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Old 06-21-2012, 09:46 AM   #41
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Im not as strongly committed as you are fly, but I definitely lean your way. Government influences aside, we still can go over to the apple aisle instead of the high fructose corn sugar aisles if we want. I have two line of defenses for my healthy eating. Either keeping the hole under my nose closed, or keeping the wallet in my pocket. Option 2 works best for me. Once purchased I can ravage a big bag of chips in no time!
I want my share of the subsidy dollar to go straight to potato chips.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:52 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Letj

Many people are ignorant about proper food choices and often eat they way their parents taught them. I am afraid that some people need the government to tell them how to eat and how to make the right choices. Let's not forget that we are all products of adaptation, more or less. The food industry understands that very well and effectively markets to the unenlightened.
I think you would have to go further than educate to reach your desired results. I believe you would have to choose for them WHAT to eat, not how. I think the bad foods would either have to be banned or taxed until it is not viable for the masses to afford to consume them. Are consumers misinformed on healthy frozen food choices laced with sodium? Sure. But for the regular junk food, I pretty sure most people know potato chips, cookies, and fries are not as nutritious as a carrot or apple, and a 44oz Big Gulp has more calories than a 16 oz. In my mind anyways education isnt the solution as much as self discipline and control are.
I am not in favor of government subsidizing the corn industry. But even if they didn't, I would be surprised if it changed eating behaviors much. If a bag of chips doubled in price overnight, it wouldn't be the factor in whether I purchased them or not.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:58 AM   #43
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That's fine. Then what is your explanation for the trends (refer to post #18 if you like)? Not only has obesity increased dramatically in the US, it seems to be getting worse relative to other industrialized nations (increasing faster in the US).
Of course, I don't have the answers, but in my opinion, there are numerous factors at work, and while an increase in availability of processed foods may be one of them, I don't believe it's a major one.

Basically (and this is just my opinion), I think the two biggest factors are
  • Technology has made it easier for our true colours to shine through
  • Economic factors have conspired to rob us of the time to prepare proper meals
Humans have always loved fat, sugar, and salt. With increases in factory farming, production automation, dramatic improvements to transportation infrastructure, marketing, and other elements, attaining that "instant gratification" of a salty or sugary treat has become easier and cheaper (relative to income). Whereas in the past, we had no choice but to make a stew or bake a chicken, now we can just pop a Hungry Man frozen dinner in the microwave and be done with it.

Secondly, I believe previous generations were more likely to have one member dedicated to maintaining the household (typically Mom). Thus, that individual had the time to spend preparing home-cooked meals from scratch (and had the knowledge to pass on to her offspring). I think more recent generations are more economically strained (between escalating costs of housing, education, and health care, which have all dramatically outpaced inflation), necessitating two earners per household instead of one.

With two frazzled parents arriving home at 6:00 PM after an already long day, the motivation to prepare a healthy meal just isn't there. So they resort to instant (less healthy) food. Furthermore, they never develop the wide range of cooking skills their parents had, so they cannot pass those on to their own children, who then leave the nest, able to do little more than boil water and prepare Kraft Dinner.

I think the problem is a lot bigger than the size of soda pop at the movie theater.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:02 AM   #44
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I think you would have to go further than educate to reach your desired results. I believe you would have to choose for them WHAT to eat, not how. I think the bad foods would either have to be banned or taxed until it is not viable for the masses to afford to consume them. Are consumers misinformed on healthy frozen food choices laced with sodium? Sure. But for the regular junk food, I pretty sure most people know potato chips, cookies, and fries are not as nutritious as a carrot or apple, and a 44oz Big Gulp has more calories than a 16 oz. In my mind anyways education isnt the solution as much as self discipline and control are.
I am not in favor of government subsidizing the corn industry. But even if they didn't, I would be surprised if it changed eating behaviors much. If a bag of chips doubled in price overnight, it wouldn't be the factor in whether I purchased them or not.
The question is not whether you/we would swear off buying chips altogether. If the price of chips doubled overnight, you can bet the number of bags of chips purchased would decline and (all else being equal) the number of units of alternatives would increase (with nothing being one of the alternatives). It would take someone smarter than me to quantify, but there would be a change...and people might be inclined to make smarter choices more often (I agree most people have to know about healthier choices in general).
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:07 AM   #45
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I think the bad foods would either have to be banned or taxed until it is not viable for the masses to afford to consume them.
I really dislike this approach. I strongly feel that in a free society, people have to be free to make the "wrong" choice. Otherwise what's the point of living?

Moreover, if I live the rest of my life healthily, but want a little bag of potato chips for my birthday, why should I be denied that choice, just because my rotund neighbor doesn't know when to say "enough?"

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Are consumers misinformed on healthy frozen food choices laced with sodium?
Is it possible we are misinformed about the dangers of sodium?

Back in the 80's, eggs were good for you. Then for a while, they were bad (cholesterol!). Then it was just the yolks that were bad - you could still eat the whites. Then it turned out there wasn't as much cholesterol in the yolk as they thought, and the benefits of the "perfect" protein in eggs outweighed the risks of a little cholesterol. What are they this year - good or bad? I've lost track.

Then of course there's bacon. Salty and fatty and loaded with cholesterol, they were the poster-food for unhealthy indulgence. Then Dr. Atkins came along and said it was fine, as long as you don't eat carbs. The Paleo crew and others joined in. So what's the verdict on bacon? Is it an artery-clogging villain, or a wrongfully-maligned source of energy-rich protein?

My point is, what if we ban all these sodium-rich foods, only to later discover/realize that we actually need a little sodium? What if we had banned bacon and eggs in a knee-jerk reaction to their "dangers?"

I really think a big part of any solution needs to be education, and forming proper habits EARLY. If one never learns how to properly handle "bad" foods, then those foods still hold control over their lives. It's like a debtor who cuts up all their credit cards and turns their finances over to their parent. They still haven't learned how to handle money, they're just expecting "someone else" to save them from themselves. We need to teach these people how to manage their own money/diet, not hold their hand and do it for them.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:08 AM   #46
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Of course, I don't have the answers, but in my opinion, there are numerous factors at work, and while an increase in availability of processed foods may be one of them, I don't believe it's a major one.

<snip> post #43 above.

I think the problem is a lot bigger than the size of soda pop at the movie theater.
All very good points! I think processed foods are significant, but I wouldn't pretend to rank them all either. I'm questioning why we accept exacerbating the influence of processed foods with subsidies, when it does not really lower the cost at all. "We" just give advantages to some food producers over others, which contributes to several other problems...

Like you, I'm not for banning or taxing select foods (just the flip side of subsidies), I'd just like to see a level playing field for all food production. From there, "free to choose..."
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:19 AM   #47
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The question is not whether you/we would swear off buying chips altogether. If the price of chips doubled overnight, you can bet the number of bags of chips purchased would decline and (all else being equal) the number of units of alternatives would increase (with nothing being one of the alternatives). It would take someone smarter than me to quantify, but there would be a change...and people might be inclined to make smarter choices more often (I agree most people have to know about healthier choices in general).
I am in full agreement with you that our nations diet is not good. And Kombats comment on "cooking" by convenience instead of nutritiously is spot on, too. A certain segment of the population values healthy eating and some do not. Its funny but reading peoples posts and their opinions seem to reflect their viewpoints on governments role in society, even when we are talking about food. I am no exception. I practice pretty decent health habits, but even my defects, I am aware of them, I just choose not to do it. I have to admit my libertarian leanings, so that is why I advocate personal responsibility and choice including self destructive ones to a degree. I am no fan of government possibly contributing to the problem through subsidizing, but I also don't think the government should tell me what to eat either. Just my opinion, and everyone on this thread makes great points.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:23 AM   #48
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I tend to agree with the end subsidies and let the market sort it out crowd. I would like to tax "empty calorie" junk food as a disincentive but I don't think we know enough about which ones are truly bad to do that (a la the eggs and bacon debate). We would end up simply distorting the market and destroying some businesses while others (just as bad) sneak in through the gaps. Right now, for example, I suspect the only broad consensus would be to tax sugary sodas but even that would favor diet sodas with the unknown risks of artificial sweeteners. But we sure as heck shouldn't be subsidizing the production of HFCS.
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:37 AM   #49
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...the one thing people almost universally wish to avoid is death. Until more people somehow come to associate obesity and death, they simply won't worry enough about obesity to resist the lure of cheap, tempting food.
But that hasn't worked for smoking!
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:42 AM   #50
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the one thing people almost universally wish to avoid is death
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But that hasn't worked for smoking!
I saw a fascinating program once (I forget the name) that actually examined this topic. The "self-preservation" instinct in humans is one of -if not the most - powerful instincts inherent to mankind. So why do humans engage in self-destructive behaviour like smoking?

