The Pharmacological Rationale

colorful-pills

Before returning to the general subject of long-term, sustainable weight loss let’s just tidy up a few loose ends about the place where obesity intersects with chemistry. As previously mentioned, claims made about anti-obesity drugs need to be carefully examined. Many researchers and clinicians are wary of these pharmaceuticals because they have not been tested for very long on the kinds of people who need them the most, the patients already suffering from one of more co-morbidities.

In mid-2013, there were three major products in the fat-fighting business — Xenical (from Roche), Belviq (from Arena Pharmaceuticals) and Qsymia (from Vivus). Orexigen’s Contrave was not yet approved. The focus of WallStreetDaily.com is obvious, so the intimate details of corporate finances are discussed:

For instance, Vivus experienced an abandonment rate of 30% when it first launched in September, “likely because of sticker shock from those not covered by insurance.” Belviq, made available in June, isn’t covered by most health plans, which is part of the reason some analysts think it got off to a slow start.

Journalist Karen Canella went on to say:

Bottom line: No matter how we choose to prevent and treat obesity, the real battle has just begun. The fact that insurance companies must help fund the fight could prove to be the biggest wildcard behind this super-sized trend.

Both Belviq and Qsymia had only been approved the previous year, in quick succession, after more than a decade during which the Food and Drug Administration did not see fit to give its blessing to any weight-loss meds. Journalist Landon Hall notes that both drugs carry side effects “severe enough that the FDA initially rejected them.”

Hall says:

The trick is convincing skeptical physicians, and patients, that they work well enough, and that they’re safe enough, for long-term use.

Hall’s piece traces the history of weight-loss drugs, which we won’t spoil by recounting here. However, if birth defects, a multi-billion dollar lawsuit, hallucinations necessitating DEA approval, and yucky embarrassing accidents all sound interesting, this article is recommended.

It also quotes a corporate spokesperson explaining how Belviq messes with hormonal receptors to provide an enhanced feeling of satiety. Hall writes:

According to clinical trials, 47 percent of patients on the medication lost at least 5 percent of their body weight during the course of one to two years…

That does not seem like much. Say, the person originally weighed 300 pounds. They take this pill, and two whole years later they weigh 285. Is that enough to justify the expense and side effects of a drug? Granted, a 15-pound loss is an achievement, it’s not nothing. But bear in mind, 23% of the control group got the same result from a placebo.

Sometimes a person’s weight will fluctuate 15 pounds one way or the other due to random reasons like holidays or absent-mindedness. To ascribe results to the wrong cause is rarely a way forward. Caution is always a good policy.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Three Ways to Profit From a Super-Sized Trend,” WallStreetDaily.com, 07/13
Source: “Rival obesity drugs seek out patients, and acceptance,” OCRegister.com, 06/20/13
Photo credit: e-MagineArt.com via Visualhunt/CC BY

Obesity From Different Perspectives

supplement-jars-on-shelf

Childhood Obesiy News quoted a paper written by researchers who studied the combined action of two different drugs as an anti-obesity medication. In writing about behavioral interventions, the drug developers limit the definition to dietary adjustments and increased exercise, which doesn’t work, because there are many other types of behavioral interventions.

It’s as if adherents of the energy-exchange school of thought, and of the more functional or holistic school of thought, somehow feel a need for their respective viewpoints to be mutually exclusive. It’s reminiscent of the endlessly ongoing tug of war in the social sciences between the proponents of nature and nurture.

Are people more a product of their heredity or their environment? Some say that every case differs. Some say that dualistic thinking leaves no space for anything else, especially the truth.

It is possible that, in obesity, everything counts. Caloric intake does make a difference, and exercise burns off calories. Also, a person might achieve life transformation through an obscure version of behavioral therapy that is scoffed at by experts.

Considering the proportions and implications of the obesity crisis humanity can’t afford to cavalierly dismiss any ideas. We are grasping at straws here.

The seriousness of the knowledge gap is confirmed by none other than Dr. Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center at Yale University. More specifically, Dr. Puhl is Director of Research & Weight Stigma Initiatives, and she says:

10% loss is typical outcome of the best behavioral and/or pharmacological treatments.

