Obesity rates in America are skyrocketing, which is causing Americans to obtain diseases. The over consumption of added salt, sugar, and lack of exercise are the main causes to the obesity crisis. According to Marcia Clemmitt, a veteran social-policy reporter who served as editor in chief of Medicine and Health, ‘some analysts say the key culprit to the nations sky high obesity rates come from excess calories from sugar in processed foods and drinks. They also may be triggering diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (Clemmitt, Garcia). So in turn, the government feels a need to regulate added sugar consumption. American citizens need to take their health more seriously and act more accordingly to their lifestyle by being more responsible and consuming less additives to help prevent high obesity rates. In this paper, I will discuss the controversy in government regulated sugar, how sugar affects the body, new healthy eating guidelines, as well as how to minimize our sugar and salt intake.
In past years, the government has been trying to enact certain laws to regulate added sugar consumption, but they have continually been fought off by big food corporations. They all use the same reasoning by saying; “We as adults are old enough to make our own choices. We are aware of what our food consists of. We should be able to make our own choices without any government supervision.” A great example of this occurred recently, in New York City, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a law passed that restricted restaurants, food carts, and entertainment venues from selling any soft drink over the size of 16oz.The placement of this ban has caused a small uproar of complaints, saying that it deludes consumers’ and businesses’ rights. Liz Berman, chairperson of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said, “It’s sad that the board wants to limit our choices. We are smart enough to make our own decisions about what to eat and drink (Berman, Liz). In cases like this, although people may know the differences between healthy choices and unhealthy choices, most people don’t have any self control to reject the unhealthy choices. It is at times like these when a small push towards the healthy decision just isn’t enough. We also need someone to help limit our bad choices.
There is a difference between eating for pleasure and someone’s behavior around food. Therefore, we cannot blame food for the obesity crisis, but the behaviors of consumers. A tactic that has been used before and was shown to be effective was tax increases. By raising prices on high sugary drinks and snacks would dissuade some people from purchasing unhealthy products. Now that’s not to say that everyone would stop purchasing unhealthy products, but it would show a significant decrease. According to Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of California, the public costs of the obesity epidemic justify public action to limit sugar consumption, treating obesity-related health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, he said, is throwing $147 billion a year in public funds down the drain (Lustig, Robert). Potentially, if consumers could limit their bad health choices, the public could save billions a year for public funds that could be used for something of much greater value (Clemmitt, Marcia). Controlling our diets is just a problem that most people don’t want to deal with. Especially when sugary and salty foods taste so good that they become addictive.
Drug addiction is a problem that many people would agree on, but what about sugar addiction? Sugar is pleasurable and addictive just like any drug. Surprisingly, when shown side by side, sugar make the brain react in the same exact way as cocaine does (Fed Up). In the movie Fed Up, it is discussed about how sugar is the main villain serving obesity. “A study shows that between the years of 1978 and 2004, a 17 percent increase of added sugars consumed by the average American grew from 86 pounds to 101 pounds annually. During that same time, the proportion of American adults who are obese rose from 15 to 33 percent (Clemmitt, Garcia).” Therefore, if we eliminate added sugar from our diet, we would be so much healthier and obesity rates would plummet. But to get obesity rates to drop, we need to start early with the kids. Children are fed sugar like it is oxygen. Parents think it is okay to give their children sugary snacks and drinks because it makes the kids happy, which in return makes the parents happy; until they get older and the kids are suffering from obesity and are miserable. At least that is what the movie Fed Up is about. The documentary tells the story of multiple obese kids that are trying to diet and exercise correctly so that they may lose weight and be normal like the other kids. The kids could not succeed in weight loss because everyday they were tempted at school with high salt foods and very sugary snacks. Although Michelle Obama tried to get healthier school lunches, most schools continue to have very unhealthy food. Especially when tomato paste is considered a vegetable (Fed Up). But with the new healthy eating guidelines, weight loss is not impossible.
A few years ago, dieters would tend to try and eliminate all fat from their diets, but new studies are showing that fat is actually healthy in a diet. Trans fats and saturated fats should be eliminated from your diet but not non-saturated fats such as polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Those should be kept in your diet, for they play an important part to your overall well-being. Good fats help you absorb vital vitamins and minerals crucial to your health. ‘Every five years, a committee reviews the latest nutritional science and creates recommendations for the public. In previous years, it been about nutrients: to know what amount of each food type is optimum for health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Human Services emphasize weight control (Healthy Eating).” Reducing the amount of added salt and sugar intake and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables seems to be the common solution here.
There are multiple ways to find a solution as to how we can reduce the amount of daily salt and sugar intake. If we think about salt and sugar naturally and go back in time, we find out that salt and sugar were extremely rare and hard to find. And if that is so, then by nature, we are not meant to consume large amounts of it. But man has made it easy and we consume way more than we should. When we consume sugar, we get a rush of energy, followed by a crash. It increases our chance of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Salt on the other hand will raise your blood pressure. Both salt and sugar will help you put on a few pounds of fat. A couple of simple tricks to reduce your salt and sugar intake are: Rinse all of canned food, replace salt with cayenne pepper, add cinnamon, honey, or cranberries to cereal instead of sugar, and swap your sugary foods with fruit. The Harvard School of Public Health have been trying to help and work on improving the American diet. In April 2012, the Department of Nutrition’s faculty held a widely publicized press conference challenging beverage manufacturers to create a new class of drinks with 70% less sugar (Reducing sugar…).’ If this is accomplished, then obesity rates will be sure to simmer down a bit, especially since most of the added sugar that people consume comes from soda alone.
Therefore, the sugar and salt consumption of American citizens is through the roof and it needs to drop dramatically in order for obesity rates to come down. After looking at some of the controversy over the government regulating sugar consumption, how sugar affects the body, new healthy eating guidelines, and how to minimize our sugar and salt intake, it can go one of two ways: Americans will continue to gorge themselves with unhealthy foods that are killing them, or they will make a change and change the American diet in order to help bring down obesity rates. Americans have known the healthy food choices for quite some time now, and still tend to choose unhealthy foods. Overall it comes down to the choice of the individual of how important his/her health is.