Junk Food as a Human Rights Issue

By Chuck Norris

November 4, 2016 6 min read

While, as reported last week, the war on dietary fat is now officially over, the fight against junk food is about to escalate. According to a report released this week by the Associated Press, the U.N.'s special representative on "the right to food" has proclaimed junk food to now qualify as a human rights concern.

"Within the human rights framework, states are obliged to ensure effective measures to regulate the food industry," says the United Nation's Hilal Elver. Her concerns center on policies that have allowed large global corporations to flood the world market with cheap, nutrient-poor foods, forcing poor people to choose between economic capability and optimum nutrition. The UN believes that the current situation is in effect violating their right to adequate food.

Elver is particularly concerned by aggressive marketing strategies to promote junk food to children, especially in developing countries. As I noted several weeks ago, a recent report by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems Nutrition has proclaimed that diet and nutrition now pose the biggest risk factors for people's health across the globe, as well as its concern that the sale of processed foods is now growing the fastest in developing countries.

Also consistent with the UN's frustration that trade liberalization has allowed large corporations to flood the global market junk food, an International Food Policy Research Institute report also raised similar concerns regarding the consequences of a changing global food environments where healthy foods are becoming increasingly expensive the world over, while unhealthy food is becoming cheaper and easier to buy.

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services removed the limit on total fat consumption in the American diet. As noted by nutrition expert Jane Brody in a recent article in the New York Times, fat is now making a comeback. Unless you have a medical condition that dictates otherwise, there's no reason to cut anything from your diet any longer be it butter, ice cream or steak, she writes. She does place one condition on such advice. She recommends maintaining a diet mainly of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Add to it lean animal protein and fish, but we should not go overboard on foods rich in saturated fats that can cause harm when consumed in excess.

And as for those PB&J sandwiches moms during the 1960s stuffed with love into a child's lunch bag? Come to find, they could be really good for you. According to a 2013 study published in the publication Breast Cancer Research Treatment and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, girls who regularly ate peanut butter between the ages of 9 and 15 were 39 percent less likely to develop benign breast disease by age 30. Today, nut butters come in many varieties; the key is to make sure that the nuts, and possibly some salt, are the only ingredients listed and that you avoid those products that have added sugars or vegetable oils.

The task now, according to Brody, is to appreciate the positive effects that different non-processed nutrients have on the body and adopt a rational and enjoyable diet that takes both health benefits and risks into account. In this quest, what really matters is where the source of fat is coming from. Not all fats are created equal. The fats found in processed junk foods and store-bought baked goods — not so good for us. The fat from more natural foods like avocados, grass-fed beef, and olives — they can be beneficial in moderation.

The reality is that the "low fat" movement of the last 40 years has led to a typical Western diet of highly processed foods with large amounts of refined starch and sugar. It is a diet that has been shown to raise many health issues, including the risk of cardiovascular disease. Many experts now believe that it's time we place our attention on the overconsumption of simple and refined carbohydrates — from sugary drinks, desserts, pastries and snacks, as well as white bread, white rice and potatoes, rather than things like saturated fat and dark chocolate. According to Dr. Boris Hansel, a French endocrinologist-nutritionist who specializes in obesity management, these are foods shown to promote obesity and that now threaten to reverse the decades-long decline in cardiovascular disease.

As to the relation of diet and exercise, it's advised to follow a standard where energy intake matches energy expenditure when looking to not to gain or lose weight.

All other things being equal, if you eat more calories, you will gain weight. And all other things being equal, if you exercise enough, you will lose a small amount of weight.

As to label reading and calorie counting, at least one study has shown that showing people how much they would have to exercise to work off the food they eat to be a more effective way of stopping them from overeating.

Many folks replace the energy they burn off during exercise with a sugar-containing sports drink. According to TakePart.com, drinking a bottle of today's most popular sports drink has been shown to cancel out the 158 calories you would burn from 20 minutes of playing basketball. It's recommended you reach for water instead. And to get the electrolytes you need, try eating a banana.

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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