Archive for the “Government Foolishness” Category
The most recent Dietary Guidelines declared that cholesterol is “no longer a nutrient of concern.” Yup, after nearly 40 years of warning people away from egg yolks, the government folks finally checked the actual science and then sort of admitted being wrong. It was a step forward. But, government being what it is, I suppose a corresponding step backwards was inevitable. Here are some quotes from a recent article in The Chicago Tribune:
The Obama administration is pressuring the food industry to make foods from breads to sliced turkey less salty, proposing long-awaited sodium guidelines in an effort to prevent thousands of deaths each year from heart disease and stroke.
So the Obama administration must have solid scientific evidence that reducing sodium in food products will prevent heart attacks and strokes … just like the First Lady must have solid evidence that telling kids “Let’s Move!” and cutting the fat and calories in their school lunches will reduce obesity. But we’ll come back to the salt-cardiovascular disease evidence.
The guidelines released Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration are voluntary, so food companies won’t be required to comply, and it could be a year or more before they are final. But the idea is to persuade companies and restaurants — many of which have already lowered sodium levels in their products — to take a more consistent approach.
Ah, I see: the guidelines are voluntary. Based on government history, here’s how that will work:
“Hey, food companies, we’d like you volunteer to reduce the sodium in food.”
“No thanks. People don’t like the food as much when we lower the sodium.”
“You don’t seem to understand. We’re asking you to do this voluntarily.”
“Got it. Voluntary guidelines. So we choose not to follow them.”
“Well, then, we’ll have to force you to follow them.”
“But you said the guidelines were voluntary.”
“Yes, but you didn’t volunteer, so now we’re imposing them.”
Sodium content already is included on existing food labels, but the government has not set specific sodium recommendations. The guidelines suggest limits for about 150 categories of foods, from cereals to pizzas and sandwiches. There are two-year and 10-year goals.
And a five-year plan issued by the Kremlin.
Health officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said overwhelming scientific evidence shows that blood pressure increases when sodium intake increases, increasing the chances of heart disease and stroke.
Overwhelming evidence, eh? That would mean 1) the science shows that high sodium intake leads to heart attacks and strokes, and 2) the science also shows that most Americans have a high sodium intake that puts them at risk. And let’s add a third point: before issuing a “voluntary” guideline for lowering the sodium in food, we’d want to be sure that people don’t respond to low-sodium foods by reaching for the salt shaker – which is what I do.
So how much sodium are we consuming, anyway?
Americans eat about 1½ teaspoons of salt daily, or 3,400 milligrams. That amount hasn’t gone down over the years, and it’s about a third more than the government recommends for good health. Most of that sodium is hidden inside common processed foods and restaurant meals, making it harder for consumers to control how much they eat.
I just explained that I have no trouble controlling how much sodium I eat. Give me low-sodium food, I reach for the salt shaker. That’s because 1) I like salt on my food, and 2) I’ve actually looked at the science – something regulators at the FDA apparently haven’t. Here’s a quote from a 2011 article in Scientific American:
A meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.
And here are some quotes from a recent article about a new meta-analysis:
A controversial new study contends that a low-salt diet could be dangerous for your heart health.
Notice how it’s only “controversial” if a study concludes that government advice is wrong?
Restricting dietary salt to below 3,000 milligrams a day appears to increase the risk for heart disease similar to that of high blood pressure patients who eat too much salt, said lead researcher Andrew Mente.
He said his study results showed that a low-salt diet increases the risk of heart attack or stroke 26 percent for people without high blood pressure and 34 percent for people with high blood pressure.
For those with high blood pressure, too much dietary salt increases their risk 23 percent, the study said.
On the other hand, a diet with excess salt doesn’t increase the risk at all if blood pressure is normal, the study reported.
“Most of the population eats what they’re supposed to eat, based on the data,” Mente said. “They fall in the middle and that’s actually the sweet spot — the safest range of intake.”
Mente’s study is observational, and you know what I think of observational studies are far as demonstrating cause and effect. But keep in mind that if A causes B, A and B will be correlated. So if A isn’t correlated with B, A doesn’t cause B. Mente found that a normal sodium intake – the 3400 milligrams the government says is too much – isn’t associated with heart attacks of strokes. But a lower sodium intake is. So naturally, the FDA wants us to cut back. And they’re (ahem) “asking” food companies to volunteer to help.
Back to the Tribune article:
Some companies have worried that though the limits will be voluntary, the FDA is at heart a regulatory agency, and the guidelines are more warning than suggestion.
Gee, do you think?
