Let’s face it, so many of us battle an addiction to junk food. As a kid, I loved Hostess chocolate cupcakes. In college, Cap’n Crunch fueled many a group study session. As an adult, I mostly eat healthy foods – except for chocolate chip cookies. And an occasional ice cream. And . . .
For many Americans, junk food – foods high in calories, sugar and fat but low in nutritional value – is the staple of every day’s diet. And it shows.
There is no denying that we face an obesity epidemic in our country. Nor is there any denying that pervasive obesity is having an belt-busting impact on health care. Health care costs attributable to diabetes alone – according to the American Diabetes Association – account for 1 in every 10 health care dollars annually. That doesn’t even count lost time from work, reduced productivity and other economic consequences of the disease.
So, what is wrong with the idea of regulating junk food as a means to better health? When New York City Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed outlawing jumbo-sized sugary soda drinks, he ignited a firestorm. The proposal had nothing to do with outright banning Coke or Mountain Dew, but libertarians barked anyway at the idea of any government encroachment into personal choices.
What about my personal choices? Dietary decisions are a significant cause of obesity, which leads to higher rates of chronic disease, which leads to greater demand for health care, which leads to super-sized health care costs. Widespread obesity in our country, in short, affects us all.