Sweet Tooth

While driving in to work on Monday, I heard a story on public radio about the excessive amount of sugar consumed by Americans. According to the journalist, sugar consumption is resulting in an increased incidence in fatty liver disease, type II diabetes, excessive weight gain, metabolic disorders and heart disease. (And as we know, excessive weight gain is in itself a risk factor for cancer and myriad other debilitating illnesses.) So what do we do about it?

The answer is obvious: cut back on sugar! However, don’t forget that sugar has an addictive quality to it. People find it very difficult to simply give up. So the governor of Massachusetts has an idea: tax sugary foods like soft drinks, candy, and other sugar-enhanced beverages. (Some believe that Americans will think twice about buying all of that soda if it costs more money.) In the event that it doesn’t alter sugar spending, money generated from the tax could be used to educate people about better health and nutrition.

Some may ask why the government is getting involved in this seemingly personal decision to consume more than 100 pounds of sugar a year – which is the average according to various websites. The answer? High health care costs are affecting the state’s budget. In my eyes, that is a perfectly good reason for the governor to get involved. What do you think?

Chris Gindlespirger has an interesting quote during the interview. “Taxes don’t make people healthy. What helps people get to a place where they’re leading a more healthy lifestyle is educating them on how to balance the calories they consume with the calories they expend through physical activity” (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/02/06/146481752/taxes-and-food-stamp-restrictions-proposed-to-tame-americas-sweet-tooth). What Chris doesn’t understand is the relationship between the overconsumption of sugar and insulin resistance. Nor does he understand that the inflammation caused by the overconsumption of sugar will likely be exacerbated by the wrong kind of physical activity.

My friend’s father recently went to see the doctor for a routine physical. Since he had put on about 25 pounds the doctor asked him some lifestyle questions. When my friend’s father revealed that he drank soda all day long, the doctor didn’t mince words: “When it comes to sugar, you need to go home and shut your mouth.” Sound advice for all of us.