A Band-Aid For Obesity

Talk about barking up the wrong tree. Lawmakers in Washington are floating a proposal that would forbid public schools from selling just about everything that food cops don’t approve of. Naturally, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is ecstatic, having marshaled their appropriately named “NANA” coalition in support. Amidst all the self-congratulation that the government is finally “doing something” about childhood obesity, however, it’s harder to tell if such a sweeping prohibition would actually, well, do something. The bill is being promoted as a mere update of federal standards “to conform to current nutrition science.” No problem, right? Trouble is, the current nutrition science says that a calorie’s a calorie, no matter where it comes from:

In conclusion, our data did not offer support for the hypothesis that snacking promotes weight gain.

-Harvard researchers writing in the International Journal of Obesity, 2004

In 91% of the countries examined, the frequency of sweets intake was lower in overweight than normal weight youth.

-Report in Obesity Reviews, 2005

Contrary to our expectations, our findings did not indicate any association between snacking patterns and BMI [Body Mass Index], nor did we find great differences in dietary intake patterns based on snacking habits.

-Study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2003

If that’s not enough, consider the fact that, despite rising obesity rates, calorie intake hasn’t changed — but physical activity levels have plummeted:

It is often assumed that the increase in pediatric obesity has occurred because of an increase in caloric intake. However, the data do not substantiate this.

-Study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2004

[I]n a debate in which foods themselves are being held to be largely responsible for increasing levels of obesity, actual levels of caloric intake among the young haven’t appreciably changed over the last twenty years.

-Then-FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan, 2003

These results suggest that habitual activity plays an important role in weight gain, with no parallel evidence that energy intake had a similar role … the drastic decline in habitual activity during adolescence might be a major factor in the doubling of the rate of obesity development in the USA in the past two decades, since no concomitant increase in energy intake was apparent.

-Study in the Lancet, 2005

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