End the Sweet Talk. Meat and Cheese Cause Obesity.
Our fight against obesity has become a war on sugar. Next week, Philadelphia’s city council will have a final vote to determine whether the city will become one of the first in the nation to adopt a soda tax. Meanwhile, tempers are flaring in Baltimore over a proposed bill that would require health warnings on advertisements for sugary beverages—a measure San Francisco is set to adopt next month.
When it comes to public health, these proposals are all a step in the right direction— there are no health benefits to drinking soda. But these regulations alone are not going to solve our ever-growing obesity epidemic.
Sugar has long taken the blame for our growing waistlines. But over the past two decades, sugar consumption has actually dropped by 14 percent, while sales of sugary, full-calorie sodas have dipped by 25 percent. Still, obesity rates continue to surge.
A study released this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more Americans than ever are now obese. By the end of 2014, obesity prevalence stood at 35 percent for men and an all-time high 40 percent for women.
It’s time to stop blaming sugar. When it comes to weight problems, sugar-sweetened beverages and other sweets distract from the main culprits fueling obesity: our appetite for meat and cheese.
In 2012, Americans collectively consumed 52.2 billion pounds of meat. And every year, the average American individually eats about 270 pounds. Compared to just a century ago, that’s nearly 150 more pounds per person each year. At the same time, cheese consumption has soared from just four pounds per person in 1909 to 36 pounds today, making it the No. 1 source of saturated fat in Americans’ diets. In addition to fat, meat and cheese are loaded with cholesterol and packed with calories.
Epidemiological studies consistently show that populations who base their diets on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are the healthiest and slimmest on the planet. Two major review studies released last year analyzed the diets of thousands of people and confirmed that vegetarian and vegan diets are best for weight control. Similarly, a 2015 clinical study found that participants assigned to completely meat-free diets lost more weight, compared with those following the pesco-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, and omnivorous diets.
To truly turn the obesity epidemic around, we must move these high-fat foods from the center of our plates and start basing our diets on nutrient-dense plant-based foods.
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