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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Dealing with a camel

DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Dealing with a camel

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FORGIVE ME FOR IGNORING my own advice and straining at a gnat – that gnat being historian Trevor Marshall’s response to my article about the Nelson statue.

Thankfully, I’m not a historian; rather than wallow in the past, I’d rather try to contribute to our future. So it’s immaterial to me whether or not Nelson saved us from the French.

My two points are (1) some people of his day considered him a hero and erected a statue in his memory. That, to my mind, makes him, or more precisely, his statue, a part of our history (past events) and, (2) the statue wasn’t erected in Heroes Square – Heroes Square was imposed on it. In any case, a bronze statue can’t harm us; it’s the living we should be wary of.

This addiction to destroying everything from the past and replacing it with what you consider better seems to have been inherited by our politicians. Projects started by one party are often aborted after much expenditure when another party becomes the Government, wasting vast sums of money.

Going back to the Nelson issue, I doubt anyone todaywould disagree that Wilberforce was a hero, so if he was overlooked, there’s nothing wrong with him being added to our list of heroes and a statue being erected in his memory. Maybe, Mr Marshall can take up a collection similar to Minister Lashley’s.

Now to a “camel”, whose solution continues to elude us. That is, obesity and the associated chronic non-communicable diseases. The number of extraordinarily overweight people in Barbados in recent years is astounding. It seems the major cause is a combination of factors labelled “lifestyle”, so the solution isn’t easy.

I remember an old lady saying that low-income people in her day survived on a diet that included large amounts of “sweet water”. They were strong and lived to ripe old ages with few health problems – probably because they balanced the sugar with hard, physical work and high-fibre foods like local root crops.

Nowadays we gravitate towards imported, refined, low-fibre foods which not only increase our weight, but also our use of foreign exchange. And of course we suffer from lack of exercise. Despite all the gadgets like “fitbits” to encourage us, we don’t seem to be seeing a positive result.

The sweet drink tax apparently hasn’t worked, so Sir Trevor Hassell has recommended doubling it. But if I know Bajans, this won’t deter them one bit. They’ll complain about the prices of necessities like water and wholesome foods like milk, root crops and vegetables, but they’ll pay whatever is demanded for soft drinks, fancy alcoholic beverages and so on.

In any case, Senator Sir Henry Fraser has often demonstrated you can eat healthily on a small budget. But we just can’t get our priorities right – with diet or anything else.

The Coca-Cola formula can’t be altered except perhaps by lobbying the parent company, and we constantly hear that some sugar substitute which was deemed safe is now killing us. So why not create new drinks with a lesser sugar content and lower the sugar content of the present ones?

We don’t have to announce it from the rooftops orcut the sugar content in one fell swoop. Just as police wouldn’t go into a drug area to make a “bust” with sirens blaring. At least one company has started to reduce sugar in a juice drink, with a very pleasing result. Our taste buds will adapt.

I used to put sugar my coffee but stopped some years ago. If I do happen to add sugar now, it feels strange. Some manufacturers have successfully reduced the salt in their products. Why not sugar?

The late Keith Laurie suggested to sweet drink companies that they use cane juice rather than imported refined sugar. He argued that most of the energy in a sugar factory is used in evaporation of juice to make sugar and then the drink companies dissolve this again to produce a liquid.

As far as I know, nothing ever came of the idea. I’ve since read that the glycaemic index of cane juice is much less than that of sugar, which would make this idea even more attractive. Just as I’m not a historian, I’m not a nutritionist, so I hope they will research this further.

• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email: [email protected]