Tuesday, July 14, 2015
UK: Food Fascism getting into high gear -- with attack on sugar
Why is it anybody else's business if someone wants to eat in a way they enjoy and put up with the weight that comes from that? And blaming food companies for giving people what they like is truly pathetic Leftism. Leftists are always wanting to put the blame somewhere else rather than where it really lies. They even blame Hitler's National Socialism on conservatives!
But where you have socialized medicine choice is always threatened. Anything people put in their mouths becomes a potential "cost" and so must be controlled: That lovely Leftist "control" of other people!
But the whole push is little more than political correctness. Sugar is the great demon of the day now that the fat and salt demons have been slain. But the evidence of harm from sugar is just as shaky. We already eat great amounts of it with no obvious harm. Average lifespans keep increasing in fact. So how harmful can it be?
And hysteria about sugar is not new. A 2007 article in the British Medical Journal said that sugar was as dangerous as tobacco and posed a greater threat to world health. "Sugar should be classified as a hard drug, for it is addictive and harmful," it said. A completely absurd and over-the-top claim. The British medical establishment cannot be trusted as a rational arbiter.
And if you want to see the sort of "research" that the food freaks base their hatred of sugar on, have a look at this example, where a finding that was not even statistically significant was treated as a big deal.
And there is plenty of medical research saying that sugars are NOT a problem -- e.g. here. There are even some studies (e.g. here) that suggest that sugars are good for you.
And the iconoclastic Sandy Szwarc has a very extensive survey of the research findings on sugar. Her conclusion: "The bottom line, is that there is no evidence — and there never has been — that we have anything to fear from enjoying the sweet things in life"
The big problem with studies used to demonize sugar is that they are almost always in vivo (e.g. white rats) or epidemiological. Rodent findings, however, generalize poorly to humans. The idea of generalizing from a very short-lived creature (like a mouse) to a very long-lived creature (like a human) is intrinsically "courageous". And the generalization is often to life-span!
And the big problem with epidemiology is that it cannot demonstrate cause. There are always potential third factors messing up an attempted causal inference. In medical research generally, social class is a big bedevilling factor. It is politically incorrect to measure it yet it has big effects when it is measured. So if you find that people who eat a lot of sugar are more prone to get diabetes (for example) that could be because lower class people are in general less healthy and also like their sugar a lot. The causal factor for diabetes is not the sugar but something to do with social class (e.g. poorer genetics).
And in sugar studies, the results are almost always confounded by total calorie consumption. People who eat a lot of sugar also tend to eat more of everything. So it could just be over-eating in general that causes the problem, not the sugar component
A considerable irony in all this is that Robert Lustig has been pushing the anti-sugar barrow for many years -- but was long dismissed by most of his colleagues as a crank. Now that the food Fascists have lost their fat weapon, however, he is suddenly in fashion. The evidence has not changed. Only intellectual fashion has changed.
Sugary drinks should be taxed at 20 per cent to tackle the obesity crisis, doctors will demand today. In a landmark report the British Medical Association will urge Downing Street to take on the food industry.
It found that poor diet costs the NHS £6billion a year while claiming 70,000 lives.
The BMA’s proposed levy on fizzy drinks and sugar-laden juices would help subsidise the sale of fruit and vegetables.
The report will pile pressure on ministers who have repeatedly rejected a sugar tax.
The levy would raise the price of a one-litre bottle of Coke from £1.50 to £1.80. A can of Red Bull would go up from £2 to £2.40.
Professor Sheila Hollins, who led the team behind the report, said: ‘If a tax of at least 20 per cent is introduced, it could reduce the prevalence of obesity in the UK by around 180,000 people.
‘We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes, and the strongest evidence of effectiveness is for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
‘The majority of the UK population, particularly low income households, are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables, so financial measures should also be considered to subsidise their price, which has risen by 30 per cent since 2008.’