51 Comments »
Well, it’s sure been an eventful year in Illinois politics, what with the veto-proof Democratic legislature and the Republican governor putting together a surprise last-minute deal for an honest-to-goodness balanced budget that will get the 100+ billion pension debt paid down over the next ten years, AND address the unfunded state retiree health benefit obligations ($56 B), while knocking down the $5+ billion backlog of bills to vendors dating back over a year now, and simultaneously restoring state services to the indigent, and even finally opening our state museum and public parks again.
HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!
Man, if you could see the look on your face! Sometimes, I just crack myself up.
Actually the unfunded pension liability rose over $6 billion last year to over $111 billion (in a record up market), retiree health beneficiaries are one year closer to insolvency, and state vendors (including social service NFP’s) are still registering red on the “How Screwed Are We?” meter, but at least according to the budget — …
Oh wait, there is no budget.
I don’t mean a budget for this year. I mean the fiscal year 2015 budget, that started July 1, 2015 and is ending in less than two months. They haven’t finished passing a budget for that. It’s not looking so good for 2016 either.
Not to worry — welfare checks and state worker checks (including the legislators who haven’t passed a law to pay anything) are still going out. Just not the ones for if you, say, sold the state some office supplies; or rent a building to them; or provide care to the mentally disabled. Little stuff like that.
You would be forgiven for thinking that our elected officials, who are demonstrably incapable of discharging even their most basic, simple tasks, are just absolutely useless. You couldn’t be more wrong — they’re much worse than useless.
They may not be able to do things like pass a budget and allocate funds for things like taking care of poor people, funding schools, building roads, and sundry other basics that even libertarians like me understand people now want government to do (not agree, of course, but understand); but that doesn’t mean they aren’t busy.
Sorry. I know I didn’t give you a “Politics!” trigger warning, but that’s not the real point of this post. Here’s the point:
As I confidently predicted here and reiterated here, the bureaucrats have completed their inevitable march to addressing one of the most dangerous health scourges facing our nation…
… yes, after three years, the $100,000 a year, state-employed lick-spittle turds who are being funded by the USDA to get raw milk out of the market apparently wore down the mom-and-pop operators who had to take time off (lose income) every time they (re-)proposed new regulations.
Remember kids — regulators never get you with brains, competence, or results. They always win by exhaustion.
As elaborated in my prior posts, they can’t just make raw milk illegal. When they want to take away something the Bigs (Ag, Pharma, Banking, or in this case Milk) don’t want to have to compete with, they just regulate you to death.
[Here’s the short version if you didn’t read those previous posts:
“after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:
‘I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially. Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.’
Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…
‘I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit. Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons. But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.’
It’s what they do.”]
The first posts were after a 2013 hearing. The followup was from 2014. Our betters had to lay in the weeds for over another year, but then they did exactly what I said they’d do. It’s like Gravity.
Right again. Dammit.
So starting in July, when I go to Linda’s farm — where I can always walk around and see the cows my milk comes from, and see the operation, and walk through the barn she milks in, there will be a few other things in place.
For my protection, of course.
Like, she’ll have to get a permit from the insolvent Illinois government. But first,she’ll have to complete an inspection by the incompetent Illinois government. She’ll have to take samples and pay for a lab to test the milk for a few weeks to get the permit, then do regular ongoing tests. Any day anyone buys milk, she’ll have to store a sample of the milk for two weeks. If the department doesn’t like the way her barn looks, they can shut her down until she makes it look nice to them and they re-inspect her. Getting an inspection rescheduled could be difficult as the state doesn’t have a budget, so they can’t hire more inspectors, and even if it did they don’t have any money to pay for more inspectors.
[They can also shut her down if one of her free-ranging egg chickens walks through the milk barn. Hey, it sounds harsh, but you have to be cautious about the whole “avian flu” thing that used to wipe out whole geographic areas of birds and spread disease until we started safely housing hundreds of thousands of chickens in legal, government approved and inspected warehouses; cutting their beaks off; and force feeding them antibiotics. Hmmm, I may have that backwards.]
Every time I buy a gallon of her delicious “creamy milk” (as The Grandkids call it), she’ll have to write my name, address, and phone number in a log that she has to keep for six months and make available to the egregiously misnamed Department of Public Health. She’ll have to have a placard up (in letters at least 2 inches high) that states:
“”Warning: Milk that is not pasteurized is sold or distributed here. This dairy farm is not inspected routinely by the Illinois Department of Public Health”
Wooooooo. Scary. It’s supposed to be, anyway.
