The World Health Organization is once again in the news urging people to reduce the amount of sugar they eat. Of course the sugar industry is fighting back because their livelihood depends on people stuffing sugar into their mouths.
People love to badmouth tobacco companies, oil companies, drug dealers, yet many think that sugar producers have the right to earn money even if the product they are pushing is making the population sick.
Governments regulate tobacco, heroin and crack but for some incomprehensible reason stuffing sugar down your throat whether you like it or not is still legal.
Apart from rampant obesity one of the more serious problems caused by the overconsumption of sugar is type 2 diabetes. The healthcare costs of type 2 diabetes in Canada is comparable to the healthcare cost related to tobacco smoking.
So is it rational to heavily regulate one of them but simply ignore the problems caused by the other?
When I have started this blog I have written this manifesto to describe why one does not need to eat sugar and how fats have been demonized in some lipophobic hysteria. In Canada, where I live, almost 10% of the population has diabetes and the number is rapidly growing, most of which is type II, caused by the overconsumption of sugar. Even though type 2 diabetes has been described as one of the fastest growing diseases in Canada people and government alike seem to willfully ignore any connection between the increase of diabetes cases and stuffing sugar into virtually everything we eat.
I used to work for a big corporation — one that expected people to be in the office at ungodly hours, so getting something to eat inside the building was of some importance. Once I have complained that all the snacks that were available outside official lunch hours in the cafeteria were just high sugar, overly sweet pastries, and candy bars from wending machines. I have asked for alternatives. I was was basically officially told to ‘suck it up’. The same day my doctor threatened me that if I continue to eat the way I do I will soon have diabetes.
Over here we have government founded public healthcare. The healthcare cost of type 2 diabetes is well over ten billion dollars each year. Complications from diabetes can leave the sufferer alive just sick, and miserable, and often in need of constant expensive medical care. So if we tell people that they cannot smoke ‘for their own good’ why don’t we have the same attitude towards excessive sugar consumption?
We have reached a level of health awareness that smoking is not even tolerated in most western countries. Putting sugar into everything we eat, on the other hand, is not even considered wrong by most people. Even though the health care cost arising from the latter is just as high as from the former. Children are not allowed to smoke — at least in civilized countries — yet they can be legally stuffed full of sugar by their parents or in a school cafeteria. It is also legal to advertise various high sugar food items with no nutritional value to children — at the same time the media keep complaining that childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic.
We talk about second hand smoke as harmful. But when the only options on a menu are high sugar items, because ‘most people like it that way’ that creates a similar effect — one is forced to do something detrimental to one’s health or avoid most everyday social situations involving food. Restaurants have learned to tolerate some dietary quirks, for example vegetarian choices are often offered. Making them understand that no I don’t want fries with that, or a coke, and I certainly don’t want syrup on my meat can be harder. Often menus do not even have ‘a la cart’ options, you have to buy a ‘meal’ with comes with starchy side dishes, dessert and often with a sugary soda drink. While some establishments try to be accommodating others simply do not have a procedure to deal with a customers who do not want fries with their meat or simply do not eat sweets.
People also take offence if one does not accept various treat items, candy, chocolate, cookies and the like when offered as a friendly gesture. If someone insisted that his friends should take an offered cigarette, or smoke a peace pipe together or anything like that modern western culture would treat him as a troll. If, on the other hand, one takes offence because you don’t want a slice of his birthday cake then you are the bad guy. There is a long way ahead of us when it comes to tolerance.
Perhaps some sensitivity to people’s needs and giving people an actual choice what they want to eat could go a long way to improve the health of the population and reduce healthcare costs. While I am not in favor of the government telling me what I can or cannot eat, the argument goes both ways, I want to have the right to have the same access to low sugar food the way as sugary items are readily available everywhere. Currently all the powers-that-be do is blame the victim and tell people they should eat healthier. In order to have any moral grounds to complain that people are making unhealthy choices in their diet, access to healthier choices should be a real option even if one is on the go, at work, in a fast food restaurant or eating out anywhere.
Access to food without added sugar should be be a right just as a smoke free environment is.
The right of food vendors to make money selling me low cost high profit sugar should not be held more important than my right to eat food that I deem healthy.
WHO to basically everybody: Stop eating so much sugar – The Washington Post.
A somewhat older documentary on the subject of sugar:
The Secrets of Sugar – the fifth estate – CBC News.
Diabetes in Canada: Facts and figures from a public health perspective – Public Health Agency of Canada.
Economic Tsunami: The Cost of Diabetes in Canada — Canadian Diabetes Association.
Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 on Wikipedia.