Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, My Way

I just saw this on BoingBoing.  Simple but true. 

This image was created by Adam Fields

The people who design government dietary guidelines are gagged by the fact that politics and business are so tightly intertwined in this country.  Their advice will never directly target the primary source of obesity and metabolic dysfunction-- industrially processed food-- because that would hurt corporate profits in one of the country's biggest economic sectors.  You can only squeeze so much profit out of a carrot, so food engineers design "value-added" ultrapalatable/rewarding foods with a larger profit margin.

We don't even have the political will to regulate food advertisements directed at defenseless children, which are systematically training them from an early age to prefer foods that are fattening and unhealthy.  This is supposedly out of a "free market" spirit, but that justification is hollow because processed food manufacturers benefit from tax loopholes and major government subsidies, including programs supporting grain production and the employment of disadvantaged citizens (see Fast Food Nation).


Anonymous said...

The irony, of course, is that the primary reason industrial agriculture is profitable is massive government subsidies. For instance, the entire state of Montana would have zero net farm income without subsidies.

So: we pay for Big Ag to grow and process millions of tons of corn, soy, and wheat; we pay to have them convert the resulting surpluses into "biofuel" at a net energy loss, or dump them in the developing world in order to crush local, sustainable farming; and we pay again in medical costs for everyone whose diet is based on the heavily processed grain products that are kept artificially cheap by these subsidies.

Meanwhile, the farmer gets roughly 58 cents of every consumer dollar spent on eggs -- but only four cents of every consumer dollar spent on high fructose corn syrup.

While there will always be differences among us on what types and proportions of real food are best to eat, we can all agree that avoiding processed industrial non-foods -- including products like "soy milk" (ever try to milk a soybean?) and "veggieburgers" -- is the first and largest step to better health.


Debbie Young said...

Hi Stephan
Big fan of yours. On the juice/soda is sugar, have you read any of Ray Peat's work? He is a fan of sugar in the form of sweet fruits and juice.
Just wondering, look forward to meeting you at AHS.

kcwired said...

I've been reading Ray Peats articles. They are addictive and amazing. Really closes a lot of loose ends for me. He crucifies poly-unsat. fats. Explains their toxic effects very effectively. My understanding on his promotion of sucrose was to avoid the Cortisol trigger and subsequent cascade. And promote thyroid action in the liver.
He makes it clear how sat fats heal you.
I like his article on asprin, its almost a supplemental sugarless fruit.
As for the theme of This post, Ray Peat gets on a soap box in just about everyone of his article and rails against trash science backed promotion of trash food.
He covers the history of misinformation well.

schmoopee said...

Thanks Stephan. Check out these great food politic blogs...

1. Marion Nestle, she's amazing- Michael Pollan's mentor,


Also keep an eye out for Mark Bittman's op-eds in the NYT. Had a great one this weekend on subsidizing veggies instead of soda. It's really hopeful to see articles like this in the mainstream media.

chris said...

I for one would love to know what Stephan thinks of Peat's take on milk and fruit (and sugar).

Ruth Almon said...

Kind of sums it all up, doesn't it.

Anonymous said...

Who can decide what real suitable food is? I for instance think that grains and legumes are making us sick. For a lot of people barley and soy are real food.

Steven said...

Just read some of Ray Peat's work--specifically his thoughts on PUFAs. Wow. Dead set against them. Interesting how they are used to slow metabolism of livestock.

But honestly, I find the mixed messaging among the Primal/Paleo community very confusing regarding PUFAs. It seems seed/vegetable oils are bad. Egg/fish oil good. But Peat seems to condemn all of them.

What are considered acceptable levels of PUFAs? I eat 3 eggs a day for breakfast. Is this too much? It's about 21g of PUFAs.

Jay Miller said...


As long as your PUFAs are 4-6% of your caloric intake, you should be fine.

Chris Masterjohn had a great article out last year titled "Precious yet Perilous" which is worth looking into. I think fish oil should only be used for arrythmia and chronic heart failure. As long as you get some AA and DHA, you're fine "EFA"-wise.

Anonymous said...

"What are considered acceptable levels of PUFAs? I eat 3 eggs a day for breakfast. Is this too much? It's about 21g of PUFAs."

Eggs yolks have very little PUFa. They are mostly MUFa and SAFa.

madmax said...

We don't even have the political will to regulate food advertisements directed at defenseless children, which are systematically training them from an early age to prefer foods that are fattening and unhealthy. This is supposedly out of a "free market" spirit, but that justification is hollow because processed food manufacturers benefit from tax loopholes and major government subsidies, including programs supporting grain production and the employment of disadvantaged citizens (see Fast Food Nation).

Oh. So the way to combat government intervention is with more government intervention. Truly liberty lover you are Stephan.

Their advice will never directly target the primary source of obesity and metabolic dysfunction-- industrially processed food-- because that would hurt corporate profits in one of the country's biggest economic sectors.

This is anti-capitalistic bullshit. Stephan, you constantly make idiotic statements about the "problem with for profit medicine" and the "problem with for profit industry", etc. Understand, profit represents voluntary cooperation. Economic power is of a different nature than political power which is solely the power of a gun. You statists don't understand that its either deal with men by trade or deal with them by the whip. Well Stephan, if you want to live your life as a slave of the state, then YOU live that way. Don't drag me to hell with you.

I'd rather live in a free society where people ate fucking Twinkies all day long then some government administered Paleo state (which is what you are essentially arguing for).

mem said...

I tried to leave a much longer comment and it got blown out into the ethers, so will just leave this link now that I think will be meaningful reading for you, Stephan.

I 100% support taxing soda/sugary beverages (like energy drinks) as a starting point.

I haven't been much of a commenter of late as I have really been quite deep in thought re: your entire food reward series. This has been very fruitful thought, as it relates to my own weight loss and 9 years of 90lb loss maintenance. I seem to have utilized aspects of your suggested interventions without even really realizing this.

The outcome of this is a successful maintenance, and more spontaneous loss over the last 8 months (my original 90lb loss took me to well within optimum for my height)as well as a HUGE decrease in my amount of time spent buying preparing or doing anything that has to do with food, and a HUGE decrease in simply how much time food in any way occupies my consciousness, as well as the simplicity of the food I eat and how I prepare by comparison to what it was just a few years ago.

These are HUGE changes and I hadn't even really identified them!

I appreciate your blog and the information you share so freely.

That this particular series has in the end produced a big "aha!" for me about my own weight journey and ongoing experience is an added gift! And, a very useful one at that as I try to help others on their journeys...


Becky said...

If those corn, soy and wheat fields in our nation's heartland vanished and were replaced by well-run grass-fed meat operations, vegetable and berry farms, and Omega-3 egg producers (because people were eating that way and were accustomed to, thrived on, and demanded the products), I don't think it's too farfetched to say that just maybe there'd be government subsidies and political bedfellows supporting that way of eating, too.

Mavis said...

@Madmax -

Trade as we know it doesn't exist without laws governing all kinds of things - like protecting and legally defining private property, "intellectual property," patents, land ownership, contracts, mineral rights, trade among different countries, weights and measures, and currency. How it's supported and regulated, or not, is always political, favoring some groups more than others.

Ultimately, private property is protected by the state with the threat of violence. Without the state, we'd have property owners and companies hiring private militias to protect their interests - also the threat of violence. Take your pick.

It's silly to think that the market is ever separate from the state. How much and how the state intervenes in its affairs is open to debate, but true "freedom" from government would look much different from what most pro-capitalist anti-statists imagine.

mem said...

An analysis of the content of food industry pledges on
marketing to children

Anonymous said...

Could you elaborate on what you are doing, and what types of food you're eating on a daily basis? Thanks

John said...


I doubt Stephan and other healthy whole food eaters want to pay taxes to cover the healthcare for people who choose to eat "fucking Twinkies all day long," so unless quick, significant politcal and economic change is an option, it'd be nice to not have government organizations telling everyone to eat wheat and corn oil "all day long."

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Madmax,

"Oh. So the way to combat government intervention is with more government intervention. Truly liberty lover you are Stephan."

Sorry Sarah Palin, I didn't realize you read my blog. I'm not trying to combat government intervention. I think we need more of it, just in a manner that supports public health rather than corporate interests. What is bullshit is the idea that the free market is going to save us all. Sorry buddy, but it ain't working out.

"I'd rather live in a free society where people ate fucking Twinkies all day long then some government administered Paleo state (which is what you are essentially arguing for)."

No, you're putting words into my mouth. What I'm saying is that we need to have interventions to keep children from becoming obese and diabetic before they have any choice in the matter. If that makes me "anti-capitalist" or a "slave to the state", then so be it. I like roads and schools too.

You can live in a freedom-loving anti-government militia camp in Montana, not pay taxes and make your kids obese on junk food if you want, but count me out.

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luckybastard said...

dammmmmnnnnn... that's the most gangsta i've ever seen you get, stephan. and here i was feeling all lonely and out of place because i thought all paleo(i know you don't claim paleo but we have co-opted your smart, ancestral cuisine-loving ass as one of us:)) bloggers were austrian school libertarians. i just became even more of a fan of yours.

seriously, though. in a perfect world, we would want the gov't not to choose winners and losers, the markets were fair and everybody operates on a level playing field. unfortunately, we don't live in that and there are very bad things that people will do to manipulate the markets when left up to their own devices so the gov't is there to try to keep the markets operating honestly in spite of itself. smooth out the bumps if you will. what you hope happens, as i think stephan was trying to say, is that if the gov't is going to weigh in on an issue, it should side with the well-being of the poeple- not with big business which has no conscience and is only interested in the bottom line.

yes, i know all the nice rhetoric that is bandied about on alot similar sites and everyone is anti-gov't and all. i think the tension between how much gov't is too much has been with us from the inception of this country and will be there until the end. i live in dc and work for an organization that works very closely with the federal gov't. i hear many people bash the gov't and i usually just smile and if i say anything it's, "good gov't is gov't you don't realize is there."

bentleyj74 said...

Considering that most obese children and young adults have spent the bulk of their waking hours in gov't institutions I'm not seeing how more gov't intervention is going to cure what ails them. Maybe I'm not catching your drift in regard to the the application?

Anonymous said...

I think Stephan is just against advertising directly to children, which is crazy. You can sell products just fine without advertising to little kids.

Anonymous said...


Junk food is subsidized in the United States for a reason. You cannot add value to an egg. You can add value to refined wheat and corn. You can create all kinds of products in the grocery store out of wheat and corn and sell it for $4 while paying a few cents in input costs.

You cannot, however, mark an egg up in price by 1000%. It is virtually indistinguishable from other eggs, and therefore is not very profitable.

The profit is in the middle of the grocery store, not on the edges. And it is subsidized by your taxes.

tom scott said...
In a controversial new opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association the authors suggest taking severely obese children out of their homes and placing them in foster care. Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston and Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, write that in some cases it may be justified to take an extremely obese child out of their parents’ custody.
Sarah Palin, Montana militia camps. Such stereotypical ad hominen, trash talk. Do you still live in Seattle? I live in Washington state but rarely go to Seattle because it's filled with people that spout that kind of trash.

