Sugar is fuelling a global obesity pandemic, contributing to 35 million deaths annually from diabetes, heart disease and cancer, warn scientists.
Global sugar consumption has tripled over the past 50 years and its intake should be curtailed, like alcohol and tobacco, to protect the public from the deleterious effects of obesity, they said.
These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which is the distillation of sugar, point out study co-authors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis, from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
This would help explain why 40 percent of people with metabolic syndrome -- the key metabolic changes that lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer -- are not clinically obese, according to the journal Nature.
The study co-authors argue that sugar's potential for abuse, coupled with its toxicity and pervasiveness in the western diet make it a primary culprit of this worldwide health crisis.
Significantly, diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer now pose a greater health burden globally than infectious diseases, they said, according to a university statement.
"As long as the public thinks that sugar is just empty calories, we have no chance in solving this," said Lustig, professor of paediatrics, at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.
"There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates, but sugar is toxic beyond its calories," Lustig said.