Tax incentive.
October 3, 2011 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Denmark introduces world's first food fat tax. 'Denmark has introduced what is believed to be the world's first fat tax - a surcharge on foods that are high in saturated fat. Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat.'

'The Nordic country introduced the tax Saturday Oct. 1, of 16 kroner ($2.90) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product. Ole Linnet Juul, food director at Denmark’s Confederation of Industries, says the tax will increase the price of a burger by around $0.15 and raise the price of a small package of butter by around $0.40.

The tax was approved by large majority in a parliament in March as a move to help increase the average life expectancy of Danes.'

'The outgoing conservative Danish government planned the fat tax as part of a goal to increase the average life expectancy of Danes, currently below the OECD average at 79 years, by three years over the next 10 years.'

'The move has parallels elsewhere in Europe. Hungary has recently imposed a tax on all foods with unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and carbohydrates, as well as goods with high levels of caffeine. Denmark, Switzerland and Austria have already banned trans fats, while Finland and Romania are considering fat taxes.

But it is Britain which has the biggest obesity problem in Europe, and campaigners have urged the government to follow Denmark's lead.'

'Fewer than 10% of Danes are obese, below the 15% European average, according to the OECD. Britain's rate is 24.5%.'
posted by VikingSword (111 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Will this affect the sale of Danish?
posted by jonmc at 10:37 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh boy, tax debates and debates over whether fat is healthy or not in one thread.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:38 AM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


They should cut to the chase, and just tax citizens by the pound.

"One hundred and eight pounds at 1.65$/lb will come to 297$ sir."
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:39 AM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh boy, tax debates and debates over whether fat is healthy or not in one thread.

Pretty sure the debate on fat has been settled - the anti-fat craze of the 90's and 00's was a huge failure. This should be a refined carbohydrate tax or something.
posted by knave at 10:40 AM on October 3, 2011 [35 favorites]


This should be a refined carbohydrate tax or something.

A-yep.
posted by everichon at 10:42 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


They should take aim at sugar too. (SLYT) Robert Lustig explains in great detail just how fructose metabolism leads to obesity. It breaks down similarly to alcohol, affecting insulin, appetite, and liver function, with one of the final metabolic products being a fat!
posted by anadem at 10:42 AM on October 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure the debate on fat has been settled - the anti-fat craze of the 90's and 00's was a huge failure. This should be a refined carbohydrate tax or something.

"Denmark has introduced what is believed to be the world's first fat tax - a surcharge on foods that are high in saturated fat."
posted by VikingSword at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reckon this legislature was sponsored by the corn/wheat board, or whatever passes for it over there. Disappointing, to say the least.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2011


From a policy perspective, one of the tricky things about this stuff is drawing the line at what's taxed and what's not taxed. That said, from a public health perspective, I certainly hope the're evaluating this, and I hope to see more experimental programs applied. I was disappointed that the USDA rejected NYC's proposal to ban the use of SNAP (Food Stamps) to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages.
posted by entropone at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Hungarians have already taxed fat, salt, sugar etc..

"Hungarians already spend 17 percent of their income on food, and they pay an extra 25 percent tax on most of the food and drink products they consume -- one of the highest rates within the EU."
posted by Ideefixe at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2011


So fat-free Cheetos are still cool?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2011


“Hungary has recently imposed a tax on all foods with unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and carbohydrates, as well as goods with high levels of caffeine.”

Eponysterical.
posted by koeselitz at 10:45 AM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I agree with knave that saturated fat is not the biggest problem, and I think Hungary's tax makes more sense.

Most people eat what is convenient (meaning fast and easy to put together or pick up), cheap and tastes good, and if it is healthy they consider it a bonus. Making "fat" food more expensive is only one part of the equation. Hopefully, poor people in these countries can get easy access to healthy food without having to pay a prohibitive cost, which is more to the point, I think, in fighting obesity.
posted by misha at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The outgoing conservative Danish government planned the fat tax ....

Good idea or not, I'd love to live in a country where the conservatives aren't even afraid of taxes.
posted by DU at 10:47 AM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Saturated fat isn't bad either, if that's the distinction you're making. It's all covered in good detail in both of Gary Taubes's books reviewing the science.
posted by Nattie at 10:48 AM on October 3, 2011


knave: “Pretty sure the debate on fat has been settled - the anti-fat craze of the 90's and 00's was a huge failure. This should be a refined carbohydrate tax or something.”

The body needs fats; when when we eat too much of the wrong kind, we are unhealthy. The body needs carbohydrates; when we eat too much of the wrong kind, we are unhealthy. How is the anti-carbohydrate craze of the 2000s any better than the anti-fat craze of the 90s?
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sin taxes--not just for smokers and drinkers any more. Why not a tax on perfume and makeup? Or on high heels--obvious health hazard.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:51 AM on October 3, 2011


"Denmark has introduced what is believed to be the world's first fat tax - a surcharge on foods that are high in saturated fat."

http://www.menshealth.com/health/saturated-fat#mobify-bubble
posted by gyc at 10:51 AM on October 3, 2011


Saturated fat isn't bad either, if that's the distinction you're making. It's all covered in good detail in both of Gary Taubes's books reviewing the science.

The consensus is that indeed saturated fat is bad. Yes, there are some conflicting studies, as always in nutrition, but that's the consensus. And Gary Taubes is not an authority - in fact he's pretty bad at nutritional science, not much better than a huckster.
posted by VikingSword at 10:52 AM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


woe betide any politician who tries to get between me and cheese
posted by Hoopo at 10:53 AM on October 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


Danefedtgeld - the Varangian hordes will descend upon us to take all of our greeezy nomnoms! We must entomb our hoards of fatstuffs in barrows.
posted by XMLicious at 10:53 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sin taxes--not just for smokers and drinkers any more. Why not a tax on perfume and makeup? Or on high heels--obvious health hazard.

Because perfume, makeup, and high heels don't result in the kind of chronic health conditions or public health crises that bad eating habits results in. And not just a person's bad eating habits, but the habits of a whole population.
posted by entropone at 10:53 AM on October 3, 2011


I believe in healthy eating but at least in the US, poor people eat processed food and fast food because it is often more affordable. So this sort of tax would be intensely regressive here. I wouldn't mind seeing the end of the agricultural subsidies that promote the fast food economy, though, or some serious tax levies on the US businesses that purvey their so called food worldwide.
posted by bearwife at 10:56 AM on October 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


How about a tax on skiing and skateboarding and other such health-imperiling activities, then?
posted by XMLicious at 10:56 AM on October 3, 2011


Just got back from Denmark - HOLY HELL is food expensive there! Few Danes eat out as it is, so those I met, lived, and socialized with already had the healthiest diets I've ever witnessed. Add in their very active lifestyle (at least in Copenhagen, where bikes are more common than cars), and this starts to seem a little crazy.