In other words, if a 300-pound person can lose 30 pounds, and keep it off for a year, that is considered a success. But the person still weighs 270 pounds! And that not-very-impressive measure of success is with “the best behavioral and/or pharmacological treatments.” With the best help available!

And while it may be true that both behavioral and pharmacological treatments have their place in the scheme of things, common sense dictates that drugs should always be a last resort. Quite possibly, any claims made about anti-obesity drugs should be taken with a large grain of salt.

The controversies

Back to the drug study (which in this case happens to be of a naltrexone/bupropion combination): Tunnel-visioned as they may be in some ways, the authors provide a solid foundation of background information on prior explorations of why weight loss is so difficult to sustain. It appears that the brains of obese people become rewired over time.

A lot of different things influence eating behavior, including “anticipation and reward, chemosensory perception, autonomic control of digestion, and memory.” The obese are at high risk for relapse because their brains generate abnormal neural responses.

The brain’s disordered responses to eating include delayed satiation, because the “enough is enough” signal is either not received or ignored. Normality is impaired, and connections are not made, or are misinterpreted. People who achieve a 10% weight loss are likely to feel as if they are getting even fewer calories than they actually are.

And they stay hungry. Parts of the brain that deal with reward become more active, and parts that are concerned with restraint shrink into the background.

The researchers say:

The availability of highly palatable food increases reward-based or hedonic feeding in humans and animals and individual differences in the neurophysiology of the reward system have been identified that may explain why certain individuals are at greater risk for weight gain.

In the obesity realm, almost every published study includes some version of the concept, “More research is needed.” Researchers say it in different ways, but they say it, and not simply as a device to assure their own continuing employment.

There is a lot that humans don’t know. Only a few years ago, almost nobody had heard of the microbiome, but it has received increasing attention lately. And just the other day, science discovered a new organ.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Naltrexone/bupropion for obesity: An investigational combination pharmacotherapy for weight loss,” ScienceDirect.com, June 2014
Source: “Clinical Implications of Obesity Stigma,” uconnruddcenter.org, 06/27/13
Photo credit: Paolo Gamba via Visualhunt/CC BY

Obesity Through the Pharmacological Lens

shiny-pill-medley

Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., Director of Research & Weight Stigma Initiatives at Yale’s Rudd Center, notes that a weight loss of 5% to 10% is considered a success, which is a pretty low bar. Additionally, only between 10% and 20% of patients can maintain a 10% weight loss after a single year. Dr. Puhl also states that a 10% loss is typical for a patient who has had access to and followed “the best behavioral and/or pharmacological treatments.”

Patients and doctors alike can become discouraged by the elephant they just can’t seem to evict from the room: The fact that weight loss rarely lasts. As Dr. Pretlow says, “Obesity remains a substantially frustrating and intractable health condition for millions of young people.”

This causes despair among individuals, and is a big problem for the nation, because by the year 2030 it looks like obesity and its co-morbidities will account for as much as 18% of all health care costs. The prediction is quoted in a paper describing the results of a study that investigated combining two different pharmaceuticals, which also says:

The increase in the prevalence of obesity is a clear indication of the failure of behavioral intervention to produce sustained and meaningful weight loss in today’s obesogenic environment… Many overweight and obese individuals are unable to achieve moderate weight loss with behavioral intervention alone.

Well, these particular researchers would say that, wouldn’t they, because their task is to evaluate a certain drug combo. The catch is, they define behavioral interventions as diet and exercise, period.

Unsurprisingly, a different paper by a different group of researchers with a different focus says this:

However, behavioral strategies developed from social learning theory have been the most thoroughly tested interventions for the treatment of obesity, as well as the interventions shown most clearly to have clinical benefit… Overall, it is concluded that behavior therapy is both the most studied and most effective therapy for treating obesity at present.

To limit the definition of behavioral intervention to diet and exercise, as the drug researchers do, is obviously fallacious. Obesity experts have helped patients lose weight using a number of modalities, such as various types of cognitive behavioral therapyattention modification therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance & commitment therapy, cue avoidance, hypnotism, role playing, 12-step groups, and relapse prevention training.

