Caloric labelling is a recent strategy in combatting obesity. It's been tried in the United States in various cities and states. Something similar, in fact, happened in the battle against smoking. No one intervention brought down the rate. Instead a variety of legal strategies (banning sales to children, restricting advertising, mandating warnings, imposing high taxes etc.) working together significantly cut the numbers who use cigarettes.
The idea that providing more information about food served in restaurants, such as calorie and fat content, would reduce the risk of weight problems has widely been greeted with skepticism and outright rejection. Now a new study presented at the Second Annual Obesity Journal Symposium in Boston showed that calorie labeling on menus can indeed influence the choices people make.
The question whether obesity is solely caused by diet and lifestyle choices or whether a person's genetic make-up plays a role as well has long been debated among scientists without producing conclusive answers. One recently completed study tried to shed more light on this issue by following entire families over several generations.
It's been a rather tough year for artificial sweeteners. In that time, three new studies have been released suggesting they are poor substitutes for sugar. In the spring, an investigation into their use revealed a disconcerting association with the onset of depression. Then, a long-term analysis of their use revealed they may contribute to overall weight gain.
This summer Mexico put in place a ban of food advertising to children. The target is junk. Restricting advertising to children is good policy as one part of efforts to have our kids eat nutritiously right from the start. However, in this increasingly interconnected world it is harder and harder for any one society to effectively constrain such promotions.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease and metabolic syndromes. It leads to a deterioration in the quality of our life and often the length, too. Some experts have gone as far as saying childhood obesity is such an epidemic that this current generation of youngsters will have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents!
The idea is simple: children need to be more active. Governments have a role to play in encouraging kids to exercise more. A survey found that parents who had children enrolled in activities spent, on average, $1,000 a year for each child. But here let's look at the Canadian Children's Fitness Tax Credit (CFTC) as one important means of lowering costs and increasing access for kids' participation.
As we age, our bodies are less responsive to the typical caloric equation of weight loss; i.e. less calories in and more calories out. Indeed, new science is revealing that age-related weight gain has very little to do with caloric balance and much more to do with the altered physiology of the aging body and adverse environmental and lifestyle factors.
Those approaches, for unhealthy eating in particular, can be a real challenge, because they bang hard against the reactor core of our economic system -- consumption. Consumption and lots of it. Like tobacco, the fight for healthy eating will challenge the heart of what companies do: sell as much as they can.
Only by calling food addiction by its proper name can we begin to speak frankly about how to help one another recover. Until then, food addicts like me will continue to struggle to control that which cannot be controlled. Many will keep trying, and failing, to "eat like a normal person." And many will decide, like I did, that their inability to change is simply a sign of weakness.
Say hello to "Mr. Happy," McDonald's new ambassador of nutrition. Yes, nutrition and McDonald's are now in the same sentence! I'm scared and sad. I don't want to learn from a box. I don't want to learn from a scary, big toothed, slightly creepy object. How am I supposed to trust that? Nutrition needs to be clean, whole, nutrient dense and not in a box. I can make a fast food meal that's more nutritious and much faster than McDonald's can -- raw spinach greens, easy over eggs and a green smoothie. It would take 10 minutes flat and I wouldn't have to leave my house or put expensive, air polluting gas in the car!
The assessment compared our kids, in nine categories of activity, to those in 14 other countries. Canada received an overall grade of D- putting it behind nations such as Mexico, Kenya, and Nigeria. Our toddlers do pretty well: 84 per cent of kids 3 and 4 get the recommended 180 minutes of daily exercise. After that activity levels fall.
Experience suggests that policies like fat/'junk food' taxes, vending machine bans, menu labelling requirements, reduced availability of particular foods, simplified or directive food labels, graphic warning labels, zoning restrictions, and advertising restrictions, will not be successful at reducing the prevalence of excess weight.