This is just a money grab, which is fine -- Danes don't mind that much paying a little more as long as they get a little more in return (witness the recent election results there).

Because perfume, makeup, and high heels don't result in the kind of chronic health conditions or public health crises that bad eating habits results in. And not just a person's bad eating habits, but the habits of a whole population.

Feel free to point out some documentation of this Danish health crisis.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:58 AM on October 3, 2011


For what it's worth, here's an American study suggesting that "fat taxes" on anything but a nontrivial scale (the small taxes in Denmark and Hungary do not count as nontrivial) would have little or no effect on people's diets:

“The limited existing evidence suggests that small taxes or subsidies are not likely to produce significant changes in BMI or obesity prevalence but that nontrivial pricing interventions may have some measurable effects on Americans' weight outcomes, particularly for children and adolescents, low-SES populations, and those most at risk for overweight.”

So, in short – this probably won't work. It seems to me that the results here are reasonable and somewhat generalizable. Danes (and, increasingly, people all over) are used to high food prices, and to fluctuations in food prices; I doubt a small increase will magically cause the population to alter a habit like diet.
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 AM on October 3, 2011


Okay, there are a few logical problems here:

1) I don't believe that there has ever been a peer reviewed study to demonstrate that salt is a significant health risk.
2) Carbohydrates are necessary, in limited quantities.
3) Is butter unhealthy if taken by active people, in limited quantities?

With that said, I don't necessarily oppose the idea of a food tax that pays directly back into the health care system. I'd just be very interested in how we define unhealthy foods, and maybe consider pairing it with a campaign for more green space, affordable exercise facilities, and programs to encourage their use.

I can definitely see the appeal to a small surcharge on foods that comes back in the form of social services for everyone's benefit. Here in redneck Alberta, we pay taxes so that the government can spit on us and grind us with their heel, so hey, you may as well at least get something back for your money.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:06 AM on October 3, 2011


And Gary Taubes is not an authority - in fact he's pretty bad at nutritional science, not much better than a huckster.
Care to support that statement? I have plenty of training in biochemistry and am on the verge of completing a PhD in a biological field and Taubes' arguments have always seemed sensible to me. The mountain of research that he piles up in Good Calories, Bad Calories is hardly the work of a huckster. Fact is, the authorities can be wrong -- and when an entire subdiscipline has been pursuing research under one paradigm, sometimes an outsider is needed to shed fresh light on the problem, and pull out the underlying assumptions under which research is being conducted.
posted by peacheater at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Taubes is wrong about a lot of things, but his expose of the bad science behind how the anti-fat viewpoint came to be is still excellent.

I don't buy that saturated fat is bad for the large majority of the population; wheat, vegetable/seed oils, added fructose, and artifically-high reward foods are the real problem.

(n.b.: I cured my hypertension with lots of fatty meat)
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:14 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


poor people eat processed food and fast food because it is often more affordable.

Also, because it tastes good and is fast. Price is not the only factor. I don't think that poor people, or anybody, would eat food just because it is inexpensive.

The gold standard would be healthy, yummy food, fast and cheap. But what exactly constitutes healthy? And why would corporations change their lucrative business model without the right incentive?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:15 AM on October 3, 2011


Here are some informative links on the flaws in Taubes' argument.

There are also healthy, low-obesity societies who eat lots of high-glycemic carbohydrate.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 11:17 AM on October 3, 2011


We're always looking for that One Silver Bullet that will magically make people less fat/more healthy. There is no one silver bullet. If your culture makes it easier and cheaper and more acceptable to eat unhealthfully, then as a whole, your population will be less healthy. We'd really, really like there to be one easy thing everyone could do to lose weight or drop their cholesterol levels or whatever, and we're delusional enough to think that every new thing we come up with will be that One Silver Bullet.
posted by rtha at 11:18 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


peacheater: “Care to support that statement? I have plenty of training in biochemistry and am on the verge of completing a PhD in a biological field and Taubes' arguments have always seemed sensible to me. The mountain of research that he piles up in Good Calories, Bad Calories is hardly the work of a huckster. Fact is, the authorities can be wrong -- and when an entire subdiscipline has been pursuing research under one paradigm, sometimes an outsider is needed to shed fresh light on the problem, and pull out the underlying assumptions under which research is being conducted.”

This is true. However, when said outsider lays all the blame for obesity and unhealthiness on one single magical bugaboo, I'm going to have doubts. Personally I'm extremely skeptical of Gary Taubes' conclusions largely because he thinks everything can be attributed to refined carbohydrates.

On preview, Earl the Polliwog said it better than I have. Gary Taubes' indictment of the diet and food industries is fair, but he's wrong about "refined carbohydrates."
posted by koeselitz at 11:19 AM on October 3, 2011


I don't believe that there has ever been a peer reviewed study to demonstrate that salt is a significant health risk.

*cough*

Fairly high in the google results for "peer reviewed study to demonstrate that salt is a significant health risk" actually...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my view, this is one more way of taxing the poor. You won't see unhealthy people in Copenhagen, because there are only few poor people in Copenhagen, and the city can afford to help obese children and their families. Go to the poorer suburbs or the rural areas, and you'll find cheap, fatty food and obesity just like everywhere else, and they'll just have to pay up, because they don't have healthy choices in their stores.
posted by mumimor at 11:32 AM on October 3, 2011


There is no correlation between eating fat and being fat. In fact if you ate nothing but meat and cheese, you will be thin as a rail and feel like your starving to death (because your cells are starving for glucose energy, you literally are starving). This is well known. The concern with fat is coronary disease, however the lipid hypothesis is widely disputed, even though official policy.
posted by stbalbach at 11:51 AM on October 3, 2011


Care to support that statement? I have plenty of training in biochemistry and am on the verge of completing a PhD in a biological field and Taubes' arguments have always seemed sensible to me. The mountain of research that he piles up in Good Calories, Bad Calories is hardly the work of a huckster.

