You’ve got to respect Jamie Oliver.
A lot of talent, a lot of passion – and serious commitment to getting our kids onto a healthy diet.
You’ve got to admire his determination in pushing for a Sugar Tax too.
Something to fight for
Yes, our kids DO have too much sugar and pig out on junk food. Yes it is critical. And yes we need to do something about it.
But not a Sugar Tax – mainly because it won’t achieve anything.
You see, Jamie’s concern is that more and more kids are becoming obese – and that the wrong diet is bulking them up further – with all kinds of health problems threatening them in the near future.
But here’s an analogy. A bath is filling up with water, it is going to overflow. But putting a tax on water is not going to stop it.
In our best Michael Caine accent, YOU HAVE TO TURN THE BLOODY TAP OFF!
Address the cause, not the condition. Ask the question why those kids are on such risky diets – and how come they got there in the first place. Because a lot of things about this issue don’t add up.
Check the numbers
For a start, UK’s actual consumption of sugar, salt, fat and calories has been DROPPING for decades – sugar down 16% since 1992 and calories per head down 21% since 1974.
But despite these plunging totals, average adult body weight INCREASED by 2 kg, simultaneous with a drop in sugar per head of 7.4% and calories of 4.1%. And that’s according to a report sourced from the Office of National Statistics, DEFRA, the British Heart Foundation and others.
Wha…? You want to tax these people when sugar levels are going DOWN!
As a result, the same report – THE FAT LIE by Christopher Snowden – puts the bulking up of our kids and increase in obesity across the board down to a decline in physical activity at home and the workplace – NOT everybody gutsing out on sugar and fatty foods.
A whole slew of research medics are up in arms about that. LIES! they say. Misreporting, say the more reserved of them. People are careless with the truth when asked about their obesity, they deliberately say they eat less than they do.
Now hold on a minute. People are very embarrassed by their fatness. It’s very visible – and they can’t get away from it. It is hurtful to talk about and there are many, many of them in despair because they actually eat like a bird yet still get fat. Somehow their bodies are absorbing more, extracting a higher volume of energy out of their intake.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be, is it? The human body is a brilliant creation and in its natural state does not make mistakes. We are not normally fat, nor do we naturally become fat.
In nature everything is balanced, so if we’re less active, we eat less food – the system evens out. Even hunting animals which gorge themselves after a kill don’t get fat. They know prey is scarce and that life is peaks and valleys – feast, famine, feast, famine. You never see an overweight tiger.
Which means something is definitely wrong which has nothing to do with sugar at all.
Why does the body deliberately go for quick-hit power-charge foods – burgers, pizza and energy-boosting drinks – and then go in into stand-by mode to conserve its strength by lying down or sprawling in front of the games console, physically doing nothing?
Somehow the system is on panic alert. It is saying Emergency, Emergency, Full Power At the Ready, Now! Now! Now!
System glitch – fake hunger
But there is no emergency. The bath is overflowing – but the tap is still full throttle. Somewhere there’s a system glitch. Because suddenly going athletic won’t fix things either. Run 5 miles a day every day and the weight might drop off. But ease back on the exercise and it comes right back on again – ask the girls in tears who don’t fit their wedding dress.
There is a glitch too – and doctors already know what it is. Leptin resistance.
Leptin is a hormone produced by the bacteria in our gut – our personal teeming colony of vital microbes that digest our food and regulate our immune system, along with thousands of other necessary tasks. It’s the tap to turn things off, the biological switch that tells our bodies we’ve eaten enough, it’s time to stop.
All of us have leptin, but for some people their bodies somehow override its instruction. They are still driven by their ghrelin, another hormone that is the appetite ON switch. POWER UP, WE’VE GOT THINGS TO DO.
OK, so what causes leptin resistance? Doctors are still going round the houses on that one, with no conclusive answers.
Right in front of us – the invisible villain
But there is one cause staring us in the face that nobody’s taking notice of. The elephant in the room. Ask any farmer what makes modern farms so incredibly able to produce so much full-volume food so quickly and you will get a cracked smile.
The miracle growth booster they all use is antibiotics – first discovered in the 1950s and now pumped into animals and crops round the world at the rate of 65,000 tonnes a year. From egg to full-grown roasting chicken in 6 weeks. From calf to Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak in 1 year instead of four.
Growth booster, huh?
Isn’t that what’s happening to us? Residual antibiotics in the food we eat gets into our gut – and we balloon up, just like Farmer Brown’s cows and chickens. And more antibiotics in the manure they produce gets into all the plant crops we eat as well. We’re on the same fatteners that the animals are.
And guess what? We’re animals too.
Uh huh. Now for our obesity system glitch. Antibiotics do one thing. They kill bacteria. A life-saver if you’re sick and have an infection, but not so good for normal healthy bodies. Because antibiotics are not selective about what they kill – they just go in, shotgun blast, and take out everything around them.
Actually, not shotgun blast, more like hydrogen bomb. Devastating among the 100 trillion bacteria in our gut that work to keep our system going. Whole families get wiped out, others go on the fritz, no longer able to perform their vital tasks. Like responding to leptin SWITCH OFF signals.
Not sugar, antibiotics
There’s the tap Jamie, that’s why the bath is overflowing. Nothing to do with sugar at all. It’s antibiotics we’re not even aware of – unknown, unregulated, unmonitored and unhealthy. Our own miracle lifesavers turned into fatteners that are slowly getting to all of us – two thirds of adults today, tomorrow even super-zealous weed-thin vegans.
And that’s why the Sugar Tax makes no sense in tackling obesity. It feels right, but it doesn’t even begin to address the CAUSE. If we’re going to tax anything it should be antibiotics – however did we let them get away from strict medical supervision anyway?
But even tax isn’t enough. We need to stop exposure to antibiotics altogether – both from medical emergencies and daily top-ups from the food we eat. And we need to do it NOW. Dose a toddler just once with antibiotics before the age of two – and by five they’re already visibly overweight.
All of which means we genuinely ARE going to go hungry.
Because back in the 50s before antibiotics, there were 2½ billion of us world-wide and factory farms were unheard of. Today we’re pushing 7½ billion people, yet land under farming is still the same size. Three times more people to feed, only possible by growth boosting from antibiotics.
If we go back to all-natural farming – no antibiotics, no hormones, no pesticides, no nothing – 5 billion of us are going to go without food.
Now THERE’S a problem Jamie. You’re the cook, how on earth are we going to get round that? Go to one of your restaurants right now. Order a burger – from personal experience it’s healthy, wholesome and amazing. Not junk food.
After that looks like belt-tightening.
Picture Copyright: zdenkam / 123RF Stock Photo