Author Archive

As you’ve probably guessed by the fact that I’m answering comments, I’m home from surgery. The bone-shaving procedure apparently went well. The surgeon told Chareva he also discovered that I had torn a bicep tendon at some point, so he reattached it.

In addition to general anesthesia, they gave me something called a shoulder blocker. It’s like having an entire shoulder on Novocain. I have absolutely no sensation from the elbow to the neck. You could stab me in the shoulder and I wouldn’t know it. That, of course, will wear off. I’m supposed to start taking Percocet later this evening.

I won’t be able to shower or sleep in bed for a few days. I’ll be living in my La-Z-Boy recliner. We’ve already got  The area set up  with my iPad, charger, phone, TV remotes, a video adapter to put my iPad screen on the big TV, etc. I can’t really type yet, but the dictation feature On the iPad Pro is pretty accurate … although as you may have noticed, it has a bad habit of capitalizing words for no apparent reason.

I appreciate everyone’s good wishes. I feel pretty good, considering. Time to kick back and binge-watch a couple of shows and catch up on some tutorials.




Comments 24 Comments »

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Soy it ain’t true, Joe

Makers of soy-based foods will no longer be able to claim soy protects against heart disease, at least if the FDA gets its way. Here are some quotes from an article in Fortune magazine:

Since 1999, food makers have been able to slap a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared claim onto their products that soy protein has proven heart health benefits. But the FDA on Monday moved to revoke that soy heart benefit claim—the first time ever that the agency has attempted to nix a previously authorized health claim.

That’s not to say there isn’t any kind of heart benefit to soy protein—it’s just not as certain as an officially designated claim would suggest. “[S]ome studies, published after the FDA authorized the health claim, show inconsistent findings concerning the ability of soy protein to lower heart-damaging low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol,” as the FDA notes.

Of course, I don’t care if soy lowers LDL or not, because most people who have heart attacks are already in the supposed “good” range for LDL. I don’t eat soy because it lowers testosterone, to name just one of many negative effects. You can read about those here.

There’s a corny joke in here somewhere …

I remember my grandma hugging me when I was a wee tyke and saying things like, “Oh, I could just eat you up!” Lucky for me she didn’t live on corn … and wasn’t a hamster. Here are some quotes from an article in Science New For Students:

People who eat a diet dominated by corn can develop a deadly disease: pellagra. Now something similar has emerged in rodents. Wild European hamsters raised in the lab on a diet rich in corn showed odd behaviors. These included eating their babies!

“Corn again?! Where’s junior? I need a real meal.”

Hamsters and other rodents are known to eat their young. But only occasionally. This tends to happen only when a baby has died and the mother hamster wants to keep her nest clean.

To be perfectly truthful, our house would be a lot tidier if Chareva ate the girls without waiting for them to die. But I’d rather put up with the mess, so we limit our corn consumption to the occasional tortilla.

Wait … a high iron level is good now?

Some of you may recall the Wood Allen movie Sleeper, in which a man wakes up in the future and discovers (among many other things) that everything once considered good for you is now considered bad for you and vice-versa.

We’ve been told for years to avoid eating too much red meat because the iron it contains will build up in your body and cause heart disease. So I found a recent study reported in Medical News Today rather interesting:

Recent research suggests that iron may have a protective effect against heart disease. These promising findings could pave the way for new treatments.

A team of researchers from Imperial College London and University College London, both in the United Kingdom, set out to examine the link between levels of iron in the body and the risk of developing the most common type of CVD: coronary artery disease (CAD).

Previous research has put forth the idea that levels of iron in the body may be linked to heart disease. But the studies that investigated this link yielded inconsistent results, with some of them suggesting that high iron levels can protect against heart disease and others indicating the exact opposite.

The new research uses Mendelian randomization to investigate this link more closely. More specifically, the scientists – led by Dr. Dipender Gill, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at Imperial College London – tried to establish causality, examining whether or not iron status has a direct effect on CAD risk.

The results confirmed the hypothesis that higher levels of iron reduce the likelihood of developing CAD. “These findings,” the authors conclude, “may highlight a therapeutic target.”