She pointed out that Britons were consuming far too much sugar and doctors were linking this to a rise in illnesses such as diabetes.
Kawther Hashem, a nutritionist and researcher for the Action on Sugar campaign, said: ‘Parents and children are drowning in a world full of sugary drinks, cheap junk food and aggressive marketing targeting children.
‘Around the world there are examples where regulations and duties work to reduce sugar intake. All we need now is the Government to show they are genuinely committed to promoting the public’s health.’
Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation said, however, that firms were already cutting salt, saturates and calories from their products as well as offering size options.
He added: ‘For well over a decade, UK producers have voluntarily provided clear nutrition information on packs. ‘The food industry is also helping health professionals to encourage people to use the information provided.
‘Where additional taxes have been introduced they’ve not proven effective at driving long-term, lasting change to diets.’
Gavin Partington of the British Soft Drinks Association said: ‘Evidence from other countries has shown this type of tax does not work. ‘In fact, the soft drinks tax in Mexico has reduced average calorie intake by just six calories per person, per day.’
He said that product reformulation, smaller pack sizes and increased promotion of low and no calorie drinks had led to a 7 per cent reduction in calories from soft drinks in three years.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We are not considering a sugar tax. Tackling obesity is of great concern to this Government, and we have already committed to producing a childhood obesity strategy.
‘There is no silver bullet but we do want to see industry go further to cut the amount of sugar in food and drinks so that people can make healthier choices.
‘We have asked for expert advice about the amount of sugar we should be eating, which will be published soon, and this will be taken into account as we continue to work on our childhood obesity strategy.’
Downing Street was forced recently to slap down a junior health minister who said he would favour a sugar levy.
George Freeman, who has the life sciences portfolio, said: ‘Where there is a commercial product which confers costs on all of us as a society, as in sugar, and where we can clearly show that the use of that leads to huge pressures on social costs, then we could be looking at recouping some of that through taxation.’
But the next day the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said David Cameron ‘didn’t believe that the right approach here is to put sugar taxes on hard-working people’.
The BMA report also called for supermarkets to be told to abolish the checkout ‘guilt lanes’ that tempt children with sweets and treats.
The BMA, which represents 153,000 doctors, is seeking a ban on advertising unhealthy food and drink around children’s television programmes and an end to the marketing of sweets by children’s TV characters.
Professor Hollins added: ‘Children and young people are heavily influenced by the relentless marketing of unhealthy food and drinks, and doctors are left picking up the pieces.’
The BMA report comes shortly before a Government advisory body is due to deliver recommendations on sugar consumption.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition is expected to say people need to more than halve their intake of added sugar. The final guidelines, expected in the next fortnight, are likely to suggest a male adult should consume no more than the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar a day.
The NHS currently recommends a daily sugar maximum of 12 teaspoons (50g) for a woman and 17 teaspoons (70g) for a man.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has called for a change ‘in the terms of trade’ in the food industry while stopping short of explicitly calling for a sugar tax.
He said it was striking that one child in ten is obese when they start primary school and one in five is by the time they leave.
He added: ‘So the question for all of us is, are we going to, as the National Health Service, stand by and get ready to treat that burden of illness, or are we going to rattle the cage and advocate for something different?
‘I fundamentally believe we need to get a big national conversation going about what we do as parents, about what we do about the food industry, about reformulation [reducing sugar in food], about the role of the NHS in supporting prevention programmes.’
That Sugar Film: demonising the sweet stuff
Back in 2004, Morgan Spurlock, a largely unknown writer and performer, achieved global fame with his movie Super Size Me. The premise was simple. Spurlock would eat nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days and see what effect it had on his health. To add an extra twist, Spurlock would take the ‘supersize’ meal deal whenever he was offered it, which seemed to be quite often. As a result, he consumed over 5,000 calories per day (roughly twice what an average man would require), gained weight, and apparently, within just a few weeks, suffered life-threatening changes to his body.
Ten years later, another largely unheralded performer, Damon Gameau, has recycled the idea in a new film, Sugar Size Me. Actually, it’s not called that, but clearly unable to get past the behemoth that was Spurlock’s achievement, he ended up calling his effort That Sugar Film. But the dubious central point is the same: eat a bad diet – this time for 60 days – and watch the ill-effects emerge.
A few years ago, after meeting his girlfriend, who we learn is also the soon-to-be mother of his child, Gameau gave up eating all refined sugars. So at the start of the movie, he’s a wiry specimen of good health. But he’s confused. He’s been reading all this stuff online about sugar and doesn’t know what to make of it. At one point, he appears to be reading my spiked article The sweet truth: 10 myths about sugar. But the rest of the film suggests he didn’t bother actually to read it. Still, thanks for the publicity, Damon!
So, to find out for himself just how bad sugar is, he decides to eat a diet of apparently healthy food that is, in fact, full of sugar. Now to be fair to Gameau, he doesn’t just neck a big bottle of full-sugar Coke every day to get his allocation of the sweet stuff. No, he eats processed foods and even drinks fruit juices that are promoted as being good for you. According to his expert adviser, David Gillespie, he needs to consume 40 teaspoons of sugar every day to match the intake of the average Aussie. Gillespie is not a doctor or expert researcher – he’s a corporate lawyer and the author of Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat. Not necessarily the most authoritative source of information, but Gameau attempts to make him seem cool by giving him the nickname ‘The Crusader’. (There’s a lot of this grating ‘fun’ in That Sugar Film – as the closing song illustrates.)
Forty teaspoons of sugar a day? That seems an astonishing amount, and it probably is on the high side. According to the Australian Health Survey (AHS), published in 2014, men consumed about 2,300 calories per day. Of that, 20 per cent, or 460 calories, came from sugars. That’s about 29 teaspoons, including all sugars in the Aussie diet. Before we get too excited, the survey suggests 16 per cent of that sugar came from fruit, about nine per cent from milk and seven per cent from fruit-and-vegetable juices and drinks. This isn’t simply a case of food manufacturers stuffing foods with sugar – a lot of dietary sugar is in ‘natural’ foods. By comparison, just under 10 per cent came from soft drinks.
Must-reads from the past week
In fact, it’s not really clear whether Gameau thinks this is an ‘average’ amount of sugar or a ‘high-sugar diet’. But just to let us know that it’s bad, whatever the case, the people he turns to for health checks and advice tell him he shouldn’t ‘do this crazy thing’, that it’s ‘insane’. If this was the build-up to some David Blaine-style stunt where he gets manacled and then dropped into a shark tank, that kind of language would be appropriate. But as the prelude to eating sugar? It’s the language, not the diet, that’s insane.
At this point we have a little vignette, featuring actor Hugh Jackman, about the history of sugar, which claims that Queen Elizabeth I had black teeth because of her love for what was then a luxury product (probably true, though the absence of decent dentistry can’t have helped), and that even at the start of the twentieth century, sugar was still an unusual treat. That might be the case for Australia, but it certainly wasn’t in the UK, where sugar was an essential part of the poor diets of the working class - indeed, sugar consumption may even have been higher in 1900, when dinner might well have meant bread and sugary jam, than it is today.
But why should sugar concern us more than other foods? As Stephen Fry (feel free to roll your eyes) explains in the film, table sugar – sucrose – is actually two simpler sugars: glucose and fructose. Glucose is present in any starchy food and Aussies get more calories from starch – as found in bread, rice, pasta and so on – than they do from sugars. But fructose is, Fry assures us, a sugar that we have little capacity to metabolise in large quantities and so it gets converted to fat in our livers and blood. Meanwhile, all that glucose also makes us gain weight because it promotes the production of insulin, which encourages our bodies to store fat.