Evan said...

Just wanted to credit the creator of the food plate graphic; it's Adam Fields

Mavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tomas said...

That's a pity that the discussion has taken such an awkward course. I returned to comments to read Stephan answering the Ray Peat gate... and I'll pop in again in a few days

CarbSane said...

I agree in principle with Paleo2.0, but the devil's in the details with the practice of trying to stop it. Tony the Tiger was hawking Sugar Frosted Flakes back when I was a kid. Then they said you can't call them that, just call them Frosted Flakes. Like that made a diff. There were great McD's commercials with Hamburgler. Yeah, right, those were aimed at the Moms & Dads. The difference back then was that most parents controlled what went into their kids. Taking them to McD's was a treat (for me it was IHOP) not an expectation. This notion that somehow in the 80's and 90's kids were first EXPOSED to this sort of thing is just wrong. Only now most kids are lucky to have two parents at home EVER let alone cooking for (with?) them on a regular basis. Do you really think food ads are going to change anything for these kids?

mem said...

“This is a staggering force moving us in the wrong direction,” Brownell said. “We can count the number of unnecessary lives lost in the millions.”

Brownell told his audience bluntly that “America’s children have a toxic relationship with food.” Today’s kids will live shorter lives than their parents, he said.

The National Institutes of Health found that 40 percent of the calories consumed by children aged 2 to 18 are empty calories carrying no nutritional value, Brownell said. The largest source of those calories is soft drinks and juice drinks, at 173 calories per day for the average child.

STG said...


Bizarre, angry, emotional rant lacking substance. Consider composing your argument with analysis, data and references.

mem said...


Simple answer to your question is that over the years (99 - now) I have gone from what might be described as complex/involved, multi-ingredient, "rich" cooking, in which I always shopped with lists, used recipes LOTS, had a great interest in finding new recipes, etc, to very, very rarely using recipes, using few ingredients and eating what I would describe as very "straightforward" food. I use no list when I shop - other than for household items or simple staples that we are short on.

I am a low carber. I eat all non-starchy veggies in abundance, and eat rutabagas and fresh beets less often. Up until now, I've eaten potatoes of any kind on special occasions, as "treat" foods, maybe 3-4 times/yr. I now realize that in and of themselves, minus buttter and mounds of condiments, I have no desire for potatoes whatsoever, so will not be eating them period. They are simply "carriers."

Initially when I went low carb I did as many low carbers do and concocted and sought out recipes to mimic foods that I could no longer have. This is now a great rarity. Yes, I can still make a mean sugarless low carb cheesecake with a pecan crust on very special occasions.

I don't follow foodblogs and no longer buy magazines for recipes. This has happened spontaneously over time. It was likely also helped along by some serendipitous circumstances, such as 2 contract jobs away from home that I took for a year+ apiece. In both I chose to live in a studio apt with VERY minimal cooking ability/storage capacity.

What's happened is that on the "food is fabulous" versus "food is fuel" continuum, I've moved waaaay over toward the latter.

Do I eat "blandly" as in Stephan's Step 5 in his reducing hyperpalatability? No. But, there is a continuum with what Stephan is describing. And the piece of meat/fish/fowl with lots of veggies/salad I eat today is a far cry from my cooking of old. I have evolved, almost without noticing, over a number of years, to eating very "simply."

And a big outcome of this is that I spend far less time "with" food in any way, and basically no time in my brain thinking about preparation, etc.

Now, do I think my obesity resulted solely from "palatability" issues. No, I don't. The story is far more complex than that, for me. Obesity did not happen for me until my mid to latter 30's. Nope, it was much more complex than that. BUT, I "went down the road" so to speak and go where I got. And I do absolutely believe that what I have described to you, which involves the hyperstimulating/palatability issue has been a real part of the ongoing "cure."

There is more to the story, but perhaps this adequately answers your question.

Paleo Phil said...

mem said... I have gone from what might be described as complex/involved, multi-ingredient, "rich" cooking, in which I always shopped with lists, used recipes LOTS, had a great interest in finding new recipes, etc, to very, very rarely using recipes, using few ingredients and eating what I would describe as very "straightforward" food.

Yes, I've noticed that people who complain about not losing weight tend to talk about recipes more than average. Some have even asked me to share my "recipes," to which I'm left to shrug my shoulders, as I don't really have much in the way of recipes. It's rare that the foods I eat contain more than two or three ingredients. I have little interest in recipes and am rather thin (probably too thin in most people's eyes). I think it may be more than just coincidence.

Galina L. said...

I just came back to USA after visiting Russia (my native country). It was the first time during my visit, when I noticed really fat 8 and 10 years old. Teenagers are still very slim, people of middle age come in different sizes, but no one is fat as some really fat people here. What exactly changed 10 years ago? Both parents usually work now and then, people still prefer traditional food. There are a lot of commercials for juices and yogurt-based "healthy" drinks, for different kinds of granola. There is a lot of low-fat, whole grain health advice. Armed with glucose-meter, I convinced my mom to stop eating oatmeal with dried fruits and switch on 2 eggs and butter for a breakfast.
I feel so sorry for those children! Looks like many people get into trouble when they start to think about healthiness of their food after food companies push them into necessary direction. In Russia they are profitable enough without subsidies.

mem said...


There are some organizations that have worked tirelessly and very realistically to impact what is being served as "food" in schools.

One of them is Mission Readiness which has made excellent headway. They are now pushing the second step which involves schools that have been serving fabricated food that either required NO cooking, only reheating, or only deep frying, to purchase basic equipment needed to be able to serve fresh, nutritious food.

Here is an arbitrarily pulled state report on the state of Georgia. It explains well the problem and well the needed interventions, which also involve hiring and/or re-training staff to be able to prepare REAL, healthy foods that are fresh and need preparation, unlike frozen, cardboard, fabricated foods, which of course are also very cheap.

In part, in my opinion, this group has had some excellent success because issues such as this are traditionally viewed as "soft/liberal" issues. This group is wholly comprised of retired military leaders and the research backing up the issues they have chosen to spearhead is very solid. Additionally, they have some more ready access to leaders in governement and their states than folks with non-military backgrounds might.AND, they have very wisely chosen to frame their concerns in terms of national security. ;)

Here is the overarching report for the national issue: "Too Fat to Fight."

Here is the site's "research" page where you can peruse a few overarching issue reports as well as numerous state reports.

I would also say that the constant cry by the populous is that institutions like schools need always to do it "cheaper." There are many people who see no problem with what is being hawked in machines in schools and the totally chemicalized/fabricated non-food that is being served.

mem said...


Yes, Tony the Tiger, a cartoon character plastered on a food had a huge impact. Dora the Explorer is now being plastered on crap canned pasta foods. Yes, there's a reason. Big $$$$$$ is paid for these marketing campaigns, with excellent reason. Your reasoning and beliefs as expressed seem almost unbelieveably naive'.

With parents both working and having much less time to shop with children constantly exposed to cartoon character food hawkers, all the more reason to assist families by decreasing advertising which is solely targeting very young children. Have you never been in a store with a child howling for a cartoon character identified product? I have, many, many times.

As a parent I solved the problem when my son was age 4. The TV left the home forever. It was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made!

bentleyj74 said...


I'm not seeing the connection between my post and yours addressed in response.



mem said...


No biggie.

Others who read may see the obvious connection and perhaps find the offered info useful.

Anonymous said...

Hey mem,
Thanks for your reply. Your experience is very interesting. I wonder if you would have the same results if you kept your diet equally monotonous/bland but switched your macros to high-carb, low-fat? Just food for thought.

bentleyj74 said...

Carbsane said:

The difference back then was that most parents controlled what went into their kids. Taking them to McD's was a treat (for me it was IHOP) not an expectation. This notion that somehow in the 80's and 90's kids were first EXPOSED to this sort of thing is just wrong. Only now most kids are lucky to have two parents at home EVER let alone cooking for (with?) them on a regular basis. Do you really think food ads are going to change anything for these kids?

Yes, I'm wondering these things also. I remember seeing plenty of advertising as a kid...and I remember that my parents didn't care if it was a popular cartoon character rolled in glitter and deep fried...tantrums were ill advised and the golden aura of unquenched desire eventually faded into the void land of so five minutes ago.

CarbSane said...

@mem: I'm hardly naive. I think you found your solution. My parents would not have tolerated a tantrum. They also didn't let me sit in front of the TV for hours on end either.

Dora on a can? We didn't eat out of cans. My point was Dora today is nothing new this sort of big business has been around for a long time. Granted there are more FF chains and a zillion brands of frozen processed foods these days, but this is because the adults are buying the crap for their convenience.

As government got more and more into childhood nutrition kids got fatter and fatter. Nobody worried over whether or not I had breakfast at home when I was in elementary school. We had the little milk carton and "snack time" where kids could eat what they brought from home. Now in my state they're trying to provide kids with breakfast, lunch and now dinner. We need to give parents back the control.

Mavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mavis said...

CarbSane -

Having worked on community food security issues, I have to disagree that government child nutrition programs have contributed to childhood obesity. From the research I've seen, participation in these programs is correlated with a lower BMI. And, though you didn't mention them SNAP (food stamps), contrary to popular belief, SNAP recipients make more nutritious choices, dollar-for-dollar, than matched consumers not receiving SNAP. My guess as to why is that less calorie-dense, while more nutrient-dense, choices (like fruits and vegetables, and leaner cuts of meat - sorry WAPF - are more expensive. If you have $20 to spend on food and aren't sure of the next $20, you will probably buy more inexpensive, calorie-dense foods first: staving off hunger is the first goal.

The reason that in some communities school breakfast is universal is to increase participation of the kids who really need it by making it less stigmatized. This works. Not having breakfast - a reality for some kids - lowers school achievement. Schools with universal breakfast often see their test scores go up. The breakfasts usually are not Dr. Davis-approved - milk and cereal - but it's better than a candy bar.

People have trouble understanding how obesity and food insecurity (lack of access to nutritionally adequate food - sometimes with sporadic hunger (almost always taken on by the parents first)) can co-exist. It's easy to grasp if you look at the restaurants and grocery stores, or lack of the latter, in poor neighborhoods and the cost of vegetables and fruits, higher-fiber starches, and leaner meats and fish vs. mac and cheese, white bread. Also, if you read about how stress and even marginal under-nutrition (insufficiencies of micronutrients or protein, or intermittent, involuntary caloric deficits) prenatally, in early childhood, and throughout life, increase risks for obesity and diabetes.

Instead of government-funded breakfast, lunch, WIC, and SNAP being to blame for obesity, I think we could look to the abundance of vending machines, *including in schools*, convenience and fast foods, and the culture of snacking as major contributors.

Sure, people have a responsibility for their own health, and parents of all incomes are capable of making healthier choices. But there's a perfect storm going on here, especially for people at lower incomes.

