Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rant on Sugar as a Toxic Substance

I saw, and posted, this article earlier today on whether sugar should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. A team of researchers from the University of California at San Francisco have decided that sugar is toxic and (slowly) killing us - therefore, it should be regulated along with other dangerous substances. Proposed age limits - no sugary drinks sold to children under the age of 17 - would supposedly curb sugar consumption in children, lessening childhood obesity and improving overall health.

This idea is, in theory, just about as sound as the "flat tax" theory. It sounds passable at first, until you start to think rationally. While I'll completely agree that sugar is addictive and too much sugar is bad for you (and I'll confess that I eat WAY too much sugar myself), are you going to tell me that all sugars are equal? There's sugar in bread - it's food for yeast. Carbs like white bread break down into - you guessed it - sugar! There's even sugar (fructose) in fruit! I'm all for downsizing the prominence of high fructose corn syrup in our daily lives, but demonizing all sugars in the process is patently ridiculous. If you show me a Type I diabetic, I'm sure they have some type of sugar stashed in their car or purse for blood sugar emergencies. If you show me an otherwise healthy, highly active kid who's on two or three sports teams, I'm willing to bet you that a Gatorade after practice isn't going to do any damage. And if you try to take my chocolate away during THAT WEEK, you'd better be wearing protective armor.

If we ban sales of sugar for kids, what's next? Am I going to get hit up by a 12 year old outside the supermarket with a fiver asking me to buy soda? Are parents going to be carted off to jail because they served birthday cake to a group of ten fourth-graders? Are schools and employers going to administer random blood glucose tests? Are we going to completely absolve ourselves of any personal or parental responsibility? Why don't we - as individuals and parents - say "Hey, that Coke should be enjoyed in moderation" and leave it at that?

There are better ways of attacking this problem than nanny-state legislation like age restrictions on sugar consumption and extra taxes on sugary drinks and snacks. How about we look at how much money is being poured into corn subsidies and the relationship of corn production to the amount of available, CHEAP high fructose corn syrup? How about we start funneling money into more local farming initiatives with the goal of making apples, carrots and other healthy foods the cheapest ingredients in our grocery stores? How about taxing corporations that do horrendous things to our food supply in the name of saving cents per pound, damn any potential negative health consequences for our public (pink slime, anyone?)

In the end, I don't think sugar will ever be regulated - I think there will be a horrendous backlash on any proposed legislation (if it ever got that far). That said, I think it's sad that we've gotten this far, to the point where we're so unwilling to take responsibilities for our own actions as individuals and parents.

1 comment:

mjdolce said...

Why don't we - as individuals and parents - say "Hey, that Coke should be enjoyed in moderation" and leave it at that?

A question that should be asked about a fair number of things in our society. I completely agree with you on this. The thing that kills me about this "new report" is that they are acting like we all thought sugar was GOOD for us up until now. *rolls eyes*