Biochemistry training you say? Well, then you'll be happy to dig into this:

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/carbohydrate-hypothesis-of-obesity.html

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/09/hyperinsulinemia-cause-or-effect-of.html

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/09/fat-tissue-insulin-sensitivity-and.html

And then see Taubes fat loss-insulin theories examined here:

http://tinyurl.com/24nw8np

Evidence based challenge to Taubes:

http://carbsanity.blogspot.com/

Taubes is a worthless self-promoting huckster. Since you have some background in biochemistry, take a look at these studies, all of which contradict various Taubes claims and suppositions:

1.
Effect of a high-protein, energy-restricted diet on weight loss and
energy expenditure after weight stabilization in hyperinsulinemic
subjects
http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v27/n5/abs/0802270a.html

2.
Effects of an 8-Week High-Protein or High-Carbohydrate Diet in Adults
With Hyperinsulinemia
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?&artinstid=1868379

3.
Effect of diet composition on the hyperinsulinemia of obesity. New
England J of Med 1971 Oct 7;285(15):827-31.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/5570845

6.
Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition
http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/55/2/350

7.
Predictability of weight loss
W. M. Bortz
JAMA. 1968;204:101-105.

8.
Kinsell LW Calories do count
http://tinyurl.com/38kzx8

9.
Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over
nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.
http://tinyurl.com/2opt67

10.
Differences in insulin resistance do not predict weight loss in response to hypocaloric diets in healthy obese women.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10022419

11.
Replacement of dietary fat by sucrose or starch: Effects on 14 d ad libitum energy intake, energy expenditure and body weight in formerly obese and never-obese subjects A Raben1, I Macdonald2 and A Astrup1
http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v21/n10/abs/0800494a.html

12.
Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding in humans: different effects on energy storage.
http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/62/1/19

13.
Effects of an ad libitum low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet on body weight, body composition, and fat distribution in older men
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16567381

14.
Effects of an ad libitum low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet on body weight, body composition, and fat distribution in older men and women: a randomized controlled trial.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14744846

15.
Replacement of dietary fat by sucrose or starch: Effects on 14 d ad libitum energy intake, energy expenditure and body weight in formerly obese and never-obese subjects http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v21/n10/abs/0800494a.html

16.
Effects of a low-fat diet compared with those of a high-monounsaturated fat diet on body weight, plasma lipids and lipoproteins, and glycemic control in type 2 diabetes.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15321807

And when you are done with these, there's a whole lot more. You're welcome.
posted by VikingSword at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'd pay it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:56 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]



*cough*

Fairly high in the google results for "peer reviewed study to demonstrate that salt is a significant health risk" actually...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:21 AM on October 3 [+] [!]


Cool. Thanks. No need to throw in the "too lazy to google" implication though.

I was basing that on a CBC radio interview I heard last week, and hadn't done my own research on the matter.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:00 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there going to be an incentive the other way around? Like, if your diet is ridiculous and doesn't have enough of the rights sorts of fat and cholesterol necessary for good health?

This is tricky to negotiate, but it looks like they are just targeting where they can hang a number of some type of food characteristic.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:02 PM on October 3, 2011


The problem with a bunch of studies like VikingSword posted above is that their just label one type of menu high-protein or high-fat and the other high-carbohydrate and everyone just looks at those labels and draws their conclusions. You have to dig deeper to see what exactly they're comparing. For example, article 2 above compares what they call a high protein diet with what they call a high carb diet in adults with hyperinsulinemia. What does that actually mean in menu terms? I'm not sure if everyone can see this but here is the link to the menu. As an example, their high-protein diet breakfast on Monday consists of a pink grapefruit, egg beaters, canola margarine, canadian bacon and skim milk. This they are comparing with pink grapefruit, a cinnamon-raisin bagel, low-fat cream cheese and skim milk, for their high carbohydrate menu.

That's just utter crap, I'm sorry. No low-carb diet proponent has ever advocated egg beaters, skim milk and margarine as part of a healthy diet and to use studies like this to advocate against such diets is just disingenous. You can see here also how the very paradigm in which such studies are done affects their design -- fat is unhealthy, hence let's make the diets as low in fat as possible, using skim milk and (ugh!) margarine. Call me back when people are comparing diets using healthy whole sources of fats and proteins, like a good steak, full fat dairy products, and fresh fruits and vegetables. It's disgusting that this is the state of nutritional science and that this study and others like it are going to be touted everywhere as good science.

Taubes is hardly dismissed as a huckster by everyone in the field and you're doing yourself a disservice my repeatedly calling him that there. Whatever your opinion on the matter, the sheer amount of research he's done deserves yours and everyone else's respect.
posted by peacheater at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


This isn't good. Natural saturated fats are the healthiest fats.
posted by michaelh at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2011


Taubes is hardly dismissed as a huckster by everyone in the field

What field? Journalism? He's not a nutritional scientist. Even if he were, let's see the research that provides evidence, and not worry about who pats whom on the back.

Whatever your opinion on the matter, the sheer amount of research he's done

What research? Has he conducted a single nutritional study? Has he conducted any metastudies? Sheer amount of research: zero.
posted by VikingSword at 12:24 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with a bunch of studies like VikingSword posted above is that their just label one type of menu high-protein or high-fat and the other high-carbohydrate and everyone just looks at those labels and draws their conclusions.

When you generate a theory, you can either do original research, or you can do a careful review of studies (metastudy). In the latter case, you take as many studies as are relevant and examine how they fit together, going through each and seeing what can be supported and what not. Necessarily, you are going to examine a lot of studies of varying quality - but it's critical to understand what you can take out of any given study; even if a study has as an aim to show X, and it's flawed, it can still be valuable in a metastudy because of other characteristics of that study. That's why doing a metastudy is a very rigorous process. Gary Taubes has not done either original research, nor a metastudy. He's a science journalist with a physics degree, an interest in nutrition and a bee in his bonnet - he's assembled a bunch of studies, to support his pet theory, but that's not "research" from a medical point of view because it does not follow any kind of metastudy protocol, and therefore he has no standing as any kind of authority in this debate.
posted by VikingSword at 12:34 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Research into the literature, there's no need to willfully misunderstand me, VikingSword. Actually delving into the primary literature on a topic can be a gigantic task on its own and he's read hundreds of primary research papers over several years of research for his book Good Calories, Bad Calories (kind of a waste of time for a huckster who's just looking to self-promote, if you ask me).

And there definitely are mainstream and respected researchers who support him. From Taubes' blog:
One of my supporters in mainstream medical research is Allan Sniderman, a professor of cardiology and medicine at McGill University in Montreal. Since the mid-1980s, Sniderman has been arguing that Apo-B (the protein component of low and very low density lipoproteins) is a far better predictor of heart disease, which it surely is, than the cholesterol that happens to be contained in these lipoproteins. He’s also a co-discoverer of the hormone ASP — acylation stimulating protein — which plays a role, however controversial, in fat storage. Sniderman read Good Calories, Bad Calories shortly after it was published in September 2007 and then invited me up to lecture at McGill.

He goes on to quote Sniderman's response to GC,BC:
I had spent some years studying adipose tissue metabolism but it is fair to say I learned more from [Taubes’s] book than I had from my experiments. He restored a sense of how our ideas about obesity and vascular disease had developed and how a number of them had gone off the track. I did not agree with everything he wrote but I did learn a huge amount and much of what I learned is now core to my thinking about the relations of obesity and metabolic disease.

