Texas Tech University

Sugar: Public Enemy No. 1? Nutrition Expert Available to Discuss Dietary Guidelines

Heidi Toth

January 7, 2016

Martin Binks, an associate professor of nutritional sciences, is available to talk on the changes.

The Obama Administration released its five-year dietary guidelines today (Jan. 7); the biggest recommended change is reducing the amount of sugar in the average American's diet.

Key recommendations are:

  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats
  • Consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium.

Martin Binks, an associate professor of nutritional sciences, is available to talk on the changes. Binks leads the Behavioral Medicine & Translational Research Lab and is director of the Nutrition & Metabolic Health Initiative at Texas Tech. His expertise spans a breadth of clinical and translational research topics and issues in public health related to obesity including: behavioral, pharmacologic and surgical obesity treatment; barriers to treatment adherence (nutrition and physical activity); obesity and comorbidities; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); pain and sleep in obesity; sickle cell disease; health disparities; and neuroscience related to obesity.


Martin Binks, associate professor of nutritional sciences,
(806) 834-4434, m.binks@ttu.edu or @DrBinks

  • “It is important to note the dietary guidelines are ideally intended to provide a road map to assist in public health recommendations and are frequently used to inform policy decisions to improve public health. However, the general public and media frequently represent them as guidelines to inform their personal nutritional decisions. Unfortunately, the guidelines do not speak to the many individual nutritional needs of specific subgroups of people, individual differences in physiological and medical situations and personal preferences and goals.”

  • “One pitfall of such guidelines is the public and policymakers are inclined to over-interpret the guidelines as hard and fast rules of behavior as opposed to guidance based on available, and at times incomplete, evidence.”

  • “In the field of nutrition a ‘one size fits all' policy has proven ineffective over time and science is increasingly supporting a variety of effective nutritional strategies to maintain health as it relates to dietary practices. While the guidelines have attempted to be evidence-based while also introducing a more holistic and flexible perspective, they at times revert to singling out individual nutrients and/or food classes as opposed to focusing on the diet more broadly.”

  • “As an example, they have singled out sugar as this year's villain, much as we did fat in the 1980s. Certainly reducing sugar as part of an overall plan to reduce caloric density, total calories in the diet and to improve overall nutritional balance can be helpful and contribute to overall health. However, if the message to the public, similar to the 1980s message regarding dietary fat, is that sugar alone is now somehow the magic culprit in in improving overall health and maintaining healthy weight this could be problematic in that it may give people a false sense of security in the belief that if they simply target sugar reduction, all will be well.”

  • “As our knowledge of the complexity of human nutrition combined with our experience in targeting fat alone has proven, this is not an effective strategy for public health.”

  • “On the positive side, the guidelines have now updated guidance on dietary cholesterol to be in keeping with current evidence and have adopted a somewhat more realistic target for sodium, though that evidence remains controversial.”

  • “Taken as a whole there is some good evidence-based guidance in the guidelines. However, these should be considered in the context of the unique situation of every individual. As such I would urge the public to speak with qualified nutrition professionals to aid in interpreting the guidelines as they relate to their personal health situations, goals and preferences.”

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