Does it really come down to this?

Two articles I read yesterday morning were both interesting yet concerning:

1. According to a British study released this morning, an estimated 3,200 deaths from cardiovascular disease could be prevented with a "carefully targeted fat tax" on certain foods. On average, this would increase weekly household food expenditure by 3-4%. The researchers from Oxford University gave the examples of tobacco and alcohol arguing that taxing these items effectively reduced consumption and led to improved public health. 

The science is there: too much salt and too much fat in your diet can contribute to heart disease. The obstacle is trying to get people to change their behavior and eating habits, which is much easier said than done. Tobacco and alcohol are not essential to life; food is. Will taxing "bad" food encourage people to eat less of it? This isn’t the first time a "fat tax" on foods has been proposed but, should people really be "punished" for wanting a brownie?

2. Alli, the new FDA-approved weight loss pill, has been readily available over-the-counter for the past month without a prescription. Alli prevents your intestines from absorbing the fat you eat in your diet (about 25% of it). The idea is that the unpleasant side effects (such as diarrhea or bloating) will discourage you from eating a high-fat meal.

Talk about negative reinforcement. One extra slice of pizza and you’re heading straight to the restroom. People who were interviewed in this USA Today article didn’t seem to be too concerned about it; they like the ‘constant reminder’ that they shouldn’t eat fatty foods. I understand that some people need these strict boundaries but what are the chances this will last long-term?

Given that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and that obesity rates continue to skyrocket, some action is necessary and I acknowledge that these are two attempts to move forward (toward a solution). Whether or not the answer is strict government regulation and/or self-imposed physical discomfort, I suppose time will tell. I don’t know the answer and I don’t believe there is one single answer. How do we address and change our complex (cultural, economic, social, emotional and nutritional) relationship with food? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

–Katherine Kwon, MS, RD, Communications Project Manager