The Sugar Epidemic: How Entrenched American Attitudes are Destroying Our Health
Over in the United Kingdom, there’s a celebrity chef named Jamie Oliver; some of you may have heard of him. In Britain, Oliver has had immense success revolutionizing diets–he even convinced the British government to increase the time, money and effort it puts into providing school dinners, with an emphasis on good nutrition rather than cheap ingredients and big corporate contracts. The resultant healthy meals are revolutionizing the diets of British schoolchildren.
However, when he tried the same thing in America, it didn’t go so well. Firstly, his cockney accent and unpolished dress sense were mocked on American chat shows. Then, his program, Jamie’s Food Revolution, incensed many Americans who saw his views as an attempt by a foreigner to curtail American “freedoms.” Jamie’s explanations that pizza is really not a healthy breakfast and fast food is not an ideal school/hospital meal, were met with outrage. Unable to crack America’s addiction to junk food–or even to make people listen to his points–Jamie headed home. And we wonder why the rest of the world considers us to be a nation of obese junk-guzzlers…
Back in the UK, Jamie is now turning his attention to sugary drinks. He doesn’t want them banned–nothing of the sort–he just wants soda drinks to be taxed, much in the same manner that cigarettes and alcohol are. If his past successes are anything to go by, he may well get his way. It has already been proven that such a “soda tax” helps to reduce childhood obesity and diabetes. Britain looks likely to follow in the footsteps of nations which have already introduced such measures. Because of Britain’s nationalized healthcare, the cost burden to individuals is effectively nil, but the health service as a whole will undoubtedly benefit economically from a reduction in sugar-based health problems.
Were such a tax occur in America, benefits like cheaper healthcare costs would have more of a direct effect upon individuals. Given what we know about the appalling effects of sugar and processed foods on the body, and given the financial burden that healthcare is for many, what’s not to like?
Nonetheless, America seems curiously resistant to such ideas. Even though nobody is advocating banning junk food, plenty of Americans–when introduced to healthy eating concepts–talk skeptically about losing their “freedoms.” In my opinion, this displays an essential misunderstanding of what freedom entails. Knowing more about the risks inherent in the foods you eat does not reduce your freedom to eat them. In fact, it gives you even more freedom, as it allows the choice to make an informed decision regarding your own health, or to continue eating junk food as you please. There are plenty of ways in which to eat healthily in this country; you have perfect freedom to treat your body well, just as you have perfect freedom to only eat sugary snacks. Perhaps if we are more open to learning about our health and nutrition, we would be healthier and happier as a nation.
About Helen France
Helen France spent many years in the healthcare sector, helping people in matters relating to diet, nutrition and fitness. When she became a mother, she decided to focus her energies on looking after her own family and now regularly researches and writes, contributing to health and wellness blogs across the web.
The views and opinions of guest authors do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Full Circle.