daily calories from sugars added to processed foods and sweet treats like sodas, chocolates and ice creams.
"Sugar is actually a form of addiction," van der Velpen wrote, claiming that the urge for sweet food is as hard to kick as a smoking habit. "Diets only work temporarily. Addiction therapy is better."
Added sugars are linked to chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes, which is why van der Velpen wants to see taxes imposed and limits set. He also said sweetened products should come with a cigarette pack-like warning that "sugar is addictive and bad for the health."
Van der Velpen's comments come six months after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban supersize sodas in an effort to curb a growing obesity problem. Statistics show that the consumption of sweetened beverages has doubled since the 1970s alongside the country's obesity rate, which stands at 35.9 percent. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, according to the CDC.
Bloomberg's ban was blocked by the New York Supreme Court.
Van der Velpen said obesity will lead to growing health care costs - costs currently absorbed by the Dutch Health Care System. In the U.S., obesity and its consequences are expected to cost $66 billion in treatment and over $500 billion in lost economic productivity by 2030.