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Monday, 25 July 2011

Sugar - How sweet it isn't

For those of you who don't struggle to maintain a healthy weight - enjoy.   For the rest of us, it seems like a constant battle of what to eat and what not to eat.  

Change needs the support of the environment in which we are changing.   While diabetes, obesity, hip and knee replacement,  and other weight related illnesses are epidemic and increasing at alarming rates - why have we been unsuccessful in our efforts to date?

To maintain current weights, most of us require about 2000 calories if a woman, and 2400 calories if a man.  The actual needs depend on activity levels and weights.

The last few years have seen an uncovering of the big sugar companies and there ability to manipulate dietary habits and appalling approaches to third world working conditions.   The fruits of their labours are the additions to many prepacked foods and drinks that we consume.   As is common in major food production industry, close links will be found between primary food processors (taking sugar cane or sugar beets and converting to refined sugar) and secondary food processors (using refined sugar as a component of beverages, snacks, canned foods), and even to the food distribution networks (where we buy our food).   It should not be surprising that objections to simple things like food labelling were often backed by food producers.

It is not easy to remove sugar from our processed food chain.  I've not heard anyone calling for banning chocolate bars, or placing them on hidden racks behind counters.   There are no discussions on limiting the maximum concentration in certain drinks.  The idea of taking the sugar container off the table or prescribing limits on sugar as an additive to coffee and tea would result in a psychiatric assessment.

On the other hand, where is the dialogue on how can we systematically reduce caloric (and salt as per the previous blog) intake through changes in how we prepare foods.   For our society that is expanding at the waistline, tough choices will need to be made on how to revert to sustainable and healthy diets.  Leaving it to  consumers to "choose" the healthy option is abandoning our neighbours - something a civic society would not consider acceptable. 

The first start is to make the healthy options easier and cheaper. 

Perhaps its time to talk about a sugar tax.

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