Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Personal Substance Ban Wasn’t Voluntary

I grew up loving sugar.  My mom made the most credible cinnamon rolls.  I never knew any other way to eat oatmeal than with a solid layer of sugar over the top of the entire bowl.  Pancakes were just a platform for syrup and if it wasn't maple then it was my mom's homemade “choke cherry or butter syrups.”

My grandfather treated me to pecan and peanut rolls almost as often as I like to feed my English Bulldog “Greenies” for dental cleaning. I inhaled glazed donuts whenever they were available and my favorite salad was fruit covered with my mom’s incredible homemade whip cream.

In the years immediately after I left home, breakfast consisted of a Coke or Pepsi and a hostess berry pie on the go and I was often fueled by strawberry twizzlers during periodic trips back home.  Then I hit the wall in my early 20s.  I was diagnosed with “reactive” hypoglycemia (not diabetes) and I've had very little sugar in the nearly 40 years since.

I've been a high-protein-low-carb diet ever since and it sure works for me, although more exercise wouldn’t hurt.

If you aren't “fortunate” enough to have learned this information through a diagnosis of reactive hypoglycemia or something similar, the great new infographic at this link by Massive Health illustrates in 12 simple steps just how sugar, even just the thought of it, leads to increased body weight and a world where currently 7 out of 10 adult Americans are overweight or obese.

When I read a piece published earlier this month in the weekly science journal Nature, I had no problems at all understanding why scientists are calling for the regulation of sugar much as we do alcohol and tobacco.

Although politically “red” states and areas have the largest amount of overweight people (I'm not sure where political independents like me fall,) a very cool thing has been happening while ultraconservatives have been busy grid locking and effectively starving government.

Enlightened by government information and ignited by consumer awareness, businesses including large corporations have been forging ahead with sustainability initiatives including examples such as Thomas Built, a zero waste-to-landfill school bus manufacturer here in North Carolina and a move toward carbon footprint transparency by many businesses that have learned that this can bump stock values.

Now we’re also seeing moves by some grocery chains, including the the largest, Walmart,  which made an announcement last week that it will implement “Great For You” designations labeling healthy foods to better inform consumers.

Judging by the standards Walmart published it seems like more than a marketing scheme.  But while it may indeed just be part of a strategy to turn around negative public opinion and it is obviously a voluntary move toward better business practices, it in no way compensates for some of the negative things the retail giant is doing to the food system in general.

Marketing has always been more effective when it says “look here” versus “don't look there,” although it is widely recognized that negative information is always many times more powerful than positive information, especially as we currently see in politics.  That's why, until marketing gets a whole lot more ethical than it has become to date, there'll always be an important role for government regulations in the public interest.

Refined sugar and refined carbohydrates, which rapidly break down into sugars once eaten, are still a legitimate issue for government regulation in its important role of safeguarding public health, especially since the free market alone fails to incorporate “negative externalities” into the prices for these commodities.

Primarily it is promotion and consumption of sugars that is driving the spectacular increase of some very serious diseases such as diabetes, which are having and will continue to have an impact on the economy that will make the current obsession with the federal deficit pale by comparison.

I'm very lucky!  My life and my health at age 63 would definitely be much different had I not developed a very physical aversion to sugar so early in life and for that I’m most fortunate although I still cherish fond memories of my mom’s cinnamon rolls.

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