Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Obesity: We can't just dance the problem away.

I love First Lady Obama's efforts in the arena of fighting childhood obesity (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/08/05/michelle-obamas-newest-initiative-using-hip-hop-to-fight-obesity)...the videos and her dance moves are inspiring. Her White House garden is also inspiring. However, Beyonce was an early icon of her approach that emphasizes exercise, and now Beyonce is a leading shill for Pepsi. Beyonce dismisses the criticism of her endorsement by saying "It's all about choices." That is bull. She knows damn well that she has tremendous influence over young people's choices--she just sold out, pure and simple. Pepsi bought her out specifically because they know how powerful her influence is. It is an industry wide tactic and includes buying out scientists and nutritionists too. Read Michele Simon's glaring report "And now a word from our sponsors" in case you have any doubt about this claim. If the strategy to end obesity is just "get up and dance," or "just make better choices" (e.g., to avoid "food" products laden with sugar, salt, and fat) then this effort is destined to fail. When 80% of the food supply is tainted with industrial-added sugar, children hardly have a choice anymore. The daily average intake of sugar is now 22 teaspoons per day. I DO think dancing is a part of the equation, but our national leaders, cultural icons, scientists and doctors need to stop dancing around the bush and find the courage to stand up against big food and big sugar, and stop the onslaught of lies and toxins that we are injecting into the minds and diets of our children at epic levels. The childhood obesity crisis won’t be solved without forcing "food" companies to do things they don’t want to do. Self-regulation does not work. The "Hyderabad Statement" declares that "All significant developments in public health involve and require the use of law. This is a rule to which there is no exception." This is an industrial pandemic, so we can't afford to place the entire obesity problem on backs of our children, and tell them to just get up and dance the problem away. To quote from the insightful article "Profits and Pandemics":
  • Transnational corporations are major drivers of non-communicable disease epidemics and profit from increased consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink (so-called unhealthy commodities)
  • Alcohol and ultra-processed food and drink industries use similar strategies to the tobacco industry to undermine effective public health policies and programmes 
  • Unhealthy commodity industries should have no role in the formation of national or international policy for non-communicable disease policy
  • Despite the common reliance on industry self-regulation and public–private partnerships to improve public health, there is no evidence to support their effectiveness or safety 
  • In view of the present and predicted scale of non-communicable disease epidemics, the only evidence-based mechanisms that can prevent harm caused by unhealthy commodity industries are public regulation and market intervention
This isn't an intellectual exercise for me. I am part of a generation that grew up exposed to massive amounts of tobacco smoke, sugar, processed food, and other environmental toxins. This is why I am dedicating myself to helping found the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, and working with people like Dr. Robert Lustig. There is a solution to this madness caused by industrial malevolence and consumer ignorance.

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