Behavioral interventions work better for younger children than for older ones, and extend out to the family, where psychologic counseling for parents is found to be effective. “Family-centered” is good, and so is “culturally tailored.”

As for drugs, only a couple are currently approved as suitable for long-term obesity treatment, and even they frequently cause significant side effects. Part of the problem here is that animal testing can’t really replicate what goes on with humans. Of course, the lab rodents can’t really predict certain “adverse drug events,” like planning to commit suicide.

Another interesting sidebar concerns pharmaceutical corporate-speak. For instance, a report might say, “The high-profile withdrawal of obesity drugs from the market due to safety issues has left physicians with few treatment options,” which is a more genteel way of expressing the concept, “The scandals have left doctors bereft of alternatives and desperate for solutions.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Clinical Implications of Obesity Stigma,” uconnruddcenter.org, 06/27/13
Source: “Naltrexone/bupropion for obesity: An investigational combination pharmacotherapy for weight loss,” ScienceDirect.com, June 2014
Source: “Behavioral intervention for the treatment of obesity: strategies and effectiveness data,” NIH.gov, October 2007
Source: “A Grizzly Answer for Obesity,” NYTimes,com, 02/12/14
Photo credit: Miran Rijavec via Visualhunt/CC BY

Aspects of the Sugar Battle in Britain

candy-fantasy-world

To follow along with the events in the United Kingdom (comprising Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) is as absorbing as binge-watching a mini-series. For the past year at least, the question of the proposed (or, as some might characterize it, threatened) sugar tax has been a bone of contention.

Will it happen, or will it not? And if it does, how extensively will it be defanged? Will it, like some other legislative attempts to cure societal ills, end up as a mere symbolic nod to a principle whose cause is lost? As always in these conflicts over vexed questions, individuals and institutions step up to explain, from various perspectives, just how critical the situation is.

In mid-November, Camille Bienvenu capsulized an article published by the online journal BMJ Open by scientists who looked at 169 sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). There is a certain amount of sugar called the “daily allowance,” and exceeding it is not recommended. But over half of British sodas have more sugar in them than an individual’s whole daily allowance. So even if they didn’t eat another grain of sugar throughout the day, they would still be over the approved intake level.

Bienvenu wrote:

According to the researchers’ estimations, 73 per cent of all fizzy drinks exceeded daily sugar limits for a child…

Overall, 91 per cent of the drinks reviewed, including dandelion and burdock, elderflower, orange and lemonade, should be marked with a red food warning label for sugar.

Of course, whenever a line is drawn in the sand, someone must challenge it. Several British makers of soft drinks banded together to advise the government that an exception should be made for black-currant drinks. The industry argument is that black currants have lots of great vitamins and antioxidants and stuff, but their juice is simply too astringent to be palatable.

A possible counter-argument goes, “Why must everything be available in liquid form? Maybe black currant extract works best as a tablet or capsule. Go with the flow, and sell it in that shape.”

Ribena is one of the companies that want to be exempt from sugar tax even if their black currant product contains a lot of it. But, in other ways, as we have seen, Ribena is making the effort to be a good corporate citizen. Katie Morley reported for the Telegraph:

Ribena recently reformulated its drinks so they contain less sugar and has pledged to reduce sugar levels in its drinks to less than 4.5g per 100g, below the Government threshold for the tax being introduced from 2018.

Another aspect of the sugar-tax story is that SSBs are not the only culprits. Apparently, the British versions of some breakfast cereals contain more sugar than the exact same brands in other countries, and that includes the USA. But, in a strange twist, some products go the opposite way.

Sean Poulter writes:

Even a product as simple as Kellogg’s cornflakes has different levels of sugar and salt. For example, they have 10.7g of sugar per 100g in the US, which is 25 per cent more than the product sold in the UK.

Kellogg’s reconfirmed its commitment to fulfilling local consumer preferences. When queried about their policies, cereal manufacturers have given some odd responses. The journalist reports:

Nestle also said it had cut the sugar in its products. It pointed out that cereals contained “more of the good stuff — grain, vitamins and minerals — than either sugar or salt.”

