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The Nanny State

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brianvds
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« on: March 25, 2018, 10:56:02 AM »

Thought it might be meaningful to start a thread for a subject that is often discussed in the shoutbox...

https://medium.com/@gidmk/soft-drinks-are-killing-you-so-why-dont-we-have-a-sugar-tax-already-60060de4aeb9

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Tweefo
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2018, 07:00:10 AM »

I don't think that the tax on cigarettes had much to do with reduced smoking. More likely it was the message that's was spread in the press that did the job, and non smokers attitude. In the past, smoking in public was acceptable, nonsmokers did not like it, but they lived with it. That changed. A separate sugar's room at the restaurant is not going to work, as with smoking, I think. This is just an excuse to get more money into the state coffers.
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brianvds
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2018, 08:05:07 AM »

I don't think that the tax on cigarettes had much to do with reduced smoking. More likely it was the message that's was spread in the press that did the job, and non smokers attitude. In the past, smoking in public was acceptable, nonsmokers did not like it, but they lived with it. That changed. A separate sugar's room at the restaurant is not going to work, as with smoking, I think. This is just an excuse to get more money into the state coffers.

It seems to me it can be difficult to work out whether a tax "worked." But it is a case where politicians and activists will be in great temptation to equate correlation with causation.

Me, I mostly stay away from sugar anyway...
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2018, 11:09:58 AM »

I doubt extra taxes on sugars, alcohol, etc. Do much to change the behavior of anyone over a certain income threshold. Sure, you can get 800 people out of tens of thousands to consume less sugary drinks because they could just barely afford the item in the first place. However anyone making a modicum of money is hardly bothered by the extra cents/rands added on these items.

I was in New York recently, I quote a quick google search: "The price of 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes in New York City is $14". This is almost entirely due to NYC's extremely high taxation of cigs. You know what I saw on the streets: People smoking. A lot of New Yorkers make a lot of money.

I have a question though: Do we know if "natural sugars" found in fruit juices are much better?

What grinds my ass is how Coke came out with smaller bottles in SA for the same price citing "sugar tax", but their diet and sugar-free drinks took exactly the same arch. In essence, this is an excuse for them to effectively raise the price per volume on ALL their drinks, not just the sugary ones. GGRRRRR.

----- More seriously -----

Nanny state-ism wrt health comes almost directly from socialised healthcare. You can point this out as many times as you want during a free healthcare debate: that providing such will cost people their freedoms. This always falls on deaf ears. The simple fact is the state becomes very motivated to decrease the costs of healthcare to the bare minimum and it doesn't take an Einstein to understand that they thus become very motivated to stop you from landing in a hospital in the first place. And so the nanny state-ism intensifies.

The problem here is that most people in SA have private healthcare anyway because the state healthcare is so shite. BUT, these rules count for everyone. The state's erosion of freedom in the name of cutting hospitalisation costs gets applied like a big 'ol universal thor hammer. It's basically the whole "we don't want porn packages on DSTV" thing all over again. It's not enough that some people can elect do go a certain way we must force everyone to comply.

In this moral sense I think it's far superior to educate and use propaganda to convince people to be healthier. This also works but has a side benefit of allowing everyone to do as they please, and the private corporations can compete directly without government helping/diluting their bottom lines. If the product really is unhealthy well informed public pressure should reflect that and the corporations should be purely monetarily motivated to do the right thing as a matter of course.

And lastly, and definitely not leastly: This hurts the poor more than anyone else. They have it hard enough already.

Should be clear that I have big problems with almost all of this.