Yes, poor people should be microwaving potatoes instead of Hot Pockets and drinking water instead of soda or juice (which most people still think is healthy), but so should everyone. As a parent, I see middle- and upper-class parents feeding kids prepackaged snack foods all the time - just fancier, more expensive, organic snacks. It's always easiest to take the path of the least resistance.

I don't buy my kids stuff with characters on them, but as soon as they could point and say a few words, they were noticing everything in the store that had Elmo or Dora on it, even if it literally was on the ceiling. And we don't even watch TV! But they get familiar with these characters and it's like you're abandoning their best friend if you callously walk past the treat with the character on it in the store without putting it in your cart. I don't buy it anyway, but I'm a hard-ass about stuff like that, and they're used to that. I also am not easily intimidated by whining - which is good, because now that they're three and have seen a few things, I'm getting more and more whining about "treats."

Mavis said...

P.S. I addressed my last comment to CarbSane because I was initially responding to her comment about government food programs for kids, but the subsequent riffs on obesity and poverty weren't specifically in response to her comments. One thought led to another. I believe there's a lot of misunderstanding on the links between poverty and obesity and am always at the ready with my soap box.

Denise said...

CarbSane said:

"Dora on a can? We didn't eat out of cans. My point was Dora today is nothing new this sort of big business has been around for a long time. Granted there are more FF chains and a zillion brands of frozen processed foods these days, but this is because the adults are buying the crap for their convenience.

These adults are those kids at whom Tony the Tiger was pitched. Coincidence?

CarbSane said...

@Helen: I'm not saying it is the sole cause, but I do believe it is part of it. IMO, anything that takes the control and responsibility from parent and hands it over to a non-interested entity (and the politicians may "care" but in the end none of them have a vested interest in YOUR particular child) tends to make matters worse.

For the past two years my husband has been managing a retail store for a corporate chain that does a fair amount of sales in foodstuffs. His store is in a very poor urban neighborhood, and if he had to venture a guess, the clientele that receives no subsidies at all numbers in single digit percents. Skinny kids are a rarity on the streets of that neighborhood.

Despite having to expire out and toss gallons each week, my hubby is required by corporate to stock milk. And his milk sells for $1/gal less than the same product in our area branches of his store. It goes to waste. Yet he has difficulties keeping Arizona tea in stock. Candy sales are huge for him. Perhaps the attitude is that they assume their kids are getting fed well at school so there's even less of a need to feed them nutritious food at home? I don't know. But this is the reality. His clientele spend more on their pet food than real food for themselves, and while he's not a grocery, his store is where many buy ALL of their's.

Further I reject this notion that nutritious foods are inherently more expensive than fast food or more calorie dense foods. When's the last time you priced flank steak vs. 80% ground beef or chuck (heck, even ribeye on sale for that matter?). A 99 cent quarter pounder works out to $4/lb.

But there's no stores in the area? Nonsense. Check out the produce in the bodegas sometime. And the $1 stores carry frozen steam packs. Hubby does sell out canned peaches when they go on sale at least. I can buy a half dozen chicken legs for less than a dollar menu burger and fry combo.

Seems to me that if the mere recommendations of the govt supposedly are responsible for the behavioral changes that brought on this obesity epidemic (nobody listened really so I contend they are largely irrelevant), then the actual hands-on involvement in the government of supplying and controlling part of food intake and subsidizing the rest is rather more nefarious and likely a culprit.

CarbSane said...

@Denise: YMMV, but I just don't think so. I don't believe Hamburgler hooked a generation on McD's hamburgers as adults.

I don't recall the cartoon characters used by the microwave industry to promote that product.

I know lots of adults who still go cuckoo for CoCoa puffs or love Cap'n Crunch. I highly doubt that has anything to do with a Toucan or silly cartoon Cap'n. If they put it in a plain brown incontinence product wrapper, they'd still buy it and if the kiddies got into their stash, they'd still love it. Depends? LOL ;-)

Monica said...

Someone above mentioned the breakfast program in schools. It's not just cereal and milk, it's also donuts and pastries. That is NOT better than a Snickers bar.

One thing that drives me nuts is that most Americans don't sit down with their kids for dinner. We always had a home cooked meal in the evening, we ate together, and we talked about our day over dinner, even if it was just "'What did you do at school today?' -- 'Nothing.'" We had pizza maybe once a month and it was homemade. In summertime, we played outdoors all day long, and then my mom called me in for dinner at night. There was no ordering pizza or fast food on ANY night of the week. This was not atypical at the time.

In high school when I came home, I didn't walk to a store for a snack even though that was possible only a block away. I ate peanut butter on celery until dinnertime. My family was poor and we lived in a trailer. I didn't have copious amounts of spending cash to waste on junk food. Now kids even in the poorest families have access to money somehow, and I think this points to less discipline at home. Parents now don't have time to argue over societal pressures and attitudes of entitlement in their kids. Kids are given a lot more spending cash now. I am only 35, but when I was a kid, $5 or $10 to spend on your own was a lot. Now it's nothing for kids to be carrying $20 or more on them.

In my early childhood, hiking 2 miles to the nearest neighborhood store to get a bag full of candy for $2 was considered a real treat.

I think most changes in kids' diets are going to have to come from the parent and school sides. Kids have more cash now, there are vending machines in schools (should be totally eliminated, IMO), "kid food" is lower down on lower shelves in the grocery store so parents can't resist, and people are just way busier now than they were 20 years ago so they cave to this stuff.

We can also blame public schools but IMO the situation is just as bad in private schools. I taught in a private school for a year 10 years ago and all the lunches were sourced from local fast food joints.

Monica said...

Our society is "kid centered" in the sense that soccer moms are rushing around for hours after school every day to take kids to the next activity, which results in kids eating packaged, processed, or fast food -- not just for snacks, but for dinner in the car between the 20 minutes when school ends and the next activity starts.

That private school I mentioned? We had a program in place where parents could drop their kids of at 7 and not pick them up til 5. I would see parents drop their kids off at 7 with a Nutrigrain bar for breakfast, the kid would get a fast food lunch, and then there would be some other processed snack for the afterschool program. All this was impossible 20-30 years ago.

So, I think a primary factor is a lack of true family time and discipline. It's not rocket science that McD's is bad for you. But there is way less time for homemade food now than there was 20 years ago, even for 2 parent families. I see increasing rationalizations that things like pizza are OK for kids to eat for dinner multiple times per week.

My brother's kids often ate pizza and McD's on their way to hours of hockey practice... there is simply NO TIME for dinner at home anymore. This is happening 5 days a week and oftentimes in summer, too, as our culture is stressing the need to keep kids busy. Kids who play sports are one thing. But what happens when kids eat pizza and McD's after school every day in a rushed "dinner" on their way to chess or piano practice, before the hours and hours of busywork homework now forced on kids?

My 16 year old cousin was in a school musical recently and every night at play practice they were giving the kids a dinner that consisted of a "Dorito" taco... the kids were given a Dorito package and could mix in some beef, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, etc. and this makes for a fast "taco" that can be eaten with a plastic spork and doesn't create anything for the school to wash. We can eliminate Dorito ads tomorrow through regulation and I doubt it will change anything. It's just idiocy if school officials and parents think this is healthy. When I was in school we didn't have Doritos served to us. We had chips once a week only when we were served a tuna boat. Milk was the only option at lunch. No sodas. No vending machines. There was no breakfast program, there was only "morning milk" for those parents who paid for it. Chocolate milk cost extra and few parents would allow their kids chocolate milk. I think I remember maybe a few students out of a class of 20 being allowed chocolate milk.

Mavis said...

CarbSane -

I don't doubt your and your husband's observations, but they aren't the whole story. I've read a lot of research and have myself overseen a couple of small-scale surveys of food availability and prices in poor areas, both urban and rural. Overall, more nutrient-dense foods are more expensive (that's everywhere), and also tend to be less available in poor areas - and more expensive, when they're available, at small bodegas, convenience stores, and mom and pops.

SNAP doesn't take choices away from people. No one forces anyone to participate in school meals. What's offered in the school breakfasts is not less healthy than what kids generally eat at home for breakfast, so I doubt those are promoting obesity. WIC does promote certain foods, even certain brands. Whether they're obesogenic depends on your point of view - they include peanut butter and a lot of glutinous boxed cereals, though not the sugariest ones. I'm sure it's a pain for store-owners who participate to stock these things. (My family is currently eligible for WIC, but we don't participate because my daughter's celiac disease and food allergies mean we'd only be getting the dairy products and beans and the office my kids and I would have to visit every three months to requalify is 40 minutes away.)

I'm not exonerating low-income people who make poor food choices (not saying all do) from responsibility, but there are other factors at play.

As a counter-example, the food security project I worked at before my kids were born was involved in starting a farmers' market in a low-income, urban area, a predominately African American community. Sales were brisk and still are, four years later. This isn't a unique example.

Paleo Phil said...

mem said: As a parent I solved the problem when my son was age 4. The TV left the home forever. It was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made!

Bravo! I wish many parents would follow your lead. I've never purchased a TV and I've only briefly owned one. I don't plan on owning one again.

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Mavis said...

Agreed about the TV. Some people think we are extremists not to have one. Occasionally, after the kids are in bed, my spouse and I watch something on Hulu or Netflix.

Mavis said...

While not defending USDA child nutrition program guidelines from an "ancestral diets" perspective, I thought I'd link to this PDF of USDA guidelines for school breakfast programs.

I'm not sure it counts as a smoking gun in the obesity epidemic. If I'm wrong, let me know.

I'm not an expert on these programs: I worked with community groups who worked with schools offering school breakfast and pastries weren't on the menu in those schools, but perhaps it varies by district or school. (One of our partners was a statewide nonprofit agency that worked to improve the nutritional content of school meals. There is room for improvement.)

The breakfast served must contain no more than 30% of calories from fat, so donuts and pastries probably are not the centerpiece in most schools, because they also have to meet some micronutrient, protein, and "whole grain" requirements. If pastries and donuts count as breakfast in some schools, that is a shame and not the intention of the program.

This is another list of guidelines for school food programs, including rules regarding the nutritional value of foods allowed to be sold a la carte.

@Monica - Well said about family time constraints and the eating-on-the-go mentality. It strikes me both as a pathology our society has fallen into (be as busy as possible, reward yourself constantly with snacks, make former treats like pizza into regular meals, eat mindlessly while doing other things - Dunkin Donuts ads in particular promote all of this as normal and good) - and families trying to survive with single parents or both parents working. (My single mom made us decent dinners, though - but maybe we lucked out to be in the last pre-microwave-dinner generation. Frozen vegetables are okay and we ate a lot of them.)

Monica said...


I can't seem to find the school breakfast pic I've seen before.

Here's a bunch of pics of US public school lunches.

One of them is a breakfast picture of granola, and the caption below discusses how this is an improvement over the cookies and Pop Tarts students were previously offered in the same school.

Note the difference between the lowermost picture from the 1930s and what kids are fed now (all the pictures above). Wow, is that a lot of food for a little girl! Big glass of milk, apple, sandwich, and big bowl of soup.

