Fat Fiction Fat, lies and measuring tape

22Feb/114

How to solve obesity in the UK and beyond

Solving world obesity - superhero required

Your name is Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary.  You’ve been in power for some months now, you span around in your executive leather chair a few times, you’ve taken a machete to the NHS, you’ve stopped everyone ordering croissants in meetings (strictly speaking a financial measure but you’ll take the credit for obesity reduction too) but now you need to get serious. The treasury have been banging on your door, demanding to reduce spending on the NHS and you know obesity is the biggest preventable cause of health spending in the country, and you need to do something about it.

I’ve already mentioned – inviting KFC – as the in Kentucky Fried Chicken lot, not Kettering Fat Council, to write your obesity strategy might have upset those expecting it to rain fruit and vegetables across the UK, but it was simply a method of tinkering around the edges and doesn’t actually solve anything. To state the obvious that’s often been forgotten, ignore exercise and activity rates. Obesity is primarily about what you eat, so if you want to solve obesity you need to either force or persuade people to eat better, ban foods, or convince outlets to sell healthier produce.

But before you get Ronald McDonald to prepare your PowerPoint slides, think bigger. Something more radical is required, based on why people do get fat. And why do they? The overall conclusion from reading the billion and one medical papers, from the nutritionists, dieticians, the quacks and the qualified, from Paleo to Twinkie diets, is that obesity is caused by a lack of nutrients. This - in the UK is mainly caused by white flour and sugar, but for an all encompassing summary:

-          not eating enough nutrients (highly processed food diets)

-          eating foods which damage your ability to absorb nutrients (gluten)

-          eating too many foods which bind to nutrients (all grains/legumes especially processed ones)

-          eating food which is effectively toxic (such as trans-fats or vegetable oils).

So without further ado, here’s my list of the biggest things the Department of Health could do to reduce obesity in order of importance. There’s no mention of junk food – because as paleo diets prove, one man’s health food is another man’s junk food. Let’s crack on:

1)      Remineralise white flour. Personally, I’d ban it altogether but politically you’d cause a crumpet riot. The issue is really that the fortification of white flour puts back 4 of the 16 or so vitamins and minerals that processing wheat takes out. Given it’s the staple of the British diet, it’s surely common sense to restore back what milling takes out? Better nutrition lowers obesity.

2)      Ban trans-fats. Denmark’s done it, America’s doing it, the UK shouldn’t hesitate. They’re toxic, they’re obesogenic, they’re unnecessary. You shouldn’t have to educate people to avoid poison in the food supply, the government should be responsible for getting rid of it.

3)      Reopen the debate on saturated fat. Now, I personally need no convincing that saturated fat doesn’t drive heart disease nor obesity but it’s not the role of Government to judge science. Get non-food manufacturer scientists, scientists off the payroll of Unilever et al to discuss implications of metastudies like this one which show saturated fat to have no effects on CHD/CVD. I would have thought the Food Standards Agency should have done this by now. Why haven’t they?

4)      National standards for food packaging. Just standardise the bloody things. I don’t want a series of traffic lights based on some half-cocked idea of what’s good for me. I want to know does it have a bagful of chemicals on it, and if it used to live, did it grow up in some disease-ridden shit-infested stink pit or did it do press ups out in the yard everyday before voluntarily giving itself up for slaughter? Not so much to ask is it?

5)      Cartel food tax to subsidise organic farming. This one will go down like a lead balloon with Tescos I’m sure. I used to think organic farming was a pointless waste of energy by those who agonise over the ethics of their coffee in the morning. I was wrong. The reality is that mineral levels through intensive farming techniques have depleted between 70-80% world wide. Who cares? You should. Already there’s a few studies showing declines in the nutritional content of fruit and vegetables, which means you’ll need to eat more just to reach the same level of nutritional satiety.This won’t have any immediate effect on obesity but it might prevent further rises.  Get the biggest players in the UK food market to stump up a fund to subsidise farming.

There’s my five. Got any more?

Bertie Basset from Mark Therman

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. To limit dramatically the consumption of unhealthy Omega-3 fatty acids by banning some vegetable oils…

  2. The United States would be doing almost everyone a big ol’ favor if we stopped subsidizing wheat, corn and soybeans. Never happen.

    Gut damage issues aside, unsoaked, unsprouted grains glom onto minerals and keep them from being absorbed. I don’t know how much mineral you’d have to add to allow people to start absorbing it. There’s also the taste. I add 750 mg of Mg and 100 mg of zinc to my protein shake, plus some cocoa (which is good at masking flavors), and the result is, well, an acquired taste. Who knows, maybe people would get used to high-mineral bread. However, I don’t think added minerals would help the fact that grains spike blood glucose levels as badly as pure sugar does. As important as micronutrients are, people with wonky blood sugar simply have to whack a lot of carb out of their diet. Maybe putting minerals in the water would be a good idea.

    I don’t know how flexible the UK’s new secretary is, but the U.S. govt. got off on the wrong foot 35 years ago and never looked back. What I see, though, is the followers highjacking the lead, as dancers say. Some of my coworkers are cutting their carbs and doubting the lipid hypothesis. I see vintage enthusiasts eating like their grandmothers–and they’re hopping mad about all the low-fat lies they’ve been told. There’s an initiative afoot to “decriminalize Denver’s chickens!” (i.e., let people legally raise them). And when I tell people about eating low-carb and high-fat, they no longer look at me like I have two heads.


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