Wednesday 16 May 2012

Fat taxes

And so it continues. A day after my sin taxes paper came out, the British Medical Journal launches a new campaign for fat taxes. From The Guardian:

'Fat tax' on unhealthy food must raise prices by 20% to have effect, says study 

Researchers say levy on junk food should be accompanied by subsidies for fruit and vegetables

"Fat taxes" would have to increase the price of unhealthy food and drinks by as much as 20% in order to cut consumption by enough to reduce obesity and other diet-related diseases, experts have said. Such levies should be accompanied by subsidies on healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables to help encourage a significant shift in dietary habits, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.

The Guardian presents this as a 'when did you stop beating your wife?' issue, as if we were all mulling the possibility of a 10% fat tax but the medics are pushing us for 20% or more (the BMJ article actually says "at least 20%", not "up to 20%"—a non-trivial difference).

The idea of using the money to subsidise 'healthy' foods is also a clever touch, effectively bribing the Islington/Whole Foods set into supporting the policy. The question that comes to mind is why, if cutting obesity will save the taxpayer so much money, do we need a fat tax at all? Why not simply subsidise 'healthy' foods, watch the pounds fall off, and reap the savings? The answer, I suggest, is that they know as well as we do that the obesity time-bomb is a fiction but the pensions time-bomb is not.

Regular, and even occasional, readers will guess that I am not in favour of fat taxes and I explain why in this new post at the Adam Smith Institute.

Also, check out this (much better, and not just because I'm mentioned) Guardian article from today's edition.


Dick Puddlecote said...

Are the press getting health lobby fatigue? This is another story that the BBC haven't touched AFAICS. :)

Mr A said...

Gah, these people!!!

As hideous as they are, at least with fags and booze you can look at it and say, "Yes, that is a cigarette" or "I agree - that is indeed a bottle of whisky." But "unhealthy food"? What the Hell is that?

I eat low carb and 50% of my diet comes from fat. I'm also in perfect health and lost a lot of weight. Yet my meat and oils would undoubtedly be heavily taxed encouraging me to eat "healthy" low fat options like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta - all the crap that made me porky to begin with and gave my dad hypertension and diabetes (controlled now with low carb, rather than the mountain of pills he was on before he made the change). Idiots.

That said, more and more people are seeing through this. I've noticed that whenever there is a diet story in the Mail the comments section is flooded by low carbers and Paleo followers denouncing the traditional low fat orthodoxy and claiming that whole thing is actually responsible for the rises in obesity we have seen. In fact it's very much like reading a smoking story in the Mail - the comments are full of informed arguments backed with studies, most of which are green-arrowed, while the ignorant and intolerant are few in number and red arrowed to Hell.

I wonder if most people believe anything the Government or medical profession tells them about anything any more. (Statins being another good example. Touted as a wonder drug by the compliant mass media, the comments are almost always full of horror stories and claims of corruption on the part of Big Pharma).

Anonymous said...

Mr A

I know this is massively off topic (sorry Chris)...but I am t2 diabetic with hypertension and take a mountain of pills like your Dad. The only time I lost weight was by cutting out carbs and eating more protein and the same amount of fat. Put it all back on when I was immobile for several months due to Sciatica.
Do you follow a recognised diet or is it something you have tailored for yourself...if so any (quick) tips?

Mag said...

It spreads –

The only positive note is the poll.

Mr A said...

@ Anon,

As I do a lot of exercise I follow something called the cyclic ketogenic diet. Basically I just eat meat (mainly from sources like mackerel, salmon etc, but I'm not afraid of good cuts of red meat from the butcher) and fibrous carbs like salads (mountains of it) and vegetables - broccoli, mange tout etc. I don't eat bread, rice, potatoes or cereals and I'm fairly liberal with the olive oil and coconut oil. I eat like this 6 days a week, then one day a week I eat high carb, medium protein and low fat. This recharges the glycogen in your liver and muscles and prevents your bod from getting used to low carb. It's good for people who exercise a lot.

My dad on the other hand, is 72, fairly active (although he doesn't exercise) and had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a pacemaker. He was on a mountain of pills and is now on only one. he also has Conn's (sp?) Syndrome so has a lot of regular blood tests etc, so if it was doing bad things to him, they would pick it up fairly easily.

He just ate normally but cut out the junk (cakes, sweets etc), and cut out bread, rice, pasta and cereals. So for Sunday lunch he'd still have a roast with the veggies and gravy, but he wouldn't have potatoes - still a nice meal. You can usually find alternatives for that stuff - salad is nice with a chilli, instead of rice. An English breakfast of just bacon, eggs, sausage and tomato is still nice - you don't need fried bread or beans.

His nutritionist initially said (6 years ago) that low carb/higher fat was "suicidal." He's changed his tune now and says it is pretty much up to the individual.

However, if you're already ill, I would recommend being monitored by a Dr. I've NEVER heard of anyone having a negative reaction to it (including my Mom and Uncle and their various friends), but better safe than sorry!

Jonathan Bagley said...

JonT, I agree with Mr A. Cut down on sugar and starch. More protein. Fat doesn't matter. I eat loads of cheese and peanut butter. Waist smaller than it's been for 15 years. Try recent book by John Briffa.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Guys