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Spike
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2018, 14:56:48 PM »

I have a question though: Do we know if "natural sugars" found in fruit juices are much better?
No, they are not, especially when concentrated in a commercial product.
What grinds my ass is how Coke came out with smaller bottles in SA for the same price citing "sugar tax", but their diet and sugar-free drinks took exactly the same arch. In essence, this is an excuse for them to effectively raise the price per volume on ALL their drinks, not just the sugary ones. GGRRRRR.
I was so outraged when I saw it that I skipped the Coke for 2 days.
Nanny state-ism wrt health comes almost directly from socialised healthcare. You can point this out as many times as you want during a free healthcare debate: that providing such will cost people their freedoms. This always falls on deaf ears. The simple fact is the state becomes very motivated to decrease the costs of healthcare to the bare minimum and it doesn't take an Einstein to understand that they thus become very motivated to stop you from landing in a hospital in the first place. And so the nanny state-ism intensifies.
He who foots the bill should and will take steps to discourage reckless behaviour, and considering the general lack of awareness and education in this specific target populace (receivers of national health care) it makes sense to try to curb consumption, be it by way of taxes or other measures. Any reasonable measures to lighten the burden of the national health care system should be welcomed.

The problem here is that most people in SA have private healthcare anyway because the state healthcare is so shite.
I would be interested to see your source.

In this moral sense I think it's far superior to educate and use propaganda to convince people to be healthier.
What better way to draw attention to the problem than by getting everyone to talk about a sugar tax?

If the product really is unhealthy well informed public pressure should reflect that and the corporations should be purely monetarily motivated to do the right thing as a matter of course.
The research is solid, there is no disagreement whatsoever that too much sugar causes health problems. It's as indisputable as the body of work on smoking.

And lastly, and definitely not leastly: This hurts the poor more than anyone else. They have it hard enough already.
'Hurt' in the sense that they may have to consume less sugar? When the budget does not stretch, it does not stretch, and you make other choices.

Should be clear that I have big problems with almost all of this.
I'd like to refer to your previous statement:
In this moral sense .....
...motivated to do the right thing as a matter of course
Perhaps the 'haves' should consider it their moral obligation to pay up for the general good. Could such beneficence become a slippery slope and impinge on individual freedom? Yes, but perhaps we should see it as a small sacrifice for the greater good.

Having said all this: I have absolutely no illusions that the government is doing this 'for the good of the people'. It is simply a happy coincidence that there is money to be made at a time when their tax base is shrinking and commitments growing.
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2018, 15:40:37 PM »

I was so outraged when I saw it that I skipped the Coke for 2 days.

I've gone all this time without buying another bottle. Screw them.

He who foots the bill should and will take steps to discourage reckless behaviour, and considering the general lack of awareness and education in this specific target populace (receivers of national health care) it makes sense to try to curb consumption, be it by way of taxes or other measures. Any reasonable measures to lighten the burden of the national health care system should be welcomed.

I rest my case. The logic can be water-tight if you start with the wrong assumptions.

The problem here is that most people in SA have private healthcare anyway because the state healthcare is so shite.
I would be interested to see your source.

Fair enough I didn't qualify... Anyone who CAN have private healthcare does.

In this moral sense I think it's far superior to educate and use propaganda to convince people to be healthier.
What better way to draw attention to the problem than by getting everyone to talk about a sugar tax?

What better way to draw attention to genocide than to genocide someone?

If the product really is unhealthy well informed public pressure should reflect that and the corporations should be purely monetarily motivated to do the right thing as a matter of course.
The research is solid, there is no disagreement whatsoever that too much sugar causes health problems. It's as indisputable as the body of work on smoking.

Didn't say it wasn't.

And lastly, and definitely not leastly: This hurts the poor more than anyone else. They have it hard enough already.
'Hurt' in the sense that they may have to consume less sugar? When the budget does not stretch, it does not stretch, and you make other choices.

"Hurt" in the sense that they also want to consume some things containing sugar and are going to have to pay more to get those things.... which is going to government coffers for... freck knows where it goes.... probably a billionaire somewhere will syphon it and fly off to dubai. However you are focussing in straight on the sugar issue. I should emphasize I'm talking about all forms of nanny state-ism.

Should be clear that I have big problems with almost all of this.
I'd like to refer to your previous statement:
In this moral sense .....
...motivated to do the right thing as a matter of course
Perhaps the 'haves' should consider it their moral obligation to pay up for the general good.

