Research Paper: Sugar Obesity

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Sugar

Obesity and the Sugar Controversies

The Culprits

Soft drinks

Corn syrup

The Government and Nutrition

Obesity

The United States and many other countries in the Western world have drastically lowered the cost of many foods over the course of several generations. Whereas total spending on food would represent a large percentage of a families total income, now it generally represents a small fraction of what the average person spends their money on. This is a result of the make that food can now be mass produced in sophisticated manufacturing environments that source raw materials through a global supply chain. Scientific advances in preserving and transporting goods across large distances has enabled food to be commoditized. There are some canned and preserved foods that can literally last decades and still be edible.

For many years supplying the population with inexpensive foods was assumed to be one of the more positive aspects of modernity in general. However, this paradigm is shifting rapidly as obesity well as the related obesity diseases such as heart disease and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions. The advancements in food production have had many costs that were previously unexpected; especially the extent of these costs. For the first time in American history, the new generations of citizens are not expected to live as long as their parents (on average). It is undeniable that the diets of many Americans play a large part in the trend as obesity and cancer rates have skyrocketed over the generations. This analysis will consider the role of the most debilitating sugars, soft drinks and corn syrups, and the impacts they have had on public health in general.

It will also examine how the government and schools are responding to the crisis by treating this phenomenon as a public health crisis. There have been a range of responses to these issues from local, state, and federal organizations. It will also examine the choices offered to children in schools related to their intake of nutritional foods, or lack thereof. Finally, this analysis will relate all of these factors to the present rates of obesity and offer recommendations about what could be done to mitigate the adverse trends of nutritionally deficient diets that is plaguing modern populations.

II. The Culprits

A. Soft drinks

There are many different factors to consider when examining the obesity epidemic that has increased exponentially in recent years. Many of the factors that should be considered deal with the lifestyle that individuals chose to live. Many modern lifestyles are sedentary as people commonly sit behind a desk all day and perform administrative work or something of the like. For many reasons, such as convenience, they will rely on mass produced foods for their daily dietary intakes. This sedentary lifestyle, coupled with the lack of exercise, and diets high in sugar and fats have set the foundation for the emerging crisis in health.

One of the factors that prevent many Americans from addressing their own shortcomings with their individual diets is that there is little time left in the day to prepare a home cooked meal. It is often the case that both parents work, sometimes more than one job, and have extremely demanding schedules. The number of single moms that have to work and raise children on their own has increased significantly and not only do these mothers have little time to cook for themselves but also set an example for their children. Furthermore, the modern pace of life has been significantly faster than previous generations in general and the role of sitting for a traditional meal has lost much of its appeal. There are many implications of this lifestyle on diets.

Food has become valued based on convenience in many cases as opposed to nutritional value. For example, after a long day's work and a hectic day of events, the convenience that a fast food restaurant can offer for diner can reasonably appealing to many people. The pace of life and the exhaustion that an individual can feel at the end of the day can make both shopping for food and preparing a home cooked meal an unappealing event, to say the least. Therefore, people make compromises to their diets in order to save time. Today, drinks are sold as "meal replacements" and microwave dinners can be prepared in as little as ninety seconds. The dietary options that are available to today's consumer would be unfathomable a few generations ago.

Another factor that should be considered is that many people are dependent upon caffeine to help get them through their days; and one of the most common sources of caffeine are by the means of a sugary soft drink. Soft drinks and other convenience foods are saturated with high fructose corn syrup. Although this provides a quick boost of energy, it is relatively void of any meaningful nutritional content. Some analysts have suggested that excess calories from processed sugar in beverages is one of the main culprits in the nations sky-high obesity rates and the rise of obesity related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease (CQ Researcher, 2012).

Corn Syrup

"Our consumption of high fructose corn syrup has gone from less than half a pound (per person) per year in 1970 to 56 pounds per year" in 2011.

-Rober Lustig

Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener generally used in the United States. Beginning in the mid-1970's, became a standard ingredient in many processed foods, and in 1980 its use skyrocketed when it became the sweetener of choice for sodas and other beverages (CQ Researcher, 2012). It is so broadly used because it is both cost-effectively favorable and it helps to preserve food for extended periods of time. From a manufactures perspective who is trying to cut costs to remain competitive in the food market place, they may feel they have no choice but to make the cost effective decisions without regard to the health implications of those decisions. In the modern market economy, the way the system is structured is that successful food companies are rewarded in terms of profitability and not the health of their customers. Food is commonly judged on superficial criteria such as the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, the aesthetics of the packaging the food is sold in, or simply by its convenience to the individual when they feel hungry.

Although it was thought to be relatively safe for many years, many researchers are learning that this trend is producing several ill effects. HFCS comprises of roughly half the sweetener's used in the U.S., while the rest of the world uses only a fraction of that amount. Due to the government subsidies in the U.S., HFCS is one of the cheapest forms of sweeteners to manufacture domestically, but it also one of the hardest for the body to rid of. Since HFCS first began popular, it has continued accelerate in its use of nearly all processed food that is mass produced in the U.S. From the government's perspective, it is trying to protect the domestic food industry so that it is not reliant on food from other nations. Therefore, it has been popular for politicians to support the domestic farming operations within the country; particularly with corn. However, since the public is artificially suppressing the price of corn and corn derived products, this has led to developments in the market that would not have occurred otherwise.

VIII. The Government and Nutrition

The government's role in health and nutrition is a controversial topic. Many cities are starting to experiment on bans to limit sugar intake in similar ways that they did with smoking in public spaces. And now are moving to ban other health concerns such as prohibiting unhealthy beverages being sold at places such as schools. Many sugary drinks and foods are strongly correlated with childhood obesity and adult obesity and as a consequence of their over-consumption, have received an enormous amount of negative publicity. As a result of this some legislation is beginning to appear as a response to obesity such as the city mayor in New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has even gone as far as limiting the sale of large sugary drinks to sixteen ounces (Reimer, 2012).

In response, the refined sugar industry is trying to confuse Americans about the health aspects of refined sugar as compared to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as they have attempted hide their products usage by asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow the name "corn sugar" as an alternative name for HFCS on food labels (Western Farm Press, 2011). Thus the government does have a role in mitigating some of the confusion that the industry is using for their own preservation. The government can consider the obesity epidemic, the one that clogs up the hospital system, as a matter of the public's good and respond with legislation to label and limit the amounts of sugars that appear in various food groups. Although some argue that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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