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Time Magazine on the Disastrous War on Fat

Time Magazine’s current cover story Ending the War on Fat ($) is the latest evidence that much (and, sadly, the most important parts) of what we’ve been taught about nutrition over the last few decades or so has not only been wrong, but quite harmful.

For anyone who’s been following this in recent years (we made the big switch about three years ago), there’s nothing new here, just more people realizing that carbohydrates are what has led to an obesity/diabetes epidemic while doing nothing to prevent heart disease.

Interestingly, while looking for this week’s cover, in which butter is glorified in an attempt to sell more copies (and, inadvertently, make people like Bill Maher look pretty stupid about this topic – sorry, no link), I happened upon another cover story as shown to the right, this one from back in 1984.

Readers were told:

“Cholesterol is proved deadly, and our diet may never be the same … This year began with the announcement by the Federal Government of the results of the broadest and most expensive research project in medical history. Its subject was cholesterol, the vital yet dangerous yellowish substance whose level in the bloodstream is directly affected by the richness of the diet. Anybody who takes the results seriously may never be able to look at an egg or a steak the same way again.”

That’s your federal government, hard at work improving the everyday lives of us ‘Mericans.

Fed Up

The new documentary Fed Up came to my attention over the weekend, due in part to the appearance of Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at UC San Francisco, on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

The movie adds to the discussion about nutritional guidelines and sugar in American diets that, someday, might become significant enough to lead to important change in what we eat as diet is increasingly blamed for out-of-control obesity rates and related problems.

As someone who was on track for “gain a pound a year each year you’re over 30″ up until about five years ago, I can sympathize with one of the first comments in the clip:

The message that’s been pushed on us is “it’s your fault you’re fat”

There are 600,00 food items in America. Eighty percent of them have added sugar. Your brain lights up on sugar just like it does on cocaine or heroin.

When combined with a corporate culture where profits are more important than health along with regulatory capture in government akin to what we see in just about any other big industry and you end up with one of the greatest public health epidemics in human history.

Where Few People Drink, They Drink A Lot

Via this item at The Economist’s Daily Chart feature, there are some surprising details about how many people drink in various countries around the world and how much those people who do drink drink in what is yet another example of how seemingly mundane data can produce all sorts of fascinating cultural insights.

In short, where few people drink, those who do drink consume an extraordinary amount of alcohol, perhaps to help them deal with the fact that they are going against the cultural/religious grain in their country.

France leads the way with the highest share of drinkers at 95 percent, but their consumption is relatively low, in line with the rest of the West. To no one’s surprise, Russia and their satellite nations consume the most alcohol on a per capita basis. Lastly, the huge difference between Saudi Arabia and UAE is pretty interesting as they’re right next to each other.

Jobless and Obese

This Washington Post story looks at the relationship between unemployment and obesity as a subset of the population in parts of the country (mostly low-skilled workers) make things even more difficult for themselves by showing up to job interviews with added girth.

Recent studies and surveys have shown a distinct relationship between unemployment and obesity, particularly for lower-skilled workers who struggle to find work — a search made more challenging by their weight.

In Hagerstown, where blue-collar jobs have gone overseas or to cheaper parts of the country, 8.4 percent are unemployed — well above Maryland’s 5.9 percent rate. Last month, Gallup identified the area as the third-heaviest place in the United States, with almost 37 percent of its residents obese. Local studies put the number even higher.

This is a fascinating subject on many levels.

First, obesity rates vary widely (no pun intended) within the U.S. based on demographics and cultural norms that seem pretty hard to reverse (note that there’s a “least obese” chart with the WaPo article and most areas are either in the West or the Northeast).

Also, obesity amongst the poor (or, unemployed in this case) is something fairly new in history as hundreds of years ago it used to be just kings and royal families who were obese and this was considered to be sign of wealth. Poor and fat is pretty common today.

Moreover, the food industry and awful government dietary guidelines are only making the problem worse in the U.S. as it costs a little more to eat better, assuming you knew how (which most people don’t). Those out of work and packing on the pounds are likely doing so, in part, because they’re cutting back on spending and buying high calorie/low cost food that the U.S. food industry excels at producing.

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