Should we be free to eat whatever we want?

Obamacare, Medicare, health care…

Obesity contributes approximately 20% of the national health care budget.  If health care costs continue their rise, that means less money for infrastructure, education, research, and other investments that increase productivity.

When I was in NYC a few weeks ago, a young lady approached me on the street in Harlem to sign a petition against Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to prevent fast food restaurants from selling sodas larger than 16 ounces.  I told her I agreed with the mayor.

Which raises the question of the “nanny state.”  But I believe that we as a country should do more to promote physical fitness and limit unhealthy foods.

The Economist recently published an article that suggests that American cultural and political traditions make it unlikely that we’ll adopt societal policies to reduce obesity.

 The problem isn’t that it’s not possible; rather, it’s that America is incapable of doing it.

America’s national governing ideology is based almost entirely on the assertion of negative rights, with a few exceptions for positive rights and public goods such as universal elementary education, national defence and highways. But it’s become increasingly clear over the past decade that the country simply doesn’t have the political vocabulary that would allow it to institute effective national programmes to improve eating and exercise habits or culture. A country that can’t think of a vision of public life beyond freedom of individual choice, including the individual choice to watch TV and eat a Big Mac, is not going to be able to craft public policies that encourage people to exercise and eat right. We’re the fattest country on earth because that’s what our political philosophy leads to. We ought to incorporate that into the way we see ourselves; it’s certainly the way other countries see us….

It’s not that it’s impossible for governments to hold down obesity; France, which had rapidly rising childhood obesity early this century, instituted an aggressive set of public-health interventions including school-based food and exercise shifts, nurse assessments of overweight kids, visits to families where overweight kids were identified, and so forth. Their childhood obesity rates stabilised at a fraction of America’s.

Some of the lawyers who sued “Big Tobacco” are now suing “Big Food.”

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients…

Other plaintiffs’ lawyers have largely taken aim at food products marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” subjective claims that can be easily disputed by expert witnesses…

has brought a case against Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker, for listing “evaporated cane juice,” as an ingredient in its pomegranate-flavored yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned companies not to use the term because it is “false and misleading,” according to the suit.

“If you’re going to put sugar in your yogurt, why not just say it’s sugar?” said Pierce Gore, a lawyer affiliated with Mr. Barrett’s group.

Consumers like Christine Sturges, one of the plaintiffs in a suit against ConAgra, has gluten allergies and reads labels vigilantly.

When she heard about a lawsuit involving the Pam cooking spray, she took a closer look. “There was nothing scary on it, just this innocuous word, ‘propellant,’ ” said Ms. Sturges, a hairdresser from Los Gatos, Calif.

After digging deeper, she learned that “propellant” included petroleum gas, propane and butane. “I’d been spraying that on muffin tins to make muffins for my grandchildren — oh my God!”

 

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See vascularanesthesia.com for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

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