Also, she’ll have to provide me with “Department-approved consumer awareness information.” It will say things like:
“”WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain pathogens that cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly, women who are pregnant and persons with weakened immune systems.”
Plus, it’s now illegal for any raw milk producer to sell yogurt or cheese made with their raw milk, even if they pasteurize it as part of the process. Wouldn’t want any of these folks being able to earn a value-added premium for their products.
One of the last items in the new reg states that the Department can suspend or revoke the dairy farm permit whenever:
“the Department has reason to believe that a public hazard exists”
So since “the Department” is being funded by the USDA, and the USDA’s position is that there is absolutely no such thing as a safe glass of raw milk, somewhere down the line, you can bet “the Department” will determine that they have reason to believe that anyone producing and selling raw milk constitutes a public hazard.
I’ll say it again,
“It’s what they do.”
I feel so much safer.
Tom should be back next week, hopefully with highlights of the Low Carb Cruise. Thanks for stopping by.
The Older Brother
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As you probably know, the USDA released its newest dietary guidelines last week. Here’s what Medscape online had to say:
Watch your sugar, use caution with the salt shaker, and limit those saturated fats.
That’s the advice from the updated U.S. nutritional guidelines, released Thursday by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The guidelines are published every 5 years and aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence about what we eat.
If the guidelines aim to reflect the latest science-based evidence, then the committee members have a lousy aim. Several recent studies have concluded that saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease, and yet the USDA still tells us to restrict saturated fat. The committee also tells us to restrict salt, even though a study commissioned by the Centers For Disease Control concluded that following those guidelines isn’t necessary and might even be harmful.
“Diet is one of the most powerful tools we have to take control of our own health,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters at a briefing Thursday. “There are many ways to stay healthy, but nutrition will always be at the foundation of good health.”
That’s true. Too bad we have the USDA telling people what to eat. I seem to recall that Americans were leaner and healthier before the USDA got involved.
While some groups like the American Medical Association praise and support the guidelines, critics say the recommendations don’t go far enough — and they’ve accused the government of playing politics with Americans’ health.
“It really is a betrayal of science to politics,” says David Katz, MD, founding director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, a federally funded program that studies how changes to lifestyle can prevent disease. “Public health, which means the lives of real people, is being thrown under the political bus.”
I agree with Dr. Katz that the USDA guidelines have little to do with real science – but then neither do the guidelines developed by Dr. Katz. As you may or may not recall, Katz is the goofball behind a nutrition-rating system called NuVal. I wrote about it back in 2010. You can read that post, but here’s all you really need to know: according to Katz, these are excellent choices:
Chocolate Soy Milk (30 grams of sugar)
And these are lousy choices:
Frankly, I’m amazed media reporters are still running to Dr. Katz for (ahem) “expert” commentary. Once a guy’s proved himself a fraud, that ought to disqualify him – and yes, Katz proved himself a fraud awhile back. He wrote glowing reviews of his own book reVision, which he published under a pseudonym. Here’s a quote from the Yale Daily News:
In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.
In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded. “The most opportune comparison may be to a fine wine.” Katz had used similar language two days earlier in a five-star product review he posted on the book’s page on Amazon.
When a guy 1) writes a review of his own book without explaining that it’s his own book and 2) compares himself to Plato, Milton and Dickens, it’s pretty obvious we’re talking a giant egomaniac.
Katz said the reviews conveyed his honest opinion and that he concealed the true authorship of reVision because he preferred to keep his professional life separate from his fiction writing.
Ahh, I see. It’s your honest opinion that you’re in the same league as Plato, Milton and Dickens. Well, sheeoot, that makes it okay, then … although here’s a alternate suggestion for keeping your professional life separate from your fiction writing: go ahead and write your novels under pseudonym – but then don’t write glowing reviews under your real name. That way, you won’t look like a giant egomaniac (and a bit of a moron). Either way, I kind of doubt literature majors of the future will be mentioning Plato, Milton, Dickens and Katz in the same sentence.
Anyway, Katz is apparently upset that the guidelines didn’t place specific limits on eating meat. (Remember, we’re talking about a guy who thinks chocolate soy milk is health food, but turkey and chicken will kill you.)
The guidance does recommend we eat lean meats and poultry, and it notes that eating less meat, including processed meat and processed poultry, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. But it doesn’t offer specific instructions or limits around red and processed meats. Choices can include processed meats and processed poultry, as long as eating patterns stay within the limits for sodium, saturated fats, added sugar, and calories recommended by the new guidelines.
“The science on the link between cancer and diet is extensive,” says Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “By omitting specific diet recommendations, such as eating less red and processed meat, these guidelines miss a critical and significant opportunity to reduce suffering and death from cancer.”