Their conclusion had to do with the time horizon. Our "self-preservation" instinct only kicks in for immediate mortal threats. Long-term hazards like smoking don't trigger it, and thus don't register as a fatality risk.

It was a fascinating program, I wish I could remember the name. But the conclusion applies equally to diet as it does to smoking. Without the threat of imminent mortal harm, telling people that "smoking/fatty foods" will kill them will not act as an effective deterrent.
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Old 06-21-2012, 11:29 AM   #51
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But that hasn't worked for smoking!
It hasn't, at least in part?

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Old 06-21-2012, 02:22 PM   #52
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Certainly an interesting thread! I wonder if the solution is simply eating for fuel and sustenance food that is prepared by your own hands. The problem is likely not just the fault of the food industry but the socieity that we live in. One in which people overindulge in everything including food and no longer do anything the long winded way including cooking from scratch. It's likely not so much what you eat but how much you eat that's the problem. I've maintained the same weight my entire life and I am quite healthy at 5'6'' and 125 pounds and I am now middle age. I see how much others are eating and they are eating way more than I eat and understandably most are overweight. I don't fuss about what I eat; I just like to eat fresh food that I make with my own hands thanks to my upbringing. My mother laid a solid foundation for all her children and taught us not eat unless we were hungry and it worked for all of us; no weight problem.
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Old 06-21-2012, 02:55 PM   #53
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So why do humans engage in self-destructive behaviour like smoking?

Their conclusion had to do with the time horizon. Our "self-preservation" instinct only kicks in for immediate mortal threats. Long-term hazards like smoking don't trigger it, and thus don't register as a fatality risk
My late wife, who wasn't a heavy smoker, but who smoked nonetheless, said, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, that "I never thought it would happen to me"...........she certainly wasn't a stupid woman, but I guess for some people, particular threats just don't appear on their screen beforehand.
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Old 06-21-2012, 03:09 PM   #54
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Hmm, I am wary of seeming political in my response, since there are people out there who think the government made up all the anti-smoking studies (while subsidizing tobacco growers - !]

Acc to the Centers for Disease Control, ~20% of Americans still smoke, so obviously either they don't fear terminal illness, or have convinced themselves the danger is not real:

CDC - Fact Sheet - Adult Cigarette Smoking in the United States - Smoking & Tobacco Use

Nevertheless, I believe that is a significant drop from 40 years ago when, as we can see in old movies, "everybody smoked." I had thought that fear of croaking from lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and terminal wrinkliness were definite factors in getting people to quit smoking. Fear of the first 3 convinced my father, brother, and husband, all heavy smokers at one time or another, to quit.

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But that hasn't worked for smoking!
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Old 06-21-2012, 03:10 PM   #55
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I tend to agree with the end subsidies and let the market sort it out crowd. I would like to tax "empty calorie" junk food as a disincentive but I don't think we know enough about which ones are truly bad to do that (a la the eggs and bacon debate). We would end up simply distorting the market and destroying some businesses while others (just as bad) sneak in through the gaps. Right now, for example, I suspect the only broad consensus would be to tax sugary sodas but even that would favor diet sodas with the unknown risks of artificial sweeteners. But we sure as heck shouldn't be subsidizing the production of HFCS.
I'd put it another way: To me the only justification to target anything that's considered a "bad lifestyle choice" is to recover the measurable public cost of those choices. Merely wanting to "enforce" healthy choices is not a sufficient justification to influence consumer choice. I neither want to punish nor subsidize their choices.

Having said that, one thing I do consistently notice about the "warriors on obesity" (and for smoking and alcohol for that matter) is that they tend to talk a lot about the public health care costs of "unhealthy choices" in order to justify bans, restrictions and taxation of food and drink, cigs and booze, but they almost never offset those public costs by the savings when these people die sooner on average (and collect SS and public pensions for several fewer years).

Now I'm not advocating unhealthy lifestyles as a way to save SS and rescue pension plans, but if someone is going to use the "cost to the public" argument to justify restrictions, bans and taxes then they need to be honest and consistent about it, and factor in the "savings to the public" in SS and pensions when smokers, drinkers and the obese die 5-7 years earlier on average.
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Old 06-21-2012, 04:59 PM   #56
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I'd put it another way: To me the only justification to target anything that's considered a "bad lifestyle choice" is to recover the measurable public cost of those choices. Merely wanting to "enforce" healthy choices is not a sufficient justification to influence consumer choice. I neither want to punish nor subsidize their choices.

