Bloody hell, a Worstall article I actually agree with, apart from the weak dig at Ed the Millipede, which at least was mildly amusing.
I often wonder why it is that people bother publishing “research” papers that are obviously incorrect. Is it that they're getting paid to spout bollocks? So who ate all of these? Tax payers mainly Or, is there some thought that we're all too stupid to realise that they're teabagging great big hairy ones at us? The latest …
I agree with the general gist of the article, but it is missing a couple of finer points.
1. Obesity cause is not food overconsumption. It is the food that has changed in the 70 years between the war and now. The people during the war did not get their gob stuffed with food where everything is marinated in glucose-fructose syrup. Anyone trying to repeat the food industry claims that the stuff is harmless is full of shit. Example: Prior to coming to the UK I used to do very little sports while eating half a hot bread right out of the bakery with half a jar of jam on it just for breakfast. Either that or half a kilogram of cheesecake. It was however _REAL_ jam (with sugar, not gfs) and _REAL_ bread or cheesecake made out of flour and yeast without a page list of bromates and other shite in it. I tried to keep that lifestyle in the UK with the result being 20kg gain in a year or so. Nowdays, I have completely blacklisted all gfs, bread and anything out of the crisps and sweets isle. As a result my weight is now back to normal. So the problem is not pies and calories, the problem is that the industry is deliberately putting sh*te in the food and is allowed to get away with it.
2. Obesity presently strikes in most cases from early childhood onwards. The present generation of whales becomes that before the age of 10. In order for the age-expectancy reduction to bring the expected financial results their life expectancy needs to be shorter by several decades (due to the longer period during which they are whales). At least. That is not the case - according to stats the reduction is presently a decade or so. So attributing to whales the "smoker effect" is a bit pushing it.
3. Biggest flaw in the article. It assumes that the tax contribution of a whale is the same as the tax contribution of a normal person. This means that a whale can do the same job as a normal person. Err... Plain and simple - that is not the case. The stats show a significant average income discrepancy (and tax contribution discrepancy) between the whales and the lean ones. Once this is added up into the equation I am no longer sure that the overall conclusions are the same.
The problem with the glucose-fructose thesis is quite simple. HCFS (high fructose corn syrup), which is what you're talking about, is largely a US thing. It's a product of the restrictive sugar import policy over there.
Europe just doesn't use as much. There's some, yes, but much, much, less. But we seem to be having much the same rates of obesity. So if we've very different rates of HFCS consumption (European soft drinks are largely sugar, as Mexican Coke is, as that Passover Coke is, American ones largely HFCS) but similar obesity problems then it can't really specifically be the HFCS that's the problem.
As to shite being put in the food I do mention that. At least some of the sugar and salt being added is to make up for the fats which they were urged to take out of stuff over the decades. Those fats which more recent research shows ain't much of a problem.
Here is something else to ponder.....
My sons GF comes from a sink estate and was fed nothing but cheap processed "junk" food her entire life; at age 20 she was invited to tea at our house and had to confess she had never SEEN a home made apple pie before, let alone eaten one.
(Her diet seemed to consist of Findus and Iceland products).
At 18 she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, Doctors said it was almost impossible to safely remove it or treat it, so all they could do was give her regular scans and monitor it.
Every 6 months she went for a scan, and for years the tumour got bigger and bigger; then at age 23, she moved out of the sink estate and moved in with my mother - who fed her healthy, freshly made home cooking.
At her next scan they discovered the tumour had stopped growing, and the scans since then have shown the tumour to be shrinking!!!!
Of course, no doctor will ever link the two events; it is just a coincidence - like the coincidence that my rare auto-immune illness has gotten better* by avoiding yeast/yeast extracts, despite my having no anti-bodies for yeast.
* My average Full Blood Count has DOUBLED since I established the link and started to avoid yeast, and is now 13-15% of normal; it has been as low as 2%.
Thats a Boffin icon - a boffin is someone who manages to do something a SCIENTIST says is impossible.
You should seriously read a book called Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.