The "haves" are not at fault for the misbehaviour and bad habits of everyone else always. The people responsible are those doing the behaviour. I'll be blunt with you: I fucking HATE this grown-child paternalistic attitude. If you repeatedly punch yourself in the face I'm not going to pay for your hospital bill, sorry. "The Rich" have no built-in obligation to be everyone's daddy because they've done better in life. The fact that the rich exists also does not absolve everyone else of personal responsibility just because there's someone to play master over them. And that is exactly what it is happening.

Could such beneficence become a slippery slope and impinge on individual freedom? Yes, but perhaps we should see it as a small sacrifice for the greater good.

This is a "first they came for..." argument that'll bite you in the ass eventually.

Having said all this: I have absolutely no illusions that the government is doing this 'for the good of the people'. It is simply a happy coincidence that there is money to be made at a time when their tax base is shrinking and commitments growing.

Right. And they're trying to save the environment by taxing cars and then using the money to.... *shrug*. Etc. This is inherent in the problem, the motivations are very muddy.
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2018, 15:48:23 PM »

But, to the point of sugar then: Doesn't help if refined sugars are taxed and natural ones aren't.... people will just switch.
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Spike
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2018, 22:55:26 PM »


He who foots the bill should and will take steps to discourage reckless behaviour, and considering the general lack of awareness and education in this specific target populace (receivers of national health care) it makes sense to try to curb consumption, be it by way of taxes or other measures. Any reasonable measures to lighten the burden of the national health care system should be welcomed.
I rest my case. The logic can be water-tight if you start with the wrong assumptions.
"Wrong assumptions" meaning the acceptance of the principle of a welfare state/socialised health care?


In this moral sense I think it's far superior to educate and use propaganda to convince people to be healthier.
What better way to draw attention to the problem than by getting everyone to talk about a sugar tax?
What better way to draw attention to genocide than to genocide someone?
Straw man


If the product really is unhealthy well informed public pressure should reflect that and the corporations should be purely monetarily motivated to do the right thing as a matter of course.
The research is solid, there is no disagreement whatsoever that too much sugar causes health problems. It's as indisputable as the body of work on smoking.
Didn't say it wasn't.
My mistake, I thought I detected skepticism in this sentence
If the product really is unhealthy


And lastly, and definitely not leastly: This hurts the poor more than anyone else. They have it hard enough already.
'Hurt' in the sense that they may have to consume less sugar? When the budget does not stretch, it does not stretch, and you make other choices.
"Hurt" in the sense that they also want to consume some things containing sugar and are going to have to pay more to get those
Wanting is not having. This is a good time to put aside paternalism.

The "haves" are not at fault for the misbehaviour and bad habits of everyone else always. The people responsible are those doing the behaviour. I'll be blunt with you: I fucking HATE this grown-child paternalistic attitude. If you repeatedly punch yourself in the face I'm not going to pay for your hospital bill, sorry. "The Rich" have no built-in obligation to be everyone's daddy because they've done better in life. The fact that the rich exists also does not absolve everyone else of personal responsibility just because there's someone to play master over them. And that is exactly what it is happening.

Could such beneficence become a slippery slope and impinge on individual freedom? Yes, but perhaps we should see it as a small sacrifice for the greater good.

This is a "first they came for..." argument that'll bite you in the ass eventually.
Fully agree. However, chronic conditions such as diabetes, and the serious complications arising from it, cost an arm and a leg to treat. It is a horrible, horrible death, you rot and fall to bits, organs included (death follows). I've seen first hand how much time and energy is spent to prolong doomed lives. If - and I do mean if a sugar tax can help to lower costs, it would be irresponsible not to implement it.

Having said all this: I have absolutely no illusions that the government is doing this 'for the good of the people'. It is simply a happy coincidence that there is money to be made at a time when their tax base is shrinking and commitments growing.
Right. And they're trying to save the environment by taxing cars and then using the money to.... *shrug*. Etc.
This is perhaps at the heart of my own problem with this tax. It's going to go straight into the pocket of some thug.