That's pretty high praise from a pretty respected member of the medical science community (not journalism, I'll have you note).
posted by peacheater at 12:36 PM on October 3, 2011


What is with the tinyurl links? And the raw HTML? Does the link button at the bottom of your comment box not work?
posted by rtha at 12:36 PM on October 3, 2011


Ok, Taubes is not a scientist, but he's perfectly capable of using his science-based education to tease apart the results of academic studies. Saying that everything he says must be wrong because he doesn't have a PhD in nutritional sciences or biochemistry and hence is not really capable of conducting studies or metastudies is just plain stupid.
posted by peacheater at 12:37 PM on October 3, 2011


'Tudey comments that end with "you're welcome" make me want to stand outside that person's house eating butter. So weird.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:38 PM on October 3, 2011


Stagger Lee on the salt issue, the radio squib you heard was probably related to the studies mentioned in the Scientific American: It's time to end the war on salt article.

My take-away being that we don't know, we've got lots of hucksters on all sides trying to sell books, and for most of medical history you've been better off without a doctor's care than in it: aside from vaccines, antibiotics, and a few things about physiology and responses to trauma it's not clear how much that has changed.
posted by straw at 12:40 PM on October 3, 2011


peacheater: “You can see here also how the very paradigm in which such studies are done affects their design -- fat is unhealthy, hence let's make the diets as low in fat as possible, using skim milk and (ugh!) margarine.”

I agree with you as far as this goes. However, this is the problem, in my mind – Taubes' work is effective at demolishing the "fat is bad" paradigm, but then it turns around and creates a whole new fallacious paradigm to replace it.

To put this another way: we're talking about studies which pit low-fat diets against high-fat diets. But this is the wrong kind of study to investigate the effectiveness and healthfulness of the low-carb diet. What we ought to do is consider a population with a median intake of fat – or a higher intake, if you prefer – as a control, and then vary the amount of carbohydrate intake. Gary Taubes insists that, the higher the "refined carbohydrates" (a phrase which remains somewhat vague, unfortunately) the higher the rate of obesity and unhealthiness. But the fact is that we've been extraordinarily healthy in past times on diets that are extremely high in carbohydrates. We ate almost nothing but potatoes at the turn of the last century, for instance.

Seeing this as a "low-carb vs low-fat" fight misses the issue here. Neither carbohydrates nor fat are a simple target that we can eliminate to magically become healthy. The fact is that general healthy is more complicated than eliminating some simple evil substance.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 PM on October 3, 2011


I really need to leave this thread and do some real work, but just for the record, there are plenty of studies to act as a counterpoint to the ones VikingSword brought up above that show that high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets aren't exactly harmful and can often be beneficial. A sampling:

Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet

Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women

Effects of a Low–Glycemic Load vs Low-Fat Diet in Obese Young Adults
posted by peacheater at 12:49 PM on October 3, 2011


Ok, Taubes is not a scientist, but he's perfectly capable of using his science-based education to tease apart the results of academic studies.

OK. He's capable. So what? Bob-Shit-The-Ragman is capable of doing so as well. But until he shows results, "capability" is of no relevance.

Saying that everything he says must be wrong because he doesn't have a PhD in nutritional sciences or biochemistry and hence is not really capable of conducting studies or metastudies is just plain stupid.

The issue is not that he's wrong because "he doesn't have a degree in nutritional studies" "and hence is not really capable of conducting studies or metastudies" - it's that he does not conduct such studies. Who cares why he doesn't. But he doesn't. And therefore, his conclusions are random musings on equal footing to those from Bob-Shit-The-Ragman. I don't care about "capability". I care that he has a coherent theory that is supportable - and the only way we can see that is if he submits a peer-reviewed paper. He has not done so. That's how we generate scientific theories. We don't do it thorough that "really capable guy" who is really cool and did a ton of what he calls "research", peer review be damned. Again, how is he different from any old guy flogging any old book, pet diet or snakeoil cure? Science has a certain protocol, for a reason.
posted by VikingSword at 12:50 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is one study, showing that low carb diets provide better long term results to reduce the risk factors for heart disease than low fats, digging around I can pull up more if you want:

Conclusion: Successful weight loss can be achieved with either a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet when coupled with behavioral treatment. A low-carbohydrate diet is associated with favorable changes in cardiovascular disease risk factors at 2 years.

From most of the studies (whose links I can get to load) that you've mentioned Vikingsword, all talk about just weightloss and no change in other levels in the body. Or they are older (from the 70s), or as others have pointed out, have questionable assumptions in what is a low carb diet (compensating for lower carbs by increasing lean protein is not the recommended route for most low carb diets).

> But the fact is that we've been extraordinarily healthy in past times on diets that are extremely high in carbohydrates. We ate almost nothing but potatoes at the turn of the last century, for instance.

I've always read into refined carbs as things such as sugar, a rare and expensive commodity until recently. Even cultural groups that have a long history of carb heavy diets haven't had the ability to pour in 20 grams of refined sugar into their meals until recently.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:52 PM on October 3, 2011


Bottom line, you are welcome to cite studies and argue for this or that, but there is zero reason to drag in Gary Taubes as an authority of some kind, because he's not. It's a distraction that brings nothing to the discussion - it's extraneous. Original research and metastudies - relevant. Gary Taubes - not relevant.
posted by VikingSword at 12:53 PM on October 3, 2011


mrzarquon: “Here is one study, showing that low carb diets provide better long term results to reduce the risk factors for heart disease than low fats...”

Again, this is entirely beside the point. The issue is not whether anti-carb or anti-fat diet fads get it better. The issue is whether either of them is as absolute as their proponents suggest. Studies that compare these two fads are not helpful in determining absolute worth.
posted by koeselitz at 12:55 PM on October 3, 2011


But the fact is that we've been extraordinarily healthy in past times on diets that are extremely high in carbohydrates. We ate almost nothing but potatoes at the turn of the last century, for instance.

Nutrition at the turn of the last century has little or nothing to do with nutrition in the food landscape of today. In particular, the people who were extraordinarily healthy eating nothing but potatoes at the turn of the last century were: a) not diabetic or pre-diabetic, as many if not most Americans are today b) not largely sedentary, as many if not most Americans are today c) not overweight, as many if not most Americans are today and d) not surrounded by cheap, ultra-processed carbs which are much less nutritious than potatoes, as many if not most Americans are today.

The mere existence of other populations who are healthy on another high-carb diet is not a refutation of the idea that our high-carb diet is unhealthy for our population.
posted by vorfeed at 12:55 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


> And therefore, his conclusions are random musings on equal footing to those from Bob-Shit-The-Ragman. I don't care about "capability".

He's summarizing research found in medical journals, and assembling a bigger picture worldview. This happens many times in various fields where people take the findings of scientists and integrate them into their day to day life. Most of the time they are called engineers.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:57 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fact is that general healthy is more complicated than eliminating some simple evil substance.
I'll agree with you on that. I still think a low-carb diet is more right than a low-fat one, but I agree that there are no black and white solutions. What I personally feel best on is a diet low in carbs, high in fats and moderate in protein, all from natural sources. I just think that the anti-fat paranoia has been so crazy is in this country, and the dismissal of low-carb diets as crack-pottery (see VikingSword above) so knee-jerk that some arguments in the opposite direction are necessary.

