By now I’m sure you’ve heard the news stories describing a recent article in the February issue of the journal Nature titled “Public Health: the Toxic Truth About Sugar.” Although you need a subscription to read the actual article, CBS News has a good critique available here.
The bottom line of the Nature article – and the part that has generated so much controversy – is the assertion by the authors that refined sugar is just as “toxic” to public health as alcohol and tobacco and should similarly be regulated by the government.
Now think about that for a minute. Does that make sense? So what’s next, “Food Nazis” patrolling the streets in brown shirts looking for people feeding a cookie to their kids and hauling them off to the office of the local ATS (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Sugar <grin>) ?
Can you really “regulate” good health? Can you legally force people to avoid the things they like to eat but should be avoiding?
Yes, I’m aware of the statistics. According to the CDC, more than a third of the US population over the age of 20 is obese. More than a third! And yes, I know that there’s a strong link between obesity and sugar. And true, obesity-related illnesses cost us $116 Billion per year and will consume 21% of ALL healthcare costs by 2018 (source: USA Today).
But still, can good health be regulated? Regulation really hasn’t worked for either alcohol (estimated $45.5 Billion in healthcare costs) or tobacco (estimated healthcare cost: $97 Billion) so what makes people think it will work for sugar?
Where does self reliance enter into the picture? Don’t we have a right to choose what we eat and don’t eat? Well, here’s where the picture gets fuzzy once again.
The CBS article quoted a prepared statement from the Sugar Association (OK, why there’s an association for sugar in the first place is anyone’s guess but in today’s world, everybody’s got their own lobby group). In it, a spokesperson said:
“We are confident that the American people are perfectly capable of choosing what foods to eat without stark regulations and unreasonable bans imposed upon them.”
Actually, that would be true IF they didn’t already put sugar into just about everything we eat – from breakfast cereal to spaghetti sauce. If it’s a “processed” food, it’s got sugar. You’ll even find sugar in some canned vegetables (I looked in my pantry and found sugar listed on cans of creamed corn, peas & carrots, and in ranch-style pinto beans).
So if sugar is being added to all the foods we eat, then where’s the choice?
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments.
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