War on Sugar, a Good Intention Badly Executed
Over the past few weeks I have seen lots of adverts for Jamie Oliver’s quest to tax sugary drinks. Which makes out that sugar is the bad guy in this story.
“Soft drinks are the largest single source of sugar consumption for school-age children and teenagers and sometimes, alarmingly, even younger children, and just one serving of these drinks may contain more than half of their recommended maximum daily sugar intake. Such drinks are a totally unnecessary calorie source and can have a significant negative impact on dental health.”
Which shines a spotlight again on sugar as being an enemy.
He does continue in a more positive vein that hints part of the real problem.
” Action on Sugar argues that reducing sugar content across the board would reduce our average calorie intake and therefore have a positive impact on reducing 1http://www.aomrc.org.uk/doc_view/9578-british-heart-foundation-health-promotion-research-group-dept-of-p ublic-health-oxford 2 “The 20% tax is predicted to reduce consumption of concentrated sugar sweetened drinks by 15% and non-concentrated sugar sweetened drinks by 16%.” BMJ 2013;347:f6189 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f6189 3 http://www.sustainweb.org/publications/a_childrens_future_fund/ 4 http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/actiononsugar/Press%20Release%20/141202.pdf obesity levels. Drinks with added sugar are a clear target for sugar reduction as the process should be relatively simple.”
Whilst I agree that:
“Such drinks are a totally unnecessary calorie source and can have a significant negative impact on dental health”
It is also a fact that glucose in itself is physiologically an unnecessary calorie source. The body can survive without ever ingesting glucose; it can synthesis all the glucose it needs from other nutrients.
We do need Protein and fat. These are essential nutrients. Glucose is not.
BUT, we like foods that contain glucose, they are readily available and usually cheap and they can be perfectly healthy, if not ingested to excess; as with ANY food.
Too much of any food will eventually lead to excessive calories and THAT is the major cause of diet related illness. Excessive calories.
Diet really is very well studied and on the front end, very simple: consume enough protein to meet the needs of repair and vitality, enough fat for health and hormone production/cell repair and enough calories to fuel your day and no more.
Which leads us nicely to the crux of the problem. A three pronged issue that is much harder to address than simply demonising a food group (this decade it is sugar, in the 90’s it was fat, what next)?
Education, accountability and a point few like to talk about as it doesn’t sell books; laziness.
Education is a simple one to tackle, we have a huge national system in place to provide free information to children and future parents. Schools are in place to provide us with essential life skills to thrive into old age. It is pretty obvious now that nutritional education is an absolute necessity given the statistics on obesity.
A simple outline of nutrients and calories would suffice. Include it in a mathematics lesson. It is a numbers game after all. Calories in versus out.
Accountability is something most like to pass off to a cooperation/s as Jamie has done recently in blaming someone else for a problem rather than accepting where the real blame lies, with ourselves. No body forces us to buy sweet drinks, take away food, alcohol and all the other food stuff we enjoy that are calorie dense and making us fat. NOBODY does. We consciously make those decisions ourselves.
I can’t remember how many times overweight parents have blamed their kids for there being crisps and sweets in the house. So you know it’s crap food, that it contributes to making you fat (and thus miserable with your own body) yet you still want your kids to go through the same things? That simply stuns me, and saddens me.
Without exception, each and every person I have ever trained knows which foods they eat too much of, which ones to cut out, which foods to eat more and less of. Every person I’ve ever met knows that some variation of the meat, fish, veg and fruits guide is how to eat.
Takeaways, junk food, chocolate and booze are perfectly healthy. Said no-one, ever.
Laziness is where we fall as species, we enjoy saving energy, thinking less and having the easy way out, it’s in our genes from a long time ago when food was sparse and life much harsher. That is also a choice we make nowdays. It is laziness that causes us to choose a ready meal over a home cooked meal. A chocolate bar with a lunch time meal deal because we wanted to watch TV and mong out rather than make a packed lunch at home the night before.
We pick up fizzy drinks and sugar laden food and drink because most can’t be bothered reading a label or to overcome an urge for a synthetic tasty snack. Laziness requires will power and energy to overcome. Eat this foods still but at least have the will power to count your calories and factor them in.
Educate yourself and others, take responsibility for your own choices and those of your children and make an effort.
These are the areas that need focus, not an external third party blame game.
Sugar is not bad, too much sugar is bad, water is bad if we have too much of it…should we blame water for an ailment, or perhaps tax it? No, we should take ownership as parents, teachers, idols, role models, adults to guide the next generation.
We tell children that smoking, drinking, drugs etc. are bad for health so why not make a point of telling them what overeating in general does to health. We don’t let children decide when and where they sleep, socialise, learn, play or pretty much anything without guiding them. We all know kids would poop in their pants, eat chocolate all day and generally be lazy instinct driven creatures, it’s in our genes. We must guide them in all things from a young age until those good habits are part of their daily routine, diet included, a priority in fact.
I want to add at the end that whilst I disagree with his methods and approach I applaud Jamie for the audience he has generated and the care he shows for others health in this effort.