Thanks VikingSword, I'm sure we'll all now agree to abide by your parameters for this discussion. Taubes has done exactly what you say people should bring to this thread -- look at the original research, follow the train of research to originally cited papers and present his conclusions. Why are we all wasting time discussing this here if nothing we say, as educated laymen, can possibly mean anything since we haven't done original research? There is plenty of place for review of the literature in the progress of science.
posted by peacheater at 12:58 PM on October 3, 2011


He's summarizing research found in medical journals, and assembling a bigger picture worldview.

As does Joe-Shit-The-Ragman. It is of no scientific import.

This happens many times in various fields where people take the findings of scientists and integrate them into their day to day life.

That's fine. But it still not science. You can say it works for you, or your dog, and that's great. But you can't use that as support for a scientific theory. Only a properly conducted metastudy can do that.

Most of the time they are called engineers.

Apples and camels comparison. Applied hard science with widespread testing and case studies - which is what engineers do - is very different than random people making up their own private theories in biosciences.
posted by VikingSword at 1:04 PM on October 3, 2011


vorfeed: “The mere existence of other populations who are healthy on another high-carb diet is not a refutation of the idea that our high-carb diet is unhealthy for our population.”

The question isn't whether eating fewer carbohydrates would be healthier for our population. I don't know anyone who disagrees with that notion.

The question is whether, as Gary Taubes forthrightly and absolutely claims, high carb diets are the only or at least the central cause of obesity today. I don't think it is.

The problem, I think, is that humans tend to look for the simplest solutions to problems. If you tell them that the solution to the health problem is eating less carbs, and nothing more, that's what they'll do. But telling people that all they need to do to be healthy is eat less carbs is not being honest.

I say this as a person who limits my own carb intake, and who is cognizant of the fact that the low-fat craze is off the rails. I just think that, in the past few years, we've seen a lot of people spring up who are just as happy to make money marketing nonsense "low-carb" diets as were willing to shill "low-fat" diets a decade ago. Switching over to a different single enemy to demonize doesn't help us generate a thoughtful approach to keeping our bodies healthy.
posted by koeselitz at 1:04 PM on October 3, 2011


> What I personally feel best on is a diet low in carbs, high in fats and moderate in protein, all from natural sources.

I will say, this is something I have been following for myself in the recent months, and has been the most effective attitude towards eating I have found so far. And I don't refer to it as a diet, which assumes this is a temporary thing, because I've found this the easiest eating style for me.

You can eat a ton of whole fruits and vegetables a day if your target carb maximum is 100-150 grams, all which provide significant amount of nutrients. Or three bagels, which may add nothing but calories to be burned or possibly some extra calcium if you are eating enriched ones. I'll take the veggies and the bacon.

So totally useless, non peer researched personal anecdote, but there you have it.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:07 PM on October 3, 2011


Taubes has done exactly what you say people should bring to this thread -- look at the original research, follow the train of research to originally cited papers and present his conclusions.

But he's not a participant in this thread. Of what relevance is bringing him in? Let's reference the studies - that's all. We don't need to put in an overlay of a Taubes theory abstraction. He's not any kind of authority. You are welcome to cite the studies he cites, but there's no reason to reference his private theories.
posted by VikingSword at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2011


You may have my donuts when you pry them out of my cold dead hands.
posted by bukvich at 1:11 PM on October 3, 2011


That's fine. But it still not science. You can say it works for you, or your dog, and that's great. But you can't use that as support for a scientific theory. Only a properly conducted metastudy can do that.
What do you call review papers then? Pseudoscience? Whatever, I'm done with this argument. Taubes has done a lot of people's homework for them with his book, and I for one am glad to have read it. I urge others to read it as well and make up their own minds about his theories -- he cites way more evidence than I have time to pull into this thread.

mrzarguon -- I was using diet more in its original sense, as in the "Diet of Prairie Dogs" -- I intend to eat this way for the rest of my life too. And I think our diets are quite similar actually.
posted by peacheater at 1:12 PM on October 3, 2011


Oh yeah, I meant it as a "yes, I totally agree, and this is why I've found it to work for me" anecdote.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2011


peacheater: “I just think that the anti-fat paranoia has been so crazy is in this country, and the dismissal of low-carb diets as crack-pottery (see VikingSword above) so knee-jerk that some arguments in the opposite direction are necessary.”

Well, it's not easy to step back and have some perspective, but – to be fair, lots of low-carb diets are crack-pottery. Just like the low-fat diets. The simple fact is that magical diet programs that are supposed to render us fit when we make some simple little change in our way of eating, and that are supposed to work for everyone everywhere regardless of situation, are just probably going to be crack-pottery. I think we have to accept that, and the ironic thing is that Gary Taubes is one of the most vociferous advocates of the view that the diet industry is full of crap.

I think maybe he didn't realize that the diet industry would happily co-opt the low-carb idea if it meant they could sell more books, more merchandise, and more "diet plans."

Also, to be fair, I don't think VikingSword is arguing from the perspective of the anti-fat proponents. He may be a bit het up about it, but I think his view of Taubes as a "huckster" (a view which I incidentally disagree with – I think Taubes' incorrect beliefs are honest beliefs) is a view borne of skepticism for anti-scientist sermonizers, among whom one might categorize Gary Taubes based on some of his work.

I think his work was probably – heck, probably still is – a necessary and worthy corrective to the anti-fat paradigm that still reigns in many quarters. And I actually would say that I'm grateful to him for that; he's eloquent about the problems inherent in the system. However, I think we need to look beyond his work to larger views of what we eat and how we live if we want to come up with ways to make "our population," as vorfeed put it, more healthy.
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, the problem is that carbs and fat go so well together - as in a rich risotto or lasagna, or potatoes and gravy, or a top quality burger with fries. Either fat or carbs make no sense.
The only diet that works for me is to acknowledge I'm overweight and cut down to 1200 calories a day + half an hour more exercise. Not sexy, but real. I prefer eating vegetables, eggs and fish while I'm doing it, but that's just me.
posted by mumimor at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not trying to speak for you with that comment about where you're coming from, by the way, VikingSword, and please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2011


What do you call review papers then?

Has Gary Taubes done any that were submitted to peer-reviewed publications, so they could be examined? Or has he limited himself to pushing his books in the wild and wooly world of diet advice?
posted by VikingSword at 1:17 PM on October 3, 2011


Not trying to speak for you with that comment about where you're coming from, by the way, VikingSword, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

You are 100% correct. I am not speaking from the perspective of anti-fat proponents. I just think that Gary Taubes does bad science writing and it irks me to see him held up as some kind of authority. I'm more than happy to engage in a discussion of any theory, while referencing the studies, but let's please not bring in supposed "authorities" who are anything but... it merely muddies the waters.
posted by VikingSword at 1:21 PM on October 3, 2011


Also, I'll say that Diet's at some level almost always become a personal issue, because it becomes a judgement on what you are eating is wrong or right, and therefore you are a good or bad person as a result.

