‘60 Minutes’ Attacks Sugar as Toxic, Like ‘Cocaine’

Sugar is a “toxin” that is killing the unwitting masses, according to an April 1, “60 Minutes” hosted by CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Gupta and all of the medical experts that he interviewed argued that sugar leads to heart disease, cancer (by leading to the creation of insulin, which cancer cells use to trigger their growth), and that sugar can actually be compared to certain drugs, like “cocaine,” in that it triggers the pleasure centers in the brain.

“New research coming out of some of America’s most respected institutions is starting to find that sugar, the way many people are eating it today, is a toxin,” Gupta said at the start of the segment.

Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, University of California San Francisco Professor of Pediatrics, was the primary expert in piece. Lustig told Gupta that he believes sugar should be treated the same way as tobacco and alcohol, substances which are still legal, but regulated.

“Ultimately, this is a public health crisis, and when there’s a public health crisis you have to do big things and you have to do them across the board. Tobacco and alcohol are perfect examples … I think that sugar belongs in this exact same wastebasket,” said Lustig.

While Lustig admitted that sugars, whether cane sugar or corn syrup, are not “acute toxins,” or toxins that kill right away, what he and others like him seek is for sugar to achieve “chronic toxin” status, or toxins which kill slowly over extended periods of time.

The New York Times launched a similar op-ed in April of last year entitled “Is Sugar Toxic?” based on a presentation given by Lustig on May 26, 2009.

According to the Times, “His critics argue that what makes [Lustig] compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. ‘It’s not about the calories,’ he says. ‘It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.’” Maybe Dr. Lustig should look more carefully at those shades of gray.

Gupta did make a pit stop at a sugar can farm in Louisiana to talk to Jim Simon, a board member for the Sugar Association. Compared to Lustig’s favorable interview, Simon was badgered and asked loaded questions. (“Would it surprise you that nearly every scientist that we talked to in researching this story, told us that they are eliminating nearly all added sugars…because they’re concerned about the health impacts?”)

The interview with Simon was quickly followed by more time with Lustig, who was seen wearing a headset and working intently on a computer in a room filled with piles and piles of paper. Lustig went on to refute the few things that Simon managed to say.

Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella
Mike Ciandella is a staff writer for the Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute.