Americans Are Gaining Laws, Not Weight

Between 1999 and 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a plateau in US obesity rates. Using data crunched from the recent 2003-2004 survey, today’s news is more of the same: Obesity rates are leveling off. America’s weight gain is stalling and our life expectancy is at an all-time high. But some legislators are still considering heavy-handed regulations, even though—as we explained to the Associated Press—businesses and consumers are already addressing the issue on their own.
For instance, the FDA is currently hosting a hearing over federal limits on sodium. The activist groups pushing for a government cap on your salt shaker, including (of course) the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have also managed to add obesity to the ingredient’s inflated rap sheet. The Los Angeles Times explains the allegation: “Salty foods contribute to [weight gain], because people often wash down their hot dogs and potato chips with beverages rich in sugar.” (Under that logic, Congress should fight obesity by rationing football tickets—a known source of beer, and other soon-to-be culinary contraband.)
Sadly, logic doesn’t seem to have a place in debates about government’s role in our food choices. Menu labeling is a prime example. Policymakers have introduced over two dozen of these bills nationwide. And just this week in California, a Santa Clara County health official proposed another one (most likely to drown out the buzz over her failed attempt to ban spanking statewide).

Regarding evidence to the contrary, the CDC numbers show that Americans don’t need warning labels on menus or arbitrary limits on salt. But that might not matter. As former National Institutes of Health fellow Dr. Joseph De Soto writes in the Martinsburg (WV) Journal, the modern weight debate “has little to do with medical science and much to do with political correctness.”

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