By Alicia M. Thompson, MSW, DrPH Student in Public Health Policy & Management, Anticipated 2018
UA Email: email@example.com
I attended the Campus Wide seminar on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. Dr. Bender presented on: Changing the behavior of Americans to improve their health. The presentation focused on the contribution of overweight and obesity to chronic health conditions and ways to get people to eat healthier, exercise more, and take their medications. Although behavior change is an important preventive factor, the role that the food industry has in contributing to these chronic diseases was not mentioned in the talk. The added sugar in processed food and drink is a primary contributor to the obesity epidemic.1 The food industry develops recipes specifically to trick a person’s body into wanting more. Processed food is addictive.
I dug into the literature and I learned that there are guidelines for how much added sugar we should eat in a day. Added sugar should make up no more than 10% of our daily caloric intake; 2 for a woman this equates to 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.3 Nutrition labels are missing this critical information because our government chooses not to adopt the guideline and incorporate it into our recommendations.2
What needs to change? Our policies around food!
In 1977, the McGovern Report4 warned us that we were in real trouble because of the connection between heart disease and obesity. The report recommended a change in how food was processed, and a reduction in consumption. According to the documentary “Fed Up”, the various food lobbies demanded a rewrite.1 The words “reduced intake of processed foods” were removed and replaced with the recommendation that people consume a diet lower in fat. The food industry reworked their recipes and replaced fat with sugar to improve the taste of their processed food. As a result, the prevalence of obesity exploded.
To truly lead healthier lives, we have a responsibility to educate our population that we should only have 6 (women) to 9 (men) teaspoons of added sugar in our diet per day. We should ensure that everyone knows that 4.2 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. We should also know that we should not consume more than 25.2 (women)/37.8 (men) grams of sugar per day. To effectively disseminate this information, I would recommend that nutrition labels include what percentage of our daily allowance of added sugar is found in one serving of processed food. We need to better understand the negative effects of added sugar in our diets.
The truth about changing the behavior of Americans to improve their health lies in the fact that we must demand that the food industry be transparent about how much added sugar is in our food, and how this sugar contributes to chronic disease.
On July 24, 2015 the FDA proposed changing the nutrition label to include information on added sugars and % daily allowance. The food industry is fighting hard against this change. Let’s flood FDA with real people comments demanding transparency! https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/07/27/2015-17928/food-labeling-revision-of-the-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels-supplemental-proposed-rule-to
- Documentary “Fed Up.” http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home
- World Health Organization. 2012 Technical Report Series 916. Accessed 9.11.2015 from http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/en/
- American Health Association Guidelines. Accessed 9.11.2015 from https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahaecc-public/@wcm/@adv/documents/downloadable/ucm_463487.pdf
- Excerpts from the original McGovern Report accessed on 9.11.2015 from http://zerodisease.com/archive/Dietary_Goals_For_The_United_States.pdf