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By Abigail Orzolek

On Thursday afternoon, February 26, 2018. Professor Sachs hosted Robert Lustig, MD at Buell Hall on the Columbia University campus to discuss the focus of Dr. Lustig’s latest publication, The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains.

Health, in its simplest terms, requires a diet of whole foods, but the United States food industry is overwhelming filled with processed food & beverage options that fail to provide nutrition and instead contribute to chronic metabolic disease. Within the 2017 SDG Index itself, The United States ranks sixth in terms obesity prevalence, 33.7% of the adult population being obese.

In the developed world’s realm of health, Dr. Lustig presumes sugar is the cause of our diet-related diseases. The results of a study performed at Touro University and UC San Francisco found that removing any food products containing fructose from a child’s diet for nine days resulted in an over 20% decrease in liver fat. This type of diet links high sugar consumption to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and in turn to Type 2 Diabetes.

Dr. Lustig’s lecture explained the basic, biological needs and cravings of the human body; sugar being a source of energy, that when being digested, releases dopamine and creates an addiction to the pleasure caused by this substance. The health trends show just how detrimental to our health our evolving modern diets are, and all the while special interest groups have funded research that inaccurately represents the influence of their food and beverage products.

When we talk about diet, it is appropriate to bring up mental health as well. A healthy body helps to maintain a person’s happiness. When chasing another sugar high, Dr. Lustig insists that we are pursuing pleasure – a momentary joy, that in the case of sugar or other stimulants can build an addiction. With the International Day of Happiness approaching in March, this is no time to take pleasure over the pursuit of happiness. The achievement of the SDGs requires countries like the United States to advocate for their citizens’ health, with SDGs 2 and 3 as their guide, and to facilitate every individual’s happiness.