THere are two lunches in that list that appear to be homemade that look pretty good. Those made by the school that look adequate seem to be in a minority.

The picture of the Cheetos with cheese sauce makes me sick. This is the same type of meal they were offering to my cousin after school with the "Dorito" taco. This is sick. Pasta and fries? Nachos and cheese? Pizza and corn? Fried chicken and chocolate milk? This is garbage. This is why kids are fat.

Mavis said...

Hi Monica,

Point taken. They look a lot like my school lunches (1980's). I'd often just eat the fries, because the rest was so gross.

I was under the impression from my recent community organizing experiences that school breakfast was okay - in fact, helpful overall. Notice that I didn't say lunch. When I was in the role of community organizer, I sat down twice with the head of school lunches for a rural district. Not only was she clearly insane, she was a very controlling "gatekeeper" - change was not possible without her approval.

What I was trying to do was to convince her to consider including local produce in some of her lunches. There was some grant money available to help with this.

Personality aside, I found what she had to show me pretty educational. She showed me their budget - some vanishingly small amount of money to be spent per lunch. She showed me USDA commodities and products available to the school (lunches could only meet budget by using these cheap products; I can't remember if it was legally required that they use some. USDA-supplied foods also ended up in Meals on Wheels). She showed me dietary guidelines that had to be met per meal. She talked about foods the kids would eat and foods that would be thrown away. (She said they liked kiwi and oranges - did we have any local kiwi and oranges? This was in New England.) She talked about the amount of staff time available to prepare the foods, and the amount of time allotted for kids to eat lunch. She talked about the logistics of dealing with different farmers (she had tried this a little), and how farmers weren't able to make a lot of small deliveries to a lot of far-flung rural schools, and how much of the year, they didn't have what the school felt they needed.

At the same time, she wasn't completely resistant to change. She bragged that they had eliminated trans fats from their schools several years before, and about their modest success at promoting fruits and vegetables. She was under the impression that kids liked the lunches. I heard quite differently from community members!

It's so frustrating just recounting this, I'm beginning to think that it's a waste of time and everyone should, in fact, bring a lunch to school. For families for whom this is a hardship, maybe the savings from defunding school lunch could be added to SNAP benefits. Okay, CarbSane.

mem said...

A governement food program aimed at kids in schools came into being in the US in the 40's, right after WWII.I am 58 and was very much a part of the post WWII generation.Many of us did not have TVs in our homes as little kids and lots had one small TV some years later. And it is an understatement to say that advertising was a faaaaaaaaar cry from what it came to be later.

If you read posts of Stephan's on this blog, some with great graphs, they (and others on the web) show that the obesity epidemic did not start yesterday. It really began burgeoning about 1980. That is 31 years ago.

Wow! Some great discussion happening here.

Here are some interesting links -

And I love this next one! Look at who "The American Council for Fitness and Nutrition" is!

As far as I am concerned, this issue falls squarely in the public health domain. And the intervention needed is what is called a population based public health intervention.

Amy said...

Parents blame children's activities on not having time to cook a meal, but I think a lot more of it has to do with moms don't want to take the time to wash dishes or take the time and teach their children how to wash dishes. I have 3 children and I'm amazed at the number of parents that think I'm crazy for making my children pick up their own toys and laundry every day. A lot of parents admit that it's faster for them to pick up the children's toys,than to watch and make their children do it. Yet, these same parents have tons of time to spend on Facebook playing games like Farmville.

I admit that I don't have the best control over my children. If I don't enroll my children in activities they end up at different neighbor's homes eating cereal, cake and candy and playing video games for 4 hours on the weekends. I've tried to explain to my neighbors that if my children eat snacks they won't come home and eat a healthy dinner, but it's a lost cause. If a food is labeled organic and has a small amount of fiber in it, my neighbors think it's healthy.

I don't know if changing laws will help people eat healthier. I hate all the whole wheat bread that the school lunch serves, but it's better than the organic fruit gummies my neighbors serve my children.
We're stuck in a society that thinks feeding a child organic pizza and tacos is healthy because getting a child to eat dinner at 6 p.m. is hard, when they plan on going to the neighbors house and eating organic frosted cereal at 7 p.m.

Children are easier to control when they're are younger.

Mavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catt said...

Its the parents, not the ads.

Being a kid of the 80s, I remember knowing all the good cereals and fruity snacks and happy meal toys -- but it didn't mean I got them. I didn't. Mom's stance was a big NO and it wasn't ever something I even hoped to wish for. (I was happy just to go to friend's houses for the opportunity to eat their handi-snax.) A couple times a year on roadtrips we got to go to Wendy's: but it was always the same burger and frostie everyone got (maybe mom knew something about reducing the "reward" with lack of food options...) Anyway, the whole wheat, real butter, fresh pasta with home-made sauce, no soda, no chips, no fruity pebbles of my childhood dictates what I consider "food" as an adult. Back then, it wasn't paleo (which the way we eat now)and obviously it doesn't need to be -- we were all normal, active kids -- it was simply non-shit. I guess that's the point -- to be non-fat and non-sick, just eat non-shit. For an ultra hot bod, you can go a little farther (that's where primal comes in handy for me).

By the way, our family struggled with money. My mom remembers the packaged food being expensive, and the real, whole, needs-to-be-prepared food as cheap. Has that changed?

Monica said...

Helen -- that's an interesting story. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have had to deal with that type of bureaucracy. See, here's what I don't understand about the cost of food. There are some regions of France that feed their kids gourmet food on the same budget we use to feed American kids. Are they focused on macronutrient ratios and other useless standards that have to be met? I don't know, but my guess is no. Ultimately, I think the USDA guidelines are very counterproductive in that they are focused on macronutrient ratios rather than food quality. You can justify any sort of garbage as long as it fits a certain macronutrient ratio. Does it have dairy, grains, and a vegetable and a certain macronutrient ration? Then I guess pizza with a fruit cup would satisfy this requirement. :/

Amy, the US is doomed if people are more interested in sitting down in front of Facebook than feeding their kids right. That's just hopelessly depressing, but unfortunately, I can believe it. My uncle and his wife are really obese and their kids are too. All they eat are sugared cereals and I've even seen them feed their kids Snickers bars for breakfast. Their oldest daughter is bipolar, extremely overweight, and a convicted felon. Both she and her mom have undergone bariatric surgery. It breaks my heart.

I think there's a lot of truth in the rest of what you say, too. I was washing dishes at 10 and doing laundry, vacuuming, and mowing the lawn at 12, yet I went to college with kids who had no clue how to operate a vacuum cleaner by the time they hit college. In fact, when I was 15 onward I was cooking dinner for me and my dad every night, too, because my mom worked the night shift. A lot of the stuff I cooked was processed and boxed (a lot of pasta with cheese sauce), and I didn't really learn to cook properly until I was a graduate student, but at least my mom set stuff out that I should make for dinner, and guided me toward a meat (usually fish), a starch, and a veggie.

All of this makes me sad. Some of my most treasured memories as a kid were of picking and processing (freezing, canning) vegetables from my great-grandfather's and grandparents' backyard garden, and picking local raspberries, elderberries, etc. with them. I think I may be one of the few people in my generation that grew up to learn how to process a fall harvest and enjoy time in the kitchen canning with older relatives.

We can eliminate all the food ads we want, but if now the grandparents and parents are going to be playing "Farmville" instead of gardening, while their kids play X box games, nothing will change.


Helen said...

Here's a mind-bender of a study, for your reading pleasure. Discuss.

"Overweight Children Have Eating Patterns Different from Those of Normal Weight Children, Norwegian Study Finds

"Overweight children reported more frequent intake of healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, fish, brown bread and potatoes as well as low-energy cheese and yoghurt compared with normal weight children. This comes from a recent study from researchers at Telemark University College and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health."

Helen said...

@ Monica -

I think you might be heartened by some community initiatives around urban farming, CSAs, backyard and community gardening, putting food by, and inter-generational meal preparation. A lot of people in my region are active in these efforts on a personal or community level. Nationwide, a real movement has taken root over the past ten years. I guess for every trend there's a counter-trend. It may not have made much of a dent, but I think it's making a difference.

Maybe Stephan's concept of "food reward" needs to be extended to other activities surrounding food - that gardening, canning, cooking, and eating together are valuable, rewarding activities. We live in an addictive, convenience culture, to be sure - people are too used to the easy rewards buying instant pleasure (food, whatever) and passive/semi-passive entertainment from a screen.

Monica said...

Helen --

I also suspect that lunch ladies are no longer paid to cook, and only to serve food. I don't know enough about it, but I notice a big difference now in the way food is served in schools. There are disposable trays, plates, and utensils. When I was in school just 20 years ago (whoa, I'm getting old!), we definitely got served some crap, but we were served on real plates with real silverware, trays, etc. like actual human beings. I do remember the lunch ladies feeling very unappreciated. I suppose that may have stemmed from the fact that they felt they were doing the best they had with the resources they were given.

The situation is not really better in private schools, either. I worked in a private school in Florida thirteen years ago. All of the five meals per week were sourced from local fast food joints.

Monday: McDonald’s.
Tuesday: Chick Fil A.
Wednesday: a local Cuban chain that served chicken, beans, rice and plantains... not terrible. Thursday: another fast food joint (can't remember which).
Friday: Papa John’s pizza.

This was a school with wealthy parents that drove Porsches and paid over $20k to send their kid to a private school. I am SURE they could have afforded better, but they clearly didn't care. Neither did we.

Monica said...

"My mom remembers the packaged food being expensive, and the real, whole, needs-to-be-prepared food as cheap. Has that changed?"

Unknown -- NO. That has not changed. Even on a non-paleo whole foods diet high in things like conventional eggs, oatmeal, etc. you can be fed for $100 a month. I know because I used to eat this way in grad school. Yes, I ate junk like white bread and cookies, but there were also a lot of dinners of rice, beans, eggs, and chicken. Cheap but nutritious things.

One of the things that has changed is that people don't know how to shop or cook real food anymore. I think an additional problem, though, is that people are conditioned to think designer lowfat and vegetarian foods are healthier. For awhile everything I bought was artificial and low fat: Olivia spreads, Garden Burgers, you name it. After all, innovation and progress have made other aspects of our lives so much better, so it's definitely easy for some people to believe that designer foods might be more nutritious and better for us, too. You can clearly see this in food ads from the 40s onward.... engineered is better in taste and nutrition.

I never thought Fruity Pebbles were healthy, though. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could think that. Do people really need someone to tell them that feeding soda to their kids isn't healthy? I agree with you and I think many people just lack discipline. Stop feeding your kids crap and stop giving them money to buy crap. It's not easy, but it's simple.

Helen said...

(Part 1)

It's been a few years since I was in the food security biz, but I did a quick PubMed search to try to find some of the research I drew upon then regarding the question: "Is a healthy diet more expensive?"

Here is an article discussing some research on that.