So now a high iron level might be good for us … and of course the goal is to develop new treatments for low iron.

I think I’ll just eat a steak and go on my merry way.

Meatless Mondays in the land of good beef?

And while I’m eating steaks to keep my iron status up, officials in Argentina are looking for ways to reduce beef consumption. Here are some quotes from an article in The Economist:

Argentina is famous for its beef… In 2010 Argentines lost the title of the world’s biggest beefeaters, when measured by annual consumption per person, to neighbouring Uruguayans. Diego Vecino, a writer, lamented Argentina’s declining beef consumption and suggested the country was “immersed in shame”.

Now it seems the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, is embracing the trend. In a bid to start a debate on health and the national diet, it has instituted meat-free Mondays. For one lunch each week, the canteen will only serve vegan options to the 500-plus employees, including President Mauricio Macri.

I love it. In fact, I think our federal government should require all employees to eat nothing but vegan foods at every meal. That alone might reduce the number of federal employees – and if we’re lucky, the ones who remain would be too fatigued to cause trouble for the rest of us.

The introduction of meatless Mondays to the Casa Rosada adds Argentina to the list of countries investigating ways to limit meat consumption. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are in the middle of an obesity crisis. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that a majority of people are overweight in all but three countries of the region.

Argentina has particular grounds for concern. The rate of obesity among its boys is the highest in Latin America, and among girls it is the third-highest. This has been linked to various causes, including excessive eating of beef.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

So Argentina has a childhood obesity problem and they think BEEF is the cause?! Note to Argentine officials (somebody translate this into Spanish): if your kids are getting fat, check their consumption of sugar and other processed carbs. I’m pretty sure beef isn’t the problem.

The Argentine Beef Promotion Institute, a lobbying group, has denounced the move as a bid for votes. Indeed, the promotion of meat-free eating has become rather political. A German proposal from 2013 calling for “Veggie Day” in public canteens led to a backlash. It was condemned as an “ecological dictatorship” and received considerable attention in pre-election coverage. Germans voted “nein” to the Greens that year.

And of course, The Anointed accepted the will of the masses rather than proceed with the Grand Plan …

Undeterred, the country’s environment ministry said earlier this year that it would stop serving meat and fish at official functions.

Yeah, that’s what I expected. The article provides more examples of The Anointed in action:

Portugal passed a law this year requiring a vegan option at public institutions. The UN’s International Resource Panel has called for governments to tax meat products. Researchers at Oxford University found that pricing food according to its climate impact could prevent more than half a million early deaths every year, largely in Europe, the United States, Australia and China. And surveys show that measures restricting meat consumption could be accepted by the public if justified in their interest.

Riiight. Because when The Anointed impose their preferences on you, it’s always for your own good.

I believe I have the answer for Argentina’s childhood obesity problem: put everyone on an all-corn diet. People will then develop an appetite for youngsters. Boom, no more childhood obesity problem.

Luckiest Deer Collision Ever?

We drove to Illinois over the weekend to see The Older Brother’s Middle Son and Youngest Son perform in a play. (They’re both talented actors. In fact, they provide most of the cartoon dialog in the upcoming film version of Fat Head Kids.) I usually do most of the driving, but with my aching back and all, I asked Chareva to drive so I could recline in the back seat.

As she drove along a winding, hilly road a few miles from home on the return trip, I reminded her that deer like to run across the road at night. She slowed down.

Sure enough, we came around a bend and saw three deer in our lane. Chareva let off the gas and steered left to go around them. Unfortunately (as often happens), one of them panicked and ran toward the van instead of away from it.


I jumped in my seat and said a bad word. Sara and Alana were so startled, they almost looked up from their iPads. Chareva might have said a bad word, but I wouldn’t know because I said my bad word too loudly to hear other bad words.

I had no idea how much damage had been done to the deer or the vehicle, but I could see that both headlights were still working, so that was a good sign. I fully expected to have a major dent somewhere on the passenger side.