The “science” on the link between cancer and diet may be extensive, but it’s also mostly garbage. People who want to blame meat (a food humans have been eating forever) for causing cancer (a “disease of civilization” that was exceedingly rare among hunter-gatherers) simply cherry-pick the observational studies where a link exists, no matter how weak it is. There are plenty of observational studies that don’t show a link. There are even studies where rates of colon cancer go up as people eat meat, then go down again as they eat even more meat. I wrote about those here.
Well, never mind those studies. Katz is still convinced them (ahem) “science” linking meat to cancer was ignored:
“This is a sad day for nutrition policy in America,” he [Katz] writes. “It is a sad day for public health. It is a day of shame.” In a social media post, he calls the guidelines “a national embarrassment.”
As embarrassing as being caught reviewing your own novel and comparing yourself to Plato, Milton and Dickens?
There was one significant change in the USDA guidelines:
For the first time, the 2015 guidelines tackle added sugars, recommending they make up less than 10% of Americans’ diets. Those do not include naturally-occurring sugars, like those in milk or fruit.
Stop for a moment and let that one sink in. The USDA has been producing these guidelines every five years since 1980. And yet this is the first time they’ve ever recommended restricting added sugars. All those years, yammering on and on about cutting back on red meat, fat and cholesterol, but sugar got a pass. Meanwhile, rates of type diabetes skyrocketed in America … even among kids.
This is also the first time the committee FINALLY admitted they got it wrong about dietary cholesterol, which they now say isn’t a “nutrient of concern.” So at this rate, I suppose they’ll admit they got it wrong about artercloggingsaturatedfat! in the 2050 guidelines. But for now, they still recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 10% of calories … which happens to be the same limit they put on added sugars. So in the minds of committee, added sugars and naturally occurring saturated fats are equally dangerous. Yeah, that’s science-based stuff there.
I believe Nina Teicholz, author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, summed up the new guidelines pretty well:
With the exception of a cap on sugar, these DGAs are virtually identical to those of the past 35 years, during which time obesity and diabetes have skyrocketed. Given the same advice, it’s not clear why we should expect different outcomes, especially when consumption data shows that over the past decades, Americans have, in fact, followed USDA advice, cutting back on butter by 14%, whole milk by 73%, and red meat by 17%, while increasing consumption of grains by 41% and oils by more than 90%.
Due to high-level concern about the failure of our nutrition policy to improve health, Congress recently mandated the first-ever peer review of the Guidelines, by the National Academy of Medicine. This is a critical first step towards ensuring that our nation’s policy is indeed based on rigorous science.
I have one minor disagreement with Teicholz: I’m not convinced mandatory peer review will make much of a difference. A better first step (and last step) would be to get the USDA out of the nutrition-advice business completely. After all, we’re talking about a federal government that has demonstrated over and over that it possesses something akin to a reverse Midas touch: nearly everything it touches turns into @#$%.
These guidelines are no exception.
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Decades ago, The Older Brother opined that when the loony lefties want to violate someone’s constitutional rights, they just claim it’s to save the children. Then if you oppose the loony lefties, they claim you don’t care about children.
Apparently that strategy was limited in its usefulness, because eventually the loony lefties replaced “it’s to save the children!” with “it’s to save the planet!” That’s why Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, eventually quit the organization. He saw environmentalism being hijacked (as he put it) by the political and social causes of the left. Science took a back seat to politics. As Dr. Moore put it in an essay he wrote back in March:
There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.
You’ve got to hand it to the loons; they know a useful weapon when they see it. I mean, heck, it’s one thing not to care about children, but who wants to be accused of not caring about THE ENTIRE PLANET?!
Want to achieve your lifelong goal of transferring wealth from rich countries to poor countries? No problem. Just claim the rich countries are damaging the poor countries by warming the planet, then demand compensation. The U.N. will happily back you on the idea. Want to use the power of government to discourage people from eating meat? Again, no problem. Just claim that the meat-eaters are causing global warmi—er, climate change.
If you’ve read any of my posts about The Anointed, you’ve likely already spotted the pattern. But as a refresher, here’s how The Anointed go about their business (as described by Thomas Sowell in his terrific book The Vision of the Anointed):
- The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD.
- The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. This is now automatically THE GOOD. (By sheer coincidence, the Grand Plan almost always involves restricting other people’s freedoms and/or confiscating more of their money.)
- Because they are so supremely confident in their own theories, The Anointed don’t believe they should be required to provide evidence that the Grand Plan will work. In fact, The Anointed are always so sure the Grand Plan will work, they will happily impose it on other people — for their own good, of course.
