Sometimes, it IS about the broccoli

I’m not a constant reader of my RSS feed, which sometimes brings stories that were published by separate people at disparate times into my view as one tidy package. Like these:

* Three days ago, one of my favorites, nutritionist and author Dina Rose, showed me her feet of clay with “How Much Sweet Is Too Sweet.”  After pointing out that a half cup of Prego “Traditional” (lie!) Pasta Sauce has as much sugar as a package of Dora Fruit-Flavored Shapes (10 grams), she says, correctly, “Sugar is lurking everywhere.” But then she follows that with the mystifying, “But if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, No Big Deal." (Caps and italic, to really super-duper emphasize that it's No. Big. Deal!)

By the end of the piece, she does eventually get to a slightly less damning “I recommend that you deliberately vary which flavors you feed your kids,” which I endorse and follow. But the sugar/n.b.d thing still hangs like a sword in the air.

To be clear, I like Rose’s approach: I cited her in my (never-aired) interview with Dr. David Katz, I have cited her advice to my wife about how we feed our 4-year-old, and I retweet her often. I take the essence of her outlook, embodied in her book title, “It’s Not About The Broccoli.”

Brian Wansink has shown how thoroughly non-food factors pervade our eating decisions, but that doesn’t suggest that the food factors don’t also matter!

* Nicole Avena, an eminent researcher on the role of added sugars in diet, examines that in a post from March 28 on the Psychology Today website. Click over to see the full breakdown of “A ‘Normal’ Day for a Kid in a Sugar-Saturated World,” though the bottom line is that kids are taking in as much as seven times the amount recommended for sugar.

In addition to the toll of obesity and diabetes, she adds,

More and more research, including some from my laboratory, has begun to show that during critical periods of development, exposure to sugar may have lasting effects on behaviors that suggest underlying changes in the brain.

* A comment on Avena’s post led me to Desperation Strategy for School Sugar Overload,  an October post by Casey Hinds, a Twitter friend whom I admire. In it she reveals that she pays her children to say “no, thank you” to teachers who offer sweet for academic achievements.

My oldest is in sixth grade and all seven of her teachers have offered her some kind of sugary treat during the first quarter including soda, gummy worms, chocolate, and even an entire package of Starbursts as a reward for good behavior. On top of that are the birthday treats brought into homeroom and sugar levels in school meals that are more than double what is recommended for the general public. [italics added by me]

Actual research shows that added sugar is pernicious, and at a minimum, should be regarded warily. I would say that using it as academic reward, as school-fundraiser bait, etc. is far closer to pushing than to treading lightly. For those who would say I’m a killjoy, “f you.” No wait, that was a joke! My actual response is that there is plenty of sweetness in the natural world, in fruits, in vegetables (especially when roasted), in dairy. That was true before the avalanche of added sugar began in the ‘70s, and it's still true, if less recognized. 

It is ironic that the reason most people don’t perceive nature’s sweetness is that it has been overwhelmed by the unnatural sweetness added, according to Barry Popkin of the UNC School of Public Health, to 80 percent of the 600,000 consumer food items sold in America.

It’s not about the broccoli, except when it is.


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