Sweet Tooth

I was recently on the road, and I have XM satellite radio. By far my favorite station is Doctor Radio, an excellent call-in style show presented by the NYU Langone Medical Center.

As usual, many of the shows were about America’s latter-day health crisis, type II diabetes. For those of you who don’t know, this ailment is cause by a number of risk factors, but most significantly poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, coupled with the obesity associated with them.

Image of an obese man taken from Wikimedia Commons
Image of an obese man taken from Wikimedia Commons

The biggest point the doctors on these shows make is the dangerous prevalence of refined sugars in the diets of people in the developed world. This, however, is a point that I don’t exactly understand, and what I don’t understand is this: why do people like sugary foods? In particular, why do people like the boring, simple taste of these foods? Doughnuts, cake, Pepsi, M&Ms, candy, bon-bons, Frosted Flakes, Twinkies, and on and on. I just don’t get it. Not only are these foods uninteresting to my taste buds, but I can feel a distinct negative effect on my body almost immediately after consuming them.

Have people forgotten how much better a strawberry is than a Ding-Dong? How much more complex and interesting a cantaloup is than a candy cane? Maybe that’s it: many or even most people have relatively simple, infantile, under-evolved tastes. The subtlety of a red bell pepper is beyond their capacity, so of course they need the sledgehammer-esque sugar blast of Ho Hos.

I was thinking about all this as I listened to these doctors proposing naive, unrealistic and ultimately ineffective solutions to this problem. Get more exercise. Eat a balanced diet. Yeah, right. These options have always been the right answer, yet we are fatter and sicker than ever. The developed world could be standing on the brink of a new era in human potential, with the aegis of science solving some the most horrible and incurable disease problems in history, but at the same time science and industry give us cheaper, sweeter, simpler, and ultimately more destructive foods, and the sedentary lifestyles that allows us to spike our blood sugar and destroy our bodies.

Instead of letting the beta cells in my pancreas die as I sit here, I’m going to finish my 15-bean soup and go mow the lawn. I hope to see you out there.

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2 Comments

  1. “These options have always been the right answer, yet we are fatter and sicker than ever.”

    Mainly because people don’t want the right answer. They want the easy answer. Personally, I love *both* the strawberry and the candy cane. Both the bell pepper and the Ho Ho. And so on.

    But I know when to stop (most of the time), and I know when to get off my butt and move it.

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  2. Used to shock groups when I went to speak, and told them the two most abused drugs in America. Caffeine and sugar. It isn’t that we want them, it is that use builds dependence, which builds addiction. It isn’t always infantile, but it is un-self-aware. And isn’t that the real problem?

    See, I did decide to spend some time here, rather than on facebook. Insightful entries. Thanks.

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