Having said that, one thing I do consistently notice about the "warriors on obesity" (and for smoking and alcohol for that matter) is that they tend to talk a lot about the public health care costs of "unhealthy choices" in order to justify bans, restrictions and taxation of food and drink, cigs and booze, but they almost never offset those public costs by the savings when these people die sooner on average (and collect SS and public pensions for several fewer years).

Now I'm not advocating unhealthy lifestyles as a way to save SS and rescue pension plans, but if someone is going to use the "cost to the public" argument to justify restrictions, bans and taxes then they need to be honest and consistent about it, and factor in the "savings to the public" in SS and pensions when smokers, drinkers and the obese die 5-7 years earlier on average.
Ok, since you brought the beast out of the cage, I am going to have to submit this article. We need to control healthcare costs by encouraging obesity and smoking, so us healthy people can have lower premiums to pay for our expensive illnesses!
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/he...1.9748884.html
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Old 06-21-2012, 05:05 PM   #57
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I'd put it another way: To me the only justification to target anything that's considered a "bad lifestyle choice" is to recover the measurable public cost of those choices. Merely wanting to "enforce" healthy choices is not a sufficient justification to influence consumer choice. I neither want to punish nor subsidize their choices.
Agreed.

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Having said that, one thing I do consistently notice about the "warriors on obesity" (and for smoking and alcohol for that matter) is that they tend to talk a lot about the public health care costs of "unhealthy choices" in order to justify bans, restrictions and taxation of food and drink, cigs and booze, but they almost never offset those public costs by the savings when these people die sooner on average (and collect SS and public pensions for several fewer years).

Now I'm not advocating unhealthy lifestyles as a way to save SS and rescue pension plans, but if someone is going to use the "cost to the public" argument to justify restrictions, bans and taxes then they need to be honest and consistent about it, and factor in the "savings to the public" in SS and pensions when smokers, drinkers and the obese die 5-7 years earlier on average.
Fair point, my frame of reference is more from many years of comparing health care costs of active employees for smokers, alcoholics and obese employees, and there was no contest - smokers, alcoholic and obese employees cost more. But I have seen the occasional study on total lifetime costs, have you seen a good one on smoking, alcohol/drug abuse and/or obesity? Here's one that a quick search returned that concludes smokers cost about 1.77X compared to non-smokers, not that current but I doubt the differential changes much over time.
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Smoking imposes costs on society even when taking life expectancy into consideration, both in excess health care utilization and in terms of reduced labour supply.

This study was funded by The Danish Medical Research Council and DSI Danish Institute for Health Services Research. The Danish Epidemiology Science Centre is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation.
http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/con.../1/95.full.pdf
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Old 06-21-2012, 07:45 PM   #58
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Fair point, my frame of reference is more from many years of comparing health care costs of active employees for smokers, alcoholics and obese employees, and there was no contest - smokers, alcoholic and obese employees cost more. But I have seen the occasional study on total lifetime costs, have you seen a good one on smoking, alcohol/drug abuse and/or obesity? Here's one that a quick search returned that concludes smokers cost about 1.77X compared to non-smokers, not that current but I doubt the differential changes much over time.
I'm not claiming that "savings" in SS and public pensions from premature death completely offsets the added public costs -- just that there is *some* offset that needs to be considered in an honest accounting.

But I will make two points here: (1) you still have to factor in the savings in old age pension plans to make an honest estimate of the public social costs of bad lifestyle choices (I'll assume this one does), and (2) public policy should focus on public costs, not other costs borne by employers and private insurers. Employers and private insurers can deal with their own added costs. In other words, the government shouldn't tax someone to make up for the loss of productivity caused by a private employer (or at least shouldn't do so more than the projected loss of tax revenue from the added productivity).

Many employers already do charge smokers more for group coverage. And more and more are starting to look at other lifestyle factors in setting the amount employees have to pay toward their own health care (usually in the form of "incentive" discounts for having a healthy BMI and not smoking). But to the extent these are private costs, they should be handled by the private sector, not taxed by the government. Government has a valid interest in recovering the costs to itself.
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:25 PM   #59
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Great source on obesity at. http://www.thelancet.com/series/obesity
Also, some drug treatments may become a significant part of the solution. 2 companies appear about to have new obesity drugs approved and their share prices have soared as investors recognize the potential profits in treating an epidemic on US soil...
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Old 06-22-2012, 08:35 AM   #60
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That's the way it works. Create the disease and then make money on the cure.
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