An epidemic: Too much salt and sugar

We Americans are being murdered by sugar and salt. We know it — and yet we do little about it. Walk down the street in Great Barrington and you’ll see a fairly new store that should be called “Sugar Central.” It’s a store selling thousands of sugar concoctions.

I’m really not all that astounded by the obviously well-heeled, well-educated parents who are bringing their kids into the place. Hey, I spent a lot of time getting ice cream with my kids. I’m not throwing the proverbial stone. It’s all great stuff, but it will certainly lead to your demise if you overdo it.

I think there can be little doubt that sugar consumption is leading to more deaths in the United States than hard drugs. The diabetes epidemic is frightening and is attributable in large part to weight gain and to sugar excess. Government is doing its best to reverse the frightening escalation in sugar consumption, but every time a politician says or does the right thing, he or she gets a kick in the rump for their efforts.

Clearly, we parents haven’t done enough to help our kids understand the danger. Once, years ago, when our kids were very young, we had a birthday party for our Sarah and got a note from a playmate’s parents saying that they would be sending some sugar free cake along with their child who was not allowed to have anything with sugar in it. That was quickly followed by a note from the Rudolf Steiner School bawling us out for allowing chocolate in our daughter’s lunch box. Frankly, we thought the parents and school in question were off the deep end. Turns out, they were right. If kids learn early that certain things will kill them, they’re more likely to make good choices.

New York State’s health commissioner, Richard Daines, is teaming up with Gov. David Paterson to try to impose a tax on sodas with sugar in them.

Besides bringing badly needed dollars to the empty state coffers, a tax will surely dissuade some people from buying the stuff. Many school districts have already taken the soda machines out of their buildings. At least the kids won’t be swilling the stuff during the day, although they they’ll probably go back to it as soon as they can.

Of course, people are fighting like crazy to put a stop to a “regressive tax” that unfairly targets poor people. In any other year, the tax wouldn’t have a chance, but this year it does because of the need for revenue.

The federal government has recently taken on salt, which we have known for a long time is also a dangerous killer. I cook a lot and never use salt. You can get used to eating food with no salt. If people want salt, they can find it on the table.

Years ago I went to see my cardiologist, Harry Odabashian, and told him that my blood pressure was getting a little high after a lifetime of perfect readings. He told me that the first move was to cut out the salt.

As usual, I went nuts. I looked up the salt content of anything and everything. You would be amazed at how much salt there is in everything.

College-aged kids in particular seem to favor Ramen noodles. Has anyone bothered to look at the sodium content in those hand-dandy “just add hot water” containers? No surprise that after I cut my salt intake, my blood pressure went right back to normal.

The problem, of course, is that almost everything has salt in it.

Once again, we are killing ourselves. If you try to find items with no salt in the food markets, you will have a hard time.

The best thing for all of us would be to have a no-salt section in the grocery store. I called the Big Y in Great Barrington and the word is that low-sodium products are mixed with the regular foods. If you want low-sodium canned tomatoes, you go to canned tomatoes and look for the low-sodium products.

The Price Chopper does have some low-sodium products behind the pharmacy with the gluten-free products, but like the Big Y, it mixes most of the low-sodium products in with the regular ones. You need to be very careful.

My point here is that the Tea Party and libertarian people say to “get government off our backs,” but in at least two cases, the government is trying to save us from ourselves. As for you, stay away from the sodium and the sugar. You’ll probably live longer.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 4/25/10

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One Comment on “An epidemic: Too much salt and sugar”

  1. Jim Bintz Says:

    Why not a comprehensive Sugar Tax? Charge 1/100th cent per calorie, based on the maker’s own required nutrition labeling!

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