Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cutting Back on Sugar

I instinctively dislike elements of the 'Nanny State.' With some exceptions it seems to me that certain governments are far too willing to interfere in the private lives of its citizens. Some regulations make sense as they have a public health connection, others less so. The first one that pops into mind is the pit bull ban in Ontario. It doesn't bother me much as I dislike dogs, but it hardly seems like the role of the government to pick and choose acceptable breeds.

However, something popped into my mind lately and I have a hard time shaking the fact that there might be something to the fact that we may require a little more government interference in our lives in a certain way. I want to talk about sugar.

When I heard about the initial spate of sugar taxes I have to admit I was highly dubious. It felt like unnecessary interference in people's lives and an irritating "Father Knows Best" approach to public policy. However, in the years since the first controversial sugar tax proposals I have become increasingly familiar with the negative role sugar plays in our private and communal lives.

Talking about nutrition and diet information on the internet feels virtually pointless to me to a certain extent. Whenever I have sought even basic answers to questions the internet will spit back contradictory advice. This is besides the point, I just say this because I'm going to be light on sources for this one.

There seems to be a growing academic and public awareness of the problems related to sugar. By sugar I mean refined white sugar and similar additives. This information had been bouncing around my head for a few years but it came to a point when I watched a video talking about how sugar has become such a problem in the North American diet.

I have no doubt that there are flaws in that video. Here are the salient points. A public association between fat and weight gain/ill-health created a strong stigma for fat content in foods. To improve taste sugar was added. No to mention sugar is used as a preservative and is present in large quantities in a huge array of products.

Over the decades there has been a growing obesity epidemic and rise in diseases such as diabetes. Trying to change public perception on issues like this seem near impossible. Every day for the rest of your life you could be told the sugar in your soda pop is cutting you life short and you'd still probably regularly ingest one. I know this, and I do.

Sometimes the state has a duty to discourage destructive behaviours. I hesitate to support something like a sugar tax because I know immediately that the burden would fall disproportionately upon those disadvantaged and least able to afford it. Still, policymakers may have to contend with the large quantities of sugar in our diets and the social and personal impacts that may have. 

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