By Wayne Litke
I will admit it – my age is catching up with me. I have been suspecting it for several months and on the weekend it became apparent. I had to take a long, hard look at myself and say enough is enough. I can no longer live in a state of denial (unless the other side of my split personality or disassociative disorder takes control), so I must be honest with myself and with readers.
While reading a story about Canada’s food guide being outdated and due for an overhaul, something strange happened. Instead of typing a column for today’s paper, I suddenly realized it was almost midnight (almost May 25) and I was fixated on ingredients that were listed on labels of food I had recently ingested. My late-night snacks typically start off with rice cakes because they are relatively healthy. If not satisfied, I step it up and indulge in potato chips: barbecue, black pepper, jalapeno – the hotter the better. If restraint and moderation kicks in, then it is often accompanied by the desire for something sweet.
Thus, I found myself sitting at my desk and munching, munching, munching as I looked at the ingredients listed on my snack packages. I began an Internet search on any ingredients which I was not familiar with. It was an intriguing journey that left me wondering if a couple of my biological quirks could be linked to the additives in my food and their possible side effects. It really doesn’t sound like a logical correlation since our federal government approves such products for consumption and their job is to ensure the food we eat is safe.
Therefore, I went to Health Canada’s web site just to put my curiosity to rest. What I saw on the computer screen surprised me. Listed in a Table of Novel Food Decisions was a list of well-know corporations who were the proponents of food products. The names of food producers and distributors included Dow Agro Science, Monsanto, Syngenta Seeds, Genective SA, Cibus, BASF, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Bayer Crop Science, and many others. I was left wondering about the definition of “Novel Food” and how much of it appears linked to chemical and pharmaceutical companies.
Back in the day, farmers, ranchers and gardeners produced our food. Large companies – often multinational corporations – then processed it and sold it to the public. Those were the days when novel food was a piece of licorice, a chocolate bar, soft-ice cream cone or popsicle. Those items are now quite boring and so “yesterday” since a wide selection of edible food products have been manufactured to fulfill the cravings of people of all ages. What I did not realize is these food treats often leave a person craving more.
I was reminded of that on Sunday while sitting on our deck and enjoying some drinks. Angela and I had been at the rib cook-off and were a little dehydrated. After drinking a couple of glasses of water, I decided to sample some iced tea. It tasted great and seemed to satisfy my thirst, so my glass was refilled. Then it was filled and refilled again. By the time we headed inside, I had consumed at least four glasses of iced tea and was continuing to think of more. It wasn’t until late that night that I realized what had transpired.
I was a victim and had fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book. It reminded me of the song: A Spoon Full of Sugar which was made famous by Julie Andrews in the movie Mary Poppins. As I looked at the main ingredient listed on the iced tea canister, an image of the ant poison I had cooked up in the kitchen came to mind. The seductively sweet liquid is 99 per cent sugar and one per cent borax. Ants seem to like it and carry it into their nest where it hopefully will be fed to future generations and the queen herself.
Food and drink manufacturers know sugar in food is like caffeine in coffee and nicotine in a cigarette. It is added to items where it is not required – and put in such large quantities that it creates a sugar rush and a temporary feeling of happiness. It can also create a host of problems and health issues, especially for individuals like myself who don’t realize what happens to them when high-sugar foods are ingested. It has a subtle but definite impact on people and is a major contributor to obesity and diseases such diabetes.
Sugar is apparently a food supply for cancers and can contribute to rapid growth of tumours, so why is it being added to a vast number of food products? The answer is simple and as stated above, sugar acts on the human body like caffeine and nicotine. Food processors and manufacturers want repeat customers and profits that increase every year. Therefore, sugar is added to food because it will cause consumers to eat more of the product and crave it when a meal is over. Of course, the mind seldom realizes what is occurring since it is having a great time basking in the high that sugar brings. That makes us all victims of the marketing schemes of big business, most of which do not have any interest in providing food that is not laced with sugar.
Why should you care – why should anyone care? The National Post newspaper article I was reading provided the reason. It states… Canadians are among the world’s top consumers of mass-produced, ultra-processed food.
It did not address the health hazards that such food poses because it often contains high levels of salts, preservatives, artificial colouring and additives that sound more like automotive degreasers than a food. That is another issue. As for me, I hope to become a little more knowledgeable on the subject and develop a lot more self control by avoiding the sugar trap.