- Because the Grand Plan is THE GOOD, The Anointed are sure anyone who opposes it is either evil or stupid.
- When the Grand Plan fails, it can’t possibly mean The Anointed were wrong, because The Anointed are never wrong. Failure can only mean the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough — so we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.
So with that in mind, let’s take a peek at an article on the BBC News site titled Can eating less meat help reduce climate change?
As the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) draws near, the international spotlight is more focused on climate change than at any time since the Copenhagen talks of 2009.
But amid all the talk of decarbonising energy and transport systems, one crucial area remains in the shadows. The livestock sector produces about 15% of global greenhouse gases, roughly equivalent to all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet.
Wait a second … that would mean every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet combined produce just 15% of greenhouses gases, right? And yet you people expect me to believe if you force me to buy fluorescent bulbs for my house, we’ll stop global warmi— er, climate change?
Who is eating all this meat?
Bad people, no doubt.
The US has one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world at about 250g per person per day, almost four times the amount deemed healthy by experts.
That would explain why Native Americans who lived primarily on buffalo meat were always dropping dead of heart disease and cancer.
At the other end of the scale, Indians average less than 10g of meat per day.
They also have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. Somebody should inform those health experts of yours.
Left unchecked, shifting diets, coupled with a growing population, would see global consumption increase by more than 75% by 2050. What is being done about it? Very little.
Mean consumption is unchecked?! You mean nobody is applying force to stop it?! Oh, nooooooo! Please, tell me somebody in government is going to do something!!
Why not? Governments fear a backlash from voters over interference in such a personal choice as diet.
Naww, they shouldn’t fear a backlash if they try to take away our meat. Armed revolution, maybe, but not a simple backlash. But what would be really cool is if governments left this whole thing “unchecked” not out of fear, but because they decided it’s none of their business how much meat we eat.
And because public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is so low, there is very little pressure on governments to do anything about it.
Boy, I just don’t know what’s wrong with the voters these days. You’d think they’d stop worrying about high unemployment, runaway government debts, runaway college costs, insurance premiums being doubled because of the “Affordable” Care Act, terrorism, etc., etc., and put that whole meat-causes-global-warmi-er-climate-change issue at the top of their “government needs to do something!!” list.
Are there any grounds for optimism? Yes.
You mean governments are going to finally admit they’re generally incompetent and stop mucking around in our lives?
Even though COP21 is highlighting the need for climate action and, though a deal seems likely, the pledges made in advance of the summit would put us on a path to warming of about 3C by the end of the century, leaving much work to be done if we are to get to 2C.
Riiiiiiiight. Because those models that predict worldwide temperatures decades into the future have turned out to be so darned accurate.
But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.
I’m sorry, but for a second there, I thought you put the words credible and affordable in the same sentence with governments – you know, like the government that gave us the Food Pyramid and the “Affordable” Care Act. Surely I was mistaken.
But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.
Head. Bang. On. Desk.
Governments should seize this opportunity.
If seizing the opportunity means seizing more taxpayer money, you’ll have no problem selling them on the idea.
The first priority is to increase public awareness – both to allow people to make informed choices about what they eat and to build support for further action.
Ah, I see. So you’re not advocating for the use of force. You’re all about allowing us to make our own choices. Well, no problem, then.
But it is clear that information campaigns alone will not suffice.
Uh … meaning?
Governments should use the full range of policy levers available to them.
Doncha just love the Orwellian rhetoric of the loony left? We need information campaigns so people can make informed choices – and then we need to force them to make the decisions we know are best.
Changing the food served in public organisations – to offer a greater share of vegetarian and vegan options – would provide a boost to sustainable suppliers and issue a powerful signal to the millions of people who eat in public offices, schools, the armed forces, hospitals and prisons.
And when the “powerful signal” doesn’t do the trick …
Price reform will also be needed to reflect environmental costs and incentivise behaviour change at the scale needed.
In other words: @#$% FREE CHOICE! WE NEED TO TAX THE @#$% OUT OF MEAT SO PEOPLE WILL EAT LESS OF IT.
Will the public accept government intervention in our food choices? Focus groups carried out by Chatham House in four countries suggested that as long as the public could see a strong rationale for change, they would come to accept government intervention on diets.
Great. Fabulous. Awesome. Individual rights? Naww, who the heck needs those? Ya see, if we can convince most people that taxing the @#$% out of meat is a good idea, then it’s okay … even if it means people who don’t want to eat less meat have to cut back because they can’t afford it anymore. Remember, folks, when The Anointed impose their will on you, it’s for your own good – and the good of the planet, of course.
