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Public Health and Society’s Addictions

Obesity rates have been climbing since the 1980(s) and have become a concerning amount of health care professions because of its direct relation to health-related disease. This has resulted in Health Trends on how to combat this growing concern.

Health Trends have become a common lifestyle that people have people either religiously following or are at least somewhat aware of the current main one. In the 1980(s) to the early 2000(s) fat used to be the main focus of the primary cause of consumption-related health diseases. Michelle Obama’s time as the first lady marks a transition point to the focus of a lack of exercise and its relation to obesity-related health issues. More recently overconsumption of sugar has become one of the primary focuses on the leading causes of consumption-based health issues.    

Sugar has been around for a long time, but it has only become regularly consumed relatively recently. In a lecture at Stanford Health care, Alison Ryan talk about how in the 1700(s) the average consumes in Europe consumed about 4 pounds of added sugar per year. In the 1800(s) the average man consumed about 18 pounds, and today, the average person consumes 77 pounds of sugar per year!

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Think for a second, what are the health benefits of soda or high sugar-based food like fast food? Studies from the University of Simon Fraser have a running theory as to why we continue to consume drinks and food that have minimal or unhealthy balanced nutrients: we are addicted (Reith 2004).  The primary addictive chemical behind it all is Sugar. Sugar can be found in a variety of ingredients such as raw sugar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, honey and molasses (Harvard, 2017). These ingredients can be found in everything from candy to ketchup. Fast food is a prime example of a commonly consumed product that tends to have a higher than average concentration of sugar. Even if you are trying to eat healthily, we have become so accustomed to the sweet taste that we have a hard time not consuming food without it even when trying to eat healthily. Have you ever tried to eat lettuce without some kind of dressing? 

Fructose is otherwise known as sugar neurologically affects the brain by a change is the hormonal system. This neurological effect is commonly seen as a strong stimulation lighting up the brain in an almost supernatural way that is comparable to cocaine. Some of the main differences between are the hormonal system which triggers the body’s need to expel energy because of a high intake in calories than sugar provides (Shapiro, Mu, Roncal, Cheng, Johnson, Scarpace, 2008). Sugar has been defined by the medical community as the definition of an empty calorie because of its lack of nutrients that it provides to the body. In other words, the high intake of calories triggers the body to want to use the excess calories but even if you do manage to use the extra energy your body is gaining little to nothing nutritionally. If the body fails to expend the energy it begins the process of storing the excess energy in the form of fat. Because the body stores high-calorie fat around the stomach this results in large bellied individuals.

The worst part about the addiction of sugar is that it is unregulated to children. In a CDC study in 2015-2016 shows 20.6% of children between 12 and 19 in 2016 have been considered obese. Dr. Barry Popkin from Gillings School of Global Public Health has come to the conclusion that the primary driving force behind this staggering statistic is the convenience and cost that fast food options provide parents when they are feeding their children.

There is a good standing argument to be had on how an entire society should go about making a dramatic change in the percentage of overweight citizens. Drastic changes like the prohibition of alcohol is not an easy one to implement and will always result in resistance. The cost of change could be argued to be too high. Especially when the change is restricting a substance as addictive as cocaine that the majority of the country is consuming on a daily basis.

 The question of whether this should be done on an individual scale or a governmental scale remains a controversial topic. If the government were to remove the ability for the public to consume unhealthy products would that be infringing on their freedom or would that be protecting them from a domestic threat to their health?

Now those zero sugar products that have been released might seem a little more appealing, but the reality is that the body is still reacting the same way as if it were sugar. Additionally, traditional products in the everyday grocery store with advertisements of zero sugar are still not healthy because of the foods and drinks that they are in. So even if you eat a sugar-free Twinkie your body is still going to be processing the sugar alternative the same way and you might as-well had the non-sugar free Twinkie.

Wrapping Things Up

Creating laws that would infringe upon the economical status of sugar base product manufacturers and fast food enterprises runs the risk of displacing millions of workers. 3.65 million people work in the fast-food industry alone according to a statistical study in 2002 done by Statista. That’s a little over 1% of the people the United States! An economical shift like this would be similar to when America impost a trade agreement with China. This cost may seem high, but it is ultimately a personal opinion between what is more important, the economy of the United States or the public health of America will be the tipping point on if this is worthwhile change to make within our county.

It is hard to imagine a reality where candy and sugar are sold in a similar manner to tobacco or alcohol; limiting it to people above the age of 18 and requiring id upon purchase. The harsh reality about the potential addiction and health concerns behind sugar and high sugar-based foods seems almost like a scare tactical, but the sugar has high comparisons to the level of addiction to cocaine (Nestler, 2005). 


Final Thoughts 

            In the 1900s people didn’t think that cocaine, tobacco, and alcohol had any major side effects other than the short term sought out effects. As time goes by but it became clear that there were strong correlations between these substances and extremely negative consequences. It took 30 years for effective laws to come into place to prevent these consequences regardless of the people’s decisions. These substances can’t be banned altogether because of how addictive they are, and any proposal for an outright ban might result in a massive public revolt like the prohibition. Nevertheless, actions need to be made on a societal level that at least discourage these behaviors like overconsumption of alcohol or sugar.

It might not be a popular idea among Libertarians but looking at the consumption of sugar as an unregistered threat to addiction from the general public perspective, it should be the government’s role of protecting the people from the domestic threat of obesity and the illnesses that follow it. Sugar and sugary foods need to be regulated as a schedule II substance and should not be available to the public in a manner that it is today.

Sources

American Diabetes Association. “Low-Calorie Sweeteners.” American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/artificial- sweeteners/.

Avena, Nicole M, et al. “Evidence for Sugar Addiction: Behavioral and Neurochemical Effects of Intermittent, Excessive Sugar Intake.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/.

Banks, William A, et al. “Triglycerides Induce Leptin Resistance at the Blood-Brain Barrier.” Diabetes, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15111494.


CDC. “FastStats – Overweight Prevalence.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm.

Harvard T.H. Chan. “Sugary Drinks.” The Nutrition Source, 22 May 2019,
www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/.

Nestler, Eric J. “The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction.” Science & Practice Perspectives, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dec. 2005,
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851032/.

Popkin, Barry. “Fast Food Not the Major Cause of Rising Childhood Obesity Rates, Study Finds UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.” UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, sph.unc.edu/sph-news/fast-food-not-the-major-cause-of-rising-childhood-obesity-rates-study-finds/.

Reith, Gerda. Http://Www.sfu.ca/Media-Lab/426/Readings/Consumptionaddiction.pdf.

Simon Fraser University, 2004, www.sfu.ca/media-lab/426/readings/consumptionaddiction.pdf.

Shapiro, Alexandra, et al. “Fructose-Induced Leptin Resistance Exacerbates Weight Gain in Response to Subsequent High-Fat Feeding.” American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, American Physiological Society, Nov. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18703413.

Statista. “Employees in the U.S. Fast Food Restaurant Industry 2018.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/196630/number-of-employees-in-us-fast-food-restaurants-since-
2002/.

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