sugar

RECENT POSTS

‘Fat Letters’ To Trick-Or-Treaters? Get Real (Also, Halloween Health Tips)

I am typically the Halloween Scrooge. Sure, I love the costumes and neighborhood rituals, but the furious sugar obsession and frenetic hoarding of candy (whatever happened to apples?) makes me crazy.

But not, apparently, as crazy as a woman in North Dakota who apparently plans to hand out “fat letters” to chubby trick-or-treaters who show up at her door, according to a report on Valley News Live.

The news site posts what it says is a copy of the (still anonymous) woman’s Halloween letter which says, in part:

“Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”

Why bother trying to make a public health statement on Halloween? The anti-fat-kid letter writer tells a local N.D. radio station, “I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight… I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it.”

halloween candyWhile I agree with the sentiment here, the Halloween finger-wagging (if true) seems a bit misplaced. I’m not thrilled about my kids getting high on candy corn either, but let’s get some perspective here people: it’s only one day.

Still, for those who want to minimize the kids’ sugar hangover Friday, I’m reprinting our post “Five Halloween Health Tips” written by Boston-area mom and health and wellness coach Nina Manolson:

1. Start The Evening Full

While it’s tempting to just grab a slice of pizza and then run out for trick-or-treating, Nina says it’s critical to feed your kids a generous, protein-rich dinner on Halloween night, including a healthy sweet dessert, like baked apple with cinnamon or a fruit smoothie. This, hopefully, will leave them less vulnerable to the Tootsie Rolls and Laffy Taffy lurking outside.

2. Trading, Sorting And Counting

After collecting vats of candy and calling it a night, it’s time to get down to work. First, Nina has her kids divide their sugar-laden cache into two groups, which she calls, loosely, “Food” and “Nonfood.”

“Nonfood” is anything with high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fat and anything that looks like plastic. (You know those rubbery candies shaped like hamburgers and ice cream cones? Nina says she’s kept one of those around for six years now, jumped on it, kicked it around and it still looks exactly the same.) Continue reading

Sugar As The New Pot: Dutch Health Official Calls It ‘Most Dangerous Drug’

How very rich, that in Amsterdam, a city teeming with cannabis “coffee shops” and groovy, hookah-loving weed tourists, one health official called for a crackdown on what he calls “the most dangerous drug” — sugar.

But it’s true: According to a report in the U.K. Telegraph, “Paul van der Velpen, the head of Amsterdam’s health service, the Dutch capital city where the sale of cannabis is legalised, wants to see sugar tightly regulated.”

Van der Velpen penned his opinion on an official public health website (in Dutch, which I can’t read) so here’s the translation, from the Telegraph report:

“Just like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is actually a drug. There is an important role for government. The use of sugar should be discouraged. And users should be made aware of the dangers…”

“This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched, but sugar is the most dangerous drug of the times and can still be easily acquired everywhere.”

Mr Van der Velpen cites research claiming that sugar, unlike fat or other foods, interferes with the body’s appetite creating an insatiable desire to carry on eating, an effect he accuses the food industry of using to increase consumption of their products.

“Sugar upsets that mechanism. Whoever uses sugar wants more and more, even when they are no longer hungry. Give someone eggs and he’ll stop eating at any given time. Give him cookies and he eats on even though his stomach is painful,” he argued.

Indeed, there aren’t many folks sticking up for sugar these days, from Michelle Obama to myriad doctors and scientists like Robert Lustig, a noted pediatric hormone specialist and expert in childhood obesity who argues that sugar is “poison.”

And just last month, a study by researchers at the University of Utah found that sugar in mice is “toxic” in doses currently considered safe. Continue reading

Don’t Be Fooled: Soda Linked To Bad Behavior In Kids

By Karen Weintraub
Guest Contributor

Back when I was on staff at The Boston Globe, I edited a story that said sugar didn’t make kids hyper. I didn’t believe it then, and a new study confirms my doubts.

Interviews with mothers of 3,000 five-year-olds from urban areas found – stunningly – that 43% of the children drank at least one soda a day, and 4% downed four or more.

out of ideas/flickr

out of ideas/flickr

And surprise, surprise, the children who drank the most sodas also behaved the worst, according to their mothers’ reports. Soda drinkers were more aggressive than those who abstained, and more likely to have attention problems, according to researchers David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health, Sara Solnick of the University of Vermont, and Shakira Suglia of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

The authors previously showed that adolescents were more aggressive toward others and more likely to hurt themselves the more soda they drank. The new study found pretty much the same among kindergartners:

“Those who drank soft drinks more frequently had higher scores for aggression and were more likely to destroy other people’s belongings, to get into fights and to physically attack people. Children who drank high levels of soda were more likely to exhibit withdrawn behavior and attention problems. These effects were present even after accounting for an array of socio-demographic factors and psychosocial stressors.”

