Two news stories hit the wires this week that illustrated opposite answers to the question: Is a calorie a calorie?
For the past generation, nutritionists have held the prevailing opinion that all calories are created equal. In order to maintain a healthy weight, we have to balance between the number of calories we consume and the number of calories we burn. We gain weight by eating more calories than we use for our body's energy. It's a simple equation.
Coca-Cola, America's number one beverage company, used this line of thinking for their new ad campaign, "Come Together." They launched the campaign to show that the company "reinforces its commitment to help America in the fight against obesity." The ad has been heavily criticized, and while experts agree there are many contributing factors to America's obesity epidemic, Nutrition professor Barry Popkin from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill summed up the criticism: "Yes, other foods matter, but the single source contributor to child and adult obesity in the USA is sugar-sweetened beverages."
The other story on our minds this week is WNYC's Brian Leher's interview with Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease. Dr. Lustig addressed the Coca-Cola campaign directly in saying, "As soon as you get off the notion that a calorie is a calorie, as soon as you accept the notion that dogma may not be true, then all hell breaks loose...the quality of our food determines its quantity."
Lustig goes on to explain that, thirty years ago, no child had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Today, there are approximately 40,000 cases of Type 2 Diabetes among American children. This reference got us thinking about another thirty year reality, as addressed by the inspiring 30 Project: Since 1980, the global food system has created 1 billion undernourished people and 1 billion obese people.
What is at play here? Is a Coke calorie the same as a fresh apple calorie? The facts are still coming in, but the rumblings lead us to think about how our assumptions do change. Not that long ago, people thought that cigarettes were not hazardous to our health. (And did you see that the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco have signed on to address Big Food?)
In thinking about these things, we are reminded of the significance of the farmers market. We hope you are, too. Together we step into the markets every week and buy with the growers who produce our food with care for our health and environment. It's a simple, direct action that we take.
Thank you for being there with us at the Ossining Farmers Market. We'll be there every Saturday from 9am-1pm, rain or shine, at the corner of Spring and main.