Common Sense Health: An Excess of Stupidity Is Still the Problem

At a breakneck pace, today’s world threatens to leave us gasping for breath. You name it – climate change and pollution, the global demographic explosion, autocratic rulers trampling civil society, or the threat of AI’s unintended consequences. But for all the things where meaningful influence is out of the hands of most of us, why are these still so many things well within our control that we do so little to change?

Consumers have a lot of power, for example, but too infrequently use it. If you don’t like the microplastics in the ocean, stop buying food sold in excessive packaging. When affordable public transportation is available, we spend far more to drive our own vehicles. We buy enough clothing to stuff our closets, and then some.

Otherwise intelligent people do too many stupid things. They don’t give it a moment’s thought.

Just this week, we were dismayed to learn about a high school that hosted a gelato eating contest involving the students. Four “winners” tied for consuming a whopping 25 scoops each. The average scoop of gelato has about 17 grams of sugar and 160 calories. At least, one might argue, it wasn’t ice cream. A half cup serving of ice cream has 25 grams of sugar, roughly half the amount of sugar a person should normally eat in a day.

What do we make of a school sanctioning the consumption of 425 grams of sugar in one sitting? Alarm bells should be ringing! That’s enough sugar to cause severe and immediate effects on the body. The rapid spike in blood sugar will have the pancreas struggling to produce enough insulin. Like night follows day, excessive sugar consumption will lead to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, gastrointestinal problems, fatty liver, and heart disease.

Why did no teacher object? Why did no student object? Why were parents not informed until after the damage was done? The only answer is that people still haven’t learned the basic lesson. Even when we know better, even when we’ve been told a thousand times, we still don’t make the small changes in our lives that will give us better health outcomes.

Hallowe’en is approaching. How many readers will stock up on sugar-filled, tooth-rotting, mindless candy giveaways to the young children knocking on their doors? The kids may not like the message, but someone needs to tell them that the candy they collect should be consumed in moderation. Hallowe’en would better be a history lesson and a neighbourhood meet-and-greet than what’s it has become, unfortunately.

Scott Adams, the brilliant satirist of workplace culture, offered this warning, “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity, especially when it’s wilful.”

We humans need to smarten up and be wilful in making change to the things we know are clearly bad. It should not be allowed to serve 25 servings of gelato to a child in one’s care.

But let’s take up the big opportunities. Tobacco should be outlawed. If that can’t be done, then increase the taxes higher still. Companies that produce junk food should be charged in the court of law with knowingly causing illness, and they should have to pay for the costs.

We wonder if there is any hope for young people to make necessary changes. Are the kids these days, with all their access to information, smart enough? If youth obesity and diabetes rates are any indicator, they are not.

One thing is for sure. If we were running a school, we would not sanction gelato-eating contests. And we would give a failing grade to anyone who did.

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Gelato image from Rawpixel

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