Let that sink in, and consider whether it means anything.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sugar over daily limit found in more than half of fizzy drinks,” Diabetes.co.uk, 11/15/16
Source: “Sugar tax is unfair to blackcurrant drinks, says Ribena boss,” Telegraph.co.uk, 12/05/16
Source: “How UK cereals ramp up the sugar,” Daily Mail.co.uk, 11/28/16
Photo credit: Karen Roe via Visualhunt/CC BY

Sugar — The Battle in Britain

rock-sugar

It is instructive to follow the progress of an attempt at social engineering in one particular country, and Childhood Obesity News has been tracking the anti-sugar movement as it manifests in the United Kingdom. For those unfamiliar with the British way of doing things, it seems that announcements of a new sugar tax have been arriving regularly over the past year.

Apparently, several layers of bureaucracy must be penetrated before an idea becomes a law. Late in November, the plan was announced again, a plan that encompassed a tax on soft drinks, a 20% reduction in the amount of sugar in food products, and a voucher program that would enable people on public assistance to buy fruits and vegetables.

Early in December, Giles Sheldrick reported for Express.co.uk:

Draft legislation published today paves the way for a two-band levy — due to come into force in April 2018 — which is aimed at halting the obesity crisis.

The final tax is expected to have two thresholds…

Experts estimate the tax will raise £520million a year but health campaigners said the plan does not go far enough.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, who is the go-to source in these matters, told the reporter:

We’ll be disappointed if the Treasury doesn’t slap a 50 per cent levy on the top band and 30 per cent on the lower band. The epidemic is at crisis levels and we’re past the point of considering more politically correct proposals of 10 to 20 per cent.

Those are very daunting tax levels, which should discourage the economically disadvantaged from buying sugar-intensive beverages, and encourage them to buy more healthful drinks instead. But as at least one worried expert has pointed out, what if the industry raises the price of low-sugar drinks so they cost as much as the taxed sugar bombs? Give the two adversaries a level playing field price-wise, and the consumers, who understandably want the most bang for their buck, will naturally gravitate to the sugar-saturated products.

The industry could decide to cancel out, negate, and neutralize any projected gains from the sugar tax. With higher overall prices, they might sell fewer units overall. But the sanctity of high-sugar drinks would be maintained. Corporations can afford to lose some money, for a while, to make their point, which is, “Don’t mess with us.”

Good news

By that time, good news was also coming along, about some companies that either make a genuine effort, or put on a good show of making a genuine effort. The Tesco food chain, whose house brands include 251 separate and distinct beverages, announced that the sugar content would be reduced in each and every one. The Lucozade and Ribena beverage brands told the press they would reduce the sugar content in their products by 50% in time to disqualify them from being sugar-taxed.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Not so sweet? Britain moves closer to introduce sugar tax on fizzy drinks,” Express.co.uk, 12/05/16
Source: “Tesco HALVES sugar content in own-brand fizzy drinks to help tackle obesity,” TheSun.co.uk, 11/07/16
Source: “Lucozade and Ribena to reduce sugar content by 50% — avoiding the Government’s sugar tax,” DailyMail.co.uk, 11/09/16
Photo credit: Dennis Skley via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Happy New Year!

2017-new-year

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Resolution #1:

Remember New Year’s Resolutions all year!

Have a great 2017!

 

Image by alexwhite/123RF Stock Photo

Where Obesity Starts

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Today we take a closeup look at where eating starts, and where, by logical extension, most obesity starts — the human mouth. Mary Roach wrote a lengthy report for The New York Times about Wageningen, an area in the Netherlands where almost 15,000 food scientists are employed by research labs and universities. They work tirelessly to figure out food, aided by such institutions as the Restaurant of the Future, which is equipped with hidden cameras.

Interesting for those who deal with children are the designations of the safest and the most dangerous foods. For small kids, three edible items are the most lethal, because of their round shapes. If a grape, a piece of hot dog, or a round candy “goes down the wrong way,” it fits snugly into the trachea and prevents air from being inhaled.

