Sunday, 28 August 2011

The obesity crisis of 2030 and the tax that will stop it

The obesity crisis of 2030 and the tax that will stop it
As this is a healthy lifestyles blog I think it would be a poor one (or poorer maybe) if I was not to write a little something about the obesity warning that was floated in the media last Friday. The report proposed that the rate of obesity is to rise at such an extent that by 2030 40% of people in the UK will be obese and 60% of people in the US.
It’s too easy to just read that sentence and not actually think of the ramifications. That means 40%, 4 in 10, more than a third will be obese, not overweight but obese. To some, obese is just a word. I can understand why some may not truly appreciate its meaning as it seems to be thrown around with scare mongering figures on a regular basis it seems. Just to put a quick, brief definition out there; obesity is where excess body fat is stored, beyond the extent of being “overweight” and which, as a result, causes immediate risks to your health. I could easily find facts and figures about the risks and horrors of obesity but I do not want to turn the blog into stat central. Suffice it to say that obesity can increase your risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes....basically being obese pretty much shortens your life expectancy.
So, scary stuff over, what are we to do about this seemingly forever present and forever documented but never acted upon issue? Well, the same report as already mentioned has its own suggestions. They include better education for young people both at home and in school, limiting “junk food” ads and taxing “junk food”.
Hang on.
Have I read that right?
TAX “junk food”???
I’m sorry but, for me (other opinions are equally valid and available), this report has got it completely wrong. For a start, I believe there is no such thing as junk food. There are foods that are better for one’s self and ones that are worse. BUT, there are no foods that are “junk”. Only if eaten in large amounts can some foods become unhealthy (actually most foods). Actually, unhealthy is the wrong word. Health refers to over well being (put simply the body and the mind). Some foods such as chocolate or ice cream may be high in calories and fat therefore could be argued to be unhealthy for the body, but they contain chemicals that cause happiness. This isn’t an emotional attachment as some might argue, but an actually chemical reaction in the brain that leads to such things as decreased stress, mental stimulation and even anti-depression. Now is such a thing unhealthy?
Now, I am not saying that the ways some people eat these foods are right and that nothing should happen. I am just saying that taxing certain foods is ridiculous. Even forgetting my last argument, what would the criteria be for the foods to be taxed? Levels of fat in the food, Number of calories, or just one man with big red a tax or no tax stamp that all food products must present their health case to?
For me, education is the key. I regularly come across people that don’t know what a calorie is, don’t know how to read food label or even what the information means. How can it be expected that the obesity crisis be averted if people do not know about the food they’re eating? People do not have to all be university level nutritionists or dietary experts but everyone should at least have some idea about what it is they are eating and what is in it. The traffic light system on some food products is a good start but I think more could be done.

I could go on and on about this report and this tax is not the only part I disagree on. However, I will leave it there for now. Thanks for making it to the bottom. I really want to hear off people about this one. What do you think about the “obesity crisis”? What do you think needs to be done? Do you agree with the recommendations of the report?
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