Apparently there is a war on obesity. Trouble is, there does not seemed to be a well-defined enemy in this war. Is it the fast food industry? Perhaps it is the actual fat in foods? Maybe it is the obese person themselves? Or their wicked, neglectful parents? Or perhaps it is carbohydrates, not fats, that make you fat?
All this uncertainty make one thing completely certain. No government in the world is going to make any inroads on tackling the problem, regardless of how much of our money they want to throw at it. Politicians are a simple breed and need a simple target and plan. Unfortunately, the temptation to give politicians a simplistic answer is simply too great for some weight zealots.
I have a simple target! Taxes on high calorie soda drinks! Plenty of research done on this – they’re a huge factor in the rise in obesity. In the US they account for ~7% of all calories consumed and they have no nutritional value AND consumption is price sensitive. A recent USDA study found:
a tax induced 20-percent price increase on caloric sweetened beverages could cause an average reduction of 37 calories per day, or 3.8 pounds [1.7 kg] of body weight over a year, for adults and an average of 43 calories per day, or 4.5 pounds [2.0 kg] over a year, for children.
Moving on from the soda tax there are various state and county anti-obesity experiments in effect all across the US. In Santa Clara CA:
Happy Meal toys and other promotions that come with high-calorie children’s meals will soon be banned in parts of Santa Clara County unless the restaurants meet nutritional guidelines approved Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.
“This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children’s’ love of toys” to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food, said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure. “This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes.”
While in New York they’ve forced restaurants to publish calorie counts of their products and combined this with an education campaign about what your daily caloric intake should be. The theory is that once you know you’re only supposed to eat 2000 calories a day and that a Big Mac and fries constitutes 1400 calories you’ll have second thoughts.
I don’t know if either of these experiments will work but my point is there’s plenty of research out there on the subject and there’s a lot more coming. So the problem isn’t as vague and hopeless as MacDoctor thinks.