Thursday, April 7, 2011

An American Tsunami

Coca-Cola Red photo by Kyle May on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons

I mentioned in my last post that I would talk about Dr. Lustig's presentation, so here is some background to provide you with some thought for food.

Who is Dr. Lustig?  

Watch his phenomenal video presentation that is well worth the length.

Dr. Lustig's Presentation

Next, here is Carole Mulford's take on the presentation.  As manager of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education child development department, she organized the whole event and pulled it off flawlessly.  Thank you, Carole!

Following Carole's article is the coverage the event received by the Sentinel's staff writer. It provides the perspective of the soda tax, a controversial initiative proposed by State Assemblyman Bill Monning.

Below, I emphasized some key points in bold.  Here is Carole's letter published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Carole Mulford: Child obesity a crisis of tsunami proportions
Posted: 04/03/2011 01:30:04 AM PDT
Carole Mulford
In the midst of the worst storm of 2011, a discussion about a health crisis likened to a tsunami was being held down the street from the site of a water main burst in Capitola. At the end of an already long day, educators, doctors, nurses, child care providers, and students came to listen and learn how to stop an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
Some 187 people came because they care about what is happening to our children and wondered what, if anything, we can do to improve their future. The event's keynote speaker, Dr. Robert Lustig, a UC San Francisco pediatric endocrinologist, drove through that relentless downpour for three hours to deliver his message.
"If one person stops drinking soda or juice, then it will be worth the drive," he said, explaining that food-manufacturing practices have created a "toxic environment" that dooms children to being overweight.
"Changes in food processing during the past 30 years, particularly the addition of sugar to a wide variety of foods that once never included sugar, and the removal of fiber, both of which promote insulin production, have created an environment in which our foods are essentially addictive," he said.
He passionately talked about the fact that children don't wake up one day and choose to be fat.
"This notion of self-control and just saying no never works," he said. "The concept of personal responsibility is not tenable in children. Children are not responsible for food choices at home or at school, and it can hardly be said that preschool children, in whom obesity is rampant, are in a position to accept personal responsibility."
His words were inspiring and thought-provoking. Even if you wanted to avoid excess sugar you have little choice; sugar and high fructose sugar are in places you would never expect. Why do we need high fructose sugar in our chicken, canned vegetables or soy milk?
Lustig said fructose is toxic in large quantities because it is metabolized in the liver in the same way as alcohol, which drives fat storage and makes the brain think we're hungry.
"People are searching for answers to this epidemic that make sense," he says. "The science of fructose metabolism in the liver and fructose action in the brain turn the normal cycle of energy balance into a vicious cycle of consumption and disease."
"What I have proposed is quite controversial: that our food supply has been adulterated right under our very noses, with our tacit complicity. But I think the public gets it, and the tide is turning."
Lustig's powerful words remind us that we can and need to inspire one another. It is a time to get educated and take bold action. Recognition should be given to the leadership of Rep. Sam Farr, who empowered the audience to act, Assemblyman Bill Monning for his approach to address the problem, and Michael Watkins, Santa Cruz County schools superintendent, for his insight to bring the entire event together.
With our children in dire need of good nutrition, the simple intervention of an individual can make a huge difference. And when we act collectively, far greater change is possible. History will decide whether we acted quickly enough to give the next generation the healthier outcomes they deserve. Through collaboration and actions of individuals, community groups, business, educators and government, let's send a message that tells our children we can and will take better care of their health.
Carole Mulford is the manager of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education child development department.
And here is the Sentinel's story about the event, highlighting the soda tax initiative. I emphasized some key points in bold:
Monning pushes tax on soda to help educate, develop healthy lifestyle at Capitola school
Posted: 03/26/2011 01:30:12 AM PDT
CAPITOLA -- State Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, on Thursday proposed a 1-cent tax per fluid ounce on soft drinks that have sweeteners in an attempt to slow what was termed the poisoning of the nation's children for profit by food companies.
Monning, whose Assembly District 27 represents portions of Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Clara counties, addressed a crowd of approximately 167 people at New Brighton Middle School in Capitola. He said the bill, titled AB 669, would impose a tax for soft drinks, including sport drinks people falsely believe are healthy because of the word "sport" on the container.
"The money raised would result in $1.7 billion," Monning said.
He said the money could be used to educate children and develop alternative, healthy eating habits in schools, community organizations and nonprofits.
Monning held aloft a 20-ounce bottle of soda. "Our bill would add 20 cents to this," he said. "This is a war, for the hearts and minds of our people. It's a war we're currently losing. But heart disease is preventable."
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, representing Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, said Santa Cruz, with a higher percentage of organic growers than almost anywhere in the country, could serve as a leader in the effort to reduce obesity.
"If we demand healthier food, that's the way they'll have to serve it," he said.
Statistics estimate the U.S. spends $65 billion annually treating chronic diseases caused by obesity.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a nationally known endocrinologist for the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Francisco, called obesity an epidemic leading to heart disease, diabetes, liver destruction and other life-threatening problems.
"Excess sugar gums up the body's metabolic system," he said. "Changes in food processing during the past 30 years, particularly the addition of sugar to a wide variety of foods that once never included sugar, and the removal of fiber, both of which promote insulin production, have created an environment in which our foods are essentially addictive."
Lustig said food manufacturing practices have created a toxic environment that dooms children to being overweight. He said he didn't know if a 1-cent tax would reduce excess sugar consumption, but noted that it's a beginning.
"It's the kinds of foods children eat, the excess sweeteners that get stored as fat. That's the problem," he added.
Lustig said he's not a socialist who's against business, but he wants to promote healthy nutrition habits. Monning said he had been labeled a "social engineer" by critics because of his stance on the food tax. He added that soft drink companies spend millions in advertising sweet-laced drinks to children.
"The real social engineering is in this advertising," he said.
In covering the history of sugar addiction and artificial sweeteners, Lustig said before World War II, Americans consumed 16 grams to 24 grams per day. By 1994, the level reached 54.7 grams per day and the number has soared to 75 grams today. Soft drink container sizes have increased just as dramatically, from a 6.5 ounce bottle in 1915 to up to 20 ounces currently.
"It's a dose-dependant poison," Lustig said. "This is an American tsunami, and it will kill more Americans than a real tsunami would."
As an example, Lustig cited the 44 ounce "Thirst Buster." If you consumed one "Thirst Buster" each day for a year, the result would be an average 57 pounds of weight gain per year, Lustig said. Normal weight gain for children is 4 pounds to 5 pounds annually. Some children today are gaining 40 pounds to 50 pounds per year.
Lustig said attempts to exercise the weight off won't work in the face of bad eating habits.
"Until we get added sugar out of the American diet, nothing will work," he said.
He said that food industry companies are putting sugar in everything, and 25 percent of American exports are food items. Other countries formerly free of sugar addiction in the past are picking up our bad eating habits and developing their own obesity epidemics.
Are you terrified or at least sufficiently moved by this?  I hope that together we can make a difference and reverse this terrible health trend.  If you would like to act on this, please contact your politicians and show support for the soda tax, bill AB 669: California's Sweetened Beverage Tax.  Here is the link to Bill Monning's website for more information: AB 699. According to Monning, every legislator gets a daily tally of the feedback for and against proposals and they take those numbers into account when the proposal is debated.  Your voice CAN make a difference!

1 comment:

  1. This was a really interesting post...he definitely makes some good points. Definitely not opposed to the idea of taxing soda as a way of providing money to educate children and families. He's definitely right though, it is not the responsibility of the child to make good food choices at home or's the responsibility of parents and administrators to provide good options and educate children. Thanks for sharing!