Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No Soda Tax for Canadians

It's a pretty common refrain out there.

Obesity is because we're less active.

And while activity certainly burns calories, doubly labeled water data on energy expenditures suggest that North Americans burn as many calories as folks in the third world, and more importantly, as many calories as we did back in the 70s and 80s when there was a lot less obesity.

Oh, and since the 70s? We're consuming roughly a meal more worth of calories per person per day.

To me the math seems pretty clear, but it may not be happy math. It's way more fun to exercise than to cut back on calories. But weight being about inactivity?  That's what people want to hear as intuitively that makes sense.

And hear it they will. From glossy magazines and newspapers, to loved ones, to god-awful reality television shows and even from ill informed but well intentioned health professionals.

Oh, and also from Canada's Department of Agriculture. We were peeking at a document on their website the other day on food trends for Canadians through 2020 and came across this line,
"Canadians are well aware that their low levels of exercise contribute more to obesity than poor diet"
Uh huh.

And while I realize the Department of Agriculture's job is to protect and promote Canadian agriculture, I would have hoped that intuitive but erroneous misinformation would be something they'd do a better job protecting themselves (and us) against than the average glossy magazine.

What's worrisome of course is the fact that while I'm sure many politicians are exceedingly bright folks, they've got no choice but to rely on these types of reports to help inform their policy decisions.  They're experts in policy, not obesity or nutrition.

Wonder if that's why yesterday Leona Aglukkaq ruled out a sugared soda tax here in Canada. After all, according to Agriculture Canada it's our low levels of exercise that are causing obesity.  Surely the trebling of sugared soda consumption since the early to mid 1960s has nothing to do with it.