Monday, July 7, 2008

America's a land coated in sugar

America's a land coated in sugar
Deepak Seth • Editorial Board member • July 7, 2008

Ms. K entered the meeting with a basketful of candy, which she strategically placed on the table before she commenced her presentation. All of us around the table stared longingly at the goodies; most of us were overweight and battling weight-related issues.

Each waited for someone else to make the first move. As soon as the bravest one made his move, the rest followed. The presentation got drowned in the crinkling of the candy wrappers and conversation about the candy. Meanwhile, Ms. K continued her dreary monologue about missed targets and declining sales. The boss was lost in her thoughts, thoughts driven more by the chocolaty nougat she was chewing rather than the sales numbers being presented. "Excellent job, Ms K," she intoned, followed by, "Thanks for the great chocolate, very thoughtful" as Ms. K wrapped up her presentation. The "sugar high" had won again.

This scene plays out at offices every day. And to very detrimental consequences for our health. As we battle an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and a host of other lifestyle-related illnesses, it is high time people start bringing in apples, oranges, nuts and other similar healthy alternatives for meetings.

The concept of bringing "coffee and doughnuts" in for the team needs to metamorphose into "coffee and celery sticks."Is it not strange that the things that taste the best are most likely to be the unhealthiest? Seems weird from an evolutionary perspective. Why would our taste buds evolve in such a way that what tastes the best can be harmful for us?

The reason is that food processing and our propensity to consume have evolved at a faster rate than what our taste buds could keep pace with. We like sweet because sweetness drew our caveman ancestors to food that can provide the highest burst of energy in the shortest time — honey, ripe fruits etc.

The efforts in collecting such foods and their high spoilage made sure that there was never an excess of these calories. But before long, mankind had discovered a way of extracting those sugars, concentrating them and overloading ourselves with it. Many times beyond the capacity of the body to effectively process it. And that's where our woes began.

Should we then give these guilty pleasures up? No, not at all. The answer lies in moderation. The food industry can help by an across-the-board reduction in the sugar content of all food items by at least 20 percent.

It can be easily done. Many European/international versions of our favorite brands are much less sweeter than what is sold here.

You don't like sweet, you like salty? Don't even get me started on the woes of too much sodium.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write regular columns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sugar addiction no longer an American ailment, its reaching epidemic proportions in all parts of the world, thanks to MNCs leveraging the addictive properties of sugar to gain larger worldwide markets. The other epidemic that only Americans seem to be face is what I call the "Cheese overload". Think of most servings (that are not sweet) - and you're going get a load of cheese with it; and most folks will gladly put additional cheese on top of it! Talk about "say cheese" and its an obese similing face that comes to mind now! Sorry, but I find the lack of choice in this regard (most places, by default will overdose you with cheese) abhorrent!
- Anupam

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