This week, an article posted by Glenn Reynolds in USA Today entitled "Government can't get us off sugar" sparked a lengthy debate in my household about the role of government in our lives. The article focuses on whether or not government food stamps should be used to buy sugary drinks and snacks or just 'essentials.' It's an obvious slippery slope argument, but can the now indisputable and almost unending support linking the dramatic increase in per capita sugar consumption with a myriad of diseases including diabetes, insulin-resistance, high-blood pressure, nerve- and kidney-damage, even Alzheimer's and stroke, be ignored?
In his book The Case Against Sugar, Gary Taubes paints a very convincing picture of the devastating effects of our over-indulgence and reliance on sugar. (The bibliography alone is 36 pages!) One particularly convincing piece of support comes from the findings of this medical study conducted in 2007 by Lenoir, Serre, Cantin and Ahmed which "clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals." In other words, sugar produces a faster, easier, MUCH cheaper and much more readily accessible satisfaction than COCAINE!
Recent attempts to curb sugar on a federal scale by limiting tax stamps, or by implementing "sin-taxes" like they did in Philadelphia and Berkeley (these effectively charge consumers an excise tax per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverages) are an interesting way to both limit consumption and an attempt to benefit society in the process. Tobacco and alcohol are taxed heavily as sin-products, making sugar fall into the same category. Philly is going to fund public programs, including schools, with the revenue. These cities are joined by Boulder, Oakland and San Francisco. More than 30 cities and states, including New York most infamously, have rejected such taxes.
I was presented with opposing arguments, also hard to discount, that reject the idea of government intervention into our daily lives. It begins with telling us how and what we should consume... Where does it end? Who is anyone to tell me that I shouldn't eat a cookie or enjoy a coke? If I'm willing to endure the pains of diabetes long-term, or a sugar-crash short-term, well, that's my business. The USA Today editorial points out prior attempts by the government to intervene that have backfired. In the second half of the twentieth century, there were widespread, perhaps lobbyist-influenced, campaigns to limit fats; the food producers responded by increasing sugar to compensate. In other words, the government should stay out of the kitchen and let us decide for ourselves what to eat.
Bald Baker takes a reasoned philosophy to this matter. We are not a political organization; all we want to do is promote healthy living decisions. We believe that while sugar-consumption and its related consequences are on the rise, there should be at least an equal, if not disproportionate reaction in the form of education, programs, support and delicious, sugar-conscious foods to combat this massive and pervasive epidemic.
Prevention Magazine started a campaign called #spreadthehealth and posted an article recently about one woman's challenge to completely remove sugar from her diet for one week and the results. I won't comment on the validity of the experiment, but I 100% agree with her conclusion after taking the challenge: "it can be the catalyst for more profound, long-term improvement....I also now feel inspired to create other healthy habits..." We want the consuming public to see that sugar-reduction isn't as daunting as it seems; that lifestyle changes aren't as impossible as they seem. They're scary, no doubt, but people often over-value their current position (and hence, stay in a comfort zone) and under-value a changed position. Our indulgent, sugar-free desserts have proven that you can have a delicious, decadent dessert and not have a bomb explode in your system; that you can have a cookie and eat it too. Hopefully that is a first-step, an injection of confidence for you to make the next step forward, and the one after that, towards living a satisfied, healthy lifestyle.