Americans have been looking at the same nutrition label since 1993. Meanwhile, eating habits have morphed drastically since we’ve entered the new millennium.
A steep increase in obesity, diabetes and chronic heart disease have resulted from the calorie and sugar surplus of the newly defined American diet. In response to this proliferating dilemma, the FDA has now decided to revise the nutrition label to reflect the new vices of the energy sources we use.
For years, the nutrition label has placed a taboo on the amount of fat in our goods due to the perception that less fat equated to a more nutritious diet. But as trends now indicate, healthy fats are necessary for vital body functions and, without their support, our cell membranes would disintegrate.
In addition to the nebulous understanding behind fats, the current nutrition label fails to indicate the changes that have swept the American diet. Sugar intake has increased from 10 to 20 pounds to 100 to 200 pounds over the last century, and this era has been significantly marked with fast food and packaged meals. In many cases when individuals eat those meals, they fail to recognize that the entire box they ingested in one sitting was actually four servings too much.
Both increased sugar and caloric intake are directly linked to elevated cancer risk, obesity and metabolic disorders as they depend on nutrient surplus. For example, in cancer cells the main source of energy is sugar, and when the body has calories to spare, it can expend that plethora of resources to grow those cells into malignant tumors.
These avoidable health issues have grown in number within this society and even with these telltale signs, the FDA has not considered changing the emphasis from the misunderstood fats to the true culprits of the obesity and malnutrition epidemic until now.
The newly proposed FDA nutrition label has come to recognize the transformed eating habits of Americans and places a new light on the sugars added to foods through processing, the serving sizes within each package and the amount of sodium, potassium and vitamin D in the foods (research has indicated deficiencies in the latter two result in hypertension and increased blood pressure). It has removed prominence from calories from fat in foods and replaced it with a greater emphasis on the types of fats within the foods.
This simple yet effective alteration to the little box on the side of our food has the potential to wholly redefine the perceptions of sustenance in America and bring cognizance about the previously hidden perpetrators of the metabolic epidemics within our society.
Faizah Shareef is a freshman majoring in biochemistry and nutrition.