LET TAKE ACTION ON EFFECT OF HARMFUL JUNK FOOD IN GHANA AND AFRICA.
For a considerably long time now a number of otherwise good looking men and women are dying slowly. A visit to our hospitals, clinics and herbal health centers would reveal people of all ages including young ones showing signs of and complaining of hypertension, diabetes, mild and severe stroke.
What this situation has done and is still doing to the individuals concerned and the nation is enormous. Most of the affected persons are currently unable to work while those who could work are unable to offer full service to their employers and the nation. This situation has affected the finances of the individuals and by extension their families that include school going children. and the aged
A cursory study into this situation shows that the individuals and the nation are losing out in terms of the nation’s human resources while the nation is also losing out economically.
Every one requires food to ensure good health and growth. These include fruits vegetables, cereals and meat. Although people in Ghana were known for preparing their food on farms and at home the trend is changing leading to many people at work places in schools and neighborhoods relying on food from food vendors. Since The food vendors provide services to many people, they have devised a means of modernizing food production that include the production of junk food
Junk food is a pejorative term for fast food containing high calories with sugar and fat and very little fiber now being produced in our food joints restaurants and schools. Though it has come to serve a purpose it is becoming dangerous for our health.
5 Harmful Effects of Junk Food
The dark side of junk foods is not an unknown fact. Several research studies have shown that fast foods and processed foods have increased childhood obesity, heart disease and diabetes and other chronic diseases. Recently, the Delhi Government demanded a crackdown on junk food that is sold in schools and within 50 meters of them. Not only do they add inches to your waistline, but scientists and researchers have also indicated through various studies that junk food can actually cause serious damage to your brain. The worrying bit is that it’s not just years of poor eating, but regular consumption of junk food even for few days can lead to a mental meltdown.
In his book,
Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, Andre F. Smith defines junk food as, “those commercial products, including candy, bakery goods, ice cream, salty snacks, and soft drinks, which have little or no nutritional value but do have plenty of calories, salt, and fats. While not all fast foods are junk foods, most are. Fast foods are ready-to-eat foods served promptly after ordering.”
The more junk food you consume, the less likely you are to consume the essential nutrients that your body relies on. You know that junk food can hurt your health, but you may have not known about the effects of junk food on how your brain functions.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 showed that healthy people who ate junk food for only 5 days performed poorly on cognitive tests that measured attention, speed, and mood. It concluded that eating junk food for just five days regularly can deteriorate your memory. This probably stems from the fact that a poor or toxic diet can cause certain chemical reactions that lead to inflammation in the hippocampus area of the brain which is associated with memory and special recognition.
Diets that are high in sugar and fat can suppress the activity of a brain peptide called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) that helps with learning and memory formation. Moreover, the brain contains synapses which are responsible for learning and memory. Eating too many calories can interfere with the healthy production and functioning of these synapses.
2. Increases the risk of dementia
This has been one of the scariest discoveries associated with the consumption of junk food. You may know that insulin is produced in the pancreas and helps in the transportation of glucose to fuel the body. Insulin is also produced in the brain where it helps in carrying signals between nerve cells and forming memories. A study conducted at the Brown University shows that too much fatty food and sweets can substantially increase the insulin levels in our body.
Just like in the case of Type 2 Diabetes, with higher levels of insulin, the brain stops responding to this hormone and become resistant to it. This can restrict our ability to think, recall or create memories, thus increasing the risk of dementia. Researcher Suzanne de la Monte, M.D., a professor of pathology, neurology, and neurosurgery at Rhode Island Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University was the first to uncover this association. Following this discovery, most scientists refer to Alzheimer’s as a form of diabetes of the brain.
3. Lessens its ability to control appetite
Excess consumption of trans fats found in fried and processed foods can send mixed signals to the brain which makes it difficult to process what you have eaten and how hungry are. This is probably why you end up overeating. Healthy brain functions require a daily dose of essential fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3. Deficiency of these two elements increases the risk of attention deficit disorder, dementia and bipolar disorder and other brain-related problems.
Over consumption of junk food may displace these with trans fats which are harder to digest. A 2011 study shows that trans fats may cause inflammation in hypothalamus, the part of brain that containing neurons to control body weight.
In worst scenarios, the habit of overeating can be similar to drug addiction to an extent that relying on junk foods may activate the pleasure centers of the brain greater than receiving drugs.