Continue reading

Soda Battle Continues, But What About The Juice?

Blogger and risk perception maven David Ropeik has impeccable timing and makes a truly smart point in his prophetic piece today about the health hazards of all kinds of sugary drinks (which he posted just hours before a New York judge struck down the city’s limits on big sugary sodas).

mauitimeweekly/flickr

mauitimeweekly/flickr

Ropeik’s basic point is this: why are we so fixated on soda when other drinks contain as much if not more sugar? In other words, what about the juice?? On his Big Think blog, he writes:

Since too high a dose of either fructose or sucrose is bad for us, producing the same health outcomes, why are many of the We Know What’s Good For You Food Police focusing on just one of them? For a clue, check out this picture, currently making the rounds on the social net.

[The picture, which I won't repost here, shows a sort of police lineup of bad actor drinks: Kool-Aid, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Chocolate Milk and the amount of sugar in a serving of each.]

The clue lies not in what the picture shows, but in what’s missing. Where is the orange juice, the grape juice, the apple juice, the cranberry juice, all of which may be more natural but which have as much as, or more total sugar per unit than any of the drinks shown?

Then, citing the USDA, he offers this alarming graphic (prune juice? who knew?) on the high sugar content of so many seemingly “natural” juices: Continue reading

Call For A National Campaign Against Sugar

By Karen Weintraub
Guest contributor

Did you add a packet or two of sugar to your morning coffee? Grab a mid-morning Coke? Eat dessert with lunch?

For typical Americans, sugar accounts for more than 600 of their daily calories.

Such high levels are so incredibly dangerous, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco write in a commentary in today’s Nature, that we need to launch a national campaign against the powdery white stuff.

But do we really need government in our sugar bowl?

Laura A. Schmidt, a professor at UCSF and one of the commentary’s three authors, compared eating lots of sugar to chain smoking and binge drinking. Sugar creates the same rush in the brain as drugs, and can also be addictive, she said, citing the obese kids in her clinic who constantly complain of hunger. Many of the metabolic problems we blame on obesity –- heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes –- are really the fault of sugar consumption, she and her colleagues wrote.

And society is paying a fortune to cope with health problems the UCSF trio blames on our sugar overload. The group estimates that Americans pay $150 billion a year in obesity-related health care expenses.

“The social costs to the whole society are great enough that we all have a stake in preventing the harm,” Schmidt said, just as we’re justified in restricting who can buy alcohol and cigarettes, where you can smoke, and how much you can drink before you can drive. Continue reading

Five Surprising Tips For A Healthier Halloween

I love dressing up in a black mini-skirt and witch’s hat as much as anyone, but for some reason — maybe it’s my five-year-old’s first cavity, or the chubby teen-age girls I keep seeing at the park — the prospect of Halloween, with its blinding crush of candy, is bumming me out this year.

So when I recently caught up with Nina Manolson, a local wellness coach and general health food expert (and author of the soon-to-be-released ebook: “Feed Your Kids Well In A World That Doesn’t: An Everyday Guide For Busy Moms To Create Tasty Wellness”) I asked her how she deals with Halloween at her house.

Some of her answers surprised me (and may seem radical) but I’ll share them here:

1. Start The Evening Full

While it’s tempting to just grab a slice of pizza and then run out for trick-or-treating, Nina says it’s critical to feed your kids a generous, protein-rich dinner on Halloween night, including a healthy sweet dessert, like baked apple with cinnamon or a fruit smoothie. This, hopefully, will leave them less vulnerable to the Tootsie Rolls and Laffy Taffy lurking outside.

2. Trading, Sorting And Counting

After collecting vats of candy and calling it a night, it’s time to get down to work. First, Nina has her kids divide their sugar-laden cache into two groups, which she calls, loosely, “Food” and “Nonfood.”

“Nonfood” is anything with high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fat and anything that looks like plastic. (You know those rubbery candies shaped like hamburgers and ice cream cones? Nina says she’s kept one of those around for six years now, jumped on it, kicked it around and it still looks exactly the same.)

After dumping the “Nonfood” items in the trash, and amassing the “Food” (which ends up being mostly chocolate bars) the children go to bed. They re-group the next day for “The Taste Test.” Continue reading