Monday, July 14, 2008

Help Curb Obesity-It's the Law!

Perhaps, it’s that time- time to put down our grease-soaked Big Macs and Big Gulp “supersize” soft drinks and really listen to what the CDC has been saying all along, which is that all across the country, both children and adults are becoming dangerously overweight. In Iowa alone, obesity rates have risen and nearly doubled. Obesity trend data compiled by the CDC reflects that while anywhere from 10-14% of the population was considered to be obese in the early 1990’s, as of 2006, 25-29% of the population was obese. Now two years later, those numbers have undoubtedly risen again.

And obesity itself is not even necessarily the issue at hand (is it even possible to imagine Santa Claus without his “bowl of jelly” belly or a skinny Homer Simpson?) The issue at hand is diabetes, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and a long list of other serious health complications. As a country and even as a state, obesity is killing us slowly. Yet, no cure-all, save-all solution exists. There is, however, a law that could possibly serve as the light at the end of the tunnel. New York has already taken the lead in making this proposed law a reality.

Imagine stepping into a fast food restaurant, say McDonald’s. McDonald’s-goers in New York will notice a major change on their menu board. The mouthwatering Big Mac still smiles back from the board, but what also haunts the image of the precious Big Mac and all other menu items at McDonald’s restaurants and other food establishments across New York is the cold, hard truth: a calorie count-540 to be exact-for McDonald’s trademark treat. By law, New York restaurants must now surrender calorie counts next to menu items displayed on price boards or pay a hefty fine of up to $2,000 for noncompliance.

With this law comes the question, is it really the government’s job to control obesity? After all, what right does the government have to interfere with the right to “eat great, even late” and to live guilt-free while doing so? Though there seems to be no definite answer to either of these questions, we say that a more informed public is a healthier public. In this case, it seems safe to say that a little truth and a dose of reality couldn’t hurt.

So what if John Doe ditches his seemingly healthy Taco Bell Border Grande beef salad (1,450 calories) for a healthier alternative like Subway’s 6 inch turkey breast sandwich (only 280 calories without condiments)? Still healthy and mobile as a senior citizen, John Doe may end up thanking the government for making this information readily available. Sure, it may be emotionally crippling to surrender the most grease-filled, deep-fried fast food concoctions after learning the truth, but when the health benefits outweigh the power of the “happy” chemicals released in the brain after biting into a Big Mac, a little information might not be so bad.

As customers, we should not have to scavenge for nutritional information. When inquiring about the number of calories in a Wendy’s bacon and cheese potato, John Doe shouldn’t have to be passed from employee to employee then finally to a manager, only to discover that nutritional information can only be found online. To assist customers in making healthier choices and with respect to a customer’s decision to lead a healthy lifestyle, restaurants everywhere, not just in New York, should make an effort to give customers the information they deserve. After this information is available, it’s up to the person consuming the food what he or she will choose to do with this information. The truth may not completely solve the obesity epidemic, but it may be the first step toward a solution.

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