Friday, June 24, 2016

Making Health a Priority

(Part Two)
It is literally impossible to overstate the challenge we confront when it comes to our health and the substances we consume. The forces at war against our good health are in every way the enormous powers of our culture, our institutions and the very structure of our society.

We are talking here about trillions of dollars in commerce — the food and agriculture industries, healthcare and nutrition industries, the global advertising and public relations giants, our political systems, to name only the most obvious —  and, the most ferocious Titan of them all, the most addictive substance on earth… sugar. These are the powers we face.

Unless we work together to deal with our sugar addiction challenge and the inevitable, catastrophic results of too much sugar consumption – the eight chronic metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) diseases: heart disease, lipid (blood) problems, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer (especially breast and colon), polycystic ovarian syndrome, and dementia – we will be responsible for passing on a horrendously flawed and fatal legacy to our grandkids.

So what will our legacy be? On our watch will we look the other way and continue to allow certain “powers of our society” to destroy our health and more importantly (as a child of the Baby Boomer generation) the health of our children and grandchildren? Or, will we rise to the challenge and make Health a priority?

Dr. Robert H. Lustig, M.D., MSL Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, one of the world’s most vocal anti-sugar advocates, characterizes the enormity of our challenge: “the obesity epidemic itself is in large part a direct result of “sugar addiction” similar to alcohol and cocaine brought about by the ubiquitous use of fructose (sugar) in nearly 100% of processed foods sold to the public. (1)

“No one chooses obesity. Obesity chooses them... How long do you believe you can exert a cognitive inhibition (willpower) control over a biochemical drive that goes on 24/7/365, getting worse every single day that you don’t perform it? No one can exert that level of willpower over a biochemical. It’s just not possible.” (2)

Nearly all of us in the U.S. unknowingly consume mega-amounts of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). And, after years of consumption we are in serious trouble physically and our nation is near the healthcare breaking point financially.

High Fructose Corn Syrup, and its cousin sucrose, are both slow poisons. Consumption of mega-amounts of sugar is now proven to link directly with at least eight of the most common diseases which affect 60% of U.S. population and total 75% of global healthcare expenditures. (2)

“Further, Dr. Lustig, et al., clearly described our challenge in the conclusion of Toward Evidence-Based Polices for Reduction of Dietary Sugars, Lessons from the Alcohol Experience (3.):

“Any successful regulatory approach to preventing the health harms associated with the overconsumption of dietary sugars must not just confront, but ideally balance, the complex and competing interests of consumers, government, and commercial interests, including producers, distributors, and retailers. The production and sale of alcohol, as with sugar, is an important economic activity that generates profits, jobs, tax dollars, and currency. Industrial producers and distributors face economic losses when consumption is reduced, thus placing public health goals at loggerhead with commercial interests. Meanwhile, government has its own competing interests. On the one hand, it is charged with protecting the economy, encouraging commodity exports, increasing its own tax base, and generating tariffs. On the other hand, governments are responsible for protecting public health, as well as financing the costs of chronic disease through pubic insurance programs like Medicare and subsidizing the costs of food through federal assistance programs for low-income populations. While these interests are not necessarily irreconcilable, understanding and balancing these personal–commercial–governmental alignments is essential for promoting effective regulatory regimes.”

“The political and economic barriers inherent in applying lessons learned from the alcohol experience to dietary sugar are significant, but not insurmountable. One barrier to policy change is the food industry itself. Virtually all food companies are now part of vast, publicly traded conglomerates that have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and are judged on 3-month profit cycles.”

Taken in the light of the gargantuan health challenge we face, Philly’s Sugar Tax is obviously only a single step toward slaying enormous giants to ensure the health of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

Still, it is a step which we must make in every city throughout the world in order to mount our successful challenge to overcome the powers of our society.

1. “Sugar the Bitter Truth”, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, M.D., MSL Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, UCTV Series: UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public [7/2009] [Health and Medicine] [Show ID: 16717] 

2. “The Skinny on Obesity”, 7-part series, (Ep. 4): Sugar - A Sweet Addiction, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, M.D.

3. Toward Evidence-Based Policies for Reduction of Dietary Sugars, Lessons from the Alcohol Experience, Laura A. Schmidt, Anisha I. Patel, Claire D. Brindis, and Robert H. Lustig, M.D.

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