Regular readers will know my views on the fat versus sugar debate. The biggest nutritional component to illness is the excess consumption of sugar. The key word here is excess.
It was demonstrated last year that it is excess sugar consumption, not obesity that is the driver of type 2 diabetes and it’s associated health problems. Indeed too much sugar is the main contributor to obesity. And it was also finally conceded that lowering cholesterol in the normal population does not reduce heart attacks or extend life.
But rather than admit they were wrong, health officialdom is now seeking to demonize sugar.
And jargon is the first problem. When we are talking sugar it is not simply granules in a coffee or even just sweet foods. We are talking about refined carbohydrates be they sweet or not.
Let me be clear. We need to eat mainly real foods which until recently were growing somewhere or moving around. We need to minimize foods which are processed and packaged and which have lots of refined carbohydrate.
But not every single thing we eat needs to be seen through whether it is “good for us”. Some food can and should be eaten because we enjoy the taste and the pleasure of eating it. Ice cream and chocolate come to mind. Even soft drinks can be consumed on occasions because you enjoy them – but not every day.
How much we consume is our choice. And how much our children are given is up to parents. Or so you might think.
Nick Carter, writing in The Australian quotes the WHO describing obesity as “not a failure of individual willpower “ but a “failure of political will to take on big business”. This would be the same big business, which came to the party with low fat, high sugar foods in response to health messages decrying fat intake.
Liverpool University’s Simon Capewell is quoted as saying “sugary drinks and junk foods are now pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry”.
So they put a gun to your head? I can feel the soft drink aisle press me as I walk past it.
Fortunately there are signs of a push back against this sort of nonsense thinking. The Australian Health Minister Peter Dutton said parents should not always give in to their children’s demands. This was in particular reference to confectionary at supermarket checkouts, or at least those, which are not confectionary free.
Those parents who “…default to fast food each night instead of healthy meals need to take responsibility” he said.
Can anyone take issue with that?
Of course the public health lobby did. Outraged that the Minister was not contemplating advertising bans or “junk food” taxes the President of the Public Health Association was quoted in The West Australian, telling parents to just say no was “so simplistic as to be laughable”.
Remember this is the same lobby, which advises just saying no variably to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. This is in teenagers who are harder to control.
But to expect a parent to simply say no to a young child is laughable. Who else is going to say no? And more importantly who else’s business is it as to what a parent chooses to allow a child on a given day.
Is saying no to a five-year-old lighting matches in the house also simplistic and laughable. Or what about saying no to a four year old, wanting to cross the street alone? More giggles?
When my children were younger and we went to the supermarket they would get treats some days. This is my choice and if you have children it is yours too.
Parenting may not always be easy but that is life. We need to say no to our children and the notion that parents are incapable is demeaning. It essentially says that we are incompetent at the most basic of parenting skills, deciding what we feel is right for our children.
Not everyone will get everything right every time. That is called learning as we live life.
It is time the public health lobby confined itself to providing (hopefully) useful information about health which the rest of us can then apply as we see fit.
Demonizing sugar will prove to be as unhelpful as was demonizing fats.