Celebrating junk food: A response

The experts weigh in on Carly Moore's thought-provoking article.

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The editor, Adventist Record,

Thank you for publishing what we, the undersigned health professionals, consider a very important article by Carly Moore, entitled “Celebrating Junk Food”.

Carly passionately believes that, when it comes to functions involving children, we, as church members, could be subverting our long-held principles of health to the allures and convenience of junk food. This sets our children on a pathway to adult ill-health indistinguishable from the rest of Western society.

At least partly due to the Adventist health message, 50 years ago it was unusual to see an obese Seventh-day Adventist. This is no longer the case, where it appears that we differ very little from the 63 per cent of adult Australians and the 27 per cent of children aged 5-17 who are overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity was responsible for 7 per cent of the total health burden in Australia in 2011, 63 per cent of which was fatal burden. In 2011–12, obesity was estimated to have cost the Australian economy $A8.6 billion. Australian adults eat more than one-third of their daily caloric needs in junk food.1,2 Those figures have already risen and are set to rise more dramatically in the next decade.

Obesity-related type 2 diabetes is a major cause of potentially fatal kidney disease, blindness, stroke and heart attack. Obesity itself is linked to a number of cancers.1 Mexico and the UK have been forced to enact sugar taxes3,4 to try to stem the drastic effects of sugary drinks on the unacceptable levels of type 2 diabetes. According to the SAGE group, “We estimate that 86,000-134,000 critical limb ischaemia-related amputations occur in Mexico . . .5 Over the last 20 years, the prevalence of diabetes in Mexico has more than doubled.”6,7 That means possibly 100,000 or more prosthetic limbs every year!

Carly rightly describes the use of sugar-based foods and drinks being used as rewards, inducements or even a normal diet for children at various church-based activities, including Adventurers, Pathfinders, Christmas parties, birthday parties, school functions, youth socials, church potlucks, church picnics etc. Even a basic understanding of Pavlovian conditioning tells us that, by doing so, we are setting up our youth for an almost unconquerable future craving for sweet food and drink. This will lead inevitably to a huge increase in obesity-related disease, especially type 2 diabetes, already one of the major health burdens of Western society.8 How many amputations do we want our children to face in later life?

Over a century ago, Ellen White stated, “Far too much sugar is ordinarily used in food.”9 Considering that sugar in her day was a luxury that was sparingly used because of price, how would she react to today’s enormous consumption?10

We write out of loving concern for the health of the future generation of Adventists, not to mention the current one. This is not alarmism. Attempting to assuage our consciences with the sometimes-heard, “Well, at least it’s vegetarian” is no excuse for promoting junk food to our children. If the Adventist health message is to be believed by the world, it has to be lived. Let’s determine that our children are given the head-start in life that God wishes for all . . . to be healthy examples of the Edenic diet.

Contributors

  • Prof Esther Chang RN, CM, DNE BAppSc (Adv.Nur), MEd Admin, PhD (UNSW), FCNA
  • Dr Vivienne Doust MB.BS Hons, FRANZCR, DDR, DABR, DDU
  • Dr Robert Granger MPH, DrPH, BMedSci, MB.BS, FACD
  • Assoc Prof Ross Grant BEd (Sc), MSc (Clin Biochem), PhD (Neurochem)
  • Dr Justin Jackson MB.BS, FRACP
  • Dr Antoinette Mowbray BMed, DRANZCOG, Adv FRACGP, FACRRM
  • Dr Andrew Pennington BSc Hons, BMed, DRANZCOG Adv, FRACGP, FARGP
  • Emeritus Assoc Prof David Pennington MB.BS Hons, FRCS (Ed), FRACS (Plast)
  • Angela Saunders BSc (Dietetics), MA (Leadership & Management-Health Services)
  • Dr Errol Thrift MB.BS, D.Phys.Med (London), MRCP, FRCP
  • Dr Paul Wood BMed, Grad Dip Lifestyle Med, FRACGP, FASLM
  • Angeline Yeoh APD, AN, MNutDiet, BSc (Microb)
  1. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/overweight-obesity/a-picture-of-overweight-and-obesity-in-australia/contents/summary
  2. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Discretionary%20foods~700
  3. WHO report on Mexican sugar tax reported at http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/94/4/16-020416.pdf
  4. UK sugar tax to be enacted in 2018 published at http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38212608
  5. Critical limb ischaemia: This means that the blood supply to a limb is so reduced as to cause tissue death, often requiring amputation. Type II diabetes is an important contributor to this, as well as smoking.
  6. Reported at http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20141104006275/en/SAGE-GROUP-4-5-Million-People-Mexico-Suffer
  7. Otiano, M. E., Du, X., Ottenbacher, K., Black, S. A., & Markides K. S. Lower extremity amputations in diabetic Mexican American elders: incidence, prevalence and correlates. J. Diabetes Complications, 2003 Mar-Apr, 17(2): 59-65.
  8. Hu, F. B., Vasanti, A. B. & Malika, S. Sugar-sweetened beverages and the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Epidemiological evidence. Physiology & Behaviour. 2010 Apr, 100: 47-54.
  9. White, E. G. Counsels to the Church, 232.2.
  10. Between 1800 & 1900, per capita sugar consumption in Europe & America rose fourfold. Since then it has doubled again. http://www.divineeatingout.com/food-1/sugar-consumption-now-vs-100-years-ago
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