What’s more, the public appears to expect that governments will take action in the public good.
Excuse me while I go laugh my ass off at that one ….
… Okay, I’m back.
With a strong enough signal from governments and the media about why we need to change our eating habits, the public is likely to come to accept initially unpopular policies.
Riiiiiiight. Once The Anointed in government and The Anointed in the media convince enough people that eating meat is bad, they’ll want you to use force to make them eat less of it. I mean, it’s not as if they’d just make that informed decision for themselves.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make an informed decision and choose to eat a burger for dinner.
224 Comments »
Since I’m in the middle of writing a book for kids, articles about kids and health that land in my inbox receive special attention. Two recent articles illustrate what’s wrong with the prevailing advice on how to reduce rates of childhood obesity.
That advice, of course, is to cajole, harass, or possibly shame kids into eating less and exercising more. (Strangely, there were few fat kids in my grade school despite a lack of cajoling and harassing.) The USDA-approved lunches are lower in fat and calories than in previous years, and we’ve got federal campaigns like Let’s Move! to promote exercise.
Again, nobody had to cajole kids into moving when I was growing up. Playing outside with friends is what we lived for. If anything, our moms had to yell out the back door and demand we stop playing and come inside for dinner. I’m pretty sure once kids reach the point where they don’t naturally want to move, cajoling won’t make much of a difference.
A recent study supports that point. Here are some quotes from a Science Daily article titled Guilting teens into exercise won’t increase activity:
Just like attempts at influencing hairstyles or clothing can backfire, adults who try to guilt middle-schoolers into exercising won’t get them to be any more active, according to a new study by University of Georgia researchers.
The study, which appears in the September issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found students who don’t feel in control of their exercise choices or who feel pressured by adults to be more active typically aren’t. Middle-schoolers who feel they can make their own decisions about exercising are more likely to see themselves as a person who exercises, which in turn makes them more likely to exercise.
Hmmm … it would be easy to read that and conclude that if you put pressure on kids, they don’t want to exercise, but if you don’t put pressure on them, they do want to exercise. Defiant little tykes, eh?
I think the more likely explanation is that kids who don’t enjoy being active end up being pressured to exercise (because people think they’re lazy), while kids who naturally want to move aren’t pressured. So the associations show up as pressured = less active, not pressured = active.
This age is a critical juncture in a child’s life, as kids typically decrease their activity levels by 50 percent between fifth and sixth grades, said Rod Dishman, the study’s lead author and a professor of kinesiology in the UGA College of Education.
“Our results confirm that the beliefs these kids hold are related to physical activity levels,” Dishman said. “But can we put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active?”
Dishman and colleagues at the University of South Carolina are now looking at ways to help kids identify with exercise at a younger age, so that by the time they reach middle school they are more likely to identify as someone who exercises.
I seriously doubt kids exercise because they identify themselves as someone who exercises. I think it’s likely the other way around: they identify themselves as someone who exercises because they enjoy being active. I identify myself as a disc golfer because I enjoy the game, so I play it. I didn’t take up disc golf because I identified myself as a disc golfer.
What parents and teachers don’t want to create, Dishman cautioned, is a sense of guilt for not exercising. The research overwhelmingly found that students who felt obligated to be more active were less likely to embrace activity overall.
“The best thing is to do it because it’s fun,” Dishman said. “It’s the kids who say they are intrinsically motivated who are more active than the kids who aren’t.”
BINGO. The kids who are intrinsically motivated are feeling what Gary Taubes calls the compulsion to move. Their bodies would rather burn calories than store them, so they feel full of energy. They want to be active.
The kids whose bodies are in calorie-storage mode, on the other hand, don’t feel like moving. They don’t have the energy. Exercise feels like a chore. The research is clear on the chicken-or-the-egg question: kids don’t get fat because they stop moving. They start getting fat first, then stop moving.
That means the problem is diet, which brings us to the other interesting article to land in my inbox. Here are some quotes from an article published by the University of Missouri School of Medicine:
Although health experts recommend breakfast as a strategy to reduce an individual’s chance of obesity, little research has examined if the actual type of breakfast consumed plays a significant role in one’s health and weight management.
Of course the type of breakfast plays a significant role. Does anyone think Pop-Tarts and eggs produce the same hormonal effects?
University of Missouri researchers compared the benefits of consuming a normal-protein breakfast to a high-protein breakfast and found the high-protein breakfast — which contained 35 grams of protein — prevented gains of body fat, reduced daily food intake and feelings of hunger, and stabilized glucose levels among overweight teens who would normally skip breakfast.
Heather Leidy, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said the key to eating 35 grams of protein is to consume a combination of high-quality proteins including milk, eggs, lean meats and Greek yogurt.
I don’t think the meat necessarily has to be lean, but a big YES on the protein. Protein intake has a strong effect on appetite.
Leidy and her colleagues fed two groups of overweight teens ,who reported skipping breakfast between five and seven times a week, either normal-protein breakfast meals or high-protein breakfast meals. A third group of teens continued to skip breakfast for 12 weeks.
“The group of teens who ate high-protein breakfasts reduced their daily food intake by 400 calories and lost body fat mass, while the groups who ate normal-protein breakfast or continued to skip breakfast gained additional body fat,” Leidy said. “These results show that when individuals eat a high-protein breakfast, they voluntarily consume less food the rest of the day. In addition, teens who ate high-protein breakfast had more stable glucose levels than the other groups.”
Give kids more protein, and they spontaneously eat less. No cajoling or harassing required. They eat less because they’re not as hungry, period. Same goes for adults, by the way. That shows up in the research over and over.
So let’s take a look at what the geniuses behind the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (championed by The First Lady, as the USDA site informs us right at the top) require for federally-approved school breakfasts.
A cup of fruit per day is required. Grains are required. A cup of milk is required, but of course that would be skim milk – although it can be “flavored,” according to a different document. That means chocolate or strawberry milk with sugar. There’s no meat or even a meat alternative required – although in the footnotes, you can find this gem:
Beginning July 1, 2013 (SY 2013-2014), schools may substitute 1 oz. eq. of meat/meat alternate for 1 oz. eq. of grains after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.
Well, that is just damned generous of the feds to allow schools to swap an ounce of meat for an ounce of grains … after the minimum daily grains requirement is met. Kids just can’t be healthy without those grains, ya know.
So according to the USDA, this is the breakfast that will give us healthy, hunger-free kids: fruit, grains, and fat-free milk with sugar. No meat or eggs required.
And that’s why people think kids need to be pressured into eating less and moving more: they’re put on diets that make them want to eat more and move less. Then people blame the kids.
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Waaaaay back in 2009, I wrote a post about the Los Angeles City Council’s ban on new fast-food restaurants on the city’s south side – a poor area with a high level of obesity. Here’s part of what I wrote:
The ban hasn’t done diddly, of course — and won’t — but it did serve one important purpose: it satisfied the congenital need of politicians to do something! whenever they see a problem.
Before getting into the economic and nutritional stupidity of this ban, I’m going to risk receiving some hate mail by actually acknowledging the elephant in the room: racism. South Los Angeles is populated almost exclusively by African-Americans and Hispanics. Telling them they can’t have any more fast-food restaurants in their neighborhoods is paternalistic and insulting. It’s rooted in the notion that they can’t make smart decisions for themselves, and therefore need a government nanny to hide the cookie jar.
When I wrote that post, I hadn’t yet read Thomas Sowell’s terrific book The Vision of the Anointed, so I didn’t describe the Grand Plan Fast-Food Ban as an example of The Anointed at work. But boy howdy, that’s exactly what it was. Here’s a quick recap of how Sowell describes The Anointed imposing their vision (which I recounted in more detail in my speech Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds):
1. The Anointed identify a problem in society.
Yeah, okay, there’s a high rate of obesity on the south side of Los Angeles. It’s a problem.
2. The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem.
Let’s ban new fast-food restaurants from opening on the south side! Very grand indeed.
3. Because they are so supremely confident in their ideas, The Anointed don’t bother with proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work.
As I pointed out in the 2009 post, the Rand Corporation had already produced a study showing there were more fast-food restaurants per capita on the west side of Los Angeles – a mostly-white area where obesity isn’t a problem. So that would suggest proximity to fast-food restaurants wasn’t the cause of obesity. There were zero studies demonstrating that limiting fast-food restaurants would do diddly squat. But hey, we’re talking about The Anointed here. They don’t need proof or evidence. All they need are good intentions.
4. If possible, The Anointed will impose the Grand Plan on other people (for their own good, of course).
I’d say not allowing people to open new restaurants (which would fail if they didn’t have willing customers) pretty much qualifies as imposing a plan. That’s the thing about those Grand Plans: they almost involve confiscating and spending other people’s money or limiting other people’s freedoms – or both for a truly Grand Plan.
5. The Anointed assume anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is either evil or stupid.
In this case, I’d say the City Council idjits probably view the fast-food restaurants as evil and the people who eat there as stupid – which of course means they need The Anointed to (ahem) help them by limiting their choices.
6. If the Grand Plan fails, The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit the Grand Plan was wrong.
Fail? Now why in the heck would a Grand Plan based on zero evidence and a healthy dose of economic illiteracy fail? But I predicted in 2009 that it would:
Fast-food restaurants are convenient target, but shooting at the wrong target doesn’t get the job done. Banning McDonald’s and other fast-food joints from poor neighborhoods won’t make poor people any leaner. But it will create another tribute to the economic stupidity of legislators … namely, it will deprive a lot of unskilled but work-minded teenagers of their first job opportunities, with at least the possibility of moving into management someday.
It’s been seven years since that ban was imposed. That ought to be enough time for the positive effects of limiting other people’s freedom to manifest, eh? An article from the Los Angeles Times describes the results:
Seven years ago, Los Angeles made national headlines with a novel attempt to reduce obesity in South L.A. by banning new fast-food restaurants.
A “novel” attempt. If you saw my speech, you may recall that Sowell says The Anointed are attracted to ideas that are new, bold, or exquisitely expressed. New and bold are substitutes for supported by evidence they’ll actually work.
But a new study found the effort has not achieved its intended goal.
Well, I am shocked.
A Rand Corp. report released Thursday says that from 2007 to 2012, the percentage of people who were overweight or obese increased everywhere in L.A., but the increase was significantly greater in areas covered by the fast-food ordinance, including Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park.
The study also found fast-food consumption went up in South L.A. as well as across the county during that time.
Now, the logical response would be to admit that the ban was a bad idea and stop curtailing other people’s freedoms to make their own decisions – such as the decision to open a restaurant. But we can’t expect logic from The Anointed. They never admit a Grand Plan was a bad idea. If anything, they insist that we need to do the same thing again – only bigger.
Which is why these quotes shouldn’t surprise any of us:
Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who co-wrote the zoning restriction with former Councilwoman Jan Perry, said he wasn’t surprised that the Rand report says it didn’t have any health effect. But he maintained that it was a vital first step in reducing the number of fast-food restaurants and breaking unhealthy eating habits in the region.
I see. It’s a total failure, but also a vital first step. Those next steps must be real doozies.
This is why it’s important to read books like The Vision of The Anointed. Sowell describes these people and how they think so perfectly, it’s like reading the script before you see a play. You know what’s going to happen next.
“We never believed it was going to be an overnight situation where all of a sudden the community was going to be healthy,” he said.
Riiiight. Seven years — which I think we’d all agree is equivalent to “overnight” — wasn’t long enough. The fast-food ban will work … it will just take another 20 or 30 years to show real results.
I didn’t mention it in my speech, but Sowell explains in his book that The Anointed escape the blame for their failures because it often takes years for the failure to manifest. By contrast, if an engineer proposes a new, bold, exquisitely expressed plan to build a bridge and then the bridge falls down, he gets the blame – and nobody cares how exquisitely he defends his design. Bridge fell, your plan was bad, you’re fired. It’s the same with programming, by the way. My code either works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, the results are immediate and I take the blame.
Parks said the ordinance was meant to be part of a larger strategy that includes bringing grocery stores and farmers markets to replace fast-food restaurants, but that part has been more difficult to accomplish.
In other words, the plan didn’t go far enough. I”m guessing if I got Mr. Parks on the phone, he’d inform me that the “larger strategy” has been undermined by people who are evil or stupid.
Like reading the script before you see a play …
Over the last several years, more research has focused on the social factors that affect health, such as where people live, how much money they make, and how close they are to places that serve healthy food. Studies evaluating the increase in obesity have found that the food that is available in a neighborhood can directly affect what people eat.
The Rand study, however, shows how hard it can be to translate that research into effective policy.
Well, here’s a thought: MAYBE THE ANOINTED SHOULD STOP TRYING TO COME UP WITH “EFFECTIVE POLICY” AND LEAVE EVERYONE ELSE THE @#$% ALONE FOR A CHANGE.
Valerie Ruelas, director of the Community Diabetes Initiatives at USC, said that what people eat is based on a complicated mix of behavior, preferences, education, location, access and other factors. She was not surprised that the L.A. policy had little effect on people’s eating habits and obesity rates, according to the Rand study.
“You’re not going to find the one pill that’s going to solve all the problems,” Ruelas said.
A pill? Of course not. A pill is a little itty-bitty thing. If you want to solve a problem in society, you need a Grand Plan. Just ask The Anointed.
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