I think some unhealthy diets *can* indeed be more expensive than some healthy ones, but when you get to the bottom of the economic ladder, it's generally cheaper per calorie to buy some white bread and processed cheese than salad fixings, and so on.

So, it seems that in this discussion lack of motivation has been adequately covered as a reason for unhealthy eating choices. A few other things to consider:

* Transportation - Do you have a car to get groceries? Is a grocery store within walking distance? Do you have to take your kids with you while you shop? Some, because of work schedules and child care arrangements, have to shop at odd times. For some people, a trip to a grocery store on a bus can take hours. Some people take taxis. Others just go to 7-11.

* Cooking/storage/refrigerator-freezer facilities and equipment - are these adequate? Some people are living in motels. Some have mini-kitchens.

* Time. Buying fresh food is risky because it rots. Preparing fresh food also takes time. I myself often resort to "cut and dump" (of frozen vegetables) and I'm a stay-at-home mom right now. Sure was different before I had kids. I could take the time to cook then. I look forward to being able to cook again when they're a bit older. Some folks are working more than one job and have kids.

Helen said...

(Part 2)

* Path of least resistance. Kids like fast food. People like fast food. McDonald's has a play area. Old folks meet at McDonald's for coffee. It's social. You didn't have time to eat breakfast. You grab an Egg McMuffin on the way to work. It doesn't cost "that much" at the time (though it does cost more in the long run).

* Food reward - covered by Stephan in depth. I would argue the more stressed a person is, the more susceptible they are. And if eating highly rewarding foods is the norm, it's even harder to resist. (And I've seen a study that showed "healthy eaters" to be perceived as "less likable." Ouch!) And that leads us to...

* Social norms. My kids are three and I already see them eyeing somewhat mournfully other kids' (whole grain! 0g trans fat per serving!) goldfish and juice boxes, not to mention more tantalizing treats, as we eat our Trader Joe's sardines or leftover chicken (which they like! If they aren't thinking of pizza and cookies!), cold potato or black rice bread (ditto!) at the play center or park. They already know what highly rewarding food is. I'm much more of a nutrition freak than, well anyone I know. It's not everyone's top priority, and I think a lot of people feel it isn't worth the battle with fussy, deprived-feeling kids. And most believe juice boxes and goldfish are healthy. As fall approaches, I dread the hegemony of juice boxes and cereal bars in their preschool classmates' packed snacks.

...And it takes time to prepare our lunch and make sure there's a cold pack so it doesn't spoil. I'm not complaining, but we'd get out of the door faster if I could just grab some Lunchables(TM). (I've made a personal vow not to buy my kids food with the suffix -ables or -sters.)

@ Monica - Yes, I've heard that the lunch ladies do an institutional version of "cut and dump" - throwing chicken nuggets or fries on a tray to heat. A couple of innovative school lunch overhauls have focused on putting the skill and pride back into lunch preparation as a key to improving the lunches, though I think in some places this would simply cost too much.

There is, though, a fair amount of outcry about school lunches. I think many people do care and the guidelines are getting more specific. (Only Ray Peat might bemoan the decline in allowed sugar.) Whether that leads to real improvements, we'll have to see.

Alan said...

MArk >>> You cannot, however, mark an egg up in price by 1000%. It is virtually indistinguishable from other eggs, and therefore is not very profitable.

Next Mark will be telling us that water is water, so no one has been able to succeed in selling premium bottled water.

Mark doesn't know how to teach consumers to differentiate a trashy product from an excellent product.

I do. And the skill is as old as the hills.

Alan said...

Stephan>> I'm not trying to combat government intervention. I think we need more of it

As Lenin taught us, the worse things get, the better it is.

My plan is NOT to argue with nice guys like Stephan who imagine nonsense ("stop advertising to kids, that will solve the problem!").... my plan is to exploit their foolishness. Profitably.

Keep huffing and puffing and harrumphing away there, shipmate. Please do!

Alan said...

Helen>>> Transportation - Do you have a car to get groceries? Is a grocery store within walking distance?

Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is not a solution to the underlying problem. It only seems like a productive use of time to those who are blind to the actual problem.

Dis-assembling hyperCities is the answer to the problem

Within current living memory, the outer reaches of New York City had working family farms. No, not hippy-dippy yuppie-"activist" touchie-feelie college-kids-cartoon community gardens: they were real working family farms.

Mavis said...

Wow, Alan. What's your plan? Sounds like something amazing no one else has thought of.

Monica said...

Helen -- Yup, I agree with most of what you wrote. Frankly, I really can't imagine the hassles that people with kids go through. Wait -- actually, I CAN imagine it. And this is why I don't have any!!! :)

I have a friend with a son with celiac disease.... and this IMO makes things a lot easier. Some things just aren't options. Period.

Here is a video you might find interesting. Watch and weep:

Mavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mavis said...

Hi Monica -

Yeah, my daughter's celiac disease spares my kids from all the cookies and cupcakes lying around! Score. I do bring gluten-free cookies to birthday parties so there's not undue sadness.

Paleo Phil said...

Unknown said...
"Its the parents, not the ads."

Why couldn't it be both (and other factors)? They aren't mutually exclusive.

Cupcakes said...

Get yourself on Twitter, man.

Amy said...

Research on food and society is extremely inconsistent. I don't doubt that poor families and single mothers work extremely hard and don't have much time on their hands for cooking. But, the reality is that my Grandmother was both a single mother and poor in the 1950's. (Grandpa died and she raised 6 children on her own.) But despite the fact that she only had a hand washer, no dishwasher, no dryer and always worked at farming, canning and sewing: her 6 children were well fed and thin. What are we coming to that people can't do their own chores or teach their children to do their own chores? I just find it hard to believe that we are busier in 2011 than we were in 1950.

Things are different now. Maybe my Grandmother did have it easier. She never worried about clothes being really clean, her children didn't have that many toys, she didn't take them to that many activities or to the doctor every year. But she did have to deal with her 6 children being inside a 500 square foot home for 9 months of the year. Grandmother had to rely on other people to take her to the store or she had to walk 5 miles. She did a lot of walking in the snow and heat. The rural poor of today do have it harder because they have to walk more than 30 miles to the food banks and what not. I have lived in rural America. But at the same time I have literally met rural poor that have moved to the city so that they could be in walking distance of a food bank; especially when gas and propane get high.

But now a days, our idea of good nutrition has changed. We value organic vegetables and eggs, which are very expensive. Organic eggs cost 6 dollars a carton. My Dad talks a lot about green split pea soup. I'm not against the school lunch program or WIC. We need these programs. It's better than a child eating white rice and vegetable oil all day. At the same time I question this attitude that healthy is eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. In colder parts of the United States people ate a lot green split pea soup for vitamin C and some potatoes for 9 months of the year. It used to be okay to eat the same boring foods all the time. And making green split pea soup for a week does save a lot of cooking time. My Dad and his siblings survived in the 1950's eating this way.

I think people in the United States needs to come to terms with the fact that food is food and boring food is okay and stop blaming their weight problem on being too busy and stressed out.

Anonymous said...

Meat and vegetables should not be "subsidized" with stolen money any more than grains. Even if the beef is grass-fed.

Metabolic syndrome is healthier than fascism.

Mavis said...

Strange and funny that a spammer quoted my to Madmax's tirade against state interventions in trade. I wonder if Live-healthcare reads Proudhon.

Mavis said...

My response to, that is.

TCO348 said...

Those foods are also patentable. That's what makes them so profitable.

TCO348 said...

The evolutionary theory can offer insights into health and nutrition hasn't got a goddamned thing to do with economic theory or politics. The fact that some of the Paleo bloggers are libertarians is just a coincidence.

Methinks said...

I come from a country where government controls everything.

Trust me, as much as you don't like processed food, you don't want the government interfering.

Also, I think you'll agree that a little crap will not make you obese. I don't eat it (not part of my culture and it doesn't taste very good), but plenty of people can stop at one twinkie.

The "defenseless children" argument is particularly hilarious. Children don't have money. Their parents do and it's their parents who buy food for them.

Is there a reason you think the clowns in government should be dictating what adults can and cannot buy?

I've lived in this country for 35 years (since I was a minor) and I still can't stomach soft drinks, hot dogs and other crap. I have plenty of friends who are Americans and whose kids grew up here never having tasted a dorito. These kids were exposed to the same advertisements as all other kids. Now, they're teenagers with more buying power and freedom. Still don't eat crap. They're not used to it.

I suggest (and research bears out) that parents have far more influence on what children eat than advertisements. If some parents are too lazy to parent with regard to(yeah it's hard - more choices means more limits parents have to set), it doesn't follow that politicians should step into that role for ALL parents.

TCO348 said...

I don't have children so I want to be careful not to be too critical or make it sound too easy but from my observations one of the big problems is that parents these days are too afraid to be tough with their children. When I was growing up (born '71) my parents just said 'No' when I asked for something. And they said 'You don't have to like it' when I complained. My buddy's parents were even tougher. If he asked for something and the answer was no he'd be punished immediately if he asked a second time. And his parents were really nice people. I don't see as many parents doing that these days. Maybe they think its bad for the kid's confidence? I don't know but it seems parents used to be more willing to disappoint their kids and that disappointment and not getting what you want were viewed as part of life and something you needed to learn to accept and deal with. Maybe it just seems that way.

Helen said...

I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted and watch as much TV as I wanted and there was no pressure to exercise. This was the 1970's.

I saw a lot of ads for Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, Chips Ahoy, Kool-Aid, and Quik, and consumed my share on a daily basis. I was thin.


...There's a difference now with the availability, quantity, and kinds of foods available. In my family, we had dinner. Some convenience foods like fish sticks were used, but it was mostly real stuff. We didn't eat in the car, at ballet lessons, or take scheduled breaks from playing to snack. Microwavable pizza and cheese-filled everything weren't around. Parents weren't anxiously following us around with string cheese and Nutri-Grain bars. My mom and babysitter did not carry emergency snacks in their purse.

It was a 20-minute bike ride to the nearest mom-and-pop store, where we bought one or two candy bars at a time, every now and then. At K-Mart, I don't remember aisles of processed food to wade through as you made your way to the value-pack underwear. There weren't 7-11's with rows and rows of chips and soda and trail mix. Gas stations, if they sold anything but gas, sold cigarettes and a bit of candy and had one soft drink vending machine. Energy drinks and 20-oz sweetened iced tea with goji berry, B6, and taurine hadn't been invented. There was a Burger Chef/Burger King/McDonald's on the edge of town, not next door. Dunkin Donuts was not on every other corner *and* in the gas station/ mall/airport/bus station/grocery store. There weren't vending machines at schools. There was no Frappuccino.

When I visited my mom's office I don't remember there being boxes of donuts, candy, and the leftover birthday cake someone brought in so they "wouldn't eat it all at home." That seems standard now.

In my mind it's more availability than advertising per se - though watching the Rachael Ray show intercut with food ads while waiting at my doctor's allergist's office (screens also more ubiquitous), I could see how all this could make a person hungry. Hungry for something highly rewarding - like the cheese-drenched gourmet burger on a bulky roll she was touting as "healthy" (it had "veggies" on top) - or the delightful snacks and microwavable dinners in the ads.

