The San Francisco Chronicle reports that skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates in India are leaving citizens looking for healthier alternatives to mithai -- "sweet, fudgy goodies rich with cardamom, pistachio and saffron... eagerly eaten, given as gifts, [or] offered to the gods]" during annual Diwali celebrations.
Partially due to an improved economy, many Hindus are opting to replace the sugary treats with clothes, electronics, and jewelry.
Two interesting points stand out here.
Number one: sales of sugar-free mithai are improving.
Number two: the government has taken action by releasing "millions of tons of sugar into the markets... in a bid to drive down prices."
As you may imagine, both of these developments leave me shaking my head.
First of all, sugar-free varieties of candies are not necessarily lower in calories.
The overwhelming majority of sugar-free candies contain higher amounts of fat than their standard counterparts, often times resulting in mere 10 or 20 calorie differences.
Remember, whereas sugar adds 4 calories per gram, fat contribues 9 calories per gram.
Of course, the average consumer is not aware of this, and often finds themselves thinking they can eat more simply because sugar is absent. Not quite.
And lastly, why on Earth is the government's solution providing more sugar at lower prices?
If a large percentage of the country is concerned about obesity and diabetes, cheapening sugary food is not the optimal solution!
Why not look into long-term policy that can begin to address some of the population's needs (for instance, calorie labeling)?