There is no doubt about it that our society consumes too much refined sugar. Slowly over time it has crept more and more into our food supply in the form of fructose corn syrups, refined flours and sweeteners.
In 2004 it was calculated by Stats Canada that the average Canadian consumes about 110.0 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons (about 21% of calories in a day). In teenagers it was found to be as high as 41 teaspoons per day!!!
So imagine for the average Canadian that they are consuming about 22 sugar cubes/day. So it shouldn't be a surprise that we have increasing rates of obesity and diabetes all across the nation.
Now this is not to say sugar is solely to blame. Certainly fast foods, low activity, high fat intake and excessive portions also play a role, but with any epidemic, it can get complicated and we have to look at where the issues are and where we can start to make changes.
Sugary beverage consumption has dramatically increased over the past few decades partially thanks to its availability, delicious taste and low cost. My mother told me that when she was a child, they would go to the store once a week and get a 750ml bottle of pop and a family size bag of chips (about half the size of current bags) and this would be split amongst the 5 of them while they watched the Brady Bunch.
Now a 750ml bottle of pop is considered a large personal sized bottle. And this is part of the problem: our baseline of reference for what is normal has shifted. The change was so slow and subtle many of us didn't even notice the change but somewhere over the last 20 years we went from occasional treats to daily treats and now we are paying for it.
So at this conference the health professionals were talking about applying the same
concepts that took down large tobacco companies and reduced rates of smoking and applying it to sweetened beverage. Keep in mind this is not just soda: It's lattes, juices, iced teas, energy drinks....anything with refined sugars in it.
You can imagine how the Food and Beverage representatives felt.
The Food and Beverage members argued that it was unfair to target them and
they want to collaborate on a solution but health professionals keep them out.
The companies are even offering to self regulate.
You know who else offered to self regulate?
Do you know what they ended up doing?
it’s Déjà vu all over again. The trouble in this instance is that it's easy with tobacco to say "stop smoking, it will kill you", but with food you can't simply say "stop eating", because we need food.
What we don't need are foods with no nutritional value. Also, just like tobacco
we need to recognize that even though these companies do "good will activities"
like donating to hospitals and charities, their bottom line is still profit. They are a company after all. So our health is not always in their best interest; us buying their products is. So bringing them into the collaborative circle on how to deal with the disease epidemic is not likely beneficial.
If you look at current laws on tobacco, tobacco companies are in no way involved in the decisions on legislations made about tobacco and the reason is that their interests contradict with the health and well being of the population. As more evidence mounts on the impact of poor diets from refined foods, sugars and fats, I'm sure the need to take action and regulate these companies will become obvious.