SAN FRANCISCO (Ivanhoe Newswire) - It seems we're getting creamed in the fight against obesity. It's a factor in close to three million deaths each year in the U.S. So, is it time to tackle our weight problem with a tax?
We're bombarded by fast food, sugary foods, and just plain bad for you foods. To get control of this weighty issue, governments want more control of your cash.
"Who do you want in your kitchen? The federal government, who will take your wallet and your freedom, or the food industry, who has already taken your wallet, your freedom, and your health," Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D., Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California in San Francisco, asked Ivanhoe.
The fat tax, aka, the Twinkie tax, is a hard sell, charging consumers more for foods high in calories, fat, and sugar, and low in nutrition.
Denmark implemented a first of its kind fat tax. It was highly criticized and was repealed after just one year.
"The Denmark taxes fats equally, and that doesn't make any sense," Dr. Lustig explained.
We wanted to see if something similar would work here. We put people to the fat tax test, during a non-scientific 30 day experiment. We charged a buck each time any of them ate food on our list.
"I go out to lunch probably four days a week," Susan Bekaert, a Fat Tax Participant, told Ivanhoe.
Susan Bekaert is like most Americans.
After 30 days, the harsh reality of what she eats, too many chips, too much soda. She downed at least 20 of these in 30 days.
"Absolutely it surprises me," said Bekaert.
Liefke Cox and Richard Myers are raising a growing boy. Peanut butter and processed meats make a quick meal, loaded with sugar and fat.
"When does a personal responsibility issue graduate up to become a public health crisis? At a certain point, government has to get involved," Dr. Lustig explained.
A study in the British Medical Journal found that fat taxes would have to increase the price of unhealthy foods by 20-percent, to cut consumption enough to reduce obesity.
Jordan Hylton found out the cost of a poor diet the hard way.
With help from her little sister; they counted up just how much a tax would cost her family.
It wasn't the cost that worried their mother; it was not knowing exactly what she was feeding her girls.
"And that's what's frustrating! Like, I don't want to spend three hours in a grocery store reading labels. Like, I don't want to have to study nutrition, to know, what, you know, foods we should eat," Courtney Hylton, a Concerned Mother, told Ivanhoe.
In all, our participants paid $552 to the fat tax, in one month.
"And that's a lot of money wasted," said Courtney Hylton.
But do they really think the extra cost would make people eat healthier?
"I haven't seen any better alternatives," said Bekaert.
"I really think that people are going to do what they want to do regardless of the fat tax," Richard Meyers, a Participant against Fat Tax, told Ivanhoe.
Hungary has a 50-cent tax on fatty foods, soda, and alcohol. France is debating the Nutella tax, a hit on the chocolate spread made with palm oil. In March, New York City's ban of sodas larger than 16 ounces is supposed to go into effect. The city banned Trans fats several years ago. A study finds, on average, Trans fat in people's fast food meals have dropped from three grams, to half a gram, because of the ban.
BACKGROUND: Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI. A person is considered overweight if his or her BMI is between 25 and 29.9; a person is considered obese if his or her BMI is over 30. (SOURCE: http://www.webmd.com)
RISKS OF OBESITY: People who are obese are more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:
Metabolic syndrome — a combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol
Cancer, including cancer of the uterus, cervix, ovaries, breast, colon, rectum and prostate
Sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
Gynecologic problems, such as infertility and irregular periods
Erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues, due to deposits of fat blocking or narrowing the arteries to the genitals
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat builds up in the liver and can cause inflammation or scarring
Skin problems, such as poor wound healing
DENMARK'S FAT TAX: In 2011, the Danish government implemented a fat tax; taxing all foods high in saturated fats. The government was hoping to reduce its citizens' consumption of unhealthy foods. After one year, the Danish tax ministry abolished the tax. Danes were hopping across the international borders, just to buy butter.
TREATMENT: An active lifestyle and plenty of exercise, along with healthy eating, is the safest way to lose weight. Even modest weight loss can improve your health. Extreme diets (fewer than 1,100 calories per day) are not thought to be safe or to work very well. These types of diets often do not contain enough vitamins and minerals. Most people who lose weight this way return to overeating and become obese again. When dieting, the main goal should be to learn new, healthy ways of eating and make them a part of a daily routine. (SOURCE: http://www.webmd.com)
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