Stephan has written about how food reward feeds upon itself - the more rewarding food you have, the more you want. It actually makes you hungrier. Obviously, seeing it all around you can make it harder to resist for many, many people. And the fruit these days is very low-hanging.

I think that explains what's going on. Food companies have found something to sell us and we're eager to buy. Except for those of us who substitute internet addiction for food addiction. But then, why not both?

bentleyj74 said...


I'm usually very amused to see fellow parents loading up to go to the park like they are crossing the Sierras.

Anonymous said...

If the state wasn't involved in education, school food options would be defined by what a school's customers (parents) wanted their kids exposed to, i.e. likely not theobesity-inducing crap children are currently fed.

If the state wasn't involved in nutritional education, corporations would still sponser misleading research and might suggest unhealthy foods, but people would be naturally skeptical of those claims, a skeptcism which is sorely lacking when the state makes nutritional claims.

If the state wasn't involved in farm subsidies, bad food would be less ubiquitous.

If the state wasn't involved in science, science-funding companies/non-profits would have to work to convince the public that the research they fund is legitimately useful; not filled with hog-wash crap as nutritional science currently is. Competition would promote verifiably useful research.

If the health-insurnace markets were free and competitive, profit motivation would lead them to strongly push real-food nutrition and research. Less sickly customers means less money they have to pay out on sickness, which means more profits. There are many things a motivated insurance company could do to influence the food going into peoples mouths. An insurance company could offer discounts to people who buy healthy foods (they recoop the costs via the increased health of their customers), and a discount can be a powerful motivator to select one food over another. Insurance agencies could offer discounts to grocers who prominently displayed healthy food, and less prominently displayed (or outright abolished) unhealthy food (they would recoop costs by counting on the increased health of the community that grocer serves). Insurance companies could promote legitimately useful nutritional research, focused on how to get their customers more healthy in easy cheap ways (again, so as to mitigate the amount of money the insurance company has to pay out dealing with their customer's sickness). They could even promote and pay bloggers like Stephan.

SamAbroad said...


This post is such a breath of fresh air, thank you.

I get the air of stockholm syndrome from people who think that corporations did not make them fat. Sure a lot of decisions at governement level were poorly thought out but let's not beat around the bush, as CarbSane pointed out: Most people did not get fat complying with the food pyramid. They got fat eating industrial crap designed to maximise profit and consumption.

You don't have to let go of free market ideals to know we need to lay some ground rules about how our society can market to our children. Surely the minimum government responsibility is to protect from fraud. Well this is a fraud committed against the health of our children on a grand scale.

To quote Gary Taubes, whom I don't agree with on everything but still respect as a voice in the nutrition community 'We're going to have to start demonising some industries'

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi dza,

If the government wasn't involved in science, there would be very little research done in this country. The reason the US is the global leader in scientific research is that we put a large amount of public money into it. The National Institutes of Health is by far the largest funding source in my field, and the money comes from taxpayer dollars.

Insurance providers have very little incentive to direct resources at preventive medicine in this country because people don't stay with the same provider for most of their lives. Your insurance company isn't going to use resources to educate you on healthy eating if it means you will end up getting sick less after you switch to a competing insurance provider.

The problem is that selling unhealthy food and medically treating chronic disease are both very profitable. There is no free market incentive to stop that cycle.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi SamAbroad,

Thanks. I agree, what we need are some basic regulations to prevent exploitation.

Junk food ads directed at children make children eat more junk food, it's as simple as that. If they didn't, these companies wouldn't waste their money. I can't say I agree with the idea (stated multiple times in these comments) that the problem is the parents' personal responsibility. Talking about personal responsibility is a way to complain, not a way to change things. You can't make people more responsible, and you can't make everyone knowledgeable about good nutrition. But you can design basic safety nets to protect the most vulnerable people who are not going to be protected by their parents and who are too young to make rational decisions for themselves.

Alan said...

>>> Your insurance company isn't going to use resources to educate you on healthy eating if it means you will end up getting sick less after you switch to a competing insurance provider.

Perhaps you're not familiar with Underwriters Laboratories? Insurance companies do act in concert all the time.

>>> The problem is that selling unhealthy food and medically treating chronic disease are both very profitable. There is no free market incentive to stop that cycle

Maybe yes, maybe no. We would need to experience a free market in the insurance business before we could hope to judge.

>>> Those foods are also patentable. That's what makes them so profitable

it's actually extremely difficult to get a patent on a food item. It's very possible to get a patent on a food-manufacturing method or machine; or on a food package; on the food item itself - no.

Alan said...

>>> Insurance providers have very little incentive to direct resources at preventive medicine in this country

This clause, taken by itself, is 100% correct.

Anyone who really wants to see things change, should be assiduously working to ensure that some definite, identifiable entity can make some untaxed money when the population becomes healthier.

The danger, of course, is that the usual gang of rent-seeking attornies and limousine-liberal "activists" will be allowed to define "becomes healthier". The same like "fair trade for Third World peasant farmers" has worked out to be: pay a copyright-licensing fee once a year to some upper-middle-class "activists" in a trendy bohemian neighborhood in Amsterdam.

Sad to say, the "community activist" flavor of ideologue, mostly feels that the correct response to rational behavior, is to tax it to death.

Building-safety codes didn't occur because anybody cared about anyone's safety or comfort. They occurred because underwriters stood to lose money each time a claim had to be paid out.

As Mao ppointed out, people who want the mouse to get caught, should stop wasting time discussing which color cat to prefer.

bentleyj74 said...

"Junk food ads directed at children make children eat more junk food, it's as simple as that."

How do they procure it?

Helen said...

A free-market insurance system left my father, a colon cancer survivor, uninsured when he suffered a massive heart attack in 1985, ten years later: he was uninsurable due a pre-existing condition.

Granted, he should not have been smoking.

Too bad he was hooked at an early age - 17? 18? - that was 1944 - and that the tobacco industry did everything it could to conceal the harmful effects of its product, which it was well aware of, and promoted a public relations campaign that successfully planted enough doubt in my dad's mind (he so loved to be contrarian!) about the harmful effects of smoking for him to keep doing it with a clear conscience. He was paying that bill back for years. Even divorced his wife so they wouldn't go after her assets.

After the heart attack, he said, "It was the cigarettes." He stopped smoking. He was never really the same.

When he got old enough to qualify, my free-thinking libertarian dad did love him some Medicare.

Rob A said...

" I can't say I agree with the idea (stated multiple times in these comments) that the problem is the parents' personal responsibility. Talking about personal responsibility is a way to complain, not a way to change things."

This reminds me of a quote in Orion magazine, about the omnipresence of environmental toxins: 'Industry has enmeshed us in a web of poisons, and then enlisted parents as security detail, as if they asked for the job, or the assignment is fair. It's not'

I think about this in relation to television as well, both in its' imagery as well as its advertising. Certainly you can say, yes, an individual family can elect not to watch tv or to actively police what their child sees, and some do. Also, though, what responsibility, if any, exists on the part of those weaving the web of poisons? Seems like where you on stand on the issue probably hinges on how you answer that sort of question.

Flare said...

>Insurance providers have very little incentive to direct resources at preventive medicine in this country because people don't stay with the same provider for most of their lives.
Life-long customers are not needed for real-food promotion to still be profitable. Here are just some ideas:
1) People on the verge of sickness (like a deteriorating diabetc, or a fattening metabolic syndrome man) greatly and rapidly benefit from real food. A current insurance company would offer the diabetic insurance for some high amount, simply expecting him to eventually develop the various diseases diabetes often results in. A competitive insurance company would offer the diabetic insurance at a much lower rate, on the condition that he participate in certain real-food promoting activities that the insurance company would run. Examples might include giving the diabetic a credit card which gives known discounts for healthy foods, having the diabetic attend certain educational classes (such as nutrition, or simple cooking), giving discounted rates if they participate in certain gym classes (weight lifting to improve insulin sensitivity), giving a discount simply for living in a real-food promoting community etc.

2) An insurance company could approach an institution like a school, offer them some sort of long term deal/discount to feed the kids a certain way. This is an area where education by the insurance company could be profitable: educated parents would be more liable to demand their school comply with the health insurance company's nutritional demands for that school.

>Your insurance company isn't going to use resources to educate you on healthy eating if it means you will end up getting sick less after you switch to a competing insurance provider.
The hypothetical competitive health insurance company would probably be giving major discounts on the basis of their ability to verify someone was eating healthy, not just on the basis that someone had been 'educated' (since education doesn't necessarily result in action). 'Education' would just be about the company explaining to their customers what they need to do in order to get a certain level of discounted price; basically about them explaining their policy, which is a necessary part of any business of this sort. 'Education' could merely be 'eat food that comes with the 'paleo' label, don't eat other stuff, and you can save $1,000 a month on your health insurance', and this could possibly be sufficient to get many people trending towards health.

>If the government wasn't involved in science, there would be very little research done in this country.
i don't think so... but this is a long topic

>The problem is that selling unhealthy food and medically treating chronic disease are both very profitable.
Profitable for SOME (the unhealthy food manufacturers, drug/doctor industry, etc), but anti-profitable for others. The point i'm trying to make is that there are certain industries in which a company's profitability should directly depend on the quality of health of their customers: the health insurance industry (or at least something near that domain)! Now why isn't the health insurance industry pushing people towards correct nutrition?

Flare said...

Why did McDonalds switch from tallow to seed-oil? The state convinced the public that seed oil was necessary for health, and Fast Food reacted.
Why are state-schooled children fed horrible foods? Because the state dicates so.
Why did people stop eating butter and eggs? Because the state said those were unhealthy, and people believed them.
Why did junk food replace whole food? One contributing reason is because people became obsessed with the state-advice of low-fat, low-calorie, low-cholesterol as keys to health. Only processed, fabricated foods can meet these mythical standards.
Why is the drug industry so big, and preventitive-medicine industry so small? Partly because the state funds so much science that implies things like genetics to be the primary determinant in health/disease, disease as inevitable and the body as inherently prone to malfunction, etc. Partly because nutritional-knowledge is not required of doctors (and the state sets the requirements doctors must meet).

I'm not disagreeing with you when you advocate restricted advertising towards children, or generally better 'public health', of course. I just think its very unreasonable to expect the state to be a solution to our problems, given its unscrupulous history.

The purpose of markets is to serve the desires of customers. Many people desire health. Why isn't this desire being adequately met? That the seed oil industry is profitable doesn't explain why the health industry is failing to get people healthy. Plenty of other industries manage to meet their aims.

Monica said...

Quick google search reveals that there have been two experiments at countries blocking food ads to kids. One of them is a block on advertising that goes back to 1980.

(Scroll down for Quebec and Sweden info).

