“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.” —Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
If you’ve watched or read the news in the last few weeks, you know the war against obesity has intensified. Media outlets from Newsweek to “60 Minutes” have featured segments focusing on the dangers associated with obesity and our intake of natural sugar. The First Lady’s signature project is childhood obesity. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed outlawing the sale of large soft drinks. In Los Angeles, sidewalks have been widened to encourage walking. Other initiatives are popping up in cities from Minneapolis to Miami.
While I personally find some of these initiatives misguided, their intentions are noble. The U.S. statistics on obesity are truly startling. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Servicesestimates that more than one-third of the U.S. population is obese – that is, they weigh at least 20 percent more than their ideal body weight. It’s not that hard to get their either. For instance, if you consume just one 12-ounce can of soda a day, you exceed the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that recommend no more than 8 teaspoons per day of added sugar based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. If you “supersize” to a 20-ounce soda with 16 teaspoons of sugar, you consume twice the daily recommended limit. Or how about a 20-ounce McDonald’s vanilla shake at 24 teaspoons of sugar or three times the daily limit? Over the daily limit again.
In 2004, a research report entitled “Prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents: United States” and conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that 16 percent of 6-19 year olds were “overweight or obese” That’s 9 million youth and the 16 percent was three times the rate in 1980. In addition, the report indicated that an additional 15 percent were “at risk of becoming overweight.”
This is an issue literally killing Americans and bankrupting our health-care sector. But what concerns me even more is the increasing levels of type II diabetes among obese Americans. Over 90% of type II diabetes is caused by obesity. In fact, adults with a body mass index (BMI, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) greater than 30 kg/m2 are considered obese. So if you are 5ft 7in and you are over 200 lbs you are considered obese and over 175lbs for the same height you are overweight.
So in my opinion, yes, added sugar is a problem, but the solution is a balanced healthy lifestyle, not government regulation and elimination of the “supersized” soft drink. I find Mayor Bloomberg’s solution amusing. Kids are smart and solution oriented and we should assume they will simply drink 2 12oz sodas to make up for the 24oz ban. Or if they really feel slighted by the mayor, they will up it to 3 or 4 12oz’s portions. What about the junk food, the other products loaded with added sugar and the sedentary lifestyle. What is needed is a permanent behavior change through education, values and motivation; and yes, a few treats once in a while. Not every meal and not as a substitute for a meal.
In the end a balanced approach to life is the most important factor. Eat healthy foods high in fiber and protein and lower in carbohydrates… after all, carbohydrates are converted to glucose in your body and add to the issue of sugar consumption. As we at Merisant emphasize, staying healthy requires various components. Sensible eating, proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are important to your health. A balanced diet and smart choices also can help prevent serious health complications. For more information, I encourage you to visit Equal’s webpage on health and nutrition.
As the maker of Equal Sweetener and Pure Via All Natural Sweetener, balance has always been our objective. Using a zero calorie sweetener in your coffee, tea or flavored beverage is a simple way to enjoy great the great sweet taste of sugar without the calories or high glycemic load of sugar. It provides a way to manage the daily intake of sugar and a way to balance glucose throughout the day.
Equal offered in classic, saccharin and sucralose flavors can be used in a variety of processed products in addition to table-top sweeteners, baked goods, beverages, desserts and scores of other foods and beverages. A few of the benefits of artificial sweeteners as expressed by the respected Mayo Clinic include:
- Weight Control: Artificial sweeteners are a logical substitute for sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet. You need only a fraction of an artificial sweetener to attain sweetness compared with a larger amount of regular sugar. This advantage has helped many people make significant gains controlling their weight. Millions of Americans have made the switch to choosing products sweetened with artificial sweeteners.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is something we at Merisant have taken very seriously. Through our Equal brand, we have contributed millions of dollars to support diabetes-related initiatives. If you have diabetes, artificial sweeteners serve as good alternatives to sugar since they aren’t carbohydrates and don’t raise blood sugar levels.
- Dental cavities: Unlike sugar, artificial sweeteners don’t contribute to tooth decay.
Providing healthy sweet pleasure; nurturing the wellbeing of our consumers; protecting the delicate balance of our planet are the values that inspirer our Equal and Pure Via brands. Parents should set their own individual healthy life values that include an active life style and healthy foods & beverages. They should also instill these values in their children so they are healthy and self-sufficient as well.
While our company sponsors the American Diabetes Association and the Kingsbrook Diabetes outreach Program in Brooklyn, New York to cure diabetes, we are far more interested in prevention. We are proud to provide alternatives to sugar that are low in calories and low in glycemic index that can perhaps help us win this war on obesity one day.