When we pulled into the driveway, I got out to look. This was the extent of the damage:

I’m not happy we had to replace the mirror, but I felt more gratitude than anything. One of our neighbors had his windshield bashed in by a deer.  Another neighbor hit a big ol’ buck, which came through the windshield and seriously injured his daughter in the passenger seat.  One of the antlers poked a hole in her skull.

We got lucky. Same probably goes for the deer. With the minimal damage to the car, I’m thinking the deer likely ended up with nothing more than a headache and a good story to tell its deer pals.

Shoulder Surgery

I’m having surgery tomorrow to remove the bony mass that’s messing up my left shoulder. The surgeon told me he won’t know how much cutting and bone-sawing will be required until he’s in there. I hope it’s considerably less traumatic than my last shoulder surgery.  I was useless for weeks after that one.

Anyway, I’ll probably be too doped up to post for several days. I’ll let you know how the surgery goes, even if I have to dictate a short post to Chareva.


Comments 27 Comments »

The HPCSA (left) has informed Professor Tim Noakes (right) that the battle to shut him up will continue.

My daughter Sara recently asked to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail with me. She didn’t love it like I did when I first saw it, but she did laugh at the Black Knight scene. I thought of that scene while reading Marika Sboros’ latest article describing how the Health Professions Council of South Africa is continuing to go after Professor Tim Noakes.

As you may recall, the HPCSA filed charges of unprofessional conduct against Noakes because of a tweet – yes, a tweet – that annoyed an obese dietitian named Claire Julsing-Strydom. After a long, expensive, exhausting legal battle, the committee hearing the charges found Noakes not guilty by a vote of 4-1.

During the trial, the HPCSA had both arms cut off in a battle over the science. (Nina Teichholz and Zoe Harcombe were among those swinging swords for Noakes.) But as I mentioned in a recent post, The Anointed never, ever admit they’re wrong or give up trying to impose their Grand Plans on the rest of us. So now the HPCSA is standing there with blood squirting from both shoulder sockets and shouting, “Right! I’ll do you for that!”

They can’t possibly believe they’re continuing this battle to protect the public. They’re just furious that they lost to a guy who recommends a real-food, high-fat, grain-free diet not approved by them … or more accurately, not approved by Big Food, which funds them. And so, taking a page from Big Pharma, they’re going to keep conducting trials until they get the result they want. And what they want is for Professor Noakes to shut up and stop telling people their dietary advice is wrong.

When governments or agencies like the HPCSA prosecute you, they spend other people’s money on legal fees. Meanwhile, you have to spend your own money to defend yourself … or in this case, by relying on attorneys who are outraged enough to work pro bono.

I assume this ongoing witch-hunt makes you angry. So let me suggest a way to show your support for Professor Noakes while simultaneously benefitting yourself or someone you know: order a copy of a Diabetes Unpacked, which was produced by The Noakes Foundation. All proceeds go to the foundation, which will help Professor Noakes continue his important work.

I received a copy some months ago but only recently got around to finishing it. (I always seem to be behind on my reading, a hazard of juggling work, family, farm and multiple creative projects.) It’s an excellent read, and probably the most comprehensive book on diabetes out there, at least among those written for the general public.

The book consists of 14 chapters written by a variety of authors, many of whom you probably follow online. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, for example, wrote the chapter titled What is diabetes? It’s informative, but also filled with his usual wit.

Before starting, I feel I must begin with one of my favourite quotes on the possible causes for diabetes. It comes, once again, from the NHS.

‘Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is also increased if your blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.’

Really! How amazing. If you have a high blood sugar level, you are more likely to end up with an even higher blood sugar level … we are surrounded by flipping geniuses.

Here are some other chapters, their authors and some quotes:

What causes type 2 diabetes? – Dr. Jason Fung

How does hyperinsulinemia lead to insulin resistance? Remember that insulin unlocks the gate that allows glucose to enter the cell. Under conditions of persistently and abnormally high insulin, glucose enters the cell far in excess of energy needs. There’s simply too much glucose going into the cell, so it overflows back out into the blood.

From the outside, it appears that the glucose cannot enter the cell and that insulin is not doing its job, so this is called ‘insulin resistance.’ The cell appears resistant to the effect of insulin. It is an overflow phenomenon, not a gummed-up lock and key one.