If there was any part of Taubes work I found most interesting was the challenge of the notion that people are fat because they lack willpower and proper genes, instead of maybe there was something in what they were eating that made it difficult to moderate their caloric intake. It was one of the first time I've seen an alternative to the base paradigm of "you're fat because you are lazy and don't exercise enough to burn a net lose of calories a day" that seems to dominate the landscape of diet fads. That is a larger historical and meta commentary about nutrition than just could be provided from a scientific journal, as it is really a mix of medical historian and cultural observations.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gary Taubes is not a scientist, it's not really possible for him to submit papers to peer-reviews publications. That doesn't mean his work is without value, and as I noted above, there are scientists who find value in his work. I really don't understand what your beef is with the man, to be honest -- it just seems pointless to keep arguing this. If you disagree with him, read his book and tell me where he's being hucksterish. I couldn't find anything hucksterish about it and that pains me, as I am usually on the lookout for anti-science bullshit. I think his work can stand on its own merits, if you've actually read it.
posted by peacheater at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2011


I don't think that poor people, or anybody, would eat food just because it is inexpensive.

Clearly, you've never been poor.
posted by arm's-length at 1:32 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]



I don't think that poor people, or anybody, would eat food just because it is inexpensive.

That is the most charmingly naive thing I've heard in a while.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:49 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Or has he limited himself to pushing his books in the wild and wooly world of diet advice?

Considering only his second book features anything related to a diet suggestion at the end of it (in a single chapter), I'd take it you haven't really read any of his work, and therefore probably non of the research that he has cited.

And he apparently managed to talk his way into getting published in the NYTimes long before creating his fad diet books, which is usually the wrong way about going about being a huckster. Let alone he doesn't even have a cookbook, show on the Food Network, or branded vitamin supplements, so he's really bad at this whole diet fad thing.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:55 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gary Taubes is not a scientist, it's not really possible for him to submit papers to peer-reviews publications.

It doesn't really matter why, what matters is that he doesn't. Which is why nothing he says has the status of science. It remains one guy's pet theory and musings. And therefore there is no reason to bring him into any discussion trying to adjudicate the truth behind any scientific theory. The papers he references we can reference just as well ourselves, without the "benefit" of his interpretation - we, being present in this thread, can have our own interpretations.

That doesn't mean his work is without value

It has any value anyone wants to put on it, it just won't be of scientific value.

I really don't understand what your beef is with the man, to be honest -- it just seems pointless to keep arguing this.

My beef is with portraying Gary Taubes as anyone other than a random guy who has a pet theory he's pushing. He sells books, but he's not an authority on nutrition. You may find his musings of value - more power to you, and someone else will find value in Aunt Tilly's health nostrums - that's all fine. Bringing him into the discussion as a health authority however, is just noise.

But I do agree that arguing over him any further is pointless. It's a massive derail. Accordingly, I'm dropping the discussion of Gary Taubes.
posted by VikingSword at 1:56 PM on October 3, 2011


And returning to the topic of hand, what it sounds like this will also do is make it more expensive for people to buy locally grown and raised meats, which are already at a premium, driving people instead to buy industrial and factory farmed animal products.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:58 PM on October 3, 2011


Go Denmark! I couldn't care less if this were regressive. If we tax processed sugar through the roof, they'll simply install fruit vending machines, and everyone will day healthier.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:04 PM on October 3, 2011


And returning to the topic of hand, what it sounds like this will also do is make it more expensive for people to buy locally grown and raised meats, which are already at a premium, driving people instead to buy industrial and factory farmed animal products.

Perhaps the opposite - drive people not buy factory farmed animal products in favor of grass-fed.

Lending support to this, and speaking of reviews, here's one that specifically examines the fatty acid profiles of grass-fed vs factory:

A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef
Cynthia A Daley1*, Amber Abbott1, Patrick S Doyle1, Glenn A Nader2 and Stephanie Larson2


"Abstract
Growing consumer interest in grass-fed beef products has raised a number of questions with regard to the perceived differences in nutritional quality between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle. Research spanning three decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid (FA) composition and antioxidant content of beef, albeit with variable impacts on overall palatability. Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (C18:2) isomers, trans vaccenic acid (TVA) (C18:1 t11), a precursor to CLA, and omega-3 (n-3) FAs on a g/g fat basis. While the overall concentration of total SFAs is not different between feeding regimens, grass-finished beef tends toward a higher proportion of cholesterol neutral stearic FA (C18:0), and less cholesterol-elevating SFAs such as myristic (C14:0) and palmitic (C16:0) FAs. Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione (GT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries. Fat conscious consumers will also prefer the overall lower fat content of a grass-fed beef product. However, consumers should be aware that the differences in FA content will also give grass-fed beef a distinct grass flavor and unique cooking qualities that should be considered when making the transition from grain-fed beef. In addition, the fat from grass-finished beef may have a yellowish appearance from the elevated carotenoid content (precursor to Vitamin A). It is also noted that grain-fed beef consumers may achieve similar intakes of both n-3 and CLA through the consumption of higher fat grain-fed portions."

The full paper is in the link.
posted by VikingSword at 2:07 PM on October 3, 2011


this will also do is make it more expensive for people to buy locally grown and raised meats.

Nope. I have to say these articles do not paint a good picture of the state of food pricing in Denmark or indeed the EU. Many many many food groups are subject to various financial 'artificial' non-market based pricing pressures either negatively or positively. This tax is only another in the mix, and its level of influence on the price of meat lies below such things as nitty gritty details within the CAP or Common Agricultural Policy.
posted by Catfry at 2:07 PM on October 3, 2011


The question is whether, as Gary Taubes forthrightly and absolutely claims, high carb diets are the only or at least the central cause of obesity today. I don't think it is.

I think high-carb diets (including sugar and empty carbs in the form of bread, pasta, etc) are absolutely the central nutritional cause of obesity today. The other cause which might be considered central -- probably more so than carbs -- is our sedentary lifestyle and the low degree of muscle mass which accompanies it, but that's outside the scope of nutrition.

The problem, I think, is that humans tend to look for the simplest solutions to problems. If you tell them that the solution to the health problem is eating less carbs, and nothing more, that's what they'll do. But telling people that all they need to do to be healthy is eat less carbs is not being honest.

It seems to me that Taubes tells people that all they need to do to be healthier is to eat less carbs, and for the vast majority of people this is honest. Healthy eating is obviously much more complex than changing one single variable... but given the massive extent to which cheap carbs are over-represented in the American diet, it is more than reasonable to claim that cutting carbs will improve people's health. As far as I'm concerned, if you're going to frown on the low-carb "fad" you may as well frown on financial advisers who tell people to pay down their credit cards.

