The Blame Game: A Meeting On Obesity

For the past 15 years we have heard a great deal about our ever expanding waistlines and theories around the cause for it. I recently watched the Canadian Senate Committee meeting on obesity to see what they had to say about it and was a little surprised as to who was presenting to the Senate. There was a representative from the Canadian Beverage Association, the Sugar Association and the Salt Institute sharing their expert opinions about how pop, sugar and salt have not contributed to obesity. Each representative used research to adamantly defend their position.

I am not sure why I was surprised by the responses from these associations as their members have a lot at stake. The Beverage Association was sure to point out how many Canadians their members employ across our country, how much money they contribute to the Canadian economy, how much community involvement their members have…

I was grateful one of the Senators pointed out the irrelevant nature of this information when it comes to discussing the health of Canadians. I am not sure what the Senate was expecting though? Of course all three associations were going to send their experts to defend their commodity, isn’t that what they are being paid to do? No bias with this scenario! Ha!

While I listened to the evidence being presented I was disheartened this meeting was even taking place. For some silly reason I expected a balanced debate. Why is it there were no experts from non-food industry associations present to offer their opinion on the research? Hmmm not a single one. In fairness maybe they were present another day, maybe the Senate decided in our democratic society they needed to hear from all sides so they offered this day to the food industry.

There were a few statements presented that I did agree with. First, we need to ensure health recommendations be based on solid research findings. Second, the cause of our ever expanding waistlines is complex and many variable are involved. What I was insulted to hear is these 3 associations do not feel salt, sugar or sugar sweetened beverages have a role to play in the increased rise of obesity.

The beverage association was quick to point out some research they have conducted showing that calorie free beverage sales have surpassed sweetened beverage sales. They went further to say this proves the sugar free beverages (diet beverages) their members sell do not contribute to obesity because they are calorie free. I recommend reading my blog on Artificial Sweeteners. I completely disagree with his statements.

The sugar association’s president did admit after being interrogated by an annoyed Senator that excess sugar can contribute to excess calories which can lead to weigh gain if the excess calories are not used up through exercise. Thank you for that admission I was starting to think I was going crazy!

Sugar is present in many different forms in our food; here are a few forms:

barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, , maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar and yellow sugar.

This isn’t even a complete list but it just goes to show the food industry has become very good at figuring out ways to sweeten our foods all in the interest of making more money.

The argument the president of the sugar association was trying to defend is that we need sugar for our body to function. Yes this is true. She went on to say when sugar is consumed in appropriate quantities it does not contribute to obesity which again is true. But she is missing the obvious point. The food industry has been adding sugar to pretty much any processed food we can buy and marketing these products with great enthusiasm for consumers to buy. They use trendy claims like “all natural”, “real fruit”, “source of vegetables”, “gluten free”, “cholesterol free”, “low fat”, etc whatever the current trend is to sell their products all with sugar being added. This has affected what we buy and how much we consume. So sugar may be getting the blame, who is putting all the sugar into our food and encouraging us to buy it? That is who the spot light should be on and guess who that is? The food industry and Health Canada and ourselves.

While it would be easy to just blame the food industry and the government for our expanding waistlines each of us needs to also take responsibility for what we buy and what we choose to eat. We simply can not just assume products being sold in our grocery stores are created to help promote health. Processed foods are created to make money. They hook us with their delicious taste, convenience and their ever-so-clever health claims and we are convinced the food industry has our best interest at heart so we buy them. It is what they bank on and they have done a great deal of psychological research to understand human behavior to help make them billionaires.

So as much as I agree the government needs to stop being influenced by the food industry when they make policy decisions that dramatically affect the health of Canadians, I think I would be living in a bubble to think this will ever truly happen. Money talks.

The only defense each of us has is to learn how to read labels, understand that excess consumption of highly processed foods is going to affect our health in a negative way, eat more unprocessed, whole foods, have fun with cooking at home.

If you need some help with this come and see us because this is what we are passionate about helping people with.

March 20, 2015
Revive Wellness