Big Sugar, Big Food and Big Heartache
The fickle nature of the health movement and the dieters mind are quite curious. One day we scrutinize every food label for the slightest measure of food coloring in fear of the inability to perform simple arithmetic and the next we subject ourselves to the immeasurable discomfort of carbohydrate withdrawal to avoid falling into a diabetic coma in route to obesity. Short-lived and noticeably cyclical, the demonization of fat, protein and carbohydrates occurs on a rotating basis with only brief interludes of lucidity and the almost surreptitious adherence to truly mindful eating habits. Peculiar right?
Well, I wish I could say that today was the day that I authoritatively dismissed all the dietary fads that have caused so much angst for an irrefutable nutritional philosophy that could ensure longevity, health and wellness, but alas, that is just not the case. So, now that the wind has been thoroughly removed from our sails, let us return to sugar and soft drink conversation and look at some new information that may or may not influence us one way or the other.
Liquid Calories Count
First, by observing beverage and solid food consumption in association with eating behavior and the energy density of certain foods, a recent study has found that an increased intake of caloric beverages (soda pop) was associated with an increase in solid food intake and a decrease in food selection quality and calorie distribution throughout the day.
Although this sounds counter intuitive, these findings suggests that the form of the calories we consume elicit certain behaviors that influence short-term appetite. Specifically, liquid calories are less satiating than solid foods and we often neglect to reduce our overall consumption when such beverages are consumed. This behavior naturally contributes to the energy (calorie) surplus that leads to weight gain and obesity.
Bloomberg’s Next Approach
Next, if the promise of becoming obese and developing diabetes wasn’t enough to inspire you to abstain from soft drinks, maybe the increased potential for heart disease will. A recently published study followed 40,000, 40 to 59 year old Japanese men and women for almost two decades and found a positive association between soda consumption and stroke in women. Don’t let the wording fool you; the positive association here is not a good thing, but you probably gathered that much from the context of this piece.
While this adds a little more weight to the argument against soft drink consumption (for which I whole heartedly agree), I can’t help but wonder if variables outside of soda consumption may have influenced the result. From personal experience, individuals that consume soft drinks to a high degree typically participate in other activities that may contribute to the risk of heart disease (poor diet, inactivity, smoking, etc.) and are less aware or are indifferent to the impact of such decisions on health. Either way, I’m sure this information will elicit further study of the association between soda consumption and heart disease and will hopefully encourage methodologies that take into account other lifestyle factors to accurately identifying the impact of soda consumption on cardiovascular disease.
The Sugar Mafia
Finally, if you honestly believe that our government operates outside of corporate influence, you may want to stop reading…now. A recent article penned by Gary Taubes, a well respected science writer who’s published works include Why We Get Fat (2011) and Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007), details the mafia-esk dealings of the sugar industry (a.k.a. Big Sugar) and the largely unregulated influence they have had over government agencies for the past six decades.
A worthwhile read, Taubes claims that, “Big Sugar used Big Tobacco-style tactics to ensure that government agencies would dismiss troubling health claims against their products.” The same ‘tobacco tactics’ that are often cited as being used by ‘Big Food’ to denature the local food environment and the health of developing communities around the world.
While the sugar debate is a highly charged conversation, even more emotional is the 183-comment discussion that plays out below the piece. It will honestly shock, awe and may even cause a few tears. Oh, and here is another awesome piece on sugar from Taubes titled ‘Is Sugar Toxic?’. Although it is a bit lengthier than ‘Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies’, it is also worth the investment.
I wanted to share this information, not to try and pursued a change in our sugar consumption, but instead to encourage honest reflection concerning the role certain foods play in our lives. There is an almost endless amount of contradictory information out there which clearly illustrates the divisiveness the sugar conversation, but I believe that a true understanding of our personal relationships with food will prove more valuable in contributing to our health and wellness goals than remaining abjectly faithful to someone else’s dietary philosophy. That’s enough outta me for the time being.