By Brooke Berger |
The idea of regulating sugar was proposed recently by several researchers from the University of California who cited studies suggesting that sugar was "associated with" (not the same as "has caused") a rise in conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
As a practitioner, I share their frustration about the obesity epidemic, but regulating sugar puts us on a very slippery slope.
What if we used health to justify government control over other aspects of diet and lifestyle:
Sugar isn't new. It's been around forever and the USDA says that we actually ate less of it in 2010 than we did in 2009. Schools do regulate it and that's fine. And don't forget the other lifestyle changes that used to keep sugar intake in check, like how our activity levels have declined over the years. Foods with sugar don't make us sick. The decisions we make about those foods and our lifestyles do.
Regulating sugar just reinforces that consumers are "victims," and I can't go there. Being a victim means two things:
That's blame, and blame causes stagnation, not action. People don't come to me to be told they're victims--they come to me for solutions. Waiting for legislation that forces dietary changes is a luxury I don't have. It's my job to empower my patients and help them take matters into their own hands. Part of any empowerment process means owning up to what's really happening and accepting some responsibility for what we do. That's not a burden, it's liberating. It puts consumers are back in control, without waiting for legislation.
Finally, one piece of legislation I'd like to see? Require food labels to list the grams of added sugars. That would be a great tool for informing and empowering consumers' decisions.
About Keith T. Ayoob Director of the Nutrition Clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Kristina Lewis Doctor and Researcher at the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School