Besides, if "humans tend to look for the simplest solutions to problems", what do we gain by making The Only Solution off-puttingly complex? You're acting as if simple solutions are always a bad thing... frankly, I think there are obvious advantages to having evolved to seek them. For one thing, they're often a gateway to other solutions. Many of the low-carb folks I know got into exercise (weight training, crossfit, running, swimming, climbing) as a direct result of hanging around the low-carb online community... even though many of them had spent years getting nowhere with the usual advice.
posted by vorfeed at 2:18 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a restriction of civil liberties. People have the right to reject the view that saturated fat is bad under all circumstances.

Unlike Alcohol and Tobacco, which are industries in their own right, there is no real 'saturated fat' lobby that needs to be kept in check. It's purely and simply an attempt to impose one view of what healthy eating should be, that is already being contested.

It's as if Mediaeval people imposed a tax on eating vegetables because they believed them to be unhealthy.
posted by Not Supplied at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2011


I will say this: they can tax them all they want, but I am still going to eat bread and cheese. Look. That's food.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:05 PM on October 3, 2011


This is a restriction of civil liberties. People have the right to reject the view that saturated fat is bad under all circumstances.

What about the bans, current in this country (NYC) against trans fats? Civil liberties? Do people have the right to reject the view that saturated fat /trans fats/marijuana/substance X is bad under all circumstances? Should we draw lines at all? If not, then why pick one substance over another? And if yes, then how do we pick what to ban?

Unlike Alcohol and Tobacco, which are industries in their own right, there is no real 'saturated fat' lobby that needs to be kept in check.

Wrong. The ban brought opposition from the food industry - a huge industry. And you can see how this would be opposed by the Beef Lobby etc. But quite apart from that - is opposition from an industry the standard by which we should judge which bans are OK and which "restrict civil liberties"? That's a rather bizarre criterion, if you ask me.
posted by VikingSword at 4:08 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I demand a reduction on taxes on cigarettes! I reject the view that inhalation of carcinogens is bad in all circumstances! It's a restriction of my civil liberties!

Rally with me everyone! Together, as one, we shout "Give Me Cancer Or Give Me Death!"
posted by five fresh fish at 4:16 PM on October 3, 2011


This is a restriction of civil liberties.

Yawn. Nobody in Denmark cares for your nasty, brutish world-view.
posted by wilful at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2011


mrzarquon: “And returning to the topic of hand, what it sounds like this will also do is make it more expensive for people to buy locally grown and raised meats, which are already at a premium, driving people instead to buy industrial and factory farmed animal products.”

I'm still of the opinion that it will do nothing at all. Incremental "sin" taxes like this affect the market in unpredicted ways, but one thing that seems sure is that they don't drive buying behavior. Producers will make things cheaper to get around the tax in the end product and keep people buying, and prices go up incrementally anyway so people are unlikely to notice.

If one wants to actually affect behavior, one has to start actually banning things. Ban eating saturated fats in public – that will have the chilling effect that smoking bans have had on that habit. Of course, I don't know if governments are willing to go to those kinds of measures – I have a feeling they shouldn't.
posted by koeselitz at 4:44 PM on October 3, 2011


I doubt a small increase will magically cause the population to alter a habit like diet.

I think what they're trying to do is influence manufacturers. If manufacturers can save 15 cents/kroner/whatever a unit by lowering the amount of saturated fats, that's a huge impact on their bottom line.

In Australia, with regards to pricing on things like cigarettes, alcohol etc, there's a reasonable body of evidence that small (not this small, but small) shifts in price do have a surprising effect on purchase patterns.
posted by smoke at 5:01 PM on October 3, 2011


I would be very surprised if this had any measurable effect. As animals, we are wired to locate the best source of calories in our hunting ground, e.g. the grocery store. Grocery stores are full of wonderful, yummy, calorie-dense foods. A small price difference isn't going to register in that part of the brain.

I'd much rather tax grocery stores based on their ratio of processed foods to veggies, fruit, meat and dairy. Give them some incentive to put the healthy stuff front and center!
posted by miyabo at 5:26 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a good point, miyabo; the flip side of it is that the hard-wiring you speak of is the reason why it's so profitable for a company or industry to concentrate on making and selling calorie-dense foods, in the first place. (Even aside from the various agricultural subsidies making it profitable.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:51 PM on October 3, 2011


What about the bans, current in this country (NYC) against trans fats? Civil liberties? Do people have the right to reject the view that saturated fat /trans fats/marijuana/substance X is bad under all circumstances?

That's an interesting point and certainly debatable, but taxing a substance that's naturally present in meat is perverse.

Wrong. The ban brought opposition from the food industry - a huge industry.

I'm sure it did as it's counter their interests, but there's no 'saturated fat' lobby in the same way as alcohol etc.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:26 PM on October 3, 2011


This is a restriction of civil liberties.

Yawn. Nobody in Denmark cares for your nasty, brutish world-view.


What the fuck are you talking about?

a) What world view?
b) do you speak for Denmark?
posted by Not Supplied at 6:27 PM on October 3, 2011


Wrong. The ban brought opposition from the food industry - a huge industry.

I'm sure it did as it's counter their interests, but there's no 'saturated fat' lobby in the same way as alcohol etc.


I mean, they're obviously not suppressing the view that saturated fat is bad as it's the mainstream scientific consensus.

I think what gets my goat about it is really taxing natural products or agricultural products that are used for making food at home.

If it was just taxing ready meals, fine it's the scientific consensus so roll it out on people that want to buy ready meals and it might well have a positive net effect on the health of people who don't think about it as saturated fat is combined with all those other nasties.

However, the tax includes unprepared, unprocessed products used for making food at home and that penalises people who choose a different interpretation of healthy eating, who are taking good care of their health by their own lights.

For example, what if a french family wanted to continue their traditional diet and enjoy relatively low chances of having problems
posted by Not Supplied at 6:47 PM on October 3, 2011


I would be very surprised if this had any measurable effect. As animals, we are wired to locate the best source of calories in our hunting ground, e.g. the grocery store. Grocery stores are full of wonderful, yummy, calorie-dense foods.

This might be true in the US, but I gather that the eating habits in Denmark where the tax is being imposed are quite different and far more healthy.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:55 PM on October 3, 2011


For example, what if a french family wanted to continue their traditional diet and enjoy relatively low chances of having problems

They could continue to do so. Their food would cost slightly more than other options. They could also stay in France.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:02 PM on October 3, 2011


Doesn't make it right though, or something that shouldn't be opposed.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2011


a) What world view?

the world view that thinks that this is a restriction of civil liberties.

b) do you speak for Denmark?


I leave that up to the Danish Folketing.
posted by wilful at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2011


a) What world view?

the world view that thinks that this is a restriction of civil liberties.


