Overzealous Lawmakers Overlook Obesity Facts

Obesity-obsessed bureaucrats are increasingly finding egg on their faces in the wake of dietary legislation they pushed out of emotion rather than science-based facts. In this month’s City Journal, editor Steven Malanga shares anecdotes about food-cop lawmakers whose shoot-first-aim-later approaches have horribly backfired.

First comes the USDA’s 1977 food guidelines, which instructed Americans to reduce red meat consumption and increase the carbohydrates on their plates to reduce cholesterol. Malanga points to skeptic Edward Ahrens, an expert in fatty-substance chemistry at Rockefeller University:

[Ahrens] characterized the guidelines as “simplistic and a promoter of false hopes” and complained that they treated the population as “a homogenous group of [laboratory] rats while ignoring the wide variation” in individual diet and blood chemistry.

The rest, as you might know, is history. The federal government prescribed a low-fat diet regimen, and people proceeded to get fatter.

Ironically, Malanga reveals that health experts now target excessive carbohydrate intake as “a likely cause of heart disease.” We’re skeptical that demonizing another nutrient will be the least bit productive, but the real issue is that decades later, anti-obesity activists are still treating Americans like lab rats.

Next, consider sodium. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other public health activists are using legal muscle to reduce Americans’ consumption of salt (but not necessarily Hizzoner’s own), citing hypertension or other health risks for justification. But American Journal of Hypertension editor Michael Alderman calls the salt-reduction campaign “an experiment on a whole population” that lacks scientific support.

We can already see where this is going, but there’s a more sensible (if obvious) path to follow: Enjoy balanced meals. Eat in moderation. And don’t eliminate entire food groups. There are no “good” or “bad” foods (as the American Dietetic Association reminds us), but there are certainly good and bad approaches to public policy.

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