How did a LFHC dietitian become LCHF – Dr. Caryn Zinn

Suddenly, what I had always been taught and practiced didn’t seem logical to me. I had never actually thought about these issues, but naturally believed there must be a good reason for carbohydrates being as important as they’re made out to be in mainstream guidance systems and clinical practice … I figured the only thing to do was to go away and dig up the evidence that justified these concepts.

(You can probably guess what happened when she went looking for the actual scientific evidence supporting high-carb/low-fat diets as the key to health.)

Why do we eat so much carbohydrate? – Dr. Zoe Harcombe

In ideal research circumstances, epidemiological evidence would have established clear and consistent associations and then well designed randomized controlled trials (RTCs) would have followed and set out to test associations found. This did not happen with the development of the diet-heart hypothesis.

Why do people with diabetes die from heart disease? – Dr. Jeffrey Gerber and Ivor Cummins

There are many contributors to heart disease progression, but the insulin resistance syndrome best describes the state that accelerates vascular degeneration. It is essentially a state of metabolic mayhem. Many organs and biological pathways are involved, as the body struggles to maintain homeostasis. All the while, a system-wide fire is burning through one’s vascular network. What develops downstream is inflammation, oxidative stress and advanced glycation, which is ultimately damaging to multiple organ systems – especially the blood vessels.

Why are low carbohydrate high fat diets best for all persons with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and for almost all athletes? – Dr. Tim Noakes

For 33 years I personally ate and promoted a high carbohydrate diet for both health and athletic performance. So in the 4th edition of my book The Lore of Running, I wrote that “all athletes must be advised to eat high-carbohydrate diets both in training and especially before competition. This interpretation forms the central pillar of the profession of sports nutrition as high-carbohydrate diets are now considered ideal for both health and sport.”

I no longer believe that this statement is correct. In fact, I now think this advice is totally wrong and probably harmful to a majority of those who might choose to follow it.

And that’s why the HPSCA wants to silence Professor Noakes.

The politics of nutrition – Nina Teicholz

Given the global failure to make any meaningful progress to date in combating this type of diabetes, one has to ask why this new and promising approach has not been more enthusiastically embraced by health officials. In fact, we see quite the opposite, with authorities in quite a few countries attempting to shut down those practicing or promoting a low-carbohydrate approach.

These events cannot be described as routine disciplinary actions. They appear instead to be oppressive attempts to silence the science and practice of low-carbohydrate diets, motivated by a mixture of industry forces, institutional rigidities, longstanding biases and deeply entrenched interests – all of which are threatened by the success of a treatment that is the very opposite of what officials have espoused for decades.

“I have no quarrel with you, good sir knight. I merely want to pass along some dietary advice that actually works.”

“Then you shall die.”

[Draws his sword] “So be it!”

By the time you finish this book, you’ll understand what causes type 2 diabetes, how to prevent it, and what to do if you’ve already developed the condition. You won’t be surprised if I tell you the advice wouldn’t meet with the approval of the HPSCA or any number of obese dietitians who want Tim Noakes to shut up and go away.

But Noakes won’t shut up or go away, because he has a steel spine and refuses to be intimidated by bullies. And he’ll continue to win because, as Diabetes Unpacked demonstrates, the actual science is his Excalibur.

But for now, I suspect we’ll continue to see the HPSCA hopping around on one leg and screaming, “The Black Knight always triumphs! I’m invincible!”


Comments 36 Comments »

My apologies for the recent lack of activity. It’s been … how do I put this? … an interesting couple of weeks.

A few months ago, I started getting occasional pains in my left shoulder when I raised my arm with my elbow bent. It just seemed to come and go. After a workout at the gym one weekend, it came to stay. So I went to see the same orthopedic surgeon who operated on my knee back in 2012.

He of course started with the conservative approach: a cortisone shot and a stretching program. That actually worked on my right shoulder some years ago when I had pain and tightness in there. But this time around, the stretching program just caused my left shoulder to throb. I went back for an MRI so the doc could get a deeper look. Here’s what he found:

That round protrusion shouldn’t be there, or at least not so close to the top of my humerus. It’s probably a kinder, gentler version of the big ol’ bone spur I had surgically removed 14 years ago. When that spur dug into the joint, it felt like being stabbed with a dagger. This time it’s more like a hard pinch when I raise my arm and the bones collide.

