I don’t believe you can legislate intelligence or wise decision-making. That’s why I have mixed feelings about efforts to outlaw bad-for-us foods, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s call to ban all sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces throughout the city’s restaurants, street carts and stadiums. That’s also why last week’s news from the American Medical Association (AMA) caught my eye: At its annual meeting on June 20, the nation’s largest physician group voted to adopt policy that supports taxes on beverages with added sweeteners as one way to finance public education campaigns on America’s obesity crisis.
“While there is no silver bullet that will alone reverse the meteoric rise of obesity, there are many things we can do to fight this epidemic and improve the health of our nation,” said AMA board member Alexander Ding, M.D., in an AMA press release. “Improved consumer education on the adverse health effects of excessive consumption of beverages containing added sweeteners should be a key part of any multifaceted campaign to combat obesity.”
The AMA also agreed to support legislation that would require classes on the causes, consequence and prevention of obesity for first through 12th graders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obese children – which are growing in number as well as in girth – are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol, conditions that can lead to even greater health problems as they age. The AMA points out that sugar-sweetened beverages make up about half of Americans’ added sugar intake, so taxing them makes sense as a way to both discourage their consumption and fund education efforts.
“I can’t tell you the number of 40-pound one-year-olds I see every day,” said Texas pediatrician Melissa Garretson at the AMA meeting, reported CBS News.
That’s alarming (although it’s unknown whether Garretson’s one-year-olds are guzzling Coke instead of breast milk). Controlling one’s weight can be tough in our sugar/fat/sodium-saturated society, and it’s even more challenging for those who are obese at such an early age. Will higher taxes make us drop our pop and extra pounds? Will increased education for students and citizens make us change our calorie-packed diets?
What are other possible solutions to America’s obesity epidemic?