4. It can cause chemical changes that can lead to depression
A lot of studies have shown that eating foods high in sugar and fat actually changes the chemical activity of the brain making it more dependent on such foods. A study conducted at the University of Montreal on mice showed that they suffered with withdrawal symptoms after their regular junk food diet was discontinued. In humans, these withdrawal symptoms can lead to the inability to deal with stress, make you feel depressed and eventually you would turn back to those foods to comfort yourself and handle these feelings. Soon, you may be caught in a vicious cycle even before you know it. Also, by consuming too much fast food you may lose out on essential nutrients like amino acid tryptophan, the lack of which can increase feelings of depression. An imbalance of fatty acids is another reason why people who consume more junk food are at a higher risk of depression.
5. It makes you impatient and can cause uncontrollable cravings
Eating a sugary cupcake or doughnut may temporarily spike your blood sugar levels making you feel happy and satisfied but as soon as they return to normal you are left feeling all the more irritable.
Fast food is packed with refined carbohydrates which cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate
rapidly. If your sugar levels dip to a very low level, it can cause anxiety, confusion and fatigue. With high content of sugar and fats, you tend to eat too fast and too much to satisfy your cravings. This can inculcate an impatient behavior while dealing with other things. Fast foods and processed foods may be laden with artificial flavorings and preservatives like sodium benzoate that tends to increase hyperactivity.
Fast foods are specially designed to be addictive in nature with high levels of salts, sugars and fats that make you crave them. The addictive nature of fast food can make your brain crave them even when you are not hungry.
As a result of the danger of fats in food some nation in Europe have imposed fat tax on food to deter the production of fatty foods that hat have harmful effect on consumers.
A fat tax aims to decrease the consumption of foods that are linked to obesity. A related idea is to tax foods that are linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. Numerous studies suggest that as the price of a food decreases, individuals get fatter. In fact, eating behavior may be more responsive to price increases than to nutritional education
Estimates suggest that a 1 cent per ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages may reduce the consumption of those beverages by 25%. However, there is also evidence that obese individuals are less responsive to changes in the price of food than normal-weight individuals.
To implement a fat tax, it is necessary to specify which food and beverage products will be targeted. This must be done with care, because a carelessly chosen food tax can have surprising and perverse effects. For instance, consumption patterns suggest that taxing saturated fat would induce consumers to increase their salt intake, thereby putting themselves at greater risk for cardiovascular death Taxation of sodium has been proposed as a way of reducing salt intake and resulting health problems. Current proposals frequently single out sugar-sweetened drinks as a target for taxation. Cross-sectional, prospective, and experimental studies have found an association between obesity and the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. However, experimental studies have not always found an association, and the size of the effect can be very modest
Since the poor spend a greater proportion of their income on food, a fat tax might be regressive. Taxing foods that provide primarily calories, with little other nutritional value reduces this problem, since calories are readily available from many sources in diet of industrialized nations. To make a fat tax less burdensome for the poor, proponents recommend earmarking the revenues to subsidize healthy foods and health education. Additionally, proponents have argued that the fat tax is less regressive to the extent that it lowers medical expenditures and expenditures on the targeted foods among the poor. Indeed, there is a higher incidence of diet-related illnesses among the poor than in the general population.
Unlike placing restrictions on foods or ingredients, a fat tax would not limit consumer choice, only change relative prices.
Benefits of a fat tax
Public health practitioners and scholars in a range of different countries have called for a fat tax on unhealthy foods. The reasoning behind implementing a fat tax is the hope that people will avoid risky dietary behaviors, improving health outcomes in society. Research indicates that the current obesity epidemic is increasing as a result of the fast food industry expanding. Junk food outlets are changing the dietary habits of society, pushing out traditional restaurants and leading to the detrimental health effects of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Taxes on tobacco have seen smoking rates decrease, and as a result there have been calls for fat taxes to be implemented in more countries in an attempt to reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods.
In 1942, U.S. physiologist A. J. Carlson suggested levying a fee on each pound of overweight, both to counter an “injurious luxury” and to make more food available for the war effort. The concept was reintroduced by Milton Merryweather and P. Franklin Alexander in the late 1970s, but became well known in the early 1980s by Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. Brownell proposed that revenue from junk food taxes be used to subsidize more healthful foods and fund nutrition campaigns.
