March 15, 2011

Is sugar really the enemy?

With public service announcements like could you NOT eat sugar?
This weekend, as I was flipping through the Vancouver Sun at the local coffee shop with my man-friend (living the high-life...I tell ya) I came across an article (in fact, the paper was starting a six part series) on Canada's sugar addiction. Looking at the bar graph included in the article I was really surprised ...since the 60's we have slowly decreased our consumption of sugar. Of course, it had it's ups and down throughout the 70's (who could blame us from doing sugar in the 70's). The 80's saw it's share of spikes (but how else could we have contended with the fashion and the god, the hair!). Ultimately, according to Health Canada, our rate of sugar ingestion fell from approximately 31.5 kg of sugar and syrup annually to only 23.5 - 24 kg/year. Um...yeah....that's right. The average Canadian eats approximately 24 kilograms of sugar every year. That's just gross...but that's not the reason for my blog. It's quite the opposite.

I sat there studying this graph and thinking that, as a kid, I ate more sugar than the average kid does now. I mean, come on....who could resist pixy sticks, fun dip, bottle caps, and my personal favorite pop rocks? So why were me and my friends so skinny growing up? I don't remember more than two kids who were "fat"...and back then "fat" was something totally different. We never saw obese kids...just pudgy kids.  So what is the real issue here? What is missing from the lives of our poor Canadian children that would increase the rate of childhood obesity????? Less sugar intake than 1968? about less physical activity?

Of course, I'm not suggesting you eat mounds of sugar
and go out for a walk...I'm just sayin'
It was nothing to walk to and from school each day...and we didn't live that close. We were kicked out of the house after school and told to come home at dusk. We played softball in the fields, biked to and from our friends houses, and anywhere we wanted to go...we walked, rode, roller skated (remember those metal roller skates that you clamped onto your shoes???) and if we didn't have a bike, we would double on our friends with no helmet. I guess our attention to safety has increased since then, but so has our fear of the bad people in the world (albeit not totally unsubstantiated).

The point is, why blame sugar or fight sugar when we could take up a more positive cause and promote physical activity? Promote exercising families, challenge the schools on their decisions to make it virtually impossible for secondary students to opt for PE when they have to accumulate enough credits to get into university....but that's another blog for another time. Why are we not challenging what we are doing and why we are doing it? I guess blaming sugar, sodas, TV, video games, and the like is less time consuming than getting our kids (and ourselves) of the couch and off the technology.

Of course, I understand that it takes a myriad of variables to create an "epidemic" (definitely not my word, but that of the media) of fat kids...a combination of factors must all be equally considered. But if there is one thing I have learned through my own community-based research with schools and other organizations it is that people will chose the scapegoat of least resistance. By banning sodas and sugary treats from the vending machine, they don't have provide students with meaningful daily physical activity (ouch! sorry, I'm putting it out there today).

That's all I got I walk out the door to a dinner party wearing my favorite M&M's T-shirt!

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