WeiWenDi wrote:One of the problems may be that people don't listen to their doctors enough - who (in my experience) on dieting are usually liable to give the usual sound common-sensical advice: don't overeat, don't eat junk, exercise regularly, sleep regularly, drink water, and so on. But there's a kind of anti-intellectualism in our culture which advertisers of all sorts tend to prey on. The most extreme and mockable examples - I'm sure you've seen them - are of the type that go 'He lost 30 pounds in two weeks with this one crazy trick! [Insert interest group here] hates him!' But most fad diets deploy more subtle variations on the same kind of advertising and rhetoric.
But yes, I generally agree that people need to eat healthily and in proportion - and meals, rather than snacking throughout the day. (I'm personally really bad about this one.)
Some of the weight-loss professionals I read have attempted to address that problem with fairly consistent arguments, though I've not saved the links. They might point out, here, that while general care doctors typically do give the fundamentals in advice they typically do not go to greater lengths to explain (or even necessarily understand) what is involved in following through with that advice, and additionally that there's no ongoing followup. And there's usually no stones cast here: in many areas—more so in poor regions which typically correlate with greater food health concerns—there's a shortage of general care doctors, and even if they wanted to, they couldn't provide the sort of dedicated, ongoing health intervention needed in these cases. It's also a problem some regions are trying to address by founding dedicated weight-loss clinics where an overweight individual could receive the kind of ongoing advice, intervention, and education that appears to be necessary.
Similarly, a doctor can run down the list of excellent advice you've mentioned, and stress that a person's health or certain problems may improve or be eliminated with weight-loss, and that person can even believe them and wish to apply themselves, but turned loose to sort out the details and act upon that desire, they would typically fail. The system's stacked against them. What should be accessible information is muddied and vague—a concern contributed to by a range of factors including awful advertisements and claims such as the example you gave above.
I thought the CrossFit types were a different cult. Probably I just haven't spent enough time with them, though.
My thought on this one is purely subjective. It just happens to be the same sort of groups that get really caught up in fitness (and fitness fads) that tend to promote paleo, and it frequently leeches into their families. It also seems to relate to health trends here which have actually resulted in healthcare professionals and governing bodies cautioning against diets and claims which call for an excess of protein in the diet.
I'm not a fan of Whole Paycheck for several other reasons
which are somewhat tangentially-related. And you're right that the 'organic' label Whole Foods uses is completely overblown. The environmental benefits of organic farming are real
, but the real kicker as far as climate change is concerned is burning fossil fuels, and a good percentage of that happens in distribution - transportation being the 'largest end-use contributor
' to carbon emissions in developed countries like ours. If you're trying to eat conscientiously with regard to the environment, it's often really better to eat conventionally-farmed foods grown and sold locally. TL;DR: fully agreed with you on this point.
Hmm... interesting information from the FAO. It does seem to slightly overstate the case for organic foods, though, but this impression may be colored by lobbying which has impacted regulation here in the United States and Canada. I expect some of those factors are global concerns, however, because the practices of 'big agriculture' are not limited to these Western countries. Here the sort of 'organic' you might pick up from a smaller local production can vary wildly from the same sort of 'organic' that can supply food at a volume, where land can be similarly dedicated to monoculture, managed with the same massive machines, somewhat similar scaled back in terms of forage for pollinators (hard to match the potential of GM crops to allow for application of glyphosate to crop and weed alike), and transported with similar concern and consequence. And for little health benefit
But I don't want to rail on that—the sort of 'organic' which privileged individuals can source from local, seasonal suppliers can in fact be *much* healthier for the environment. It's just become a problem because the organic industry uses similar techniques
and at the high production scale also overlaps significantly with the same players in traditional agriculture. Some related reading in Food Politics
by Marion Nestle or The Omnivore's Dilemma
by the colorful and outspoken Michael Pollan.
Had no idea the CEO of Whole Foods had his head in the sand about climate change...
Sure doesn't stop Whole Foods from playing to every left-leaning health fad under the sun.
On the GMO thing. GM food may be perfectly safe for consumption; that's not my main beef (er, so to speak). However, giants like Monsanto and DuPont have a hideous corporate record
when it comes to farmers' rights and welfare. GMO lobbyists are slimy
, and GMO researchers have been caught behaving unethically in several contexts (of which the Tufts Golden Rice study
is the one I'm most familiar with). So I'm very much a proponent of GM labelling, not because I think GMOs are dangerous, but because I think the purveyors of GMOs have a lot to answer for, and consumers have a right to the information they need if they want to punish them through boycott. My wife is a big advocate for GM labelling for precisely this reason; she feels that GMO researchers take unethical advantage of lax regulations in non-Western countries to do their research.
(My mom's a botanist and plant biologist, by the way - don't know if I mentioned that. Her take is a bit more pro-GMO than mine, but she's still concerned about corporate misbehaviour on the part of the big GM firms.)
You're... stepping into a bit of a minefield here. DuPont, Bayer, and especially
Monsanto—there is heaps upon heaps of exaggeration, misrepresentation, and lies surrounding what these companies do, the safety of their products, and the entire GM-crop industry. Which is not to say these companies have definite negatives and problems with ethical practice—they certainly do—just that you'll need to temper what you read with some level-headed scientifically supported voices in the same discussion. GMWATCH, for example, can be depended upon for misrepresentation and misinformation—or simply general activism. But on the other hand, Marion Nestle, who you linked to for discussion of the Tufts Golden Rice Study—she's a gem.