Roach’s report says:

“Immature swallowing coordination” is the reason 90 percent of food-related choking deaths befall children under 5. Also contributing: immature dentition. Children grow incisors before they have molars; for a brief span of time they can bite off pieces of food but cannot chew them.

Stuff that as been mechanically pre-chewed, like conventional baby food, is the safest. It is also the most boring. Researchers have also come to such conclusions as this:

Mushy food is a form of sensory deprivation. In the same way that a dark, silent room will eventually drive you to hallucinate, the mind rebels against bland, single-texture foods, edibles that do not engage the oral device.

The oral device is the complex of teeth, tongue, lips, cheeks, and saliva that collectively transform matter from recognizable food into a bolus, a wad that has been rendered into a swallowable state. Indeed, much of the research involves asking human subjects to spit out whatever they were just on the verge of swallowing.

Dysphagia

Successful bolus formation and swallowing are crucial, and dependent on “a highly coordinated sequence of neuromuscular events and reflexes.” When a bolus is ready to swallow, the larynx is supposed to move in a way that lets it down the esophagus and keeps it out of the trachea.

Dysphagia is the medical term for inability to do these things properly, and can be a side effect of a degenerative process that affects the nerves, or other conditions. When food does go down the windpipe, the blockage of oxygen can of course be fatal. If the person lives, any bacteria aspirated into the lungs can cause pneumonia.

What the Experts Say

Roach discusses the work of Dr. Andries van der Bilt, who seems to be the world’s leading authority on “masticatory performance,” or chewing. The jaw muscles are the body’s strongest, in terms of “pressure per single burst of activity.” Yet the apparatus is incredibly sensitive, as it must be, to prevent people from pulverizing their own teeth. The mouth is a non-mechanical food processor, and the way a person chews is compared to a fingerprint, although possibly not quite as unique.

A fascinating angle that the journalist looked into is the science of crispy-crunchy, which Dr. Ton van Vliet has been studying for seven years. Apparently, love of crunchiness is instinctive, because it warns us whether an apple or carrot is fresh. Limp fruit is old and maybe rotting. When it comes to crunchy snacks, their cells are filled with air rather than water. But when the cell walls are breached, we experience the same sensation of “brittle fracture” and an audible noise, which is where the thrill of crispiness originates.

The writer quotes Dr. Van Vliet:

To get this noise, you need crack speeds of 300 meters per second. The speed of sound. The crunch of a chip is a tiny sonic boom inside your mouth.

With a personality quirk reminiscent of Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, Dr. van Vliet himself dislikes chips and other crunchy snacks, Roach says, and has never sampled any of the Restaurant of the Future’s fare.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Marvels in Your Mouth,” NYTimes.com, 03/25/16
Image by kellinahandbasket

 

The Oliver Effect

jamie-oliver

As we have seen, the United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) has been in an embattled state for many months over the question of taxing sugar, for the good of the people and the economy. In October, a television investigative team made noise about how the originally conceived law had been weakened.

The reporters said that the newly published draft of the legislation did not coincide with previous drafts, and definitely did not match up with what they had been led to believe. These are the elements that Channel 4 found had been eliminated from an earlier version of the new law:

— Forcing restaurants, cafes and takeaways to put calorie information on menus

— Making supermarkets remove junk food from around check-outs and the end of aisles

— Limiting buy-one-get-one-free and other multi-buy discounts of unhealthy foods

— Curbs to junk food advertising, including commercial breaks in and around popular Saturday night television programmes

This perceived watering-down (or gutting, depending on who was asked) of the grand plan drew criticism from many quarters, including (of course) rival politicians, anti-obesity activists, and doctors. During the excruciating process of trying to create this law, the medical sector has been heard from often, which is only fitting in a country where healthcare is widely available, even if not optimal. The taxpayers can’t afford to pay for all the illness caused by all the obesity, yet the taxpayers keep on getting fat.

Also, some of them get angry when the government, after an interminable wait, finally announces something touted as “ground-breaking” when in reality it barely shifts a spoonful of dirt. Most of the blame landed on Prime Minister Theresa May. Super-chef Jamie Oliver said the revised version “should go to the Trades Description Act” (the British version of “truth in advertising”) because although it was described as an action plan, there was very little action in it.

