NEWS ALERT: Americans are consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar!
I don’t think the above statement should come as a surprise, especially with all of the health problems our country is currently facing. Unfortunately, certain diseases and ailments are becoming more and more commonplace. Personally, I believe mandatory nutrition education should start at the elementary school level and continue into high school. I also wish more American corporations would offer nutritional programs and incentives. Show me the money though, right?
Well, it just so happens that other people are also trying to improve America’s health dilemma. Go figure! According to a WebMD article (Americans Sweet on Sugar: Time to Regulate?) I read the other day, Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor at UCSF’s Center for Obesity, Assessment, Study, and Treatment, believes that added sugars (those not naturally occurring in foods) need to be regulated. He asserts that personal intervention is not enough since sugar is addictive. It encourages the brain to continue consumption.
Lustig links excess sugar intake to:
– High blood pressure
– Increase in triglyceride levels
– Liver problems
According to the American Heart Association, men should limit their intake to no more than nine teaspoons a day, and women should not consume more than six teaspoons. To put things in perspective, the average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day. Some people are consuming so much sugar that it adds up to half their caloric intake.
Since soda accounts for so much of the extra sugar consumption, Lustig believes that the same models used to regulate alcohol and tobacco should be applied to soda. He suggests that soda be taxed at a hefty rate, availability be limited, and an age limit be put in place for purchase.
In addition, Lustig thinks the FDA should remove fructose from the Generally Recognized as Safe list. And a good next step would be to list the amount of added sugars on nutritional labels and not lump all sugars into one number.
The FDA responded to Lustig’s suggestions by essentially saying that consumers need to be their own advocates by inspecting ingredient lists for added sugars.
This isn’t as simple as it sounds though, since added sugars have many names, including:
– Corn syrup
– High-fructose corn syrup
– Fruit juice concentrate
And obviously, the American Beverage Association doesn’t believe that “focusing solely on sugar intake would have any meaningful public health impact.” All of Lustig’s suggestions are “extreme.”
So my initial thoughts when reading this article fell into three buckets. One, even though I instinctively know that excess sugar is not good for the human body, I don’t think a single ingredient should be taken out of context and it’s effects studied. My personal belief is that the argument against sugar would be much stronger if directly linked to other contributing factors, such as the presence of other ingredients, a lack of exercise, an overall poor diet, etc. My second set of thoughts were directed towards the government. After reading Food Matters and In Defense of Food, I’ve come to understand more about how our government supports the food industry and how that support works against the general public. Not only do we never get the full truth, but nothing is done to uncover that truth and present it to American consumers in a simple way. And my final set of thoughts was about Lustig’s suggestions. While I fully support simplifying nutritional labels and being more transparent, I don’t know if taxing sugary food items is the answer. Not only because it would never be approved but also because that solution is not nipping the issue in the bud. I still firmly believe more education is the way to go, with the “why” being answered every step of the way.
What are your thoughts around instituting a sugar tax? Do you believe our nation’s overall health would improve with more education?