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Why a tax on sodas would reduce obesity

Tell a cigarette smoker that smoking causes you lung cancer and he’ll probably blow smoke in your face. Add several dollars of taxes to his cigarettes and he might put down the cigarette.
Why?
People very quickly respond to money — particularly when it is being taken out of their wallet.
Nobody likes taxes. It’s true, and it is unclear as to whether people would vehemently reject a tax on soda. But we now have clear evidence that making it more expensive would decrease the consumption of the sugar-laden drinks.
According to a large study by researchers at the University of North Carolina (from the LA Times):
“with every 10 percent increase in the price of a two-liter bottle, people consumed 7 percent fewer calories from soda. They also took in fewer calories over all.”
What was even more impressive was that:
“When people faced an even larger increase — $1 for a two-liter bottle of soda, comparable to a proposed tax in Philadelphia — they consumed 124 fewer calories a day, the study found. The lower soda intake was associated with a drop in weight of more than two pounds — and a lower risk for pre-diabetes.”
The study looked at over 12,000 young adults for 20 years and studied food consumption patterns.

The lesson learned here? A tax would most certainly work. There have been other suggestions that making healthy food cheaper would work just as well, which is something I certainly agree with (for instance, water bottles could be the cheapest thing on the menu), but would it be enough?

There is no question that sodas, particularly those with high-fructose corn syrup, are bad for your health. So let’s get taxin’!

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Posted by on March 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Politics of Obesity

Natalie forwarded me an audio clip (below) today compiled by Christopher Connelly at the University of Santa Cruz about the politics of obesity. The clip focuses on Wellspring Academy, a school designed for children and teenagers who are overweight or obese. Some of the kids appear to be happy with the school, but one concerned parent voices her qualms about focusing so much on calories and weight loss. “You’re swapping one eating disorder for another,” she says. Her daughter is afraid to eat, particularly anything with fat. These kids typically have 7 to 9 grams of fat per day — a very low amount.

After reading Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, I am more skeptical than ever about these programs. To a certain extent, there are studies showing that obesity is dangerous to one’s health. But the obsessive component of this school’s approach is unnerving. These children should be getting good, healthy fats (such as Omega-3s) for brain and nerve development and sound nutrition advice — not calorie-counting extremism.

There is such a repulsion to obesity in our society that we’ve all but marginalized people who are heavy. The psychological implications for these people are terrible: they feel ashamed, embarrassed, depressed and suffer from low self-esteem. Wouldn’t it be better if we focused on healthy habits rather than on weight loss alone?

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Posted by on November 20, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Not-so-sweet News for Splenda

At my parents’ house, we buy Splenda by the case at Costco. We pour it into our coffee, use it for baking goods, swirl some into nonfat plain yogurt and sprinkle it into jams that need a little sweetener. But apparently, this nearly no-cal sweetener is not as benign as the manufacturers would like you to think.

According to this New York Times article, Splenda’s ingredients can actually kill the good bacteria in your digestive system and can prevent certain prescription drugs from being absorbed. And it can contribute to obesity!

To be sure, the study was funded by the Sugar Association, which obviously has some stake in getting Splenda off the market, but it was conducted by Duke University and not some unidentified lab, so it does have some merit.

Here at the SD apartment, I don’t buy Splenda anymore. The boy and I use — gasp! — plain brown sugar. It tastes better and we just make a point to use only a little bit. The boyfriend actually prefers honey, which is even better.

Bottom line: to help your bottom, train your taste buds to eat products that are less sweet. That way, a little bit of the real thing can go a long way.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2008 in Food Reads

 

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Chew on this: The World in Food Numbers

We all have stereotypes of different countries. The French drink a lot of wine, the Russians a lot of vodka and the Mexicans a lot of Corona. Boy, are we wrong (well, at least in terms of who do it the most).

Read these random facts and figures (food-related, of course) from the The Economist Pocket World in Figures (2008 Edition):

World’s Greatest Beer Guzzlers (Off-trade sales, liters per head of pop.)

  1. Czech Republic (You were thinking Germany, eh?) – 82.4
  2. Venezuela – 71.6
  3. Australia – (68.7)

Top Global Smokers (Average Annual Consumption of cigarettes per head per day)

  1. Greece (!) – 8.4 (Who knew that these Mediterranean denizens were such smokers?)
  2. Macedonia – 7.1
  3. Russia – 6.8

World Winos (Off-trade sales, liters of head of pop.)

  1. Portugal – 32.1
  2. Switzerland – 29.5 (They may be neutral, but they’re not sober!)
  3. Italy – 29.4

Spirited, they are: Greatest Consumers of Alcoholic Drinks (Off-trade sales, liters per head of pop.)

  1. Australia – 99.2 (those Aussies really put it away!)
  2. Czech Republic – 98.2
  3. Germany – 96.2

(The U.S., by the way, is #12, with 73.8)

Pass the Lipitor (Cardiovascular Deaths per 100,000 population, age standardized, 2002)

(Basically, living incountries that end in “stan” is not good for your heart!)

  1. Turkmenistan (and you thought the U.S. with its diabesity crisis was #1!) – 844
  2. Tajikistan – 753
  3. Kazakhstan – 713
  4. Afghanistan – 706

Where’s the Sugar? (Diabetes rates, % of population aged 20-79, 2007)

(Looks like living in an oil-rich country is hazardous to your health!)

  1. United Arab Emirates – 19.5
  2. Saudi Arabia – 16.7
  3. Kuwait – 14.4
  4. Oman – 13.1
 
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Posted by on May 15, 2008 in Food Reads

 

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