So we need a sugar tax, huh?
To stop our kids getting obese.
Hell, to stop ourselves getting obese, because two thirds of us are.
Good idea, if sugar is the cause.
Uh huh, but before we go galloping off, here’s a few questions.
Because just maybe there’s a bigger threat out there than sugar. Active and alive – with a proven ability to bulk up bodies fast – to twice their weight and more in half the time.
Obesity perspective check
Are we naturally fat? No.
Are we meant to be fat? No.
Were we always fat? No.
Were we fat in the 1950’s? No.
Were we fat in the 1990’s? No.
Didn’t we have Snickers and Mars bars in the 1990s? Yes.
Didn’t we have Coke and Pepsi and Lucozade in the 1990s? Yes.
But we weren’t fat in the 1990s? No.
And we’ve ballooned up since then? Yes.
But don’t all those things have sugar in them? Yes.
So why does sugar make us fat now, but not in the 1990s? Er…
Let’s just back up a bit
We’re not naturally fat, are we? And we don’t naturally puff out from sugar, even though a lot of us have a sweet tooth, do we? Sure, there’s exceptions – those unfortunate people whose bodies have a disorder that makes them fat. But most of us are quite normal – fat has never been an issue, until now.
So what’s changed? Is there some kind of super-sugar that is making us fat?
How come only in the last twenty years? And how come it’s snowballing?
Whatever it is must be a pretty powerful growth booster.
How do you like accelerating from an ordinary chicken’s egg to a 1.5 kg supermarket roasting chicken in six weeks? Or a calf maturing to a full-size Aberdeen Angus beef steer in one year instead of the usual four?
Yup, you’ve got it – antibiotics both of them, the kind that farmers have used increasingly for the last twenty years. Triple whammy growth boosters de luxe.
There’s a whole slew of antibiotics that get used in agriculture – from boosting animal growth, to keeping up health levels in intensive factory farms, to enhancing plant growth and preventing blight. 65,000 tonnes of them every year – increasing to over 110,000 tonnes in the NEXT twenty years.
Which means there’s a whole slew of antibiotics in everything we eat – never mentioned or even thought of alongside additives, preservatives and all the other usual things we’re worried about. They’re even in organic foods too.
Because it’s not just stuff that gets fed DIRECTLY to livestock or plants. It’s RESIDUAL antibiotics spread across the whole spectrum of food types – via manure from accelerated cattle used to fertilise crops or enrich grazing lands.
It even finds its way into groundwater and river systems, so that pretty well everything we eat or drink has antibiotics in it – proven high performance growth boosters right across our entire food chain.
Slightly more significant than sugar at causing obesity. And way more serious.
All in the balance
Because a normal healthy body naturally maintains its correct sugar levels. Gut bacteria absorb what they need and excrete the rest – along with all the nutrients surplus to requirements. Only the right amount gets extracted, the rest becomes waste just like other animals.
Which is why manure is so fertile – and human manure is the most fertile of all. An icky thought for Western minds, but known and used by Chinese farmers for centuries.
Let the system get out of balance though and all kinds of disorders set in – obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease – life-threatening all of them.
Out of balance, out of control
And it’s antibiotics that upset the balance.
You see antibiotics work by doing one thing – killing bacteria. And the whole body balance is achieved by gut bacteria – over 100 trillion microbes that are maybe the most important part of us altogether – the active living life force that keeps us going.
OK, so the Doc prescribes an antibiotic for a condition you have – say amoxicillin for your sinusitis. You swallow the capsule, it goes down to your gut – with an effect like an exploding hydrogen bomb.
Sure it clobbers the streptococcus pneumoniae, haemophilus influenzae, and moraxella catarrhalis that are probably causing the problem. It targets several billion others besides – beneficial bacteria normally resident, that regulate all kinds of body functions. Yeah the infection’s dead – but injured and out of balance, things start to go wrong with the survivors.
Some tribes of bacteria are lost altogether, so you might lose an immunity or pick up an allergy. Others are damaged and behave erratically – possibly the reason why antibiotics are so successful at triggering weight gain. Bacteria that control appetite produce two types of hormone – ghrelin to stimulate and leptin to diminish.
When the ghrelin keeps producing, hunger does not switch off. Eat, eat, eat, cravings develop. More, more, more, a compulsive addiction. And it’s not just the eating. The body greedily grabs more nutrients from the food it gets, more than it should – out of balance, the system bulks up.
It also goes for the foods that accelerate the process – sugary fatteners, high-powered junk food – OK in moderation but supercharged in bulk. Deep fried Mars bars, here we come.
Worst of all, these days many of us get a jump start – antibiotics administered before we’re even two. Start early like that, for whooping cough or pneumonia, and guaranteed infants will be overweight by the time they reach five.
Uh huh, and the damage done by antibiotics cannot be reversed. If a particular class of bacteria is destroyed, it’s gone for good – no more protection, no more specialist ability. Others which are depleted may breed themselves back – but you will never be the same again.
And all the while – drip, drip, drip – the daily assault goes on. Every sip, every mouthful – making us weaker, less resilient, more prone to infections – fatter.
Make no error, sugar abuse is bad and we need to fix it. But the cause is worse and an illness in itself – an uncontrollable addiction.
If you tax heroin, would it stop junkies?
So what are we doing taxing sugar?
Come on guys, we got to stop taking antibiotics.
Yes, they’re lifesavers – but they’re killing us too.
Picture Copyright: dragon_fang / 123RF Stock Photo