A few weeks ago, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco caused a stir—but made a whole lot of sense—when they declared that the government should regulate sugar, as it does alcohol and tobacco, because sugar is “toxic beyond its calories.”

We’ve heard for years that sugar rots your teeth and contributes to obesity, but its inherent toxicity has only recently been brought to the forefront. Turns out the saccharine little devil isn’t so sweet after all, and is making Americans sick in record numbers and myriad ways.

Sure, sugar tastes good, and, like anything, is okay in moderation. There is, however, an important distinction between natural sugar and added sugar. Natural sugars, found in fruits and complex carbohydrates like whole grain bread, are easily metabolized by the body. Added sugars, like high fructose corn syrup, are not.  And the thing about high fructose corn syrup is that it is used in almost all processed foods because it is cheap, easy to produce, and super-sweet. It is also spectacularly bad for you.

Aside from damaging your mouth and expanding your waistline, high fructose corn syrup has been implicated in causing or contributing to serious health concerns like cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, heart disease, fatty liver disease and other ailments stemming from obesity. According to the UCSF report, such non-communicable diseases pose a greater threat to worldwide health than infectious ones.

They cost a pretty penny, too: the UCSF report also states that in the United States, about 75 percent of healthcare costs are spent treating these diseases and the disabilities associated with them.

Part of what makes processed sugar so dangerous is that fructose bypasses the pancreas and goes directly to the liver. When the liver becomes overwhelmed by the amount of fructose coming its way, insulin resistance sets in. Insulin resistance is the underlying cause of diabetes.

What’s more, a number of studies indicate that cancer cells feed off refined sugars (like fructose) because they have a high glycemic index, causing a sharp rise in blood glucose. This increase triggers elevated insulin production, which causes inflammation in the body. Too much inflammation can lead cells to unhealthily multiply, better known as cancer. Foods that have a low glycemic index and do not contain high-fructose corn syrup—like natural carbohydrates rich in protein and fiber—do not cause this reaction.

If food manufacturers aren’t going to change the way they manufacture food, which is making people sick in record numbers and taxing the U.S. economy, and if Americans aren’t going to quit eating high fructose corn syrup the same way they should quit smoking cigarettes, then this matter has already transcended personal responsibility, on the part of the food producers and the food consumers.

A few years ago, when gas prices soared, people changed their driving habits, in that they did it less or turned to more fuel-efficient cars because it was cheaper. If the cost of eating unhealthily or of producing foods laden with toxic, unnatural ingredients was similarly elevated by a tax, would people curb their eating habits, too?
It’s so crazy it just might work.

Deirdre Imus, Founder of the site devoted to environmental health, dienviro.org, is President and Founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center™ at Hackensack  University Medical Center and Co-Founder/Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She is a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com, Fox Business Channel and Fox News Channel. Check out her website at dienviro.org, 'Like' her Facebook page here.