Junk food is everywhere. I walked into Staples a few weeks ago for office supplies and was met with endless amounts of candy at the register. It used to be that we just had to avoid falling into the traps of junk at the grocery store, but now, junk food is ubiquitous and demanding our attention in the forms of marketing and easy access.
So often doctors tell their patients, just eat less and exercise more. The patient who is overweight is often blamed and called a lazy glutton who doesn’t have enough willpower.
Well, willpower is not enough. Patients aren’t simply lacking in self-discipline. They are not weak and lazy. Most of them are biologically addicted to sugar, and it’s no wonder! Willpower is not enough to stand up to easy, cheap, convenient food. We need more than willpower. We need solutions.
My guest on this week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy is Dr. Sean Lucan, a practicing family physician in the Bronx treating children and adults. He is an award-winning NIH-funded investigator who has published numerous articles on food-related issues. Dr. Lucan has co-authored one textbook on nutrition and another on biostatistics, epidemiology, preventive medicine, and public health.
Dr. Lucan’s research focuses on how different aspects of urban food environments may influence what people eat, and what the implications are for obesity and chronic diseases, particularly in low-income and minority communities.
This week, Dr. Lucan and I talk about food environments—essentially how our surroundings dictate our food choices, and how OSBs (other storefront businesses, places like gyms, laundromats, the barbershop, etc…) are becoming a huge source of providing junk to both children and adults. It all comes down to this: grazing vs. grocery environments. Areas that are defined by greater poverty have more grazing environments, which is doing a lot more damage than we could have imagined. Unfortunately, people with plenty of grazing grab-and-go options are more likely to make poor choices around food.
We also talk about food and beverage marketing to youth, and Dr. Lucan’s campaign to protect youth from dangerous marketing which led to a ban on alcohol advertising.
Dr. Lucan also presents solutions. How can we change the food environments, especially in disenfranchised areas, so that people are able to make better choices around the food that they eat.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD