October 15, 2012

Little big gulp

NHK recently did a bit on Good Morning Japan about Bloomberg's campaign to limit the size of soft drinks. They started by comparing the small/medium/large drink sizes available at McDonalds in the U.S. to those in Japan.

A "small" size in the U.S. is the same as a "large" size in Japan. On a per-capita basis, Americans consume three times as much sugar per year as the average Japanese.

While the libertarian in me is appalled at Bloomberg's inexhaustible enthusiasm for nanny state government interference, at least he's focused on the right target this time. The problem with the American diet isn't fat, but sugar.

An entertaining examination of the many reasons why can be found in Fat Head, Tom Naughton's witty and self-deprecating response to Super Size Me.

Chowing down nothing but on fatty fast food for a month while strictly limiting carbohydrate consumption, Naughton lost weight, his total cholesterol went down, and his HDL went up.

These results impressed him (and his skeptical family physician) so much that the next month he consumed no carbohydrates (i.e., the full Adkins) and got the same results.

As Tom Naughton points out (and Gary Taubes explores at great length), the modern "food pyramid," emphasizing the consumption of grains and processed carbohydrates, was largely the product of a farm state senator, George McGovern.

That's the problem with the nanny state. It can be massively wrong, steer the ship of state into an iceberg, and not only never admit it but double down on the proposition. It's the government. It makes the rules. The gambler owns the casino.

Or as King Henry sums up the Bloombergean philosophy of benevolent dictatorship:

You and I cannot be confined within the weak list of a country's fashion [or constitution]: we are the makers of manners.

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# posted by Anonymous Dan
10/18/2012 7:27 PM   

The main fault is not sugar or sugar laden foods. Rather it is an overabundance of tasty foods Americans have available to them. It is not so much what we eat but how much of it that puts on the pounds.

Any diet will work in theory. Most don't because the discipline to diet while immersed in a culture devoted to eating is very, very hard.

It is laughable that Bloomberg feels nixing big gulps will matter. A blueberry muffin not only has more calories but it has infinite times more fat. Is Nannyberg going to shut down all the Starbucks, Panera Breads and corner cafes too?

# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
10/19/2012 8:51 AM   
In many manga series, the young teen male hero will often be disgusted by sweets while the female heroine will love them. (It's the reverse of Bones where Booth is always trying to get Bones to eat pie.)

It comes up so often--don't give him chocolate for Valentine's Day cause he thinks it is gross--I wondered if this is the equivalent of the American adult male who drinks his coffee black being ultra-cool: it's the utlimate stoicism! (And I have to say, if I drank coffee, I'd only drink those ones with chocolate shavings and whipped foam; forget health, the Word of Wisdom has saved me a boatload of money!)
# posted by Blogger Eugene
10/19/2012 9:50 AM   
There probably is a bit of ascetic assertiveness going on, the same way that grunt work for the sake of grunt work is still considered an important part of both academic and athletic success. Though as Peter Payne points out, most bottled tea sold in Japan is unsweetened, while finding anything sugar-free (natural or artificial) in the beverage aisle in an American grocery store is practically impossible. Most "sweet" foods are way too sweet for my taste too.