Tuesday, 11 September 2012

In which George Monbiot lets his dislike of fat poor people - and their food choices - get the better of his grasp of facts

OK let’s start with George Monbiot’s assertion that Alzheimer’s Disease is just another form of diabetes (although what seems to be said is that having diabetes – including diabetes linked to brain sugars – significantly raises the risk of getting Alzheimers Disease which isn’t quite the same thing).

There’s a problem with George’s assertion that this is entirely down to diet – and crucially the evils of junk food:

A scarcely regulated food industry can engineer its products – loading them with fat, salt, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – to bypass the neurological signals that would otherwise prompt people to stop eating. It can bombard both adults and children with advertising. It can (as we discovered yesterday) use the freedom granted to academy schools to sell the chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks now banned from sale in maintained schools. It can kill off the only effective system (the traffic-light label) for informing people how much fat, sugar and salt their food contains. Then it can turn to the government and blame consumers for eating the products it sells. This is class war, a war against the poor fought by the executive class in government and industry.

Let’s take this diatribe piece by piece and see whether it stacks up.

“A scarcely regulated food industry”.

This is a statement of mind-blowing ignorance. Or maybe just deliberate misinformation from George.  I’m not going to list all the controls and regulations governing food production, food processing, distribution and retailing of food. You can experience the joy of knowing these regulations here at the Food Standards Agency. And that’s before we look at the control and regulations governing the sale of food for consumption on and off a given premises.

“...loading them with fat, salt, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.”

Here George picks up every food scare going – the lies and myths about too much salt, the largely disproven attacks on saturated fats and the nonsense about sugar:

This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.

In 2000, a respected international group of scientists called the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a "meta-analysis" of the scientific literature on cholesterol-lowering diets. After applying rigorous selection criteria (219 trials were excluded), the group examined 27 studies involving more than 18,000 participants. Although the authors concluded that cutting back on dietary fat may help reduce heart disease, their published data actually shows that diets low in saturated fats have no significant effect on mortality, or even on deaths due to heart attacks.

A new study says that childhood obesity is not caused by soft drinks and sweetened beverages. The study, undertaken by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada and published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, reports that most children who consume such drinks are at no greater risk of obesity than those of their peers who do not.

 As you can see, most of these scares are nonsense.

“..to bypass the neurological signals...”

Nope. This doesn’t happen either. Or not at least outside the pages of junk science and public health campaigns. And even if it did (the argument is essentially that eating is pleasant and that this is why we eat passed being full), it applies to a whole host of other foods than burgers, chips and cake. Try some of that wonderful sourdough bread with butter and a selection of good English cheese – tell me you’re not going to eat passed being full!

“It can bombard both adults and children with advertising”

How many times can people like George get away with parading their ignorance of advertising? It is a fact – not a question of debate or discourse but a fact – that in mature markets (and food markets are all mature) advertising is about brand equity, protecting market share and occasionally switching. After all we didn’t start eating because a food company advertised did we? And before you all start correcting me, I really am much more of an expert on advertising and marketing than George.

“This is class war...”

And George does a triple back somersault over the shark. Because poor people are more likely to be obese (and only yesterday George’s friends were telling us the poor didn’t have any food), it is the food industry waging a class war!  I’m sorry George but you are completely wrong. Indeed, the opposite is true. It is you and your middle-class fussbucket friends who are waging the class war. It is you who is trying to take away little pleasures from people who aren’t fat, don’t have diabetes and won’t get Alzheimers. It is you who wants to ban McDonalds but haven’t even taken a peep at the fat, salt and sugar laden wonders in the Michelin starred restaurants your Guardian-reading pals like to frequent.

To be fair to George he tells the truth right near the end of his snobby bigoted rant:

We cannot yet state unequivocally that poor diet is a leading cause of Alzheimer's disease..

Absolutely. The truth is that Alzheimer’s, like type 2 diabetes, like many cancers, like coronary heart disease is overwhelmingly a condition associated with old age. And the main reason why there are more of these conditions is because we are living longer.



Curmudgeon said...

Yes, I saw that. Typical Moonbat - "there's no definite evidence for it, but let's do it anyway, because I don't like it."

Clarissa said...

I do wish people would make their minds up. Today George tells me that Alzheimer's is caused by eating junk food but only yesterday dear old Joan was blaming it on the booze!

When someone does actually work out the cause, could they let me know? I'll be the one in the corner enjoying a few drinks and some pork scratchings whilst my brain dribbles out of my ears...

SadButMadLad said...

And he also gets the high fructose corn-syrup bit wrong too. That might happen in the US, but not in Europe.