Yesterday, I shared 5 key science backed reasons why Berkeley and San Francisco’s Prop D & E Soda Tax measures are doomed to have nothing but negative consequences and must be defeated. Today, I would like to share a solution to dramatically reduce obesity (especially childhood obesity) and serious illness such as diabetes and even cancer that research and science says has a real chance of working:
A “No Exercise” Tax
We can start by copy and pasting the language from Proposition E Section 551 and do a simple “find and replace” all Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) with something all political sounding like “lack of Metabolic enhancing activity (MEAs)”. If I were writing the bill I would just keep it simple and replace SSB’s with “lack of exercise” (no exercise).
5 Key Science Backed Reasons To Vote YES for the “No Exercise” Tax
1. There is strong clinical research and evidence to support exercise is truly effective against obesity
While many dispute that any one food is the cause of obesity, and there are no studies to prove SSB’s are the cause of obesity, or that removing them would help anyone, there is virtually no dispute that consistent exercise would be part of the cure for obesity. I have yet to see a study where exercise did not have a positive impact on obesity, if done safely using effective exercise techniques. The reason exercise hasn’t already cured obesity is because people are not taught to exercise properly and effectively, and more importantly, because people believe effective exercise is optional. If we are serious about realizing the significant health savings associated with reversing the obesity epidemic, we must enact legislation that sends a powerful message to all citizens that they are responsible to our society for their (and their children’s) well being. This means finding science backed ways to achieve our goals. Science tells us becoming more active, not taxing SSB’s will have a dramatic impact on managing their weight.
2. There is strong science based evidence effective exercise can directly reduce your risk of diabetes as well as cancer and other diseases
Although the improved insulin sensitivity after glycogen depleting exercise may not have evolved to improve regulation of blood glucose, such effect of exercise may be the mechanism that protect humans from developing type 2 diabetes in the modern society. We suggest that dynamic glycogen metabolism is important for healthy regulation of blood glucose and prevention of insulin resistance.
The role of skeletal muscle glycogen breakdown for regulation of insulin sensitivity by exercise Jensen, et al Frontiers in Physiology Dec 2011
Physical Activity Lowers your risk for pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke – American Diabetes Association Guideilnes http://www.diabetes.org
“Both increased body weight and weight gain as an adult are linked with a higher risk of breast cancer after menopause…Many studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity is linked with lower breast cancer risk.”
“Studies show a lower risk of colorectal cancer and polyps with increasing levels of activity. Moderate activity on a regular basis lowers the risk, but vigorous activity may have an even greater benefit.”
Source: American Cancer Association Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity http://www.cancer.org
There’s more, but you get the idea. I’m still looking for the “only change you need to make is stop drinking sugary beverages and you’ll reduce your risk of serious illness” studies — haven’t found it yet.
3) Exercise can provide the metabolic benefits (changing the function of the hormone insulin for example), needed to allow for the healthy metabolism of sugar and other high glycemic carbs
4. Our bodies have been designed through evolution to move for optimal health and fitness.
“If physical activity helped mold the structure of our brains, then it most likely remains essential to brain health today…Recent studies have shown that “regular exercise, even walking leads to more robust mental abilities, beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.”
Linking Brains and Brawn, Exercise and the evolution of human biology. Raichlen, Polk Proc Biol Sci Jan 2013
5 Our metabolism and evolutionary genetics are not designed to deprive ourselves of food – ANY food.
“Cutting calories reverses weight gain for a short while…but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more”
Increasing Adiposity. Consequence or Cause of Overeating Journal of the American Medical Association June 2014
“What we see here is a coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight,” Proietto says. “This, I think, explains the high failure rate in obesity treatment.”
Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss Proietto, et. al. New England Journal of Medicine Oct 2011
Framework For How The “No Exercise” Tax Would Work
And we’re back to the language of Proposition E. Sort of. I took the liberty of making a few changes that would further encourage results:
Assessing a tax on no exercise is intended to help address the high levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes,
and other diseases by reducing consumption and providing a revenue stream for City-directed and
grant-funded program that would include the following:
- Offer extensive public education of effective exercise, nutrition and diet programs that have shown lasting results.
- Establish a committee to establish minimum fitness standards adjusted by age health and physical limitations
- Using a fitness score established by the committee to assign each family member a minimum score that must be achieved by the next annual physical
- Fund annual physical exams to assess weight health and fitness based upon these minimum fitness standards.
- Assess a tax of .5% for adults and 1% for each child in any year the minimum results are not achieved. Exemptions to the tax for injury and disease that was not preventable per the Dr.’s judgement would be offered. Using a tax based on percent of income would avoid yet another flaw in proposed Prop D and E which is using a regressive tax which is grossly unfair to lower income citizens and their familieis. The No Exercise tax would be more fair to all. However it makes sense that a minimum tax be established to ensure low income families with children had proper incentive to comply even if they owe no income tax.
Then with whatever money is left after we build a program that will actually produce meaningful results via the No Exercise Tax, if the committee is so inclined, it can get around to Prop E’s physical activity and nutrition programs in schools, parks, community centers, and through community-based organizations thing. That will look nice and make some folks happier but has no scientific basis that it will help accomplish anything relative to the true goal.
Can The No Exercise Tax Really Deliver Lasting Results?
Science confirms it’s a far better option than anything else on the table. At least exercise brings measurable results. Eliminating Sugary SOME Sugary Beverages? Not so much. Let’s be clear: No one has to become super fit overnight with the No Exercise Tax. In most cases that would not be sustainable and do great harm over 5-10 years. Citizens would simply need to progress with small improvement or maintain a minimum fitness level once achieved. It’s also important to note there would be no incentive or benefit offered for doing better than the minimum. Scientific research is clear that pursuing unsustainable fitness levels (pushing yourself to the highest limits possible) cause people to stop exercising altogether which simply furthers the obesity and health crisis. The Tax is not designed to create a super race of athletes, we simply want to reverse the obesity and health epidemics and encouraging exercise that creates small improvements over time will go a long way to achieving what currently seems like an impossible task.
Final Thoughts Before You Vote
The No Exercise Tax is a far more viable solution than any food restriction tax. It would simply encourage all citizens to learn effective nutrition and exercise strategies that could be sustained year after year which is the solution to reverse the obesity and health epidemic we currently face. People will ba free to enjoy SSB’s or any other food they decide fits their lifestyle them without being penalized while being encouraged to improve their health and fitness.
To many reasonable people, all of these sorts of measures (Soda, Fat or No Exercise Tax) sound very intrusive. However, if Government is determined to intrude on the lifestyle choices of its citizens and how they raise their children lets at least enact a tax that is science based and encourages the direct outcomes we are seeking in terms of reduced obesity and related illnesses long term. Speaking personally, it will be nice to see “less than fit” politicians, nutrition and health professionals who feel qualified to tell you what you should and should not eat improve their fitness using consistent exercise – a far more proven strategy. They can serve as role models for the rest of us!
Note: Detailed research and specific clinical studies to back all representations in the above information available upon request. Email