Nevertheless, to curb the focus on sugar: In some rare instances it may be necessary to take measures to protect a populace. Such measures may include gun controls, restrictions on asbestos mining or the use of pit latrines at schools. The cost of diabetes treatment to our public health system is so outrageous that an attempt to protect the populace from the dangers of excess sugar is fully justified.  Is the solution a sugar tax? I don't know, but I am of the opinion that such preventative measures, in this context, are justified.

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Spike
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2018, 23:02:10 PM »

But, to the point of sugar then: Doesn't help if refined sugars are taxed and natural ones aren't.... people will just switch.
"Natural sugars" can be found mostly in fruit (fructose), lactose, dextrose, maltose, galactose and so on. The refined sugar we see in the supermarket is by far the cheapest source of sweetness for the general populace. However, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup are the real baddies in this scenario. It is used in the manufacture of almost every product on a supermarket shelf. Cheap and nasty.
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brianvds
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2018, 06:28:25 AM »

But, to the point of sugar then: Doesn't help if refined sugars are taxed and natural ones aren't.... people will just switch.

It's not just sugar either: bread, refined rice, maize meal - all those things break down to sugar. That is why the section of our population heavily dependent on those as staples are so often both overweight and undernourished. But putting a tax on those things amounts to taxing poor people. The same actually even goes for the sugary drinks, to some extent. Go check at a building site what the workers eat during their break: white bread and Coke. It's what they can afford. Given their active lifestyle it isn't unhealthy either; it's a cheap injection of carbs. I have never seen an overweight builder.

Now intuitively I would think that non-refined carbs like whole wheat flower and maize meal, and brown rice, ought to be cheaper because, well, they have had less done to them. They are in fact much, much more expensive. This is partly because apparently, the bran and stuff is first taken out of everything, and then added back in to make the "unrefined" products. But it is also because there is a perception that such things, like "organic" food, are products mostly consumed by rich people. And thus, they are probably priced out of proportion to their production costs. (Same thing goes for soy milk, which is the "poor person's milk" in Asia, but here is two or three times as expensive as cow milk, simply because around here, it is mostly the upper middle class that indulges in it).

If the government really wants to make a difference via laws and regulations and campaigns, they can start educating the public about the advantages of unrefined carbs, and make laws about not removing all the bran and other roughage from maize meal and bread, or at least making the refined ones the expensive ones, instead of the unrefined ones.
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brianvds
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2018, 06:41:46 AM »

'Hurt' in the sense that they may have to consume less sugar? When the budget does not stretch, it does not stretch, and you make other choices.

For the poor, there frequently are no other choices. You tax the carbs, and they have to stop eating altogether. Not that that is a bad thing - see below.


Quote
Fully agree. However, chronic conditions such as diabetes, and the serious complications arising from it, cost an arm and a leg to treat. It is a horrible, horrible death, you rot and fall to bits, organs included (death follows). I've seen first hand how much time and energy is spent to prolong doomed lives. If - and I do mean if a sugar tax can help to lower costs, it would be irresponsible not to implement it.

I know a guy with chronic diabetes. He got that way by eating and eating and eating, like a frickin' pig, and he's rich enough that a sugar tax isn't going to stop him. :-)
But to get to the point I promised to make: it turns out that fasting is actually a very good way of controlling weight and indeed even reversing diabetes. I have tried out intermittent fasting; thus far I have lost a good seven kilos in about as many weeks, despite a diet relatively high in carbs.

Alas, it really does require a bit of will power, and I don't see the person I mention above, or the general populace, go for it any time soon, especially not in the face of official government-recommended diets, according to which your diet is supposed to be based on grain. It's the officially approved diet that is causing the trouble in the first place (though it probably won't be nearly as harmful, or harmful at all, if we eat unrefined grain).

