Tag Archives: AOMRC

I told you so (The Obesity Initiative)

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.’

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?