Sugar Roundup, Continued

Day of the Dead Cookies

This is a continuation of the collection of various Childhood Obesity News posts about sugar, a substance considered by some to be a white drug as dangerous as cocaine or heroin.

When Practice Does Not Make Perfect” looked at the historical significance of sugar in the context of Christianity—specifically the ecclesiastical season of Lent. Traditionally, for the forty days leading up to Easter, people would give up something they were very fond of. Throughout most of history, people lived with such limited resources that there wouldn’t be a lot of leeway for choice. Sugar was about the only thing available for giving up, so people had the opportunity to become very familiar with the feeling of deprivation.

Looking back from a contemporary perspective, it is easy to wonder why, having already gone through weeks of withdrawal, people would not take advantage of that head start to make their sugar abstinence permanent. But, given the shortage of luxuries for most people in most places, it is not so difficult to understand why a person would go right back to sugar after the religious obligation had been fulfilled. Also, until relatively recent times, most people didn’t realize what a seriously destructive substance sugar can be.

Sugar Is Everywhere

We went on to discuss the insidious availability of sugar in the modern world, hidden in food products where the presence of extra sweetener might not even be suspected. Even when the sugar content of a food was known, people could be misled about it. For the post “Everything You Know About Sugar is Wrong,” we found an old advertisement that urged the consumer to have an ice cream cone just before lunch! Why? Because, “Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat.”

Probably the inspiration came from ad copywriters’ memories of their mothers saying “Don’t spoil your appetite.” The pitch here was to go ahead and spoil your appetite. According to the text, the energy boost provided by a sugar rush would provide a person with the willpower to eat a smaller lunch, and still lose weight while enjoying ice cream cones. What’s not to like about that proposition?

This post also looked at the ongoing controversy about high fructose corn syrup, which has its dedicated fans. One of the marketers’ tactics is to hide behind the acknowledged complexity of obesity causation to let their own products off the hook. They will also bring up the inappropriateness of using lab rodents to learn about human responses—something they don’t seem to mind when the experiments go in their favor. They will even try to suggest that people are somehow in danger of not getting enough sugar in their diets. Fat chance! On the roster of nutritional problems that people ought to worry about, insufficient sugar is way down at the bottom of the list.

Starting Sugar Addiction Early

The post “Cake Babies” was also headed by a fascinating graphic—a composite of the photos Google will reveal in answer to the inquiry “cake + baby.” Here, anyone who is delighted by pictures of babies diving face-first into frosted cakes will find plenty to enjoy. Grownups seem to especially adore pictures of babies having their first encounter with sugar. Surely this level of adult enthusiasm could only be matched by a crack dealer finding a brand new customer. Dr. Pretlow once estimated that “probably 2/3 of our country is addicted to sugar in one form or another.” Imagine being a heroin pusher who can bank on the certainty that two out of three people he meets are potential junkies!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by nicole danielson

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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