We hear a lot about the obesity epidemic in the western world. In Canada, obesity levels are at record levels.
According to a recent University of British Columbia study, 25 per cent of people in this country are estimated to be obese.
With children, 31% of kids aged five to 17 are considered overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada.
Obviously, a big health concern as obesity has been linked to chronic illnesses such as stroke and diabetes.
In the United States, 35 per cent of adults are obese and it will get worse if people don't change their eating and exercise habits.
One report, released last fall, says at least 44 per cent of Americans will be obese by 2030. In 13 states, it could be more than 60 per cent.
Well now, a doctor in the U.S. is challenging governments and the food industry to do something about it.
Dr. Robert Lustig is a specialist in treating overweight children and has a new book called Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar.
In it, he says sugar - not fat - is the real problem behind the obesity epidemic. He also has a web series called The Skinny On Obesity.
In this part, he talks about how sugar isn't just sweet, it's addictive and toxic.
In fact, in an interview with The Guardian, Lustig compares sugar to drugs like cocaine and heroin.
"We need to wean ourselves off. We need to de-sweeten our lives. We need to make sugar a treat, not a diet staple," he said.
"The food industry has made it into a diet staple because they know when they do you buy more. This is their hook. If some unscrupulous cereal manufacturer went out and laced your breakfast cereal with morphine to get you to buy more, what would you think of that? They do it with sugar instead."
Lustig says one of the big issues is cheap sugar - it's become part of our diet, "kids have access" to it, and it's in a lot of foods that don't need it.
And he says sugar is often disguised on food labels as carbohydrates, or glucose, or diastatic malt, or fructose.
And when it comes to industry and government, he doesn't mince words.
"Government has tied its wagon to the food industry because, at least in America, 6% of our exports are food. That includes the legislative and executive branches," he said.
"So the White House is in bed with the food industry and Congress apologizes for the food industry."
Lustig says he's not telling people to completely eliminate sugar - just get it down to a level that isn't "toxic."
The Guardian notes a 2009 statement from the American Heart Association, co-written by Lustig, that said Americans consumed 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.
That needs to come down to six for women and nine for men. And there's a simple way to do it, Lustig says.
Eat real food.
If you want to hear more from Dr. Lustig, check out this video entitled Sugar: The Bitter Truth.
The New York Times also did a piece suggesting the corporate food industry encourages people to eat processed foods. Check out this review of Michael Moss' book 'Salt Sugar Fat'.