So about two weeks ago, I was speaking at a school in California about sugar. And after I was done, a little six-year-old boy, adorable little boy, came up to me and said, “But I don’t have to worry about that because I don’t eat a lot of sugar.”
So I crouched down with him, and I started chatting with him. And I said, “What do you normally eat for breakfast?” And he said, “Well, my favorite thing is white bread with jam.”
And I said, “What do you eat for snack?”
“Usually, a packet of crisps or a bag of potato chips,” he said.
“And what do you like to eat for lunch?”
“Well, usually, my favorite Lunchables pack.”
“And how about dinner?”
“Well, most of the time, I have white pasta with cookies.” “But,” he said, “I’m, like, the healthiest boy in my class.”
So we’re going to come back to this little boy later in my talk. Right now, April 2016, we are faced with this situation: 19 billion people worldwide are categorized as overweight. That means they have a body mass index of 25 or above.
Another 650 million people worldwide are categorized as obese. That means they have a body mass index of 30 or above. Twenty percent of all ten-year-olds in the UK are obese, and another 15% are overweight. And 400 million people worldwide are struggling with type 2 diabetes. Now, that is a very sad state of affairs.
But let’s now look at ten years from now. The most conservative projections say that 20% of the world population will be obese. And many doctors and many researchers absolutely believe that that number will be 50%. By 2025, one in every ten people will have type 2 diabetes, and countries that we don’t normally associate with obesity, Latin America, Central America, China, and the Middle East, will be struggling with vast increases in obesity and lifestyle diseases.
So if those statistics shock you as much as they did when I was learning about them, I want us to think about this room. That’s 20% to 50% of all people not being able to work efficiently, move well, fundamentally being happy or content. Let’s look at this room. There’s 100 people in this room. There’s ten rows. That’s ten people in each row. Look down your row. That means that up to five people in each row would be obese, have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle diseases. This is a major, major public health issue, and it’s preventable.
So how did we come so far from 100 years ago, when obesity really wasn’t an issue? Well, first of all, our lifestyles are drastically different. But today, I want to talk about our food culture and our eating habits, which would be unrecognizable to our great-grandparents.
Yes, we need to move more; yes, we need to sweat more; our kids need to watch less video games and get outside more, but that is not why I just read off the statistics that I did. It is mostly and a lot about the food that we eat.
So let’s think about a table, a meal table 100 years ago. There would be meat from a local butcher or a local ranch. There would be fruit and vegetables that was seasonal and local, often bought by someone that you knew. There wasn’t processed snacks; there wasn’t really snacks at all. Food was cooked in the home, and it was eaten with the family. None of it was processed. None of it was manufactured. And all of it was real food, food that came from the sun’s energy that’s grown in the soil.
Now let’s look at a meal today. Much like that little six-year-old’s meal. It often starts with a bowl of cereal that comes from a box that has high fructose corn syrup loaded into it. A snack is ripped out of a packet, lunch is a drive-through fast-food restaurant, afternoon snack is a candy bar and a coke, and dinner is something maybe that you can put in the microwave for five minutes, four minutes, and it’s done. And of course, dessert.
So, the biggest element that we need to look at is how all of that is processed. All of that is manufactured food, and none of it is real. It is unreal food. And the most detrimental element of that unreal food that I want to talk about today is sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar – it’s everywhere.
If you step out of the produce section in any grocery store, and look down any other aisle, it is flooded with products that are filled with sugar. I’m going to tell you about a happy married couple, called processed food and sugar. They’re connected at the hip, they never fight, and they’re madly in love. Those two together are what is causing these epidemics and this crisis. And it’s not just sugary things that you might expect.
It’s not just candy and sweets and sodas. It’s savory things; it’s unexpected items; it’s dressings; it’s bread products; it’s dairy products. It’s everything. So I want to talk about how much sugar the average person here in Britain eats on a weekly basis. It’s 20 teaspoons of sugar.
Now, the World Health Organization and doctors and researchers and scientists, people who know what they’re talking about, say that our bodies cannot handle more than seven teaspoons, or 30 grams, of sugar per day. Six – some people even say six, and children should have five teaspoons. The average Briton eats 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. Per day. And we need to be eating no more than seven teaspoons per day.