Stop Sugar Coating the Leading Causes of Obesity

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

meat + cheeseAmericans are drinking less soda. According to a new study, about half of American adults now drink sugary beverages on any given day – down from 61.5% in 2003. That’s good news for Americans’ health. But it’s not enough to stop our worsening obesity epidemic. Per capita sugar consumption has been steadily falling since 1999. Yet, obesity rates continue to climb. Last month, the CDC reported that obesity among adults in the United States reached an all-time high of 39.8% in 2016. So what happened? In 2012, Americans collectively consumed 52.2 billion pounds of meat. Individually, we eat about 270 pounds per year. Compared to just a century ago, that’s nearly 150 additional pounds of meat per person each year. At the same time, cheese consumption has soared from just 4 pounds per person in 1909 to 36 pounds today. These foods are not only packed with calories, but also fat and cholesterol – which aren’t good for our arteries or our waistlines. To start making progress against obesity, it’s time to move these high-fat foods off of our plates and start focusing on plant foods. Populations who base their diets on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes are the healthiest and trimmest on the planet. Epidemiological studies have analyzed the diets of thousands of people and found that vegetarian and vegan diets are best for weight control. Clinical trials have come to the same conclusion, like the 2015 study finding those consuming vegetarian diets lost more weight, compared with those following omnivorous diets. The results are clear: the more we set aside high-calorie foods like meat and cheese and embrace vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, the healthier we will be. Photo from here, with thanks.