In a 1994 Op-Ed in the New York Times, Brownell noted that food costs were out of balance, with healthy foods costing more than unhealthy ones. The New York Times Op-Ed piece that proposed the “fat tax” elicited controversy and outrage nationwide. Author Kelly Brownell became the focal point of this controversy, especially from Rush Limbaugh, who spoke out adamantly against the tax and the general principle of governmental intrusion into food choices and a possible invasion of privacy. Brownell’s proposal was listed as number seven on the list of U.S. News & World Report’s “16 Smart Ideas to Fix the World.” Because of this and other work, Brownell was named by Time Magazine as one of the “World’s Most Influential People.” In 2000 a paper in the British Medical Journal outlined the potential impact on deaths from ischemic heart disease of a tax on the main sources of saturated fats. In December 2003, The World Health Organization proposed that nations consider taxing junk foods to encourage people to make healthier food choices. According to the WHO report, “Several countries use fiscal measures to promote availability of and access to certain foods; others use taxes to increase or decrease consumption of food; and some use public funds and subsidies to promote access among poor communities to recreational and sporting facilities.”
Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said his nonprofit nutrition advocacy organization welcomed the recommendations and has spent years fighting for measures like a Junk Food Tax. The proposal got more traction when New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz proposed taxes on junk food and entertainment contributing to sedentary lifestyles to fund nutrition and exercise programs. It should also be remembered that taxing foodstuffs is not an argument for increasing taxation. Other taxes can be reduced commensurately if the overall objective is to keep the tax take neutral. The fat tax is an argument for raising taxes on activities that we prefer to discourage (consumption of certain foodstuffs) rather than raising taxes on socially desirable activities. Therefore, opponents of this type of taxation must identify which taxes are preferable to taxing these foodstuffs.
Other advocates of the tax, such as Jonathan Gruber (economist) point to the effect taxes have had on alcohol and tobacco use. Five studies published between 1981 and 1998 found that drinking declined as the price of alcohol increased. The same holds for tobacco. In California in 1988, Proposition 99 increased the state tax by 25 cents per cigarette pack and allocated a minimum of 20% of revenue to fund anti-tobacco education. From 1988 to 1993, the state saw tobacco use decline by 27%, three times better than the U.S. average.
A CBS News poll from January 2010 reported that a tax on items such as soft drinks and foods considered to be junk food, is opposed 60% to 38%. An even larger number, 72% of Americans, also believed that a tax would not actually help people lose weight. However, the question of whether or not taxation influences diet is an empirical question and not simply a matter of public opinion. While a February 2010 poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that New York City residents overwhelmingly favor a soft drink tax, with 76 percent wanting the tax, and 22 percent opposing it. The poll found both Republicans and Democrats favor the tax.
The fat tax aims to reduce the consumption of foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fast food.
In October 2011, British prime minister David Cameron told reporters that his government might introduce a Fat Tax as part of the solution to Britain’s obesity problem.
Japan implemented the ‘metabo’ law which included the measurement of waist sizes in 2008 in attempt to overcome increasing obesity rates. The New York Times wrote: “To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.” The ‘metabo’ law involved conducting an annual waist measurement check of people aged between 40 and 75, which was administered by employers and local government. The role of employers and local government was to ensure there was a minimum of 65% participation, with a goal to decrease Japan’s obesity rates by 25% by 2015 and failure to meet these goals results in a fine.
In October 2011, Denmark introduced a fat tax on butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food if the item contains more than 2.3% saturated fat However, in November 2012, the Danish Tax Ministry announced it would abolish the fat tax, stating that it failed to change Danes’ eating habits, had encouraged cross border trading, put Danish jobs at risk and had been a bureaucratic nightmare for producers and outlets. The failure of Denmark’s fat tax was also due to financial reasons, with politicians identifying the fat tax as a funding source for the government, rather than a health initiative that attempted to improve the health outcomes of society. The proposed sugar tax plans were also scrapped.
Mette Gjerskov, the Danish minister of food, agriculture and fisheries, stated that “the fat tax is one of the most criticized we had in a long time. Now we have to try to improve public health by other means.” Although the tax resulted in an additional $216 million in revenue, it also led to numerous complaints from Danish retailers that their customers were taking their business to other countries, such as Sweden and Germany, to take advantage of their lower prices.
In the Indian state of Kerala which is ruled by CPI(M), as a part of June 2016 budgets, the government proposed a 14.5 per cent ‘fat tax’ on burgers, pizzas and other junk food served in branded restaurants which officials from the quick service industry termed as ‘detrimental’ to consumption. Industry estimates suggest there are 50-75 outlets of organized fast-food restaurant chains in Kerala, including global brands McDonald’s, Chicking, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza and Subway. Kerala is the first state in India to introduce a “fat tax” on burgers, pizzas, doughnuts and tacos served in branded restaurants.
BY ALHAJI ALHASAN ABDULAI.
Executive Director, eanfoworld for sustainable development
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