Or as a more defined example, should Patrick Moore drink 'glyphosate' presented by an activist? Or should he drink RoundUp, which is more than glyphosate alone? The fundamentals of the claim he made are not wrong, however. Kevin Folta has been willing to present a similar demonstration
. Also, not a Monsanto lobbyist. Of note glyphosate has an LD50
of 5600 (compare to water at 90000, sucrose at 30000, ethanol at 7000, sodium chloride at 3000, caffeine at 192, nicotine at 50—and consider relative dose).
Would I drink glyphosate at the dare of an activist even having written this?
I think the key here is to make sure there's a clear separation between industry practices and science when discussing the subject. And even on the topic of science, to be sure we don't poison our interpretation of a very large body of research by being caught up on concerns with individual studies. There's a great deal we ought to be concerned with when it comes to Monsanto, but here too we need to look at the industry as a whole. For example, conventional foods can also be patented
(I do recall that your mom is a plant biologist! I certainly am not.)
Agreed. We also have to consider costs in time and lack of amenities that a lot of poor people face (I believe this is what you meant by 'time investments and knowledge which may be less accessible'?) when doing these kinds of calculations. Take Barbara Ehrenreich's article here
Barbara Ehrenreich wrote:I was also dismayed to find that in some ways, it is actually more expensive to be poor than not poor. If you can’t afford the first month’s rent and security deposit you need in order to rent an apartment, you may get stuck in an overpriced residential motel. If you don’t have a kitchen or even a refrigerator and microwave, you will find yourself falling back on convenience store food, which—in addition to its nutritional deficits—is also alarmingly overpriced. If you need a loan, as most poor people eventually do, you will end up paying an interest rate many times more than what a more affluent borrower would be charged. To be poor—especially with children to support and care for—is a perpetual high-wire act.
I've been a grad student and a poor English teacher without a working kitchen before, and I've done the whole relying-on-7/11-food thing before. Not an experience I'd care much to repeat... But adding a consumer-end sin tax to junk food, in such cases, would be something akin to an act of cruelty. On the other hand, if raw foods suddenly became cheaper than processed ones, we might find that the costs don't get passed on so much to the end consumer. (Convenience stores might find it more economical, for example, to stock ready-made sandwiches and microwave meals from local rather than national commercial surplus. On the other hand, though, their standing franchise agreements with big food corporations might prevent them from doing precisely this - that might be something to look into.)
No argument at all about the plight of being poor, or the manners in which it can inflate costs. And it ties in directly to very serious unintended consequences that can follow ill-conceived or poorly executed public health policy (hence it must be considered very carefully because the poor are frequently at the heart of individuals these policies aim to help). And yes, it's part of what I intended by use of that language. Also, if you're poor, you have less resources to search for and gather information; less time to do so; less time to act upon information and recommendations you gather. Although on the flip-side owning no fridge or microwave is rare here—America's 'poverty' tends to be in the least better off than that
. A pretty good example I can think of, though, are the refugees attending schools here in Salt Lake City. In many cases they have no computer and it's something the school district needs to consider carefully in education.
The sin tax, though: if we were to have a properly formed 'sin tax' on junk food it might target processed foods like the Snickers bar, or those Cheetos. I'm having a hard time imagining a scenario where the government should act on any level to sustain a diet on these foods—especially given these foods do a poor job of addressing hunger (if not promoting it through the expert application of food science
). The packed sandwich or even the hotdog is a far, far better choice for 1) being full (even relative to cost) and 2) health, and 3) ongoing financial and health concerns associated with the consequences of adapting to a diet accepting of these foods. A more likely sin-tax is one on added-sugar beverages (we should drink water—cheaper and healthier, and positive results form the Mexico case linked earlier) or a small general tax on added sugars (which probably wouldn't be damning enough to impact behavior).
WeiWenDi wrote:Yup! Agreed completely.
Again, I think pricing of junk food would be a lot better-accounted if we got rid of the damn subsidies.
Sadly, it probably wouldn't do much to reduce prices of healthier alternatives.
There are some pretty stringent and punitive regulations on milk production in the US. This is one example
of a recent story I've read on the matter. Raw or green-top milk is
used in certain artisanal cheeses which I would hate to see banned, and which we really shouldn't be forced to import from France or England. Besides (and yes, I hear you that facts and laws don't always correspond), the EU food regulator has ruled
green-top milk and raw-milk products as safe for human consumption, but requires that they be labelled. As with GM foods, this strikes me as a safe and desirable middle ground.
I think the cheese example would be a case of misapplied law (or lawmaking). It's not the same thing as drinking raw milk, though this sort of unintended consequence does happen. And it's not raw milk that's unsafe; it's what can be living inside it that can be very dangerous. Here, I think, politics also come into play: most wealthy countries seem to do a better job than the United States of making sure safety concerns are properly addressed at the source; here we allow or have allowed some serious safety concerns (see salmonella, E. coli) to reach restaurants and the customer through sympathetic response to food industry lobbying (and, perhaps, other factors such as the USDA serving two contradictory missions in both promoting and regulating their industry). The FDA does a slightly better job, but it's not without it's own noteworthy shortcomings (intentional or forced through lawmakers and legal challenges).