What you are doing here is taking a sample of one and extrapolating the results to 60 million. It's so far beyond boffinry that the scientists (and anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together for warmth) wouldn't bother commenting on your experimental data.
Tim, the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup as a sugar substitute in the States is probably due more to subsidies for US maize producers than to restrictions on sugar imports. (Another effect of that policy is the widespread domestic use of ethanol from maize as an additive to gasoline/petrol.)
Tim, yes, US raw sugar price is usually around twice the world raw sugar price — on the order of around $0.50/kg in the US vs. $0.25/kg elsewhere. The nominal price of raw sugar in the US in 1974 was higher than it is now, and manufacturers of soft drinks, candy, &c. still managed somehow to remain profitable without resorting to sugar substitutes. The Secretary of Agriculture can adjust the amount of raw sugar importable at the lower tariff rates (for July 2014 through June 2015, about $0.0366/kg for beet sugar, about $0.0146/kg for cane sugar) at will; it mainly doesn’t happen because of political interests and lobbying by the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association.
the prevalence of high fructose corn syrup as a sugar substitute in the States
You are not travelling enough - it is not just in the States any more. There has been a concerted effort to "infect" the food industry to use it nearly exclusively as a sugar substitute in the Middle East, third world and Eastern Europe. It is exported in fairly large quantities now.
Just go into a supermarket in let's say Saudi or Romania next time and read the label on a Fanta, Bitter Lemon or Tonic. Compare to German or UK label.
Given that much of corn syrup's popularity in the US is due due its artificially cheap price (*)- a result of it being made from corn whose production is *massively* subsidised by the US government (**)- aren't their clauses in trade agreements that would prevent it being sold elsewhere at comparably low prices? Or are they selling it outwith the US at what *would* be its price without the corn subsidy?
(*) In conjunction with the aforementioned tariff making imported sugar more expensive
(**) Yay home of the free market and I'll-shoot-the-government-if-they-interfere-in-my-business-unless-that-interference-involves-giving-me-lots-of-money
European soft drinks are largely sugar,
Bollocks. There are two zones in Europe as far as Big Soda is concerned. Germany, UK, etc - all use sugar and some artificial sweeteners. Southern and Eastern Europe imports HFS in quantity and all drinks are done to 3rd world/Arab world specs. Best example is Bitter Lemon - my kids start spitting it out the moment we cross the Czech border on trips (both of them distinguish between sugar and HFS and cannot stand the latter).
By the time you get to somewhere near Turkey border (or Spain going south) _EVERYTHING_ is laced with HFS to a point where you will _NOT_ find a drink with sugar any more. You can also see obesity in countries which never had it before and it is the generation which has grown up with the "new" stuff.
Why... Well... It will be interesting if one of the Soda companies spokesdroids provides the answer. I am just stating the bloody obvious which you can see from the labels in the supermarket.
What we do have in common is a rising standard of living and much less need to engage in physical activity.
Not data, but anecdote that I expect with a bit of research could become data:
When I was young in my last year of high school I topped out the scales at 133 pounds. When I was in college I added few, but still stayed under 140. For a 5' 6" guy, those are about right. These days I fight to get under 200. What's changed? Well in college I was still walking all day to classes and had a job that sometimes required me to get from one corner of campus to the opposite in less than 20 minutes. When I took the elevator is was usually because I was hauling equipment, the rest of the time the stairs tended to be quicker. Campus was about 1 mile on the long side, half on the short one. Now I drive to the train station which drops me off yards from my office building. I take the elevator to the 9th floor. Then I reverse the process to go home. Where after starting dinner I plop down in my recliner until it is ready, then eat in my recliner. Then I go to bed. Commute plus work runs in the neighborhood of 12 hours, so I don't feel much like doing anything else when I do get home. Weekend are chores on Saturday, which again mostly involve the car for grocery shopping, then laundry including a couple runs up and down two flight of stairs.
In short, I live an essentially sedentary life and I know it. I've tried a couple times to break out of it, but found myself getting sick when I did.
My roommate has a similar type of schedule, except she drives to work. Still mostly sedentary. From time to time she signs up for a weight watcher class or aerobics or some such which lasts maybe 6 months. No more than twice a week for the classes.
Actually sugar is bad for you too. Apparently it messes with your body's ability to determine that you've eaten enough.
Those hip replacements talked about in the article - weakened bones break more easily to the point where the bone breaks causing the fall, not the fall breaking the bones. Bones of course are hard because of their calcium which can be leached by the body to counteract excessive acid in the digestive system caused (usually) by rich/acidic food, coffee, cream, cheese etc.
Health is a package, a lifestyle. Its best to not eat processed/concentrated food. The first things added in excess to packaged food tend to be salt, fat and sugar, all of which tend to be present in rather high quantities. If one is low, the others tend to go higher to compensate. The problem is the palette - we don't like eating simple but healthy food. Reduce the processing, reduce the human interference between pasture and plate, eat mostly plants, do some exercise and as a generalisation, you'll be much healthier. You'll still die of course, but you'll tend to be less sick along the way.
I think its a fairly sick mentality that suggests that getting people to die young before they become a financial burden on society is a good thing. We should be working for the good of the individual, not leaving them to die quickly by malnutrition, regardless of their income level.
Perhaps obesity on its own is too narrow a definition of what incurs health-costs, would it better please the ranters to widen it to "malnutrition"? It's still mostly the same thing but it might let the air out of their concern regarding sound-bite reports and politics.
"We should be working for the good of the individual" - aaaaagh, no, please.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." C S Lewis.
I'd rather wallow in my own fat than have your version of do-gooding imposed upon me. And if I cark early (and save you a bob or two in the process) that, Sir, is my business, not yours.
> Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim
...except once you claim goods and services provided by professionals as an "individual right", this is no longer just about "the good of the victim". You're making poor choices and then everyone else is expected to clean up after you both literally and figuratively.
You should be equally eager to sort out your own readily forseeable problems as you are to create them.
I dunno. We read the local message boards for people in our part of suburbia an the level of maintenance and expense all of these lardbutts are consuming seems quite significant. Between back and knee surgeries and monthly lifestyle medications, it seems like no trivial amount when compared to the near ZERO amount consumed by my own fit household.
These people certainly sound damaged.
Sugar from Beet leaves an aftertaste in my turbo-cider, cane sugar doesn't leave that aftertaste.
For those interested ---> 5L of apple juice (from concentrate) +2Kg of sugar (cane prefered) + yeast +2 weeks =9%+ (11% and fizzy if fermented again in reused pop bottles) cider.
Guaranteed gluten free!
Yeaaaahhh... your weight gain attributed to UK bread & jam is not exactly a scientific proof now is it though. Lots of other factors could be (and most likely ARE) at play - lifestyle and advancing age the most obvious that come to mind. I also developed a spare tyre when I turned forty, and despite working out five times a week which I didn't do in my twenties and thirties, I eat probably half what I did as a young man. And still struggle to keep those pounds off. Your body just gets better at converting carbs into blood sugar as you get older.
I forget - how did we get onto this subject? It's a bit off-topic, isn't it, since we were talking about the long-term cost (to society) of being a lard-ass. To address Tim W then, I think the point of the Kinsey (or whoever) report was that the money is "lost", irrespective of who loses it - but of course it makes much better headlines when you imply that the cost is to "the taxpayer". And of course Sky News picks up this kind of thing and Eamonn discusses it to death without actually questioning the source of the information. Makes for spectacular (if inaccurate) headlines.
Refreshing and amusing on a Sunday morning.
But 2 wrongs never make a right... and unprofessional bullshit + biased arguments, no matter how witty, don't really address the real issues.
Take for example the statement that "smokers and topers" more than pay for their treatment by paying taxes on their favourite poisons.... ahem....
At current taxation rates (let's say 6.50 per 20 pack) a smoker would need to go through 10 packs a day for 50 years to even come near the complete cost of a lung cancer treatment & support.