It’s not an emergency situation, so we scheduled a surgery for November 3rd. The surgeon will shave away some of that bony mass to create more room for the top of the humerus. Looks like I’ll be wearing a sling when my birthday rolls around. And here I was, all happy with myself for not looking or feeling my age …

I’m right-handed, and the pain only kicks in when I raise my left arm to shoulder height. Being a male and somewhat hard-headed, I concluded this means I could continue doing work around the farm on weekends.

After making great progress on Sara’s cabin a year ago, we got sidetracked with the holidays and then with finishing the book and the film.  We haven’t done any construction since.

I’d like for Sara to enjoy the finished cabin before she heads off to college in four years, so last weekend, I took a Dremel saw and cut back the sections of wood that join the 2 x 4s in the ceiling. With the excess wood gone, we’ll be able to finish nailing planks to the 2 x 4s. I managed to do that without raising my left arm to the pain point.

This project we had planned for this weekend was to toss the rotting stumps that surround our front-yard fire pit into the forest, then replace them with fresh stumps from the big ol’ pine tree that nearly hit the house some months ago.

After we tossed the rotting stumps, I asked Chareva to help me drag the bridge that crosses our creek back into place – it had floated several feet downstream during the last heavy rain.

As I was dragging my end along, my left foot slid down the bank and into the creek, which put me in a bit of an awkward, partly-sideways position. Now, the smart move at that point would have been to set the bridge down and get into a comfortable position before lifting again. But being a male and somewhat hard-headed, I decided I could just yank the bridge into position with my upper body.

I don’t think my back made any actual sound, but if the scene had been captured on video and I were in charge of sound effects, I’d probably use the violin-pluck DOINK! sound made popular by the Three Stooges. Then I’d follow it with whatever sounds are appropriate for masking a long string of curse words.

I straightened up slowly, hoping it was just a passing tightness in the lower back. Nope. I’d twisted something out of position, and bending in any direction gave me a stab of pain near my spine, just above the belt.

Well, that certainly changes the weekend project plans.

I ended up spending the rest of Saturday and Sunday either in bed or sitting in my well-padded Lazy Boy recliner. I only moved when I had to. Chareva and the girls brought me food and drinks. I numbed the pain with red wine on Saturday and acetaminophen on Sunday.

Today I paid what I’m now calling The Dumbass Tax to my chiropractor. Fortunately, he’s very good and offers a hefty discount for patients who pay with cash. He confirmed what I already suspected: I’d yanked my lower spine out of position a bit.

The second manipulation on my lower back gave me a little pain spike followed by rather a lot of relief. I still have pain and swelling from a strained muscle back there, but it no longer feels like a nerve is being compressed.

I’ll pay The Dumbass Tax again on Wednesday, then see how I feel. At least I can get out of my chair and walk a bit now without wincing in pain. That’s good news. After all, I have to walk into the surgery center next week to have a bony mass shaved from my shoulder.

You’ll understand if my posting schedule continues to be a bit sporadic.


Comments 54 Comments »

I didn’t write a post last night because the Cubs were in a do-or-die playoff game that ran late. But I did come across an interesting study that speaks volumes about The Anointed and their never-ending plans to (ahem) “help” the rest of us.

It’s been awhile since I’ve explained how The Anointed think and operate, so rather than link back to previous posts, let’s recap.

I borrowed the term The Anointed from author Thomas Sowell, who described them in great detail in his fabulous books Intellectuals and Society and The Vision of The Anointed. As Sowell explains, here’s the pattern we see with these people over and over:

1. The Anointed identify a problem in society. That problem is now The Bad.

2. The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. The Grand Plan nearly always involves spending more of other people’s money and/or restricting more of other people’s freedoms.

