Why sugar is killing firefighters

Given that sugar elevates the risk of cancer and heart attack, no fire department should be sugary food and drinks

Can you hear me now? Almost a year ago I wrote an article on soda and the negative effects it has on our body. In February the Associated Press published an article "Sugar tied to fatal heart woes; soda's a culprit — A small amount of additional sugar significantly increases heart disease risk."

The article emphasizes that Americans already take in more sugar than it is safe to consume. When we add soda to the mix, it significantly increases the amount of sugar, which researchers found caused an increase in heart attacks.

Wait, did you read that?

The amount of sugar we consume without the intake of soda is already unsafe, and too much sugar increases the rate of heart attacks?

This is studying the general population, not the fire service. Firefighters are already dying at an alarming rate from heart attacks, and essentially we are making this worse by feeding them sugar and having them drink sugary drinks.

Cancer threat
On top of all this, cancer loves sugar; it is a known fact that too much sugar can increase the rate of cancer. Oh, remember the article on cancer?

A recent white paper noted that cancer has now exceeded the cause of death for firefighters above heart attacks. So if causing heart attacks was not bad enough now we are feeding cancer.

Sound harsh? It should.

We need to be proactive with our personnel. Firefighting is a strenuous career. We are faced with many challenges from physical to mental. If we do not take care of our personnel and educate them to consume the appropriate foods and drinks, we are contributing to their deaths.

And before you start on the diet sodas and sugar-free kick, it is known that the sugar alternatives are simply a formula of rat poisoning and cause as much if not more ill effects than does sugar.

Need sugar?
There are plenty of ways to get your allowance of sugar. Start with fruit. Fruit contains fructose in its natural form. Distributing fruit at the rehab sector on the incident scene provides more nutrition than any sugary soda or candy.
The safe natural sweeteners include raw unfiltered honey, Stevia, and most fruit. Agave has had criticism and is not recognized as a safe alternative.
Starting today, fire and EMS departments across the country need to make the change.

  • No more sodas.
  • No more donuts.
  • No sugar alternative foods or drinks.

Instead, only serve fruits, nuts, and healthy foods and drinks on the incident scene and any time the department furnishes food whether it is a meeting, training session or public event.

At your next rehab training session set the guidelines on the food and drinks that the department will furnish. Bring in a qualified nutritionist to explain the facts. Show them the literature on the consequences of consuming sugary drinks and food.

The odds of having a heart attack or being diagnosed with cancer is already high among firefighters due to our work conditions. There is no reason the fire department should be supporting such habits that increase the risk.

Rather, we should be preventing these death sentences from happening to our personnel. We are in the business of saving lives. The first step is to create an environment to save our own personnel.

This is not any different than becoming a tobacco-free fire department. Vow to become a sugar-free department — and no artificial sweeteners, either. 

About the author

Dr. Lindsey is the coordinator/lecturer for the University of Florida Fire and Emergency Service bachelor and master degree program. He also serves as the chief learning officer for Health Safety Institute. He retired from the fire service as fire chief of Estero (Fla.) Fire Rescue. Additionally, he is an author for Brady Publishing. Dr. Lindsey earned his doctorate and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from USF. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fire and safety engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an associate in paramedic from Harrisburg Area Community College. He also has earned his chief fire officer designation and is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program. Dr. Lindsey has over 32 years of diverse experience in the emergency services industry. He was the 2011 recipient of the James O Page Leadership Award from IAFC. He is an associate member of the Prehospital Research Forum. He served as an advisory council member for the National EMS Advisory Council and the State of Florida EMS Advisory Council, and is a representative to the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education EMS degree committee. You can contact Jeffrey with feedback at Jeffrey.Lindsey@FireRescue1.com.

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  1. Tags
  2. Fire Rehab
  3. Health & Wellness
  4. Cancer
  5. Rehab
  6. Fire Chief
  7. Heart Attack

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