NZ scientists take on sugar: NZ Herald, Feb 8.

12 February 2014

For Dr Gerhard Sundborn of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, the fight against sugary soft drinks springs from their effects on his extended family, as well as being part of his job as a public health advocate and academic.

"My mother is from Tonga. I'm part Tongan.

"Our community and my family members have drunk a lot of soft drink. My mother has diabetes."

Dr Sundborn was the spokesman for the group FIZZ (Fighting Sugar in Soft Drinks) in a recent NZ Herald article. Modelled on the success of the tobacco-control campaign, the group of public health specialists and scientists want to ride the wave of support for "New Zealand Smokefree 2025" and the "end game for tobacco".

They are pushing for hefty, tobacco-style taxes on added-sugar milks, juices, soft drinks and energy/sports drinks because of the links between weight gain and intake of calorie-packed drinks.

Gerhard is also organising a symposium on sugary drinks which has attracted international speakers, including the Californian children's doctor Professor Robert Lustig, who famously refers to sugar as a toxin.

"To be fair, when I speak to a lot of friends and family about what I'm doing and about these drinks, when they are made very aware and when they fully understand how much sugar is in them, how much sugar we should have, and the harms high sugar consumption can have, they are quite quick to adopt behavioural change."