But who can afford the Tim Noakes or paleo diet? Almost no one (I certainly can't). You can just imagine what would happen if the government were to announce that the only diet 80% of our population can afford is catastrophically unhealthy in the longer term. We'd have even more demands for land and redistribution.
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Spike
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2018, 11:11:51 AM »

It's not just sugar either: bread, refined rice, maize meal - all those things break down to sugar. That is why the section of our population heavily dependent on those as staples are so often both overweight and undernourished. But putting a tax on those things amounts to taxing poor people.
I believe those staples will be excluded, so no additional tax on that. Alas, yes, carbs are the go-to for most.
If the government really wants to make a difference via laws and regulations and campaigns, they can start educating the public about the advantages of unrefined carbs, and make laws about not removing all the bran and other roughage from maize meal and bread, or at least making the refined ones the expensive ones, instead of the unrefined ones.
They do have information campaigns at all state clinics and hospitals. There has been some effort to subsidise healthier options, eg brown bread is cheaper than white, eggs & veggies are no-vat, but as you pointed out, the cost of a healthier diet can be prohibitive. If you have to choose between pap for a month or salads & veggies for a week, I know what I would choose.

To return to the point of the nanny state - consider the 'explosion' of diabetes in the US, which is on trend here too. Ageing demographic, large population growth: unless a super-cheap cure for diabetes is found, the burden of the cost of diabetes will be prohibitive in twenty years' time.

In principle such a tax is right on the edge of a slip-slide into a nanny state, but let's replace 'sugar tax' with 'climate change'.  If we look back in twenty years, at a time when we are paying the full price of our current collective actions, would a small infringement on our personal rights have been justified?


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brianvds
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2018, 13:01:07 PM »

They do have information campaigns at all state clinics and hospitals. There has been some effort to subsidise healthier options, eg brown bread is cheaper than white, eggs & veggies are no-vat, but as you pointed out, the cost of a healthier diet can be prohibitive. If you have to choose between pap for a month or salads & veggies for a week, I know what I would choose.

To return to the point of the nanny state - consider the 'explosion' of diabetes in the US, which is on trend here too. Ageing demographic, large population growth: unless a super-cheap cure for diabetes is found, the burden of the cost of diabetes will be prohibitive in twenty years' time.

As I noted before, there is a super-cheap cure - it's called fasting. :-)
Alas, I don't see all that many people following it any time soon. Part of the whole problem is people's resistance to education: I have no data on this, but from casual observation it appears to me that white bread remains the preferred form of bread for the very people who are most at risk from it. It's partly just that people prefer to eat what they are used to (how may of us would switch to horse or dog meat, even if it turned out to be vastly healthier than beef or chicken?). Another part of it might be social status: if non-white bread is seen to be a food for, er, non-whites or the poor, then buying white bread is the poor man's equivalent of driving a Merc. (Which makes me wonder if making it more expensive might not make it even more desirable!)

Last but not least, typical dietary advice from government institutions is often plain wrong. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day (it should in fact preferably be skipped). A healthy dietary pyramid is not based on grains.

Alas, grains are what most people can afford, and have been for the past ten thousand years. I don't see that changing any time soon. Trying to force people to buy healthy food when such is simply not available in large enough amounts at low enough prices is a sort of dietary Obamacare.

Quote
In principle such a tax is right on the edge of a slip-slide into a nanny state, but let's replace 'sugar tax' with 'climate change'.  If we look back in twenty years, at a time when we are paying the full price of our current collective actions, would a small infringement on our personal rights have been justified?

Perhaps, but I'm not sure this small infringement is going to make much of a difference, and when it fails, instead of seeing it as a failure, the authoritarians will prescribe even more of the same. ("Socialism didn't work? Then we were clearly not socialist enough! We need more socialism and stricter rules and harsher penalties!")

I am rather suspicious of government officials deciding on my behalf what I should eat and when: they base it all on "scientific" advice that was highly dubious to begin with, and is now thoroughly outdated.

And yes, let us do the "climate change" substitution: what "small infringement" could government (and more specifically, the South African government) make now that will make much of a difference twenty years down the line?