And - like it or not - the increasing number of drinkers, smokers, druggies and overeaters are starting to weigh quite enormously on the budget of health services... to the point that in some countries the question must be asked of what patients to prioritize: The old geezer who has drunk and smoked all his life despite being told he was courting death OR the 50 kids coming in A&E after a school bus crash.
For all the 1950 political slogans about "free and unlimited health for all" we all know that the truth is very far from that. Health services even in "nanny states" have limited and shrinking budgets....
So considering all that - yeah - long term efforts at prevention and changing lifestyles so that people avoid the most health risk prone attitudes is not such a bad thing is it?
"Take for example the statement that "smokers and topers" more than pay for their treatment by paying taxes on their favourite poisons.... ahem...."
That's not quite what is being said, that fags taxes pay for the treatment of fag related diseases (although every claim about the cost of treating smokers on the NHS is in fact lower than the amount of fag taxes collected).
Rather, the claim is that the NHS treats people their whole lives. The costs of treating a smoker, fattie or boozer are lower, on that lifetime basis, than someone "healthy". The reduction in the number of years of treatment costs is greater than any specific costs associated with treating those diseases.
I've linked to a "real" (ie, peer reviewed etc) paper making the point and there's many more like it out there. It's not a controversial point in fact. Someone who pops their clogs at 65 from lung cancer costs the NHS less on a lifetime basis than someone who is still getting hip replacements at 80. And we all end up getting terminal care for something because we all do die.
Then there is also the misclassification... I break my foot playing soccer ... I go to to ER ... I am asked if I am a smoker ... If yes then the broken foot becomes statistically correlated with smoking
IN Australia smokers contribute @8Billion in excise & GST & use about 380Million in healthcare (no typos with the billion & million) attributable to smoking related (see oara 1 on how this inflated)
"That's not quite what is being said, that fags taxes pay for the treatment of fag related diseases (although every claim about the cost of treating smokers on the NHS is in fact lower than the amount of fag taxes collected)."
After all, it's not every smoker who has multi-million pound lung cancer treatments. So, while most if not all have some health-related issues, many get away with some relatively low-level stuff, like breathing from an oxygen bottle for the last couple of years of their lives or repeatedly having to deal with URTIs or even chronic meds for congestive heart failure, but in the long run I'd venture that the average cost of treating a smoker for smoking-related illnesses is lower than the total taxxes collected off tobacco products.
Not being British myself I can't really judge the state of healthcare but if it's anything like Sweden I would hazard a guess that the underlying issues are a lack of budget keeping up with increased wages and increasing population combined with increased cost and complexity of many treatments.
The cost of in this case a smoker is not the cost of an individual, a single individual contracting lung cancer will of course be a net expense, though looking at the whole population of smokers, the percentage that get cancer or any other expensive illness from smoking is low enough to be offset by the decrease in life expectancy and treatment of age related diseases. When looking at total costs, one can't look at individuals but must examine the entire population.
The McKinsey report is produced to order, presumably to help privatise the NHS. That's what their reports are generally designed to do.
However, to suggest that you need to combat their economic voodoo with some modelling voodoo from 2008 (see the PLOS medicine paper referenced in the "pans out" link) is unfortunate, and does suggest you don't understand the situation. I'm reminded of economists whenever I think of this: http://www.xkcd.com/793/
Richard Doll did make the assumption that smoking was good for the economy; he carefully enunciated it as such and didn't lay it down as fact. I first came across this when reading some other modelling paper (think ~2009 in BMJ but can't now find) which contradicted this. It's a shame this is used as an argument from authority now; he'd be furious.
So here's a paper to read to gain some understanding about cost of illness studies: Cost-of-Illness Studies, by Larg and Moss, Pharmacoeconomics 2011. "While they attract much interest... inconsistencies in the way in which they are conducted and a lack of transparency in reporting have made interpretation difficult, and have ostensibly limited their usefulness." They proceed to demonstrate why you shouldn't believe this type of study, without some serious fact checking.
Here's some of the fact checking required (appendix A of PLOS medicine paper, available to everyone free of charge): "For our calculations, we did not take into account transitions between risk factor classes over time." They have (to make the modelling easier) assumed that your state (healthy/smoker/obese) at age 20 is constant for the next 100 years. I'd suggest that this is not a valid assumption. Most obesity occurs after the age of 20; there are far more smokers at 20 than at 30; changes in this classification makes the modelling almost impossible. An additional problem in their modelling is there is no feedback (at least hat I can see): they assume incidence of diseases is uncorrelated to risk factors. They assume that average health care costs for their diseases apply: usually those who are obese or smokers have significantly higher costs. 20 year olds have lower costs. If you die from the incidence of your illness, your costs are markedly different to if you continue to live.
TL;DR: don't base arguments on modelling papers, demand empirical data. Which would have been a good article, seeing as the McKinsey paper has (I think - haven't bothered to actually read it) much the same faults.
Surely you jest. None of the Tories were as fat and noxious as Cyril Smith the noted Liberal/Lib-Dem paedo. Also Jabba the Hutt (Prescott) lately known as Lord of the Pies is Labour (as well as being the world fattest bulimic).
The rest of the article is pretty spot on though.
Yes but put together they are still smaller than Cyril Smith.
In fact Cyril Smith looked like he had eaten Eric Pickles whole.
Like my fat list
Those ill thin ones, Stick insect, Thin, Normal, Overweight, Fat, Obese, Darts Player, Darts Player eater.
So ... if we want more health care and much longer than average life span, we should encourage OTHER people to binge drink, smoke 40 a day, take no exercise and live on an excess amount of convenience food, sweets, soft drinks and takeouts?
Then there will be more money for our pension, no waiting list for hip replacements etc.
No we encourage all middle aged men to take up motorbikes.
Hello sir, so you had a 125cc Bantam in the 60s? Well then this 900cc FireBlade is basically the same, and your license covers it so no need to take any lessons....
That way they die before we have to pay for any expensive dementia treatment - and we get a couple of half decent kidneys (forget the heart and liver) and corneas in the deal.
Now if only we can find something dangerous for middle aged women to take to the NHS is saved.
From the fact that Miliband has indeed been elected (by his parliamentary constituency and the arcane processes of the Labour leadership ballot) one can infer he is electable.
In the context of the original article, I suspect that "suggested" would have been more appropriate than "inferred", but there is no reference to anything from which an implication might have been drawn.
The pendant's pedant
PS: He's still a bacon sandwich short of a Gregg's breakfast.
Sorry, I've been wanting to use that since I saw "Mr Turner", and your invocation of ire early on gave me the excuse I needed.
A nicely argued article. I'm particularly drawn to the "calories expended in keeping warm" as heat production is a major consumer of the body's fuel.
Anyone care to do a few back of the envelope calculations on heat balance for living in a centrally heated home vis-à-vis the "frozen window pane bedrooms" of the 40s and 50s?
"Anyone care to do a few back of the envelope calculations on heat balance for living in a centrally heated home vis-à-vis the "frozen window pane bedrooms" of the 40s and 50s?"
For me that would be 60s. 70's and into the 80s. Even to this day I keep my window open, love the cold and the joy of getting between cold cotton sheets borders on the monastic mentality.
Dunno the answer, but I can offer a corollary to heating - air conditioning in hot countries. I lived in Saudi Arabia in the 'eighties and the locals were almost universally thin. Since then, air conditioning everywhere has boomed and 'comfortable' inside temperatures have dropped to the point that I had to wear a jacket indoors on a recent visit. Waistlines, meanwhile, have boomed... so I would posit that keeping cool in the heat is as much a calorie burning excercise as keeping warm in the cold.
Intersting argument, but it does seem to give too much weight (sorry) to the whole life medical costs rather than the rolling costs year on year.
It may be some minor consolation that a 30 year old obese alchoholic smoker may only be a burden on the health service for the next 30 years instead of 60, but the health service does need the funding for the shorter term higher cost support.
Agreed that the report is unlikely to be supremely unbiased.
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