Now it is certainly possible that too much carbohydrate in our diets causes some of us to pile on the pounds over time. But whether sugar is particularly bad for us, more so than other forms of carbohydrate (or any other source of calories for that matter), is much more controversial. For example, John Sievenpiper, a researcher from Toronto, argues that the claims about sugar are based on feeding huge quantities of fructose to animals that metabolise fructose very differently to humans. But, we are assured by Gameau, we can safely ignore him because he is (sort of) in the pay of Big Soda. This kind of ad hominem attack is typical of sugar campaigners, who have attempted to discredit nutrition researchers in the UK in much the same way. There is no note of doubt in That Sugar Film, just a one-sided version of events.
The inevitable result of Gameau’s diet of fruit juice, sugary yogurt and convenience food is that – shock, horror! – he puts on a few pounds. We are also told that he starts to develop fatty liver disease, to the apparent astonishment of his doctor (and, frankly, me). He also claims to experience psychological effects from consuming sugar, becoming manically hyperactive one minute then lethargic the next. People are ‘up and down’ the whole day, he says, but we don’t notice because that’s what we’re used to. Our minds are ‘fuzzy’ all the time. He can’t wait to get back to his wholesome diet when it’s all over.
At this point, the film tips over into full space-cadet mode. We can’t imagine life without sugar. It’s central to celebrations in Western societies because we associate it with love. In fact, sugar actually evokes the feeling of love because our brains ‘respond to the chemical effect the same way we respond to love’. One talking head, David Wolfe (who can also be seen in the UK flogging overpriced food blenders on early morning infomercials), even claims that ‘sugar causes materialism’. The ‘sugar-drug’ culture created the materialistic culture. Sugar supplies energy ‘straight to the brain’, we are told, leading us to become unwilling to defer any gratification.
Thankfully, it all ends happily ever after. Gameau switches back to his sugar-free diet and reverts to his healthy self, and the baby is born. The message is clear: don’t mess up your health with that mind-f*cking sh*t.
Gameau is perfectly entitled to his point of view, no matter how wacky it is. What’s really worrying is that he is being taken seriously in the media (see the BBC News interview as an example). Sugar is not a health food. No one would argue that these days. Consuming large quantities of it, especially if it leads to an excess of calories, may well increase your waistline. But to demonise one specific kind of food, and turn it into a conspiracy theory about big business wrecking our health, is positively medieval.
What Happened to the Midwives? (Hint: Government)
By Abigail Hall
It seems like every time I log on to one of my social media accounts, someone is announcing a pregnancy or birth. Perhaps this is why I’ve recently written on the supposed “gender-wage gap” and mandated paid maternity leave.
One thing that keeps popping up among my pregnant friends is the question of whether to have a midwife deliver their baby at home or in a birth center, or seek the medical care of a doctor in a hospital when the time comes to deliver their little ones. For most of my friends, the choice is a doctor. For a few, however, the choice is midwife or bust.
My friend group appears to follow the typical statistics for birth in the United States. Of the approximately 4 million babies born annually in the U.S. (holy procreation, Batman!), about 99 percent of them take place in hospitals. The other one percent of births, however, occur outside of the hospital. While cases documented by TV shows like TLC’s “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” account for some of these births (yes, this is a real thing, and no, I don’t know how this happens either), many of these “more primitive” births are completely intentional. In fact, one recently launched TV show titled, “Born in the Wild,” documents women who choose to give birth to their children out in the woods.
This got me thinking. One percent of 4 million isn’t trivial—it’s still 40,000 babies annually. What’s more interesting is that this number used to be much higher—and not that long ago. In fact, Jimmy Carter was first U.S. President to be born in a hospital. In 1900, nearly all births occurred outside a hospital according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 1970, the number of out-of-hospital births had fallen to one percent.
So what happened to home births and midwives? The most straightforward argument is that, as medical technology improved, midwives were replaced by more qualified, safer doctors. But that may not be all to the story. In fact, like so many other stories told on this blog and elsewhere, the disappearance of the midwife from childbirth appears to be the product of special interest groups and regulatory capture.