The New Canaanite described Oliver’s reaction:

He said that the so-called action plan was not worth the paper it was written on… He also criticized the timing of the release of the obesity plan, which was revealed at the same time as A-level results and while the Government was on its summer holiday.

Mr Oliver said: “It absolutely screams out ‘we don’t care’.”

Using such words and phrases as “travesty,” “unforgivable,” “terrible job,” and “same old bull,” Oliver had already told various representatives of the press that the Prime Minister’s toothless plan let down every child in the U.K. He has long been known as a champion of fitness who believes that “Doing the right thing is good business.” The tax on sugar-sweetened beverages was his idea, which he proposed last summer to then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

The celebrity chef allied himself with an organization called Sustain to present the government with a 100,000-signature petition for a soft-drink tax, which would compel the Parliament to at least discuss the matter. They actually gathered 155,000 signatures. This paragraph illustrates why so many Brits regard Jamie Oliver as a hero:

To demonstrate to Cameron that the tax could work, he implemented a 10-pence surcharge on sugary drinks in more than 45 of his Jamie’s Italian restaurants across the UK starting in mid-2015 and persuaded other restaurants to do the same. The fee has raised £170,000, which Oliver has donated to the health charity Sustain to run children’s health programmes.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood obesity plan ‘watered down by government’, TV investigation claims,” CancerResearchUK.org, 10/31/16
Source: “Prime Minister Theresa May accused of U-turn on child obesity plans,” Newcanaanitect.com, 11/03/16
Source: “The Jamie Oliver diet: How the UK celebrity chef took on big sugar,” TheMalayMailOnline,com, 12/06/16
Photo credit: LeWeb14 via Visualhunt/CC BY

Corporate Trickery and Sugar in the United Kingdom

british-soda

Childhood Obesity News has been discussing the chicanery employed by food and beverage industry executives, spokespeople, lobbyists, public relations departments, advertisers, media liaison specialists, paid consultants, corrupt scientists, bent journalists, and so on. It all adds up to a lot of expensive hot air.

As the United Kingdom’s sugar war heated up, Professor Susan Jebb of Oxford University issued what the Telegraph‘s headline writer called a warning. The taxing of soft drinks “could fail to encourage healthier shopping habits by making sugary drinks more expensive than low-sugar options.”

Well, isn’t that the whole idea? In imitation of the tobacco model, the government imposes a tax that the manufacturer pays no part of, and consequently people buy fewer tobacco products, and smoke less. And those who continue to smoke will contribute, via the tax, to reimburse the government for all the expense of taking care of people who get sick because of smoking.

So, why does that rate a warning? Prof. Jebb is quoted:

It means that retailers could seek to recuperate the cost of the tax by making sugary products more expensive, as obesity campaigners are desperately hoping.

Obviously, the speaker meant “recoup,” not “recuperate.” This brings up another issue. Prof. Jebb speaks of “obesity campaigners” when what she apparently means is “anti-obesity campaigners.” Such carelessness with language and neglect of meaning only worsen the situation.

But here’s the thing. To make sugary drinks more expensive is the whole point. Because then consumers on a budget (and these days, who isn’t?) will (theoretically) opt for the less sugary, and less pricey, drinks. But Prof. Jebb points out that manufacturers could neutralize this objective by raising the price of low-sugar products to match the taxed price of the high-sugar products. In other words, the corporations could sabotage the whole point and purpose of the sugar tax.

Revenue and Customs

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom’s bureaucracy known as HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) publicized the details of the projected April 2018 sugar levy. That date is another sore point with people who want to see some anti-sugar action within their lifetimes. The corporations whine about being “rushed” into compliance with horrendously unfair laws. But they have seen this coming for years, and had plenty of time to prepare.

As for the costs and the legitimacy of passing them on to consumers, Vice reporter Daisy Meager writes:

The report states that there will be two tax rate bands: one for added sugar drinks with 5 grams of sugar or more per 100 millilitres and a higher levy on drinks with 8 grams of sugar or more. The HMRC paper also said: “The levy will apply to the producers and importers of these types of drinks.” In other words, it’s up to producers whether these costs are passed onto consumers.