3. Because they are so supremely confident in themselves and their ideas, The Anointed don’t believe they should be bothered with having to provide proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work. In fact, they often insist that because the problem is So Bad, we must adopt the Grand Plan RIGHT NOW.

4. Because the problem is The Bad, The Anointed assume their Grand Plan to fix the problem is The Good. Therefore anyone who opposes the Grand Plan isn’t simply opposing a plan; no, he or she is supporting The Bad and opposing The Good. The Anointed take this as proof that anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is either evil or stupid.

5. Because only evil or stupid people would oppose the Grand Plan, The Anointed feel entitled to impose the Grand Plan on others — for their own good, of course.

6. If the Grand Plan fails to solve the problem (which it usually the case) or makes it worse (which is often the case), The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit that the Grand Plan was wrong. Instead, they will insist that 1) the Grand Plan was good, but was undermined by people who are evil or stupid, or 2) the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough … which means we need to do the same thing again, ONLY BIGGER.

So with that in mind, let’s look at the abstract of a study (actually a meta-analysis) with the title A Meta-Analysis to Determine the Impact of Restaurant Menu Labeling on Calories and Nutrients (Ordered or Consumed) in U.S. Adults:

A systematic review and meta-analysis determined the effect of restaurant menu labeling on calories and nutrients chosen in laboratory and away-from-home settings in U.S. adults. Cochrane-based criteria adherent, peer-reviewed study designs conducted and published in the English language from 1950 to 2014 were collected in 2015, analyzed in 2016, and used to evaluate the effect of nutrition labeling on calories and nutrients ordered or consumed. Before and after menu labeling outcomes were used to determine weighted mean differences in calories, saturated fat, total fat, carbohydrate, and sodium ordered/consumed which were pooled across studies using random effects modeling. Stratified analysis for laboratory and away-from-home settings were also completed. Menu labeling resulted in no significant change in reported calories ordered/consumed in studies with full criteria adherence, nor the 14 studies analyzed with ≤1 unmet criteria, nor for change in total ordered carbohydrate, fat, and saturated fat (three studies) or ordered or consumed sodium (four studies). A significant reduction of 115.2 calories ordered/consumed in laboratory settings was determined when analyses were stratified by study setting. Menu labeling away-from-home did not result in change in quantity or quality, specifically for carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, or sodium, of calories consumed among U.S. adults.

In other words, the evidence from several studies demonstrates what common sense should have told The Anointed years ago: mandatory listings of calories and other nutrition information on restaurant menus don’t prompt people to eat less (except in a laboratory setting, which is meaningless.) In fact, nothing changes … total calories consumed, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sodium, you name it. It’s almost as if when people go to restaurants, they order the foods they like, not the foods The Anointed want them to order.

It’s a perfect example of The Anointed in action.

The Anointed identify a problem in society.

The problem, of course, is the rise in obesity.

The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. The Grand Plan nearly always involves confiscating and spending more of other people’s money and/or restricting more of other people’s freedoms.

Restaurant owners complained that being forced to have every food item on the menu tested for calorie and nutrition counts and then listing them on menus would cost a ton of money (much of which would passed on to consumers.) The Anointed, of course, didn’t care. Spending other people’s money is what they love to do.

Because they are so supremely confident in themselves and their ideas, The Anointed don’t believe they should be bothered with having to provide proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work.

There was never any evidence that forcing people to look at calorie counts would convince them to eat less. If The Anointed wanted to make a case for menu laws, they could have conducted some simple, inexpensive studies.  Put calorie counts on menus at a couple of restaurants and see if people ate less as a result.  But of course, The Anointed can’t be bothered with supplying evidence.  So the menu laws were rammed through.

