Tag Archives: obesity epidemic

Coke and Cigarettes

The current economic crunch has folks looking for $ in interesting places. Several recent reports indicate the lawmakers may be turning to soda pop to help cover escalating health care costs.   In Mark Bittman’s article Soda: A Sin We Sip Instead of Smoke? He carefully covers the current bids for legislation as well as the soda manufacturer’s response.

This generation of children will not have as long of a life expectancy due to being raised on poor quality, industrialized food according to a 2008 CDC report.  Not only is obesity on the rise but 1 in 3 children born in 2000 will become diabetic.

Part of the blame for these daunting figures rests in the cans of soda pop.  Americans drink 50 gallons per person each year.  Dr. Walter Willett, Dr. Robert Lustig and other health and nutrition experts teach us that liquid calories don’t turn on satiety signals.  Sugary liquid calories leave us wanting more and since the body has little metabolic use for sugary substances (particularly fructose) those 50 gallons rapidly turn into stored fat.
Michelle Obama responds by heading up a new campaign against obesity.   Last week, the Obama administration announced a plan to ban candy and sweetened beverages from schools.  Many are advocating for more strenuous action calling for a tax on soda.  The money collected from charging tax on every can of soda (Gov. Patterson of NY at one point was  recommending a penny per ounce) would raise enough money to put a dent in the cost of new health care overhaul.  Soda manufacturer lobbyists note that the tax would hit our poorest citizens hardest.  True enough.  Healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food.  How do we change this?

joe_camelThe same strategy was applied to the tobacco industry, another unhealthful product that was aggressively marketed to children and teenagers, Americans were shamed by the cigarette tax and segregation of smokers and now smoke at half the rate they once did.  The Mad Men era is definitely over.  Actors on the set smoke clove cigarettes.
Some states already have a small excise tax on soda.  I have always optimistically hoped that parent education would turn things around for our childrens health.  The pace of that learning curve may be too slow.  What are your thoughts?  Will taxing junk food help reverse the obesity trend?  Would making cheap food more expensive bring down the cost of healthful food?  Do we make drinking soda uncool the way we ripped off Joe Camel’s shades?

The Bitter Truth about Sugar

If you want to see and hear an excellent lecture that explains clearly how the steady increase of sugar in the American diet is responsible for wreaking havoc on our health, watch this.  If you want to feel okay, from a nutritional point of view, about the good fats in your diet – whether they come from animal or vegetable sources, Dr. Lustig will make your day. If you want to understand in detail how fructose (particularly high fructose corn syrup) is metabolized, this lecture lays it out.

I know.  It’s ninety minutes long and not everybody is nutrition nerdy enough to make it through.  Here is an article by Dr. Lustig that summarizes the major points but you won’t derive the passion and excitement that he brings to the topic in the video.

Robert H. Lustig, MD, is UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.  He explores the damage caused by sugary foods and argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.
In the video he clearly shows, down to a molecular level, how fructose(from all sources) metabolizes similarly to alcohol.  Both convert to fat quickly and both fail to give satiety signals causing us to eat more and want more.  Fructose consumption has incrementally increased 5-fold compared to a century ago while fat consumption decreased.  High intake of sugar is linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.  Quit blaming butter!

But don’t take my word for it.  Watch this.  Loaded with startling facts and put into context with American food history and dietary trends.

I know. Cynthia why are you raining on sugar just before the sweets for sweetheart holiday? Problem is, there’s almost no time of year that we’re not about to have a holiday focused on sweets. Right? How do you keep your family’s sweet tooth in check???