An Obesity Epidemic is horrible too

An Obesity ‘Epidemic‘ is every bit as horrible as the more obvious ones

The World Health Assembly passed a resolution in 1991 to eliminate leprosy by 2000. It was unsuccessful, although its prevalence has decreased by around 90 per cent over the years since.

Smallpox was officially declared eradicated in 1980. In Samoa, a measles outbreak last year (2019) saw almost 6000 people catch it and 82 of them died.

Sars – severe acute respiratory syndrome – killed more than 700 people around the world during an outbreak in 2002-03, after originating in China. In total, it infected more than 8,000 people in 26 countries. In early 2020, a similar outbreak is causing alarm in China and worldwide.

Although Obesity is not literally an epidemic, which occurs when an infectious disease spreads rapidly to many people, in 2017-18, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey showed that two thirds (67.0%) of Australian Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), an increase from 63.4% in 2014-15.

Epidemics such as smallpox, measles and leprosy cause immediately visible signs and symptoms. Rashes, spots lesions and the rapid onset of serious illness trigger rapid response from communities and governments. Obesity’s onset is gradual and rarely accompanied by immediate illness.

Obesity’s consequences are every bit as noxious as the more obvious epidemics. To quote the World Health Organisation See source

“Being overweight or obese can have a serious impact on health…. leads to serious health consequences such as cardiovascular disease (mainly heart disease and stroke), type 2 diabetes, …. osteoarthritis, and some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon)”

What Causes Obesity and overweight?

The British Medical Journal BMJ – See Source

“Fresh evidence links popular processed foods with a range of health risks….the volume of industrially processed products in global food supplies has increased. … transition towards diets linked to a rising prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases in many countries.

One such category is ultra-processed foods, defined as “formulations of food substances often modified by chemical processes and then assembled into ready-to-consume hyper-palatable food and drink products using flavours, colours, emulsifiers and other cosmetic additives….growing body of evidence associating consumption of such foods with poor diet quality, increased cardiovascular risk factors…. obesity and metabolic syndrome.”

Proper foodstuffs not readily available in remote areas and in disadvantaged neighbourhoods

“Indigenous Australians and those living outside Major cities or who are in lower socioeconomic groups are more likely to be overweight or obese”See Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Health Care and obesity’s consequences

AMA President Tony Bartone:- The Australian 7th January 2020 –

“Massive increases in the numbers of people with obesity and diabetes is amplifying the pressures on public hospitals. But Dr Bartone said these were the kinds of diseases that should be able to be prevented and treated in the community.”

The economic burden of treating obesity-related diseases is estimated to rise from A$12 billion in 2014 to A$21 billion in 2025. We spend far, far less on measures to deal with obesity – the most obvious cause of the diseases to be treated.

Artificial sweeteners –

Harvard Health Publishing – See source

  • “… People who use artificial sweeteners may replace the lost calories through other sources…”
  • “….sweeteners are far more potent than table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup …. these products change the way we taste food….
  • frequent use of these hyper-intense sweeteners may limit tolerance for more complex tastes…means people who routinely use artificial sweeteners may start to find less intensely sweet foods unpalatable..”
  • “…they may prevent us from associating sweetness with caloric intake…., we may crave more sweets, tend to choose sweet food over nutritious food, and gain weight.”
  • “Participants …who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese as people who didn’t drink diet soda.”
  • “Animal studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. .. don’t know what effect large amounts of these chemicals will have over many years…. “
  • ‘Daily consumption of diet drinks was associated with a 36% greater risk for metabolic syndrome and a 67% increased risk for type 2 diabetes. “

Conclusions

  1. Obesity and being overweight is incompatible with good health and adversely affects individuals, public health systems, aged care and disability care, the national economy, the natural environment and just about every other aspect of life and society.
  2. Obesity and overweight ‘sneaks-up’ on us: it lacks immediate and distressing visual symptoms – rashes, lesions. Death and disability wait until later.
  3. Sugary, refined foods, especially soda.Junk food companies are aggressively and  heavily marketing soft drinks and junk food, particularly to children
  4. Artificial sweeteners very probably trigger unfortunate responses in humans – crave more sugars – eat more sugary foods.
  5. We need to ensure that good tucker is available to everyone, not just the fortunate.
  6. We urgently need to up-grade our knowledge and appreciation of good healthy food. How to grow it, use it, cook it and enjoy – start at schools. even pre-school.