In the late 1800s physicians began to form an organized special interest group. At first, doctors marketed their labor and delivery services to wealthier, upper and middle-class families. Midwifery continued to be the default option for poorer women.
But like other special interest groups, doctors worked in conjunction with political actors to pass a variety of laws that argued midwives were uneducated and unsafe. Regulations like the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act of 1921, combined with heavily regulated training and licensure programs, contributed to a sharp decline in the use of midwives throughout the U.S. Despite their historical use, midwives are now allowed to practice in varying degrees in only 27 states. In 23 states, midwives are banned outright.
Despite the rhetoric that midwives are inferior to doctors in regard to childbirth, this doesn’t seem to be the case—when it comes to normal-risk pregnancies. In fact, infant mortality risk for such births is practically indistinguishable between home births and hospital births. Home births also offer other possible benefits. Home births and births involving a midwife are much less likely to result in C-sections. Though common, such procedures put both mother and baby at risk. Women undergoing C-sections are more likely to experience infection, hemorrhaging, and take longer to recovery from delivery. Maternal mortality for babies born this way is also higher than it is for vaginal births. Babies delivered by C-section are more likely to have breathing problems, sustain an injury due to the procedure, and have lower APGAR scores (a test given to evaluate the health of newborns).
When asked why they selected a midwife and home birth over a hospital and doctor, women give numerous reasons. Most cite the aforementioned safety of home births and the decreased likelihood of C-sections and other medical interventions. Others stated they felt the former option offered more control over the experience, occurred in a more comfortable environment, and that they preferred their particular caregiver.
Ultimately, whether a child is brought into this world with the assistance of a midwife, doctor, etc. should be about choice—the parents’ choice. Unless someone presents significant evidence that midwives and other alternative birth environments produce systematic neglect or abuse, there is no objective reason why such practices should be more regulated than doctors, much less banned.
The fact is, the government has no place in the bedroom, or the delivery room. Hospital births and home births have different risks and benefits. Women and families, not special interests and government bureaucrats, should be able to weigh the pros and cons of these options and make a decision based on their personal convictions and circumstances.
Sen. Lee: ‘Religious Individuals…Could Lose Everything’
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) says that if his First Amendment Defense Act fails to pass, “religious individuals and institutions could lose everything from tax-exempt status to government contracts, government employment and things like that.”
Lee and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) introduced the bill in June that would bar the federal government from imposing penalties on individuals, businesses, and religious organizations acting “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
“This would help create a helpful protective barrier around religious freedom to make sure it is not infringed, to make sure the government doesn’t punish religious belief,” Lee told CNSNews.com
“So, if it doesn’t pass that’s my fear- is that religious individuals and institutions could lose everything from tax-exempt status to government contracts, government employment and things like that. That’s just not something our government ought to be involved in - they shouldn’t be involved in making value judgments on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief,” Lee said.
The gay and lesbian political action committee, The Human Rights Campaign, quickly criticized the measure after it was introduced.
“Not only is it wrong to promote discrimination with taxpayers’ money, it’s even worse to allow those taxpayer funds to be used to reward discriminatory actions by federal employees,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “We call on members of Congress to oppose this reckless and irresponsible legislation that has nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do with taxpayer-funded discrimination.”
But Lee's response to critics is: “The fact that anyone would even call it that, the fact that they would refer to this as that shows a basic disconnect. A basic misunderstanding of religious freedom.”
“The whole point of religious freedom is that people ought to be able to live, believe and worship as they see fit without interference by the government, whether that interference be economic or otherwise,” Lee continued.
“I view this as something that is necessary to protect the American people against one of the most pernicious forms of discrimination that exists, which is discrimination by government against people based on their religious belief.”
The measure has gained 25 co-sponsors in the Senate and 98 co-sponsors in the House, both House and Senate versions have been introduced and referred to committees.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.