The very best thing all governments can do for both people and the environment is to encourage large scale urbanization and get as many people as possible into the cities and on a middle class living standard, or at least to the point where they can hope for it. The effect of that will be an end to population growth, and indeed perhaps even its reversal. That would help both us and the environment.

Well, the sugar tax is now with us, so let's see what it does. Perhaps it works after all.
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2018, 14:29:23 PM »

I rest my case. The logic can be water-tight if you start with the wrong assumptions.
"Wrong assumptions" meaning the acceptance of the principle of a welfare state/socialised health care?

That people exist to have their interests subverted for other people. So yes.

Quote
In this moral sense I think it's far superior to educate and use propaganda to convince people to be healthier.
What better way to draw attention to the problem than by getting everyone to talk about a sugar tax?
What better way to draw attention to genocide than to genocide someone?
Straw man

My point stands. If you want to educate, educate. Don't legislate "to educate".

Quote
Fully agree. However, chronic conditions such as diabetes, and the serious complications arising from it, cost an arm and a leg to treat. It is a horrible, horrible death, you rot and fall to bits, organs included (death follows). I've seen first hand how much time and energy is spent to prolong doomed lives. If - and I do mean if a sugar tax can help to lower costs, it would be irresponsible not to implement it.

What was the tax on sugar on the 50's that prevented people from getting diabetes?

Quote
This is perhaps at the heart of my own problem with this tax. It's going to go straight into the pocket of some thug.

Damn straight.

Quote
... In some rare instances it may be necessary to take measures to protect a populace.

Sure. Such as in war, or famine, or homicide.

Quote
Such measures may include gun controls, restrictions on asbestos mining

To a degree fine...

Quote
or the use of pit latrines at school

What?!


Quote
The cost of diabetes treatment to our public health system is so outrageous that an attempt to protect the populace from the dangers of excess sugar is fully justified.

We're back at point 1 I'm afraid.


Quote
I am of the opinion that such preventative measures, in this context, are justified.

Well you could say that about any number of things and be wrong-right. You could feel that road deaths being prevented by a banning of cars is justified. Or that people getting burnt by mcdonalds coffee can be prevented by making the coffee tepid. That seems reasonable. How about just banning wingsuits all-together? Those are terrifyingly lethal even in expert hands.
The list can go on for days....
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brianvds
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2018, 08:11:23 AM »

This guy's articles on weight loss are quite good:

https://medium.com/@drjasonfung/controlling-the-bodys-fat-thermometer-12e2e69e94dd

Short version: standard dietary advice, dispensed and approved by government institutions, (cut calories and eat six meals per day) is plain wrong and frequently actually makes the problem worse. Weight loss/gain has literally zilch to do with calories. The government is right that sugar is a culprit, but so are all other refined carbs.

Problem is, as I noted before, carbs are all most people can afford. Now it will help if we eliminate the refined carbs: stop removing all the bran and other fibre from maize meal, rice, wheat flour etc. In fact, it will help a LOT; 200 years ago, most South African probably ate a diet of mainly grains, and obesity was all but unknown. But they didn't live on modern, snow white pap and white bread, and didn't snack all day long.

But now imagine this is done, and suddenly you can't find white bread or maize meal anymore, and everything is wholesomely rough and fibrous. There would be blood flowing in the streets, I tell you.

Alas, personal responsibility is and remains an actual thing, irrespective of what harebrained schemes governments come up with.

What the government can do is perhaps to make sure that the price of healthy, unrefined foods isn't artificially high (I really don't get how the freck it can be more expensive to leave stuff in food than to sift it out), and to make sure food companies don't surreptitiously slip sugar into foods as they do at the moment (frickin' everything, from bread to baked beans to tomato sauce to Big Macs, is absolutely packed with sugar, but they don't exactly shout that from the rooftops, do they?)

I.e. government should perform one of its legit functions, namely to combat outright fraud, which is what is currently going on in the food and health industries. Instead they skim off a bit of Coca Cola's profits for themselves. Yeah, I'm sure that will help us all a lot.
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