I predicted back in 2009 that the menu laws The Guy From CSPI and others were demanding wouldn’t make any difference:

Here’s how the politicians and the nutrition-nannies believe those calorie-count menu boards will make us thinner:

  • Fat Customer waddles into McDonald’s, intending to order a Double Quarter Pounder value meal.
  • Fat Customer is confronted with the calorie count, right there on the menu board where he can’t possibly miss it.
  • Fat Customer says to himself, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea there were so many calories in this meal! I’m going to order a Filet-O-Fish and a bottle of water.”
  • Fat Customer is satisfied with this low-calorie meal and, thanks to the menu board, begins eating low-calorie meals at restaurants from this point forward.
  • Fat Customer loses weight, as do millions of other fat customers. The obesity epidemic is solved. Rates of heart disease, cancer, and type II diabetes plummet. Medicare expenditures drop by 50 percent.
  • Millions of formerly-obese citizens march on Washington to express their gratitude. Hallelujah, hallelujah! All praise the wise and wonderful politicians and Kelly Brownell and CSPI for saving us from our ignorance and gluttony!

This fantasy outcome was based on the belief that people are stupid. They go to restaurants, order high-calorie meals they somehow don’t recognize as high-calorie meals, get fatter, yet have no idea why. So by gosh, if we make them look at the calorie counts, they’ll finally realize what they’re doing wrong and eat less.

Nonsense. Here’s more of what I wrote in 2009:

Here’s an even more likely scenario:

  • Fat Customer waddles into McDonald’s, intending to order a Double Quarter Pounder value meal.
  • Fat Customer is confronted with the calorie count, right there on the menu board where he can’t possibly miss it.
  • Fat Customer says to himself, “I don’t give a @#$%. I’m famished, and I want the Double Quarter Pounder value meal.”

The calorie-count menu laws were, of course, imposed on everyone by The Anointed — for their own good.

If the Grand Plan fails to solve the problem (which it usually the case) or makes it worse (which is often the case), The Anointed will never, ever, ever that admit the Grand Plan was wrong. Instead, they will insist that 1) the Grand Plan was good, but was undermined by people who are evil or stupid, or 2) the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough … which means we need to do the same thing again, ONLY BIGGER.

So how will The Anointed do the same thing again, only bigger? Actually, they already have. Originally, they wanted restaurants to post nutrition information where everyone could see it. The restaurants complied, but people didn’t eat less as a result. Faced with this failure, The Anointed of course didn’t conclude that the Grand Plan was based on faulty ideas.

No, instead they decided that people were too lazy and stupid to walk over and look at that big nutrition poster on the wall before ordering a meal. So by gosh, we need to put the information right on the restaurant menu, where people can’t possibly miss it.

As the recent study shows, that didn’t work either. So we wasted a lot of time, effort, and other people’s money on a Grand Plan that didn’t make a dent in the obesity problem.

You’d think The Anointed would give up at this point. Maybe, but I doubt it. I think it’s more likely they’ll wait for more favorable political conditions, then propose new regulations requiring every restaurant to employ an on-site nutritionist. If you dare to order a meal full of saturated fat and sodium, the nutritionist will be required to stride up to your table and lecture you on your bad choices.

Yeah, I know … that sounds crazy. But we’re talking about The Anointed here. They are often wrong, but never in doubt – and no matter how many times they fail to control what we want and what we do, they never, ever stop trying.


Comments 51 Comments »

As you’ve probably heard, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) recently gave the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee the spanking it deserves. Here are some quotes from an editorial in The Hill written by Rep. Andy Harris, who also happens to be a doctor:

The nation’s senior scientific body recently released a new report raising serious questions about the “scientific rigor” of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This report confirms what many in government have suspected for years and is the reason why Congress mandated this report in the first place: our nation’s top nutrition policy is not based on sound science.

In order to “develop a trustworthy DGA [guidelines],” states the report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), “the process needs to be redesigned.”

Among other things, the report finds that the guidelines process for reviewing the scientific evidence falls short of meeting the “best practices for conducting systematic reviews,” and advises that “methodological approaches and scientific rigor for evaluating the scientific evidence” need to “be strengthened.”

In other words, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are far from the “gold standard” of science and dietary advice they need to be. In fact, they may be doing little to improve our health at all.

Heh-heh-heh … remember what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, wrote a piece in the British Medical Journal criticizing the dietary guidelines as unscientific? Dr. David Katz (who reviewed his own novel under a false name and compared himself to Milton and Chaucer) dismissed her critique as “the opinion of one journalist.” The USDA’s report, he insisted, “is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts.”