What do we do about it?

Bans can be placed on products and product-related services if there is a risk that they may cause serious injury, illness or death. – Commonwealth permanent and interim product safety bans, and state and territory interim bans include – See link

  • “Glucomannan in tablet form: Mini jelly cups containing konjac – Chocking hazard -see link :
  • Novelty cigarettes or ‘puff cigarettes’ are banned: Chewing tobacco and snuffs- banned .”

Banning junk food and dangerously unhealthy soft drinks is, at first sight, an attractive option. However, bans seem likely to be distracting and at odds with the compelling need  to focus on alerting and educating us about the links between what we eat and how wide-spread obesity seriously damages people, society, economies and the natural environment.

Banning the use of artificial sweeteners is another matter. There is already sufficient reason to believe that theses things distort our sense of taste and our metabolism.

They provide no useful food. They provide an advertising blurb –  ‘diet soda’  – ‘no added sugar’. There is no need for them – use sugar instead: far less additive and destructive of our senses. We did not ban building boards – we banned the use of asbestos in the boards.

Junk food and drinks warning labels

Image result for tobacco warning label

A 2018 study ….. warning labels — particularly graphic, negative warnings — encouraged people to exercise self-control when selecting meals.

The use of warning labels and plain packages has been a seriously useful means of reducing the number of smokers,

Menus and billboards should also include graphic warning about sugar and junk foods and how limiting their use is essential to good health.

Advertising

Advertising tobacco products is banned. Crap sodas and junk food is advertised endlessly and directed at children and those of us who are least well informed. Ban all advertising of junk food and ‘soda’.

Taxes and Licence Fees

An effective tax system that could see a higher tax added to junk foods and a zero rate or even a subsidy (negative tax) on real food would seem useful. Changing the quality and ingredients in the ‘burger’ – more fibre, less sugar and salt etc. ‘Fries’ replaced with another potato product – herbs instead of loads of salt – better frying oils – etc.

If a Licence is needed for a Pub, why not one for a food and drink shop? Fees linked to how good or noxious are the product sold?

Aboriginal and remote communities

There is rarely any regular access to fresh vegetables and fruit. Staples such as bread and cereals are industrial grade. Transport costs  low volume of sales and lack of completion see high prices.  Once upon a time, many of these communities had a market-garden, usually operated by Chinese migrants and often with Aboriginal people involved.

There is an urgent need for Aboriginal and Remote communities to have access to a Community Garden and a School Gardens with associated education in growing, preparing and cooking quality foods.

Governments should foster such initiatives, which would have enormous social and community benefits as well,

A Job Guarantee program, managed a Community level, would be an effective vehicle to deliver  these benefits –See this Blog Job Guarantee

Education about health and lifestyles: proper food, how to get it, cook it and enjoy it

The whole Australian Community urgently needs wise and effective Government  intervention with suitably designed and delivered programs, which might include-

  • Mandatory School Syllabus inclusion of  health and lifestyle, food gardens, preparation and cooking – just as important as reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
  • Targeted education to the broad community on similar issues – Government advertising TV, Media. Bring back the home garden – even tubs on balconies provide greens and herbs in useful quantity.

Urgent Government Action needed – not endless enquires and Studies

The Sydney Morning Herald See Source

“..the Morrison government’s minister for sport Richard Colbeck, announced the move on Monday while releasing the final report of the five-year review of the Health Star Rating System.

Shoppers would see a confronting 16 teaspoons of sugar on the label of a 600-millilitre Coca-Cola bottle if the advice of health experts is followed by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.”