Is it all about the calories? Nutrition experts agree it is more complicated

Created on 4/5/2016 4:26:06 PM

You’ve seen the headlines — “Senate Obesity report calls for tax on sugar-sweetened beverages” or the “U.K. announces a soda tax” — but can the obesity epidemic be attributed to just one product category? FCPC’s Nutrition Forum recently brought experts together to look at the science and debate the effectiveness of policy intervention in preventing obesity.

For Dr. Jennifer Kuk, PhD and Associate Professor at the School of Kinesiology & Health Science at York University, it is not all about the calories. Her research shows obesity is complex with many environmental factors contributing to the weight of an individual. “If you ate and exercised the same amount, you would weight more in 2008 than in 1975 due to environmental factors,” Dr. Kuk told the audience. She spoke about the many environmental factors that contribute to obesity, such as maternal age and weight, pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and the walkability of cities.

Dr. Angelo Tremblay, PhD, Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Laval University weighed in on the debate with research he conducted on a high-protein diet’s impact on weight-loss. He found that a high protein diet accentuates the effectiveness of a weight-loss program. Dr. Tremblay sees an opportunity for the food industry to design products that taste good but also leave the consumer feeling full and satisfied, allowing them to eat less.

Janice Macdonald, Director of Communications at Dietitians of Canada, presented their controversial position for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB). Macdonald explained why her organization chose to target SSB, and addressed some of the criticisms for the tax. Macdonald did note the “moderate quality evidence linking (not causing) consumption of SSB to excess weight, obesity and chronic disease.”

Patrick Luciani, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, was the final presenter of the day. “Economists generally don’t like taxation because it is regressive. It also can’t measure the substitution effect, for example, we don’t know if we increase the price of SSB if consumers will replace it with sugar from another source.” Luciani shared this belief along with other arguments against taxing of SSB.

  Nutrition Forum   
   

(l-r) Patrick Luciani, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, 
Janice Macdonald, Director of Communications at Dietitians of Canada,
Dr. Angelo Tremblay, PhD, Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at
Laval University, Dr. Jennifer Kuk, PhD and Associate Professor, School
of 
Kinesiology & Health Science at York University

 

The session ended with an insightful question and answer period with all the speakers.

For more information on upcoming FCPC insight events please click here.

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