‘Don’t trouble me with the facts my mind is made up.’ Foghorn Leghorn
So, now the great obesity initiative is to be rolled out across the UK, driven by the UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC). Some time ago I wrote a blog in which I outlined exactly what they would say….and lo, they have said it. The main recommendations are:
- Food-based standards to be mandatory in all UK hospitals
- A ban on new fast food outlets being located close to schools and colleges
- A duty on all sugary soft drinks, increasing the price by at least 20%, to be piloted
- Traffic light food labelling to include calorie information for children and adolescents – with visible calorie indicators for restaurants, especially fast food outlets
- £100m in each of the next three years to be spent on increasing provision of weight management services across the country
- A ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm
- Existing mandatory food- and nutrient-based standards in England to be statutory in free schools and academies
There is more such stuff, mainly about taxing and banning. It was all wearyingly predictable. This is exactly what the ‘experts’ have been saying for the last thirty years – this time with an ‘amazing 50% added legislation’. If what you have been doing doesn’t work. Then redouble your efforts, with added punishments. That’ll work. Just like prohibition worked in the states.
Even if these were the right things to do, and had some chance of working, I would not support them. Social control through legislation absolutely must be the last resort of a democratic society. Making people do what is good for them….hmmm. Aldous Huxley had something to say on this matter. That, however, is a broader issue.
Looking specifically at some of the recommendation, starting with the concept of putting a duty on all sugary soft drinks. This will inevitably mean that people will drink more ‘diet’ drinks- without sugar in them. Will this be a good idea? Well, here is a study from the USA, and the conclusions thereof:
‘Findings from this cohort of adolescents yielded strong evidence for cross-sectional associations between diet soda consumption with weight status in both boys and girls. Specifically, youth who consumed diet soda were more likely to have a higher BMI and PBF (percentage body fat) compared to those who did not.’ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3402912/
This is consistent with other studies which show that drinking ‘diet’ soda is strongly associated with a greater risk of obesity than drinking sugary soft drinks. Such evidence is not hard to find. It is rather more difficult to interpret, but that is – again – another issue.
As for trying to reduce saturated fat consumption. I can say here and now that there is not one molecule of evidence to suggest that saturated fat consumption causes obesity. Not one. As for impact on heart disease….again, nothing.
My favourite quote on this comes from the Framingham study. The single most influential study on heart disease in the world.
‘In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories on ate, the lower people’s serum cholesterol.’ Dr William Castelli, Director of the Framingham study. 1992
[Not that I think cholesterol has anything to do with heart disease, but for those of a conventional view point, lowering cholesterol is supposed to be a good thing].
As for salt….where did this come from? I have yet to see any evidence linking increased salt intake to obesity. And why would it. How could it? Salt has no calories in it; it has no impact on any metabolic parameters that I know of. And I would challenge anyone to show me any evidence from any controlled randomised study that salt restriction (in health adults) has any benefits on cardiovascular disease.
I could go on, and on. But the main point is that the ‘experts’ are trapped with a mind-set that they cannot and will not change. Like all the best zealots, they know what the causes of obesity are. To misquote from Terminator.
‘Listen, and understand. That obesity initiative is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.’