Friday, May 18, 2012

Pleasure Police Want to Tax Your Twinkies

The authoritarians love studies, particularly those that depict people as a bunch of slobbering idiots, bumbling through life costing the government, and ostensibly YOU money. And what’s even more galling is having a foreign interloper dictate health policy to Americans. A British medical journal has determined that we Yanks are a bunch of sorry, fat slobs. Here is an excerpt from

With more than two thirds of adults overweight or obese, America is certainly straining the
scales—but we're not the only ones. Countries around the world are trying everything to solve their own obesity epidemics, even if it hits their people's wallets

Several countries, including Hungary and Denmark, have implemented nominal "fat
taxes" on unhealthy foods, France has an extra tax on sweetened drinks, and Peru plans to implement a junk food tax in coming months. But a new paper released Tuesday in the British Medical Journal says that in order for such taxes to be effective, they have to make consumers dig deep—only "fat taxes" of 20 percent or more are likely to have broad societal impacts.

Proponents argue that junk foods are vices like alcohol and tobacco, which both have large taxes attached to them in many countries.

The reporter went on to laud sin taxes and sanctions against tobacco companies as an example of correcting human behavior. It’s true that cigarette smoking has greatly declined in the past decade. But is that necessarily due to punitive taxes, or a changing attitude to a nasty and smelly habit?

What is missing in this report is the correlation between the current “obesity epidemic” and the decline of cigarette smoking. However, a neurobiologist has made that connection. Here is an excerpt along with accompanying graphs from his blog (see link below):

The main active ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine. Nicotine acts by binding to a specific type of receptor on neurons (nerve cells) called the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Acetylcholine is one of the main signaling molecules (neurotransmitters) that neurons use to communicate with one another. Nicotine suppresses food intake, increases energy expenditure, and lowers body fatness. Smokers tend to be leaner than non-smokers, even though they usually have a cluster of unhealthy lifestyle habits (2, 3), and they rapidly gain weight when they quit (4, 5). Administering nicotine to rodents under controlled conditions also reduces food intake and body weight substantially (6).

Since the brain (and particularly the hypothalamus) is the organ in charge of regulating food intake and body fatness, one might guess that nicotine acts there either directly or indirectly. As predicted, nicotine infused directly into the hypothalamus reduces food intake (7), and a recent high-impact paper demonstrated in mice that nicotine exerts its effects on food intake primarily via POMC cells, a type of neuron in the hypothalamus that is important for the regulation of food intake and body fatness (8).

He concludes:

Public health authorities have been waging a war on cigarette smoking since it was firmly established as a risk factor for a number of serious conditions (e.g., cancer and heart attacks)*. There's no doubt that regularly smoking cigarettes is bad for your health-- in fact it's probably one of the most unhealthy habits there is. However, smoking kept us leaner than we should have been in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, likely preventing the gradual changes in the US diet and lifestyle from exerting their full effect on our waistline. As the appetite suppressive effects of cigarettes went away, and our diet became increasingly commercialized, per capita daily calorie intake increased by about 20 percent, and the adult obesity rate doubled.

Of course, this doesn’t explain the recent phenomenon of childhood obesity. But it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why kids are fat. Drive through a neighborhood. Do you see any kids playing pickup games such as baseball or football? How about kick-the-can or hide and seek? Do you see any kids playing outside? I contend the main reason kids are fat is because they get no exercise. Medical News Today pointed out the obvious:

Lack of physical activity found to be the most significant factor in contributing to childhood obesity. Researchers assessed the exercise and eating habits of nearly 900 children who were either at risk of becoming overweight or were already considered overweight. They also documented how often the children watched television.

Results of the study show a lack of vigorous physical activity is the main contributor to obesity for adolescents between 11 and 15 years old.

The food police would have everyone believe that we Americans sit around in our squalor, wiping our Cheetos stained fingers on our holey tee-shirts, drinking copious amounts of soda, while belching our way to a blissful diabetic coma. As glamorous as that may sound, it simply isn’t true. Sure, we may be a little overweight. And some may have health problems, but that sure as hell is no excuse for the pleasure police to dictate how we should live our lives.

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