Obesity has become a global epidemic, bringing with it other health problems such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, fatty liver etc. Some of the leading causes of obesity are genetics, junk food and food addiction. As a society, we like to believe that preaching “calories in, calories out” and “eat less and exercise more” can solve this health crisis. It has somehow been ingrained into our brains that exercise and weight loss go hand in hand. But even babies can be obese too, so are they supposed to “eat less and exercise more”? What I think is that the root problem behind these health problems lies somewhere else, somewhere hidden from our eyesight.
Almost all of us consume processed foods and as we all know that these food items are not healthy. But how unhealthy are they really? Whenever we walk into a grocery store, we are greeted with aisles and aisles of food products screaming “low fat.” Yet we are still having to worry about gaining weight.
Processed foods products such as soup, cereal, crackers didn’t always have low-fat versions. They came up with those products only after the public became aware of the dangerous effects of fat on the human body. Even these food manufacturing companies have cut down on fat on some of their products on the shelves, it hasn’t gotten much healthier. The replacement they have found for fat is just as lethal: sugar.
The human body does require sugar, about 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women every day. But the current sugar intake is dangerously high. The average daily sugar consumption was 19 teaspoons in 2008.
Too much added sugar is dangerous for health because it can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases. Sugar is made up of two molecules, glucose, and fructose. Glucose gives us energy but fructose, on the other hand, can turn into fat and end up in our liver. Sugar from natural sources such as fruit isn’t dangerous because it is absorbed with fiber.
Now make no mistake here, the dangers of sugars are not a recent finding. A study in late 1960’s named “project 259” made connections between high levels of sugar intake and triglycerides (fat found in the blood), which has links with high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. It also saw a connection with an increased risk of bladder cancer because of too much beta-glucuronidase, which is identified as a bladder carcinogen. If the study got published (which it didn’t) we as a society would be more aware of the consequences of sugar.
Food manufacturing companies have been confronted with these facts but they keep denying it. One great example that comes to mind is when the sugar association went as far as to pull out its $406 m out of World Health Organization in 2003 when its guidelines said that “sugar should not be more than 10% of a healthy diet”.
The food industry uses the strategies that we saw the tobacco industry use. When denying facts isn’t enough, they move on to using the argument of free speech and chanting the rights of a consumer. But free speech and rights of a consumer don’t go hand in hand when the consumers are not given adequate information about the product they are selling. Do you know how much sugar is in your biscuit or hot chocolate? Most people don’t even know what added sugar is.
Dextrose, fructose, anhydrous dextrose, maltodextrin, these words that I can’t pronounce are all added sugars. There are more than 50 different names for sugar and not everyone is going to remember them. Also if you look at a nutrition label, you will find that there is no daily value beside sugar. Yes, the consumer has a right to choose what they want to purchase but they also have a right to know the possible risks associated with the product is.
It is important to note the food industry is extremely wealthy. They are in the business for the purpose of making money and are not overly concerned about the public health, just like how the tobacco industry was. But many other corporations benefit from them too such as insurance companies buying stocks in fast food. “According to Harvard Medical School researchers, 11 large companies that offer life, disability, or health insurance owned about $1.9 billion in stock in the five largest fast-food companies as of June 2009.” states an article.
Excercise is good for health but we need to understand that there is an issue that is not talked about enough, which is sugar. It is a time we stop blaming the victims. It is unfair to be expected to make healthy choices when you don’t even know the risks of what you are eating.