The War On Sugar

We might not be winning the War on Terror, but it seems we’ve just declared war on sugar. At least sugar is something that can actually be quantified.

Now, there certainly is a problem with obesity in the UK, and excess sugar consumption is part of that problem. But, there are problems with over-eating generally, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, and the mixed messages received from the government and supposed experts, combined with the difficulty of living and eating healthily doesn’t help. Unfortunately, heaping the blame on sugar alone isn’t the answer.

Still, that doesn’t stop those who relish the opportunities of the nanny-state mentality for meddling in others’ lives from calling for a tax on sugar. Of course, if it’s anything like the current thinking on applying VAT, we’ll see the sugar-free options taxed alongside the sugary versions because, let’s face it, the calls for a sugar tax and the desire to bully people over what they eat and drink has nothing to do with being healthy and everything to do with the puritanical fear that people out there are enjoying themselves, which these people just cannot tolerate.

I certainly agree that something needs to be done about hidden sugar (and hidden salt): too much food that you wouldn’t normally consider contains much if any is full of the stuff. And, there is a case for making people aware of just how much sugar is in the food they eat, but we are already regularly informed on that topic. But, when it comes to those things you expect to be sugary, well, you know what to expect. Of course, some could do with having their sugar content reduced (I wonder how modern chocolate, say, compares to older iterations: certainly, if the sweetness of modern versions is anything to go by, they probably contain more sugar).

But, taxing sugar won’t help for the simple reason that a lot of sugary products are already quite expensive. The sort of people who already guzzle dozens of cans of over-priced Coca Cola™ a day are unlikely to be deterred if they have to pay 20% more than they already do. Those who will be deterred are already deterred by the price and I wouldn’t be surprised if the cheaper alternatives, which would be that less cheap, were degraded to make them cheaper to produce, and, consequently, even less healthy.

While the tax would make little difference over all to the amount of sugar being consumed, it also fails to tackle two major issues. The first is the general problem of people eating too much and exercising too little: until that balance is redressed (and government initiatives aren’t the answer) obesity will remain an issue. The second is that the call to restrict sugar makes little or no reference to the sugar in fruit, a particular problem when combined with the call to eat more fruit. Of course, fruit is a healthier alternative to chocolate and sweets: even if they have an equal amount of sugar, the fruit contains vitamins and minerals and fibre that the chocolate and sweets don’t. However, over-focusing on fruit, especially as an alternative to snacking on sweets, rather than encouraging the eating of vegetables is problematic. People do need to eat more fruit than sweets, but not so many that they become a problem in their place.

Overall, people need to eat more healthily, which mainly means eating more natural and less processed food, but also need to be more active. Not necessarily exercise per se, but being generally active: walking rather than driving or taking the bus, spending more time standing if they work at a desk, and such like. But, to achieve that, they need to be willing actors, not the victims of state bullying. Only when people take responsibility for their own lives will we be able to effectively tackle the obesity crisis – and that’s not going to happen as long as the focus is on the Nanny State.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: