The UK Obesity Initiative (Failure guaranteed from the start)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ A. Einstein

Perhaps one should applaud the recent initiative by the UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC), in their attempts to tackle the obesity epidemic. This is a very esteemed group indeed of the great and good. In their own words:

The Academy Obesity Steering Group has been established to carry out a project on tackling obesity on behalf of the medical Royal Colleges and Faculties.

Its main responsibilities are to:

  • Produce a strategy on the most effective and coherent way to tackle obesity
  • Produce a recommendation report to form part of a wider Obesity campaign by the last quarter of 2012.

They are looking for evidence from those with expertise in the area of obesity. They are asking various question, including:

  1. What do you believe are actions and/or strategy that actually work in preventing or reducing obesity?
  2. What is the evidence either from practical experience or relevant literature you have that these actions are effective?

My first response would be that anyone with ‘expertise’ in the area of obesity should be instantly dismissed from all discussions. Never have there been more ‘experts’ in weight loss and obesity than there are now. Never have more books been written on the subject. Never have there been more ‘celebrities’ getting in on the act. (Including Jamie Oliver who proudly claims never to have read a book.)

Never have there been more obese people than there are now.

Conclusion: none of the experts have the faintest idea what they are talking about, and whatever it is they have been doing has made the problem far worse. Ergo, get rid of them all.

Of course, this will not happen. All the experts know that that what people must do, to prevent obesity, is the following: Eat less, exercise, more and eat less fat – and junk food. This has been a pretty constant message over the last twenty years or so. We should all be very familiar with it by now; it gets repeated over and over, whilst people get fatter and fatter.

Rather than suggest the possibility that this message is utterly useless, and clearly not working, the Royal Colleges are doing what people usually do when their favoured strategy is not working. They redouble their efforts and do exactly the same thing, with extra added vigour.

I know they this is exactly what they are going to do, because I looked back to see what the main message of the Royal Colleges was likely to be in this area. Lo and behold, and to no great surprise, they have already been demanding the following:

The academy, an umbrella organisation for the medical royal colleges and their 200,000 members, demands:

  • A ban on firms such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola from sponsoring major sports events such as the Olympics.
  • A safe area around schools where fast-food outlets are not allowed.
  • A prohibition on the use of celebrities or cartoon figures to sell unhealthy food and drink to children.
  • A legal obligation on all food and drink manufacturers to publish on their products clear guidelines about the amount of calories, sugar, fat and salt.
  • Consideration of “fat taxes” similar to those being implemented in Scandinavia, designed to penalise the buyers of food and drink high in salt, sugar and fat.

Stephenson said the academy was speaking out as it launched an investigation into what can be done to curb the rise in obesity. It will spend six months researching the causes and effects of obesity, and in the autumn will produce a report that will contain far-reaching recommendations for action.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/14/obesity-crisis-doctors-fastfood-deals-ban

As expected, although the Royal Colleges appear to be asking for advice and information, they have already pretty much stated exactly what it is they are going to propose. Banning, prohibiting, taxing, and introducing new laws. All the usual knee jerk responses that are employed by authoritarian figures over the years….. ‘Why won’t people just do what we damned well tell them to do? As they will not, we will make them.’ Sigh.

I have been involved in sending in a few different submissions to the AOMRC. They have all pointed out that the obesity epidemic started around the early nineteen eighties. At almost exactly the same time that that UK and US nutritional guidelines came out telling everyone that they must stop eating fat, and start eating carbohydrates. Advice which has been, mainly, followed.

Do you think it is a coincidence that the obesity epidemic took off at this time?

4 thoughts on “The UK Obesity Initiative (Failure guaranteed from the start)

  1. idididididididid

    Hello again. I am wondering what your feelings/thoughts are about the Paleo Diet brigade and the Ketogenic Diet brigade. Anything? Are you generally in the Masterjohn and Minger camp by any chance?
    Currently I am quite pleased with what I find on the Gnolls site.
    Am looking forward to the reference you are seeking for me.
    Ta muchly ~ Afifah

    Reply
  2. Arie Brand

    I am afraid that a half year more of study won’t cure them of their fat phobia. A quite different time scale is required here – that indicated in Max Planck’s dictum that : “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”[1]

    Reply
  3. dearieme

    “Do you think it is a coincidence that the obesity epidemic took off at this time?” It could be – I have wondered from time to time whether it is literally an epidemic – whether some unidentified micro-organism interferes with the satiation effect on appetite.

    I also doubt that the key phenomenon is cheap food. Food has always been cheap if you are rich enough, but the rich haven’t always been obese – the obese rich man was rare enough to comment on and poke fun at. That’s “obese” in the everyday sense, as distinct from the greater weight that comes with age.

    Reply
    1. David Salter

      Have a look at Robert Lustig’s videos on Youtube, he suggests that it is fructose that switches off the leptin hormone (sugar is half fructose, half glucose). This hormone tells the brain you have had enough. Experiments have been done which show that if you drink a sugary drink before a meal, then you eat more because you don’t know when to stop. So not only do you get the extra “calories” from the sugary drink, but you also eat more of everything else.

      I put calories in inverted commas, to indicate what a useless concept this is. Calories are measured by setting fire to food to measure it’s total energy content, but this bears no relation to the energy derived by the body due to the many different metabolic pathways. Nor does this take into consideration the changes in the body’s metabolism – ie eating a fat based diet raises the metabolism, so that you burn more anyway. Nor does it take into account the fact that the body stores fat only when blood sugar rises, and fat does not raise blood sugar, carbs do. Hence the fallacious idea that dietary fat causes obesity, simply because fat contains more calories per unit volume than carbohydrate. It’s nothing more that simplemindedness! But the processed food industry keep banging on about calories, because that way they can pass the blame for the obesity epidemic over to the individual who “chooses” to eat too much and exercise too little. When in fact, the changes in behaviour – to eat more and do less – are a direct side effect of consuming processed food laced with sugar! There are many many huge companies who would rather people did not know this.

      Reply

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