Friday, February 24, 2012

Regulate Sugar? What???

I just listened to this podcast from Science Friday and went from “this guy must be nuts” all the way to “Wow!” inside of 17 minutes. First, a couple of disclaimers: I am most definitely not a “foodie”. I agree with Paula Poundstone -- that PopTarts™ are nature’s perfect food. I’ve been known to call Pepsi™ the “nectar of the gods”. And you don’t want to know about the rest of my diet. If it doesn’t include meat, it ain’t a meal. ‘Nuff said.

Should Sugar Be Regulated Like Alcohol?

(Look at the top left of the page and click the little black triangle above the orange “XML” logo to listen. Science nerds. What can you say?)

So why did this podcast strike such a chord with me? Well, you’ll just have to listen (there’s no transcript) to find out but here’s a hint -- one tiny portion I’ll transcribe:

”...a little piece of evolutionary interest: We as human beings really only had sugar available to us one month a year. It was called harvest time. And, fruit would fall to the ground. We’d gorge on it. Consume it like crazy. That would increase our adiposity -- increase our fat stores -- very specifically. And then what would come after that? Four months of winter. No food at all. ”

I can’t remember discussing it specifically on this blog but I’m a big believer that we haven’t overcome a couple of million years of evolution with two thousand years of civilization. We’re just cavemen in faded blue jeans. So, nature gave us a way to pile on the weight right before going on a forced diet (aka winter). But, of course, now we can eat Ben & Jerry’s™ smothered in chocolate and butterscotch syrup every night of the year if we care to.

But enough about my dietary habits. I want you to think big. I’m mean really big. You’ll hear Michael Pollan’s name come up in this broadcast. I specifically want you to remember his piece "Farmer in Chief" -- that I’ve pointed you towards before.

”And it will generate tens of millions of new “green jobs,” which is precisely how we need to begin thinking of skilled solar farming: as a vital sector of the 21st-century post-fossil-fuel economy.””

Jobs. Solar farming (i.e. getting away from petroleum). Think of lower transportation costs for locally grown food. And then think even harder when you start hearing people complain about the high price of gas in the coming months.

Next, I want you to think about the cost of health care. Nationally. Don’t worry, you don’t have to think too hard about it. That’s why we have Krugman.

”The vast bulk of its (federal government) spending goes to the big five: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and interest on the debt. ”

You’ll notice that two of those five are health care -- Medicare and Medicaid.

But when it comes to health care costs, this is what is important to understand.

Now and Later

”So America has a long-run budget problem. Dealing with this problem will require, first and foremost, a real effort to bring health costs under control — without that, nothing will work.”

For those that don’t read Krugman, you can’t pass off his words lightly. When he says “without that, nothing will work” he means just that -- nothing will work. More taxes, more spending cuts -- without controlling health costs -- our budget problems can’t be solved.

So, let’s sum it up.

1) Our industrialized food chain with sugar added into everything is causing us major heath problems.

2) The Great Recession has given us long-term unemployment and -- quite frankly -- our political leadership doesn’t have any answer to the problem.

3) Everybody (both sides of the political debate) agrees we can’t stay on this current path. Unemployment and health care costs have to be reined in.

Could the answer be as simple as regulating sugar? Could it be as simple as “Eat real food”? After all, it was public policy that created the industrialized food chain. Public policy can deindustrialize it. We can even farm in the cities, on vacant lots. We seem to have a ready-made supply of those right now too.

Think Big. Wouldn’t it beat all if doing the right thing turned out to be the right thing to do?

(Yes, you have to click on the links to understand it all. You have the whole weekend. Listen. Then read.)

Don Brown
February 24, 2011

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