Thursday, 28 January 2016

A confederacy of obesity dunces

If you want to understand how the obesity discussion in the UK has descended into pseudo-scientific gibberish in the last few years, the infographic below offers a disturbing guide. These are the most influential Tweeters on the subject according to this website. I can well believe it.

Click to enlarge, but some familiar faces stand out. Leaving aside the handful of health organisations and few relatively sensible academics, here's a who's who...

Jamie Oliver. Millionaire TV chef. Publicity hunter. Jumped on the anti-sugar bandwagon last year.

Aseem Malhotra. A strong contender for the most stupid person I have ever written about. Desperate for fame. Now firmly entrenched in the low carb/Atkins cult.

Simon Capewell. Taxpayer-funded anti-everything authoritarian. Gets a chimpanzee to work his Twitter feed, at least that's what it looks like.

Sarah Wollaston. The House of Common's nanny-in-residence. Has never seen a tax or ban she didn't like.

Action on Sugar. Previously known as Consensus on Action on Salt and Health. Former home of Aseem Malhotra, now home to the genuinely terrifying Graham MacGregor and the fool Capewell. Spends a lot more money than it brings in.

Food Revolution. The political wing of Jamie Oliver Inc.

World Cancer Research Fund. Respectable sounding organisation which is actually the academic equivalent of the Daily Mail. Issues reports claiming that virtually every food on the planet either causes cancer or prevents it.

Children's Food Campaign. Pressure group that could fit in a phone box. Leading campaigners for a soft drink tax and mates with the fat-tongued one.

Zoe Harcombe. Multiple diet book entrepreneur, now firmly on the low carb gravy train.

Tim Noakes. Obsessive Atkins/low carb/banting campaigner, author and entrepreneur. Wrote the 'exercise won't help you lose weight' op-ed with Malhotra last year. Hauled up before the Health Professions Council for telling a mother to wean her infant on a low carb/high fat diet.

Andreas Enfeldt. Another Atkins Diet entrepreneur. You can join his website for nine bucks a month.

Jenny Rosborough. Campaign manager at Action on Sugar.

Sugar Coated. Twitter feed for yet another anti-sugar documentary. Twitter profile literally says 'Is sugar the new tobacco? #toxicsugar #sugartax'

Larry Diamond. Never heard of him before but his Twitter profile carries the telltale #LCHF hashtag that is the mark of the Atkins Diet cult member.

Hannah Brinsden. Never heard of her either but her Twitter profile informs us that she is 'challenging corporate power and Big Food'. With this juvenile anti-capitalism, she's an ideal candidate to work in 'public health' which, of course, is what she does.

Note that this is not hand-selected group of somebody's favourite Tweeters. It is based on an analysis of the most popular obesity-related Tweeters in a three month period. Interestingly, the supposedly all-powerful food industry doesn't have any of its members amongst the big hitters, but nor does the mainstream scientific community.

It is quite remarkable, and yet little remarked upon, how much the low carb/high fat faddists have taken over the obesity debate (sugar is, of course, a carbohydrate). If this network of Atkins zealots and anti-sugar fanatics is really what is driving policy, it is little wonder that it has become almost impossible to inject science and evidence into it.

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