Then for good measure, he and several other members of The Anointed tried to harass BMJ into retracting the article by Teicholz.

And now along comes the NASEM report, saying Teicholz was right. The “opinion of one journalist” (which of course was shared by countless doctors and researchers) is now the official opinion of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. You gotta love it. Perhaps Dr. Katz can write a rebuttal to the NASEM report, then review his rebuttal under a false name and compare himself to Albert Einstein.

Anyway, back to the editorial by Rep. Harris:

It seems clear that the lack of sound science has led to a number of dietary tenets that are not just mistaken, but even harmful – as a number of recent studies suggest.

For instance, the guidelines’ recommendation to eat “healthy whole grains” turns out not to be supported by any strong science, according to a recent study by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group specializing in scientific literature reviews. Looking at all the data from clinical trials, which is the most rigorous data available, the study concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” to show that whole grains reduced blood pressure or had any cardiovascular benefit.

So far, so good. Now for the part where I disagree a bit:

It is imperative that the advice championed by our national nutrition policy be unimpeachable. With the process for the 2020 guidelines soon to be underway, now is the time for the Congress to take action to reform the Dietary Guidelines development process so that proposed guidelines work as intended – as a tool to restore and protect our nation’s health.

I periodically receive requests to sign a petition to put this-or-that expert in charge of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee. I always politely decline. Here’s who I think should be in charge of the nation’s dietary guidelines:


That’s right, nobody. We don’t need national dietary guidelines any more than we need national dog-grooming guidelines. People managed to figure out which foods were good for them long before the federal government got involved. In fact, it’s pretty obvious by now that the crowd wisdom handed down over the generations was vastly superior to the New & Improved! dietary advice concocted in Washington 40 years ago.

For reasons I can’t fathom, some people believe if you want a job done right, then by gosh, you need to put the feds in charge. Our history says otherwise. People don’t magically become smarter, wiser, or more ethical when they go to work for the federal government. They do, however, acquire the power to replace the diffused wisdom of crowds with the centralized decisions of the few. I don’t want a little group of experts in charge of dietary policy, even if they’re experts you and I respect.

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his terrific book Antifragile, centralized decision-making amplifies mistakes. If you empower one little group of experts to make decisions for everyone, their mistakes affect everyone.

That’s exactly what happened with our national dietary guidelines, which were imposed on schools, prisons, hospitals, the military, and pretty much every other institution run or funded by government. Worse yet, other countries adopted and imposed our dietary guidelines, apparently believing the people who wrote them had a flippin’ clue. Whoops.

Taleb points out that we rarely see big, disastrous governmental screw-ups in Switzerland. Why? Because there’s little centralized authority. Switzerland functions as a loose confederation of city-states that make most of their own decisions. If a city-state makes a bad decision, it doesn’t ripple through the entire country. The harm remains local. The other city-states see a plan that didn’t work and avoid it. On the other hand, if a city-state makes a very good decision, the other city-states see the happy result and adopt a similar plan.

That’s how the U.S. was originally intended to function as well. The states, not the federal government, were supposed to be the incubators of public policies. States and local governments can learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. When the feds make a mistake, what we usually learn is that while only death and taxes are forever, crappy federal departments and programs are so hard to kill, they may as well be immortal.

I’m glad the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine gave the USDA Dietary Committee the spanking it deserves. If the 2020 national dietary guidelines are based on rigorous science, that would certainly be an improvement.

But the best outcome would be if Congress decided, once and for all, that the rest of us don’t need the U.S. government telling us how to eat. There’s no good reason to have bureaucrats in Washington deciding what grade schools in Franklin, Tennessee are allowed to serve for lunch.

Low-carb, paleo, gluten-free, locally raised … they’re all grass-roots movements that are making a huge difference. Nobody’s in charge of them.  They weren’t designed by government committees – if anything, they were resisted by government committees, but thrived anyway because of the Wisdom of Crowds effect.

So instead of rooting for 2020 to be the year we finally get some real scientists on the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee, I’m hoping it’s the first year new dietary guidelines are scheduled to be released, but nobody bothers to write them.


Comments 99 Comments »