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Erik Hemmingsson

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Sugar On The Rise

Public health is in constant motion, new challenges emerge as the old ones disappear. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to a number of different health factors that should have been addressed a long time ago, such as a declining average life expectancy for individuals with low education (why this is no longer discussed in the media and in politics, I cannot understand). What the majority is consuming on a daily basis is a striking example of how food development has gone in the wrong direction.

Since many of our taste preferences and other health factors such as intestinal flora are founded in childhood, it is extremely important that we help children to eat healthy and nutritious food. I find it hard to imagine better social investment than investing in children’s health and lifestyle.

Since the food and sugar industry seems to be completely incapable of self-regulation, it is up to us consumers to stop buying their products, but also to our politicians to show that they want to make it easier for people to live healthier. For example, is it reasonable that we have the same sales tax on sweets and soft drinks, as on fruit and vegetables? Here we can actually learn some of the public health work that was done to reduce alcohol consumption and smoking.

The most common objection to state involvement is usually of a nanny-state nature, and I can understand that to some extent. We should not have a state that retails what we eat, and people must take responsibility of course. But why not make it a little easier? Overweight/obesity and its health consequences are estimated to cost 70 billion a year, so this isn’t small money we are talking about.

We should also remember that the incidence of obesity has tripled in the last 40-50 years, while type-2 diabetes has become four times more common, which coincides very well with the gradual invasion of processed and nutrient-poor junk food. And there is now more and more research that indicates that the quality of what we eat plays a significant role in our mental health, probably for our children as well. And what could be more important than making our children feel good, and given an optimal start in life? Absolutely nothing.

Recommended readings:

Juul F, Hemmingsson E. Trends in consumption of ultra-processed foods and obesity in Sweden between 1960 and 2010. Public Health Nutr. 2015 Dec;18(17):3096-107.

Opie RS, Itsiopoulos C, Parletta N, Sanchez-Villegas A, Akbaraly TN, Ruusunen A, Jacka FN. Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Apr;20(3):161-171.

Rico-Campà A, Martínez-González MA, Alvarez-Alvarez I, Mendonça RD, de la Fuente-Arrillaga C, Gómez-Donoso C, Bes-Rastrollo M. Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2019 May 29;365:l1949.

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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