I'm under no illusions that eliminating subsidies and the food pyramid would not stop the train wreck we're on. In that sense, I agree with SamAbroad. I'm not exactly sure how much subsidies reduce the price of these packaged foods, but I suspect that people will still find money for them because the amount of money Americans spend on food as a portion of their income continues to drop.

At the same time, I'm just skeptical that reducing food ads to kids would work. There was virtually zero advertising for these: they spread like wildfire among kids. They are only $5 and parents routinely give that sort of disposable income to their kids now.

Monica said...

Somehow part of my comment got eliminated. I was referring to the phenomenon of Silly Bandz in my above comment.

Kenexus said...

thanks for this article.

Kath (My Funny Little Life) said...

I love this. :D

Alan said...

>>>> A free-market insurance system left my father, a colon cancer survivor, uninsured

Your father's lifetime did not encompass any free market in insurance. You may not comprehend what a an actual free market is. The american schools certainly don't discuss it.

Folks who whine about the "pre-existing condition" problem typically are not searching for insurance. Insurance is the business of accepting liability for other people's tiny chance of a large risk, in exchange for a riskless tiny revenue stream.

If you have a pre-existing condition, you don't have a tiny risk of incurring further large expenses; you have a very large risk of incurring further large expenses.

Whether the commonweal SHOULD have been responsible for paying for your father's medical expenses after knowing of his pre-existing condition is a legitimate political debate.

What is beyond debate, is that his expenses were no longer an "insurance" question. They comprised a "transfer payments" question.

This blog isn't about public policy, nor do I prefer that it becomes one; so I will stop my discussion at this juncture.

I will refer you to Ayn Rand's classic book: "Capitalism, the
Unknown Ideal"

Mavis said...
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Mavis said...
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Mavis said...
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Mavis said...

Okay, Alan... we've never had a perfect free market, just like there was never perfect socialism. Which is also not taught in school, darn it!

Those who think the free market hasn't worked just because it hasn't been free enough reminds me of apologists for communism who claimed that it wasn't working the way it should because communist countries had to spend so many resources fighting the U.S.

I'm afraid the ideal of a free market will always be unknown. It's a utopia like any other.

My father had been paying insurance premiums all of his life, then he got cancer and was treated. That seems fair, according to the market. (He actually did not get cancer again - go figure. I'm not sure what you mean about "transfer payments.") His place of employment closed; he became a self-employed consultant, and as a cancer survivor was uninsurable. He looked for insurance. I know others who've been denied, too - this is not a manner of "whining." This is not uncommon. Whether there was a "premium" plan that would have covered him, I don't know. Affordability becomes an issue.

My cousin worked in the health insurance industry for many years and says they are in the business of denying care. She no longer wants to be in that business. I'm sure to the insurance companies, this is merely controlling costs.

It sounds like we agree the free market doesn't work incredibly well for these situations, either from the consumer's standpoint or from the insurer's. It's interesting that you float a "commonweal" solution as one for legitimate debate - what would the alternative be?

You speak about misfortunes like having cancer as if they were some kind of consumer choice - and if you choose to have cancer, you should be willing to pay for it.

I'm yet to be convinced that free market absolutists aren't simply heartless when it comes to these matters. Perhaps they haven't had enough misfortune in their own lives to have these questions move beyond the theoretical.

Anonymous said...

Most cancer survivors get re-occurences or other health problems that are expensive (as your father did, Helen). That's what the other poster meant by 'transfer payments'. Your father was a known expense and needed charity, not the pre-paid health care access we presently label 'insurance'.

Anthony said...

Methinks - spoken like a true American. If anyone thinks the government does a good job regulating anything, they are naive and sadly misinformed.

Mavis said...
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Mavis said...

@ paleotwopointoh - Thank you for clarifying.

@ Anthony - And anyone who thinks they've never benefited from regulations is also naive and sadly misinformed.

Life's imperfect. Power corrupts - not solely state power nor solely corporate power. In a liberal democracy, state power tends to serve the most powerful interests in a society, but other groups attempt to access it to serve their interests with varying degrees of success. Accountability can be leveraged and services in the public good can be created in various ways, not only through the state. Utopian solutions are interesting in that they make us think of creative alternatives.

Thank you for the discussion. Signing off from this string now!

mem said...

Love this. We need LOTS more of it!

"Soda advertisers want YOU. And here are some ways they are trying to get to you:
• Sprite wants multicultural youth age 13-24 to drink their soda. To get to you, they have created a new mobile music app called Zoozbeat Sprite that gives you new beats when you enter Sprite cap codes through text messages.
• Coke and Church’s Chicken have joined up to target urban youth through a campaign through which you can earn discounts and be entered into contests by sending in text messages. ”Our goal is to find a place ahead of the curve by exploring newer means of communications to target the young, multicultural segment,” said a Church’s chicken spokesperson.
• Mountain Dew recruited African American comedian Jerry Brooks to sell its soda to young men. Using videos on YouTube and a lot of social media (they have 4.5 million Facebook fans), Mountain Dew asked for your help in helping to pick its new sugary flavors of soda.

It’s time to outsmart the advertisers and tell the truth about soda. Starting right now."

Roger Kaza said...
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Roger Kaza said...

Hi Mem,

Are you age 99 or did I read that wrong? Anyway, way to go if so.

Monica said...


I think even if these sorts of advertisements are banned, they are likely not to do much to reduce soda consumption, because the purpose of many of these ads is brand-switching.

If all advertising is gone and kids go to a store and have the option of getting coke, pepsi, mountain dew, dr. pepper, a bottle of water or a bottle of milk, lack of advertising probably isn't going to help them choose milk or water over those other options.

Anonymous said...

Obesity CAN and HAS occurred with absolutely no change at all in intake or activity.

Dr. Friedman has seen this many times during his career as a doctor.

The caloric hypohesis is too simplitic to even begin to explain obesity. It's dead. The entire commercial diet industry is doomed. It is not a question of "if" but when. More and more people will be exposed to this evidence, and they will see how they exist on lies and assumptions.

I will not name names, but plenty of Internet gurus do not understand obesity at all.

Stephan, Urgelt of YouTube, Dr. Sharma, etc. are knowledgeable.

Obesity is very complex as any real, genuine scientist knows.

Richard said...

I love these comments: whose "fault" is it?

As so well noted, there is no perfect free market system, and what we have, and will always have, is a "blended" system where food producing groups will try to maximize their return by any possible means. We can expect that people will continue to think the drug companies will find a cure for cancer, when Vitamin D already works reasonably well: See "Grassrootshealth."

I tend to disagree with the idea that the human diet ought to be biased towards carbohydrates, because that includes sugar, so we then have to remove it from the diet, and wheat, which is just as destructive.

At that point why not just adopt the Archevore (Paleo 2.0) diet and consequent weight loss?

Parents have the obligation to make sure that their children eat properly. Of course, the first step on that program is to set a good example. We all hope (don't we?) that government does not involve itself too deeply in the promotion of unhealthy foods, but we cannot avoid our responsibility whether they do or do not. Bad choices will always be available.

I am puzzled by the argument here, as if government is responsible for the problem. That is about as wrong as asking them to fix it. What we have is not only caused by the government, but also by our own ignorance and our prosperity, and human nature. What we can ask is that government refrain from making the problem worse.

Advertising to children is easily countered if the children are encouraged in their natural cynicism: Even my 10 year old twins know that the TV advertisements are essentially lies. I encourage them to think critically. We no longer live in a simple world, so why pretend?

Helen said...

Okay, one more:

Study: Healthy Eating Costs More

Meeting Dietary Recommendations Could Add 10% to the Average American’s Grocery Bill
By Brenda Goodman, WebMD Health News. Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 4, 2011 -- Prepare to part with more money if you’re trying to make healthier food choices.

A new analysis shows healthy eating can really run up a grocery bill, making it tough for Americans on tight budgets to meet nutritional guidelines.

“We’ve known for a long time that fruits and vegetables were more expensive in this country than junk food, but this really quantifies how much it would take to have a healthy diet, and it’s a lot of money for a low-income family,” says Hilary Seligman, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

The study estimates that getting the average American to the recommended target of just one nutrient, potassium, would cost an additional $380 each year.

“That’s enormous, and it’s money that people in this economy really don’t have,” says Seligman, who studies food insecurity but was not involved in the research.

Putting Dollars to Doughnuts, and Other Foods

New dietary guidelines announced last year challenged Americans to eat less sugar and saturated fat and more vitamin D, calcium, dietary fiber, and potassium, which is present in high amounts in fruits, vegetables, and beans.

Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to see how much it would cost to meet those recommendations.

They surveyed 1,123 adults in the Seattle area, asking questions about age, household income, and education level. Study participants also filled out questionnaires detailing their eating habits.

Researchers then tallied how many calories and nutrients people were getting from their diets, and using local retail food prices, they figured out how much people were spending for what they ate.

People who spent the least amount on their food, an average of $6.77 a day, were also the furthest from hitting the government’s daily guidelines of 3,500 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of daily fiber, 10 micrograms of vitamin D, and 1,000 milligrams of calcium. On average, they were getting around 2,391 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of fiber, 5 micrograms of vitamin D, and 854 milligrams of calcium.

They were also the group that most overshot the suggested limits of 10% of daily calories from added sugar and 7% of daily calories from saturated fat, consuming around 14% of calories from sugar and 12% of calories from saturated fat.

The highest spenders, on the other hand, who had food costs that were nearly twice as high as those who spent the least, came the closest to hitting the government’s targets, though they were still short on nutrients and a bit higher than the targets for sugar and saturated fat.

The Financial Impact of Government Guidelines

Researchers then used mathematical models to estimate how much more it might cost to meet the government’s guidelines.

Adding 700 milligrams of daily potassium, the average gap seen in the study, would cost $1.04 a day and $380 a year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that’s about 10% of what an adult spends on food each year.

Helen said...

(Part 2)

Getting to a higher standard, the U.S. Dietary Reference Intake of 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, which is recommended by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, would cost an additional $2.82 a day or $1,030 a year.

In contrast, adding saturated fat and sugar to the diet actually decreases food costs.

For every 1% increase in calories from added sugar, food costs fell about 7 cents; for saturated fat, they dropped even more, about 28 cents for every 1% increase in daily calories.

“Increasing added sugar and saturated fat will actually help you spend less, unfortunately” says study researcher Pablo Monsivais, PhD, an assistant professor in the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Essentially we’ve built a system that favors calories, but makes it more expensive to actually get nutrients,” he tells WebMD.

Researchers said the solutions to the problem can be found at both the individual and government level.

Policymakers, Monsivais says, need to find a way to offer subsidies or financial support for growing and buying vegetables and fruits. Current farm subsidies, he says, are geared toward growing grains and grain products like corn syrup and sugar.

And in the interim, consumers can improve their diets and keep costs low by doing a little homework on the kinds of foods they choose.

Some sources of vital nutrients are less expensive than others.

“Some fruits and vegetables provide a lot of bang for your buck,” he says. “Bananas and potatoes are the real workhorses of the produce department. They provide potassium very affordably. Leaning more on those kinds of foods is a good way to increase your intake of potassium without having such a big impact on your overall food budget.”

