Editorial: Americans' other addiction not so sweet
Among the earliest Valentine's Day gifts were candies, the most common being chocolates in heart-shaped boxes. Today, flowers and candy are tops for gift giving.
So, as you sit there eating your truffles and chocolate caramels - admiring the flowers on the table - consider that the only "holiday" to exceed Valentine's Day in candy consumption is Halloween (think: candy corn, which is the top seller). And, while nobody is overly sweet on sugar these days, a bunch of scientists have taken concerns about sweeteners to an extreme.
In a paper published recently, a team of scientists in California argued that sugar is so addictive it should be heavily taxed and regulated, like alcohol and drugs, according to the Associated Press. They even want to set a legal age for buying sugar.
That's excessive. But, that said, there's no denying we have a national problem with obesity, and sugar is heavily to blame. Americans eat and drink roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, three times as much as they did 30 years ago, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
Not all of that comes out of the sugar bowl. Much of it is hidden inside processed food and even bread and cereal. Consider also that obesity contributes to a wide range of health problems. According to the CDC, about 112,000 deaths in the United States are associated each year with obesity, and the total medical costs came to $147 billion in 2008.
A new study of more than one million people found that people who carry extra weight report more everyday pain.
How bad is it? Over two decades, obesity rates have doubled in adults, and the percentage of adolescents who are above their normal weight has tripled, the AP reported. The needle on the nation's bathroom scale is pointing in a scary direction.
But let's be sensible. Let's eat more healthfully and get more exercise. And let's not listen to scientists who want a new Prohibition, this time for sugar.
If not, what will be next?