Last week, a group of 65 doctors, scientists and directors of health organizations wrote a fire letter to the Cabinet. The message: there must now be more attention – in coronatijd – for a healthy lifestyle. We are thicker than ever, move too little and eat too fat, too salty and too sweet. But it seems as if politics have been putting their fingers in the ears for years and are afraid to take real steps. Because the powerful food industry is deciding.
So gradually we know the song: by eating healthier, exercising more and relaxing enough, people can strengthen their immune system. And that can lead to a corona infection being less severe.
Physicians continue to insist – and I hear you think: ‘There we go again’ – also in this second corona wave it is clear that the vast majority of corona patients who end up in hospital or intensive care are (severely) overweight. Liesbeth van Rossum, professor of obesity, internist at the Erasmus MC and the first signatory of the letter of fire.
But also independently of corona, the facts speak for themselves: half of the Dutch are moderately to severely overweight. Every year we gain about 0.5 kilos. And if nothing changes, two thirds of the population will be too fat by 2040. And so we are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, inflammations, cardiovascular diseases, many types of cancer, depression and problems with joints.
Experts sound the alarm bell, and yet it seems as if they are screaming in the air empty. While part of the solution is so simple: government, enter a sugar tax! In other words, raise considerably higher taxes on products that contain too much sugar.
Many countries – including England, Ireland, Portugal, France and several US states – already have such a sugar tax on soft drinks, after the World Health Organization stressed its importance. Experiences with the sugar tax in Mexico and several American States proved positive. Something that the RIVM also concluded after investigation.
Dan you‘d think, “What are we waiting for?” A sugar tax certainly does not always mean that the prices of soft drinks are rising (because soda producers are suddenly in a hurry to reduce the sugar content in their drinks) and young people, who clock away on average 0.5 liters of fresh daily, find such a tax a good plan as well. So apply that tax, on all products that contain far too much sugar.
And no, that’s not a patronising. On the contrary, we are being patronized by a powerful billion-dollar industry run by food producers, which benefits from the fact that we are, and remain, addicted to sugar. And that works out: Dutch people eat an average of 40 kilos of sugar per year, reports the Diabetes Fund. Over 60% of adults and even 90% of children receive an excess of sugars. Alarm bell!
But no, ‘we’ do not want that sugar tax. And that attitude makes me angry. Because the supermarkets are full of sweet crap that we can‘t resist. Read the book Vet important: our hormones are already running away when you have a chocolate bar. And then we haven’t taken a bite! Then come up with that argument of ‘own will’ because your body thinks very differently about it. What would it help if that bar was a little less sweet? And a little more expensive, so that we just think about buying it a little longer.
So it is high time that Paul Blokhuis, Secretary of State for Health, Welfare and Sport, took firm steps and finally put this sugar tax into place. Put that in the much-discussed National Prevention Agreement (a collection of agreements with the business community to combat alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity).
In the pliers
“By 2025 30% less sweet soda must have been sold and we will succeed”, says a firm Blokhuis. The RIVM thinks that the goals in the agreement will not be met and, eh, 2025? We have to live healthier now. And that doesn‘t mean we have to go through life like slender pines, cherish those curves, so do I. But even if you lose 5% of your body weight, the health benefits are already considerable. 40% of Dutch people (44% women, 36% men) also want to lose weight because of corona. Then a push in the right direction is essential. But in the meantime, we’re still beeping by the lobbying of the powerful food industry.
Politicologist and researcher Herman Lelieveldt says in an interview with EenVandaag that Secretary of State Blokhuis can not do much because he is in the forks of business. “Companies have threatened to withdraw from the National Prevention Agreement if there is any kind of tax on sugar. And the Secretary of State responds to thatthreats.”
Still good to keep in mind when you wander around the supermarket today.