The study is published in the Journal Health Affairs.

mem said...

Nice post, Helen. I got this one also via Yale's Rudd Center which is dong reat work in this area, as are a variety of other centers.

We have a public health catastrophe on our hands. It's that simple and there are lots of excellent centers working on interventions and working together.

For me it seems not useful to post alot of information here as it simply gets into political stance push-pull. Given that we are heading rapidly toward a rather "Matrix -like" scenario with teenagers/very young adults lined up and hooked up to dialysis and gastric bypasses for the same, there will be major intervention coming. I'd bet my liver on that.

And it wil, of course, need to be multi-pronged. We tend to talk about things here in very singular, reductionistic ways and successful interventions will not rest on only, for instance, getting industially engineered hyperstimulating and often addictive food advertising out of kid's faces. It will of course be much more than that and must be.


I am an old low carber. It works very, very well for me. I cycle what I eat, but will not go into a description of that now. I eat lots of vegetables - LOTS, just lower carb types. It's effortless. And at the age of 58, I have absolutely no medical conditions and was a nightmare mess of them prior, all of which I acquired over two years (as of 97-99.) What I have done has WORKED and it has totally cleaned up my health. I made two major errors in 06 and 09 by trying to add back in baking mixes that included grain/soy. Both times were a disaster. Ancestral eating theory/research has clarified for me the why of that.

I don't see anything inherently desireable about eating high carb/low fat. I plan to remain among the scant 3-5% of those who successfully maintain significant weight loss. I also wish to remain among women in my age range who suffer from zero medical issues and are, in fact, robustly healthy and very physically active. I've found what works for me and have continued on this path, continually taking new info in and refining for 13 years, maintaining the loss for pushing 10 of those years.

Raz, my sense is that a majority of us here are pretty up on the complexity of obesity. I am a consistent reader of Sharma and others who from my perspective, like Stephen, know their stuff and also have seeking, flexible, open minds.Stephen has certainly stated, over and over and over and over again, in so many words, that "the obese" are a heterogeneous group, and that, for instance, hyperpalatability-reward theory is not some kind of singular fix, nor would it apply or necessarily be helpful or well tolerated by all obese individuals. But if we step back, i think we might be able to see how priciples of this theory when applied EARLY on, prior to obesity even, as a way of thinkng about, selecting, preparing and eating food , could be very helpful, in addition to its application to some of the already overweight/obese. It isn't a prison. It can become and very handy and learnable tool.

Post getting too long -

Greenacres said...

Mem, it sounds like you've learned a lot about what works for you nutritionally.
May I ask how you prepare your vegetables? I know I enjoy veggies with butter or cheese, but feel I should learn some other ways to make them tasty.

gunther gatherer said...
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gunther gatherer said...

Hi Stephan, I just finished Cabanac's "The Fifth Influence", which I found fascinating. I was wondering how you felt about his assertion that most of food reward is actually determined in the duodenum, not by the taste receptors.

I have been thinking this too, since taste seems to be an adaptive pleasure sense. Why does beer taste good to adults, even though no baby will go near it? Same with lots of other things. Since palatability is such a malleable thing, it stands to reason that the body would have evolved by now to sift through food reward just like it determines heart rate or body temperature; why leave these important functions to be interfered with by of our conscious perception?

Maybe our taste and smell senses just guide us to the food, but the real calculating is done later. What do you think? Cabanac points to several studies on this.

gunther gatherer said...

Here's the main quote I'm referring to above: "In the case of food stimuli, the signal leading to taste alliesthesia is neither general glycemia nor glycemia in the portal vein but is normally triggered by the passing of highly concetrated chyme through the duodenal opening (Cabanac and Fantino 1977), a signal identified in rats (Smith and Young 1974; Cabanac and Lafrance 1992)."

However this doesn't address D2 receptors and how their activation seems to cause positive changes in body composition. Perhaps over-stimulation of taste receptors is a separate and additional problem which just happens to come along with high macronutrient reward if you eat industrial foods. But the extent of that macronutrient reward is actually determined in your plumbing, not your brain. What's your take on this?

Sean said...

To the government intervention discussion, I'd like to add that OF COURSE Stephan will advocate an authoritarian solution.

Academics and state-university researchers are also people who depend on government financing for their livelihood -- they will not RECOGNIZE that they're accepting money stolen from all us "tax payers" under threat of abduction or bullets.

Tax is theft, not love -- not empathy for others' problems.

Stephan, I LOVE your blog; and it neither surprises me nor bothers me that you advocate theft as a solution to this problem. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! ;)

Sean said...
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Unknown said...

Thanks, good health is also come what you eat. love yourself by choose the good food only.
workouts to get taller

Ned said...

Sean, you're forgetting your aphorisms. Taxes aren't theft; rather they are right up there with death in being one of the few certainties in life.
But, if you're seeking a country without a strong centralized government, and hence, little or no taxation, I'd strongly recommend Somalia.
But if you seek a cooler climate, Switzerland has a relatively low tax rate and is indeed quite lovely.

Unknown said...

Perhaps we should start a new national political party:

The Healthy America Party

Focus on all aspects of 'health':

Physical; mental; economic; political; cooperation; evolutionary perspectives; ethical; geophysical; etc.

Target recruiting, younger generations, etc.

P2ZR said...


First off, would you, perchance, be the ‘PragueStepchild’ I occasionally encounter in my blog perusals? E.g., here (, where ‘Sean’ aka ‘PragueStepchild’ demonstrates such lack of both compassion and polemical sophistication as to categorically tell a ED sufferer that what she’s trying to articulate is “the most pseudo-intellectual bullshit [you]’ve ever come across”. (And no, I am not—nor do I know—‘Jenna’.) Do excuse me if I’m mistaken; the apparent appetite for gratuitous put-downs is strikingly similar.

Anyhow, would you happen to know what a public good is, or an externality, for that matter? The reason science research is subsidized by the government is because there is a positive externality to health and wellness; that is, the marginal benefit that an individual derives from an additional unit of biomedical knowledge is less than the marginal social benefit that results. Do taxes result in deadweight loss? Yes. Does that make tax tantamount to theft? No it simply means that taxes are an imperfect solution to an already-extant market imperfection.

I could just proclaim, “Let them eat Twinkies,” because I am—to use ItstheWooo’s charming term, “obesity resistant”, and (God willing) my children probably will be, too. But the vantage point of an individual cannot adequately account for the social cost of diabesity and its myriad related ills. FML if I have to grow old as an island of wellness in a sea of WholeHealthFail. And last time I checked, we haven’t yet figured out how to cap and trade obesity/insulin resistance/CVD. So I, for one, would rather subsidize Stephan’s research enterprise because it would otherwise be under-producing knowledge…rather than oh, Monsanto, simply because of its Roundup-Ready political contributions.

But I’m not here to be a pedagogue. I’m here to ask why you make two flying leaps and a bound into sophistry by asserting that because Stephan receives NIH funding for his work, he must be an apologist for all government policies. Who’s to say he even condones them? Academia is merely somewhere many postdocs in the sciences pay their dues before either becoming PI’s (principal investigators) of their own labs—or venturing out into industry. Academia just happens to be where most of the financial and intellectual capital conducive to their work is found. Please apprise me of the syllogistic gymnastics that enable you to tar and feather an entire profession as you do.

And it is this Tar ‘n’ Feather performance that makes me ask, why are you even here? Don’t get me wrong; at participation time t = 0, everyone is welcome to poke around whatever blogs they want without being subjected to such a question. But goodwill is a finite resource. Are you here not because you give half a rat’s ass about your health, but because you just want somewhere to unload your ideological rancor? If so, then um, get a life. There are innumerable militant left-wing blogs where you could do that.

P2ZR said...

(cont.'d; @ Sean & co.)

Or are you here because you do care about your health, and you believe that some of the knowledge Stephan shares on this blog might help you? If so, then who are you to bite the proverbial hand that feeds you—free of charge? As far as I can tell, this blog is a labor of love; Stephan has no “flatten your tummy in 7 days w/acai wonder!” ads, nor banners of himself as Mr. Ripped doing calisthenics to inspire readers to say, “omgz DILFFF if i buy his supplementz they will make me ripped 2?!!” Even if you do contribute several farthings into his Paypal account every time you visit this blog, you aren’t doing it to keep his political inclinations in line with your own; you’re doing it to support his endeavor of putting relevant health insights out there for you to use. God forbid that this scientist is also a sentient being who harbors his own worldview and policy convictions contrary to yours.

No one is holding you hostage to Stephan’s blog, Sean. Do you have a good answer to why you frequent it? If answering that question requires an inordinate amount of soul-searching, then by all means—introspect your heart out. But in the meantime, please don’t ideology-shit all over Stephan’s blog. It’s not fair to the rest of us to see an otherwise brilliant and collegial slice of the Interwebz so fouled up. And infinitely more important, it’s not fair to Stephan, whose altruism in maintaining this blog I cannot fathom—and who deserves a hell of a lot more gratitude than has been seen here lately.


Helen said...

@ Sarah Barracuda -

Word. Thank you.

Alan said...

>>>> assistant professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco.

That particular school is one big cesspit of junk science further tainted by political correctness.

>> Meanwhile, the farmer gets roughly 58 cents of every consumer dollar spent on eggs -- but only four cents of every consumer dollar spent on high fructose corn syrup.

the farmer is only ever carrying about 4% of the total business risk involved in presenting the product on your supermarket shelf. Any other computation only reflects the value of the crop as experienced by insects and birds in the fields who would love to eat it. Corn has zero retail value until it is available for retail sale!

Farmers are not shortchanged in the USA. If you doubt that, take a close look at how strongly crop-insurance is subsidized by taxpayers nowadays. An American dairy operator can buy "gross margin insurance" (= a guaranteed profit) for about 40% of the fair actuarial value; the rest is paid by the Risk Management Agency of USDA. Now, that might even be the least worst agricultural paradigm for us as a nation; but let's not fool ourselves that farm families are made of sterner financial morals than Joe Average Couch Potato.

mem said...

Food for thought for everyone, of all ideologies and political thought streams, re: government food subsidies and their ACTUAL impact.

Unknown said...

I agree with you that "Their advice will never directly target the primary source of obesity and metabolic dysfunction-- industrially processed food-- because that would hurt corporate profits in one of the country's biggest economic sectors."
But it is also true that they are pressurize to prepare Dietary guidelines according to them and we know very well that who is behind of it.
Physiotherapy Dublin

Megan said...

Big fan of your blog. I think you would be surprised by how many Paleo eaters tend towards Libertarian ideas. It's always interesting how two reasonable people can look at the same problem and attribute different reasons to the problem as well as suggest totally different solutions. This statement of yours caught my attention:

"What is bullshit is the idea that the free market is going to save us all. Sorry buddy, but it ain't working out."

How is it free market to subsidize an industry? How can we claim free market is a failure for this particular industry when it is a good example of what a free market isn't?