Again, there is plenty of opportunity for malarkey regarding the hardship that will fall upon the poor if they are forced by economic necessity to consume less liquid sugar. The Malay Mail Online put it like this:

The industry, led by the British Soft Drinks Association, is lobbying against the bill, saying it would cost jobs and hurt poor people who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on food and drink.

Then the article quotes the director-general of the British Soft Drinks Association, Gavin Partington:

It’s a levy on industry but it will feed through to higher prices on consumers. In the process it will lead to job losses in the industry and the poorest in society will pay higher prices.

Here’s a thought. How about if the industry extracts a bit less profit, and pays out smaller bonuses to top executives, and stops spending so much to advertise its reprehensible products to kids? How about if the industry just leaves prices where they are, pays the tax, and eats the difference?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sugar tax loophole will still allow cut-price fattening drinks, warns, obesity expert,” Telegraph.co.uk, 09/14/16
Source: “This Is How Much a Can of Coke Could Cost After the Sugar Tax,” VICE.com, 12/07/16
Source: “The Jamie Oliver diet: How the UK celebrity chef took on big sugar,” TheMalayMailOnline,com, 12/06/16
Photo credit: Sheila Scarborough (TheSeafarer) via Visualhunt/CC BY

Sugar and Corporate Trickery in the United Kingdom

chocolate-candy-in-store

It is difficult to avoid being drawn in by the ongoing sugar war in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The turmoil has existed for years, and newsworthy events are frequent. In March of this year, this story was published:

The U.K. announced a new tax on sugary drinks, mandating a fee for any beverage with more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters. A higher rate applies to drinks with more than 8 grams… The tax is set to go into effect in 2018, and will cost the equivalent of $0.12 for a can of soda.

Immediately, of course, manufacturers and lobbyists began to devise strategies to get over, under, or around the proposed new law. In some cases, they manage to align their cause to an argument for the public good, which sounds okay for a minute, until some thought is given to it. In other cases, the public relations specialists are not even that successful.

A proposed new law stimulates opportunists and speculators to swarm like cockroaches out of the woodwork. A company that sells Sucralose, Acesulfame K, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Stevia issued a press release titled “The sugar tax — there is an alternative,” the alternative being their own questionable products. These are chemicals in which people who are fond of their thymus glands, central nervous systems, digestive tracts, livers, kidneys, and other body parts, might want to think twice before indulging.

Anyway, the purpose of this particular press release was to reassure other businesses and the company’s own stockholders, and even the consumers, of the following:

Despite some shortages in the market we have no problems with availability.

That is a puzzling, self-contradictory statement. A shortage means that supply does not keep up with demand, so there is not enough of a thing. Technically speaking, that actually is a problem with availability. A shortage in the market is, ipso facto, an availability problem.

“Despite some shortages in the market we have no problems with availability” is a perfect example of the kind of double-talk that corporations attempt to pass off as valid and meaningful information. If hearing or reading such a statement gives a person a head cramp, that reaction is perfectly justified, because it is meaningless and intentionally misleading, just like 99% of what corporate entities say.

Like everything else, the struggle to reduce sugar consumption via an economic solution is inextricably entwined with the eternal British problem of class warfare. As always, the industry’s mouthpieces raise a patently insincere wail of dismay on behalf of the poor. The economically disadvantaged drink enormous amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages, so how could the government be cruel enough to increase the tax on one of the few luxuries the less privileged classes can afford?

As they float away on a river of crocodile tears, the industry spokespeople also point to the candy industry and the beer industry, where these outrageous new limitations will no doubt cause the elimination of jobs, and then even fewer Britons, Scots, Irish, and Welsh will be able to afford fizzy drinks.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “2016 Could Be the Year of the Soda Tax,” Fool.com, 03/21/16
Source: “The sugar tax — there is an alternative,” Openpr.com, 11/01/16
Photo credit: Michael Lehet via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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