I don't see how taxing basic ingredients of food isn't. Like to see what happens if it's found that something that you consider part of your diet is evil and should be taxed.

b) do you speak for Denmark?

I leave that up to the Danish Folketing.


Ah, but you said noone in Denmark gives a fuck. I beg to differ.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:33 PM on October 3, 2011


When I say 'taxing' I mean this kind of punitive tax.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:42 PM on October 3, 2011


Unlike Alcohol and Tobacco, which are industries in their own right, there is no real 'saturated fat' lobby that needs to be kept in check.

That's just blatantly false, at least in the US, and I assume elsewhere too.

The dairy lobby is HUGE. It's why the stupid new "MyPlate" food plate from the USDA has a big glass of milk next to the plate. They practically control the USDA, and from there they influence exports and trade negotiations.

If one wants to actually affect behavior, one has to start actually banning things.

That's not true either. Several studies have shown that cigarette taxes have an affect on smoking.

the world view that thinks that this is a restriction of civil liberties.

I don't see how taxing basic ingredients of food isn't


I understand the philosophical reasoning behind this, but following that to its logical conclusion would mean we couldn't tax anything. And taxes are a fundamental part of how we pay for civilization.
posted by formless at 7:47 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm up for "food sin" taxes in the US, expecially if it fed into the national health care.

We can start with small and subtle by changing some of the food stamp laws to accurately reflect what is "food". I can use all my food stamps on purchasing sodas but I can't buy vitamins or liquid nutritional suppliments (like Ensure). I can't buy heath promoting products but soda is considered food?

Oh, wait, soft drinks are made by big corporations... that change is never gonna happen.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:05 PM on October 3, 2011


The dairy lobby is HUGE. It's why the stupid new "MyPlate" food plate from the USDA has a big glass of milk next to the plate. They practically control the USDA,

Some people are saying dairy some people are saying beef. But it's not a saturated fat lobby per se.

There are other agricultural lobbies, no doubt with interests in polyunsaturated fats etc.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:05 PM on October 3, 2011


All lobbies are not created equal, friend. The dairy and meat industries represents both a scale (of revenue, funding etc) that dwarfs anything "big canola" can throw at it and also a relationship and tradition with government that spans literally centuries.

You don't need a "saturated fats lobby", and honestly it's kind of naive to presume that's the case. There's no "carbon lobby" either but no one would deny how much money and effort the carbon emitting industries have invested into fighting legislation and shifting public opinion etc.
posted by smoke at 8:51 PM on October 3, 2011


This is such an obvious and transparently regressive tax on the middle and lower classes it's not even funny. The only reason this works in Denmark is because they don't really have a lower or upper class (except for the Kristiansens, the Mærsks, and the Clausens).

More bright ideas:
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:18 PM on October 3, 2011


More bright ideas:

* Tax polyester because it requires petrochemicals to manufacture.
* An extra use-tax on vehicles older than 5 years, because, you know, older cars pollute more.
* Taxes on shopping in convenience stores instead of supermarkets.
* Taxes on shopping in supermarkets instead of buying from your local farm co-op.
* Taxes on buying from your local co-op instead of growing your own food on your own land with your own serfs.


Interestingly a carbon tax would effectively do most of that. More seriously it's an interesting debate, the old "sin taxes" one, because - like most consumption taxes in general - they tend to hit the working class more, both as an overall proportion and a proportion the working class household income.

Using cigarette taxes as an example, it's very true that lower income households are more likely to be smoking households, so in that regard it's not does hit lower income families harder.

By the same token, I feel you're making the same mistake that opponents to cigarette taxes do; namely you posit no alternative. I don't know what it's like in Denmark directly, but would be surprised indeed to find that full saturated butter is cheaper or even the same price as polyunsaturated margarines, for example. So just as the lower income households are able to stop smoking, so too are they able to stop using as much full cream butter.
posted by smoke at 10:46 PM on October 3, 2011


Screw this shit. I can eat what I want.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:52 PM on October 3, 2011


Umm, I'll give you a classical example that demonstrates why such laws are necessary, LiB.

We've had potato chip companies exploring chip variations by doing taste tests for like half a century or so. Sugar was an obvious potato chip additive with which they experimented. At first, they avoided using sugar because taste tests showed people preferred the chips without sugar. Fair enough. Except later, somebody asked the clever question "How many chips do they eat?" Sure enough, people ate more chips when the chips had sugar added. You know consumers don't actually do taste tests themselves. Voila, sell more chip! You'll just make all your customers fatter, but that might sell even more chip over the long run.

We need laws restricting how our highly industrialized food gets produced and sold. Interestingly, there are many advantages to the traditional diets used around the world, including Europe. You for-example consider banning the simultaneous sale of your mean and dessert, i.e. you must wait in line a second time for dessert at a fast food place.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:49 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can eat what I want.

The civil liberties angle is one that's clearly held by a lot of Americans. I wonder if this could be helped by instituting an opt-out fat tax.

Normally there would be a hefty tax on processed/fatty food, but if you really, really like your Twinkies, you could get a special card that you could flash to grocers and skip paying the tax. The card would be free, but it would be enough hassle that few people would get it -- especially since most people want to eat healthy when they're not standing in the grocery aisle. Plus there would always be a bit of social stigma, like there is for using EBT today.

This could go even further. Maybe there would be particularly dangerous foods you couldn't buy at all without the card, like Doritos and non-diet soda. Or you could log on and adjust your personal fat tax in advance -- if 10% isn't enough to make a difference in your buying habits, set it to 1000%.

If obesity rates continue increasing at the current breathtaking pace, we'll need to start trying out these kinds of creative solutions to influence our own behaviors.
posted by miyabo at 7:04 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If obesity rates continue increasing at the current breathtaking pace, we'll need to start trying out these kinds of creative solutions to influence our own behaviors.

Or we can stop giving a shit about what people do with their mortal meatsacks.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:53 PM on October 4, 2011


There is nothing wrong with people choosing dangerous behavior, LiB, the problem comes when organizations direct said behavior.

Did you read my potato chip example? We aren't even talking about taxing tastier food. We're talking about taxing food that (a) objectively tastes worse while (b) creating health problems that (c) raise everyone's health care costs.

How about credit card debt? American credit card companies lobbied like crazy so that they could avoid printing how long you'd take to pay off the credit card making only the minimum payment.

We're talking about changing the non-zero sum games that create so much inequality in society. Read A Darwinian Left by Peter Singer.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:27 PM on October 4, 2011


Peter Singer believes animals should have the same or more rights than humans. Again, what people eat is one of the fundamental decisions they make.

Yesterday I rushed from work to see my sister's violin recital. I had five minutes for dinner, so I basically inhaled a double quarter-pounder with cheese. Should I have been forced to show a special government card to do that?

I don't sleep well, and I work an office job. Should I pay a 20 cent donut tax for my morning donut?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:34 PM on October 4, 2011


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