Nov 17, 2009

Health care food reform

by Abby Armbruster

 Recently, one of the hot-button topics in Washington, D.C., and across the nation is universal health care. But another health care issue has been plaguing America for 10 years — obesity.
In the Kinesiology 460 class at Liberty University, students learn that three things cause obesity: genetics, excess calories and lack of exercise. Genes are clearly unavoidable, and Time magazine recently said that the amount of exercise we have each day is surprisingly consistent with what generations in the past have had. Therefore, the one thing left is excess calories, which the American government could radically help change for a healthier nation.

“The biggest problem with the U.S. health care system is that it has long been designed to respond to illness rather than prevent it,” Time magazine reporter Alice Park said in her yearly article discussing American health.

One of the leading ways to prevent the illness and health complications is evolving our dietary decisions.

The 2004 documentary “Super Size Me,” which raised questions about the healthiness of fast food restaurants, indirectly showed how universal food reform would be considerably better for the physical health of the public. Drink sizes are one.

“When Burger King first opened, they had a 12-ounce small and a 16-ounce large. Now, the 12-ounce size is kiddie, and the 16-ounce is a small,” Professor of Nutrition at New York University Lisa Young said, according to the documentary.

Though Burger King’s small size is a 16-ounce coke, with 56 grams of sugar and 210 calories, at Wendy’s, that same label of “small” is given to a 20-ounce drink.

With universal food reform, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could mandate that each restaurant’s small, medium and large drinks be a certain size across the board. That way, people counting calories are not surprised with the drinks they are handed at the pick-up window.

Another health-minded improvement has already taken place in New York City. When entering any fast food restaurant, the menu is listed with not only the prices, but also the calorie count in each dish. It is a regulation in New York City to post this information, and it makes people think twice about what they are ordering. Most restaurants post their nutritional information online, but unless consumers check a computer before going out to eat, that option is inconvenient. The New York City mandate allows guests to factor calories into their meal decision.

Trans fat also creeps its way into fast food diets unnoticed. Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, are used in fast food restaurants for the desirable taste, texture and low cost. The bad news about trans fats is that they lower good cholesterol levels and raise the bad ones. The FDA should also prohibit all restaurants from using trans fats. This change has already begun in certain brands of potato chips and peanut butter, but now it is necessary for the rest of the food industry to follow suit.

Park writes, “If Americans get flabby and inactive together, we can also get fit and healthy together.” A universal food reform is definitely in order.

Contact Abby Armbruster at aarmbruster@liberty.edu.


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