There are some politicians and lawmakers out there who think that they can fix America’s complex obesity problem with a ban or a label. But bans and labels that demonize one product or ingredient will not make people healthier, as Ruth Litchfield, associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University pointed out in a recent article in Forbes.
“There are so many risk factors for heart disease,” says Litchfield. “There are still behaviors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, excessive weight, high total fat intake. They also contribute. So this one particular component is not the magic bullet.”
Some may argue that it’s better that we just start somewhere. Anywhere. They will argue that any form of labeling or regulation is better than none. But previous Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees (DGAC), the panel whose advice is a basis for our federal nutritional standards, got it wrong on past recommendations on cholesterol and fat. And public health may have worsened as a result.
Paul Marantz, associate dean for clinical research education and professor of epidemiology and population health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told Forbes that after New York City banned trans fats in restaurants, the total calories purchased by consumers actually increased.
“How will this [ban] affect people’s eating patterns?” he says. “History should give us a little humility when it comes to making broad policies like this.”
Human nutrition is complex. Vilifying one product or ingredient as the sole cause of our public health issues is not sound science. If public health advocates and politicians want to really address obesity, they should focus on real and meaningful solutions based on fact-based science and not by pushing their personal opinions. Maintaining a healthy weight and balanced lifestyle comes down to balancing all of the calories we consume daily with physical activity.