Sorting the research over the weeks
Sugar and carbohydrates are the real culprits in the obesity epidemic.
–Writing in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 2015
Sugar is to blame for obesity
Why blame sugar? ——high sugar consumption and the rise in obesity
There is substantial evidence that a high intake of added sugar in processed food is linked with weight gain and obesity, increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Why is sugar added to foods and drinks?
Added sugar provides little to no nutritional value, but it does serve many uses in food processing. For example, added sugar can improve the flavor, color, or texture of foods and drinks.
Main causes of the obesity epidemic
■ Diet habits
1) Most Australians eat processed food every day.
2) People get used to having sugary drinks with food. Sugary beverages have become their part of dietary habits.
■ Food culture
1) The increasing availability of unhealthy processed food and sugary drinks.
2) Processed food is everywhere.
Food industries put more and more added sugar in processed food. Fats was been considered the culprit of leading obesity issue, a lot of people are more aware of fats consumption and would like to buy foods that are low in fats. However, most low-fat foods are not tasty, thus most food industries put a lot of added sugar in their food products to make them tasty for increasing sales. Additionally, sugar is cheap, which is perfect for food industries to increase profits.
■ Increasing social acceptable of being overweight or obese/ more accepting of obesity
“Why is there a fat-acceptance movement when there is no tobacco-acceptance movement? Fat-acceptance is not the answer to obesity” —— Kay B. 2013
Even though the discrimination towards obese or overweight people still appears, most areas tend to be more accepting of obesity, thus most people get used to seeing obese people and not see them as ‘special group of people’. It is a great thing of the fat-acceptance in society. However, the acceptance also creates an excuse for obese people, making them think it is okay to being overweight or obese and keep living an unhealthy lifestyle. In many developed countries such as American and Australia, society is making great effort to ‘support’ obese people. For example, XXXL size clothes are easy to buy, large size food/snacks are provided in a lot of restaurants.
On the contrary, in many Asia countries such as Japan, it is not that easy to buy XXXL size clothes. Thus, the social support and acceptance of obesity can aggressive the obesity epidemic to a certain extent.
■ Lifestyle (eg. transportation – cars; frequency of watching TV/ using phone; no exercise)
With a lot of secondary and primary research (interview and probe) I have done, I was particularly interested in a phenomenon — most people do know what they are putting in mouth, and knowing they are not good for health, but they still choose to eat them. I wonder if it is blame to personal responsibility or the society or food industries.
Certainly, personal responsibility plays an essential role in promoting the obesity epidemic. Food industries or retailers cannot force people to buy a sugary drink or a chocolate bar. It is true that people are free to choose what they want to eat. The food labeling system has been improved a lot over the years, people can find how much sugar contains in a chocolate bar on the ingredient list no matter how complicated the information is. In addition, there are a lot of knowledge and information about healthy lifestyle online.
Question: A lot of people can choose live healthier, but why it is so hard to give up a piece of chocolate?
Personal food choices
To get a better understanding of personal food choices in order to seek possible interventions to change food behaviors, I started with researching factors that might influences people’s food choice behaviors (see the mind map below).
Changing food behavior – interventions
Place to shop food: supermarket, where the majority of the people buy most of the processed food.
1) Personal experiment of a shop tour: (i) make a shopping list before do the shopping (ii) limit shopping time (iii) check food nutrition information before buying a food.
2) Nutrition label (make it easier to navigate, improve food labeling policies);
3) Food packaging design (right guidance to making food choices);
4) Advertising (posters/flyers, digital screening)
5) Receipt (might be a media to put guidance/warning information about food)
6) Self-serve checkout machine (a possible media to show information about food)
a) Availability of food: Increasing availability and appeal of fruit and vegetables in worksite canteens/ school cafeterias; decreasing the availability of unhealthy/ junk food.
b) Vending machines: put educational information on the machines (eg. posters); increasing the availability of healthy snacks.
Improve nutritional knowledge (eg. public education, public advertising).
Improve cooking skills: provide more healthy and tasty cooking menu.
Family, friends support
Encouragement in making and sustaining dietary change.
Theme: Sugar and obesity: partially looking at added sugar in processed food
Those people who know eating too much sugar is bad for health, but they still buying them. Those kind of people might looks healthy, they don’t have serious health problem even though they kept this unhealthy diet habit. But when it heaps up to a certain extent, it might lead to obesity or even serious health issues.
A system that can record the amount of sugar that you have consumed in a month/ a year; and also speculate your future health result if you keep having this much sugar in a certain period (eg. a year).
Medium to present the system to people:
A shopping ID card.
Primary applied in self-checkout machine in supermarkets
How it works:
Before you check out, you have to swipe this card, information will be shown on the check-out machine’s screen. It will show how much sugar you have consumed in a month/ a year, and also showing a speculation of your future health result if you keep having this much sugar in a certain period.
It will also have a tip/ option after you click to close the information window:
“Rethink your shopping items?”
Yes / No
Then you can put back the items that high in sugar which you don’t want. There might also be a ‘Regret basket’ next to the check-out machine, thus people can easy to put back items.
Allain R. 2016, US Sugar vs Obesity, Ploty, viewed 11 September 2016, <https://plot.ly/~MJ656434/8/us-sugar-vs-obesity/#plot>.
The Obesity Society Annual Meeting at ObesityWeek 2014, Added Sugar Consumption Increased by 30% Over Three Decades in U.S., viewed 11 September 2016, < http://www.obesity.org/resources/facts-about-obesity/infographics>.
Ashild A. 2013, LCHF – Real Fat Is Satisfying Your Hunger, Awesome Ashild, viewed 11 September 2016, <https://awesomeashild.com/2013/06/21/lchf-real-fat-is-satisfying-your-hunger>.
Kay B. 2013, Fat-acceptance is not the answer to obesity, National Post, viewed 11 September 2016, <http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/barbara-kay-fat-acceptance-is-not-the-answer-to-obesity>.
USDA Economic Research Service 2009, New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, viewed 11 September 2016, <www.ers.usda.gov/publications/EIB33>.
by Aiyi Wu