LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan devoted his opening remarks at last month’s LIUNA Convention to the gridlock in Washington. Mincing no words, he placed the blame squarely at the feet of Tea Party politicians and those who are afraid to stand up to their social agenda of no taxes, no spending.

Although the focus of the LHSFNA’s work is health and safety, not politics, we acknowledge one effect of today’s stalemate in Washington: the anti-regulatory backlash that falsely pits health and safety regulation against the nation’s need to expand the economy and rehire workers. According to the Tea Party, the Chamber of Commerce and the many conservative politicians that do their bidding, OSHA and EPA regulations – not the enduring recession itself – are the cause of business’ failure to invest and expand.

This misguided propaganda is advanced to block a number of important efforts to update regulations or (as in the case of silica) fill significant regulatory gaps that have never been addressed. While regulations should not be designed or implemented in haphazard fashion, they must be a component of any nation’s program for responsible production oversight. As our analysis in this Lifelines shows, the development of OSHA rules is a comprehensive, protracted, deliberative process. We refute seven myths propagated by the anti-regulatory block.

While workplace health and safety is often beyond the control of individual workers – hence, the need for regulation – the personal health issues of diet and nutrition are every individual’s responsibility. In this issue of Lifelines, we also devote considerable space to the insights of a major new study from Harvard that gives fresh meaning to the old saying, “You are what you eat.”

The obesity epidemic in the U.S. and Canada is well-documented, but it is important to understand that weight gain is not a sudden occurrence. Rather, it’s slow and steady. Typically, adults add about a pound a year after age 25, ending up 40 pounds overweight by the time they retire. Medicare (national health insurance in Canada) picks up the tab. Losing weight is hard, so finding ways to prevent long-term weight gain is key to personal health and effective long-term health care cost control.

The Harvard report – which studied 120,000 adults over two decades – for the first time shows the kinds of diets that produce the least weight gain over time…and the ones that produce the most. The verdict is different than might have been expected: while total caloric intake must always be kept within reason, it is vital to eat the right kinds of food, even some with high caloric content such as yogurt and nuts. Indeed, eating more of these can result in fewer pounds gained. Certain foods and certain diets, it turns out, help keep the pounds off.

Undoubtedly, the discoveries of this study will open new lines of research and analysis that will sharpen dietary knowledge in the years to come. In the meantime, we review key components of our diets – sugar, salt, oil and fiber – to help you take more control of your weight and your long-term health. We hope you’ll take these lessons to heart and begin restructuring the personal patterns of your food consumption.

Unfortunately, it will be more than a year until another election can break political gridlock and restore social accountability in Washington. But with the Holiday “eating season” approaching, now is a great time to embrace personal accountability and get to work on your diet.