Published on 18 Aug 2014

Obesity crisis: sorting the ‘fat’ from the fiction

The Institute of Economic Affairs argues that the food industry is being unfairly blamed for obesity, and that we are eating less than ever.

The report argues that it is a lack of exercise, not eating too much, that drives obesity.

However, some have criticised the report as “laughable nonsense” and says that the report misses one crucial point – that people lie about how much they eat.

On Channel 4 News on Monday night the difference in opinion was plain to see – check out the debate between Christopher Snowdon from the Institute of  Economic Affairs and Professor Mike Lean, the Chair of Human Nutrition at the University of Glasgow, below.

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33 reader comments

  1. Dj Footprint says:

    I would have to say that i would take the findings and analysis of Professor Mike Lean – the Chair of Human Nutrition at The University of Glasgow, over those of Christopher Snowdon from the Institute of Economic Affairs – who, by the way, did himself no favours with his argumentative and combative responses to the Professor (out of his depth maybe? – And of whose ‘Economic Affairs’ is he speaking for?….A question he managed to duck and dive out of at the very end of the interview).
    Whether calorie intakes have (or not) gone down over recent decades – the growth of fast-food outlets in the UK and Ireland (where i left the UK for in 2001) – has risen unbelievably. When i left England, it was relatively unusual to see high numbers of obese people – overweight (to a degree – yes) – The same applied to Ireland.
    Over the years, when travelling back ‘home’ for visits of all reasons – i have become utterly staggered at the amount of highly overweight and obese people – and the same problem has arisen here in Ireland.
    In some ways, i believe the ‘boom years’ – followed by the ‘bursted bubble’ have played a role – the former leading people to go out for meals regularly (meals that contain over 1 day’s calorie intake alone), to the latter – where people would ‘order in’ cheap takeaways (same again re: calorie intake) – and sit, vegetating in front of their TV’s watching excruciating ‘singing artiste’s’ or dancing dogs and other vacuous ‘reality TV’ night after night. Possibly the height of exercise being reaching for the phone to vote.
    The biggest (no pun intended) culprits however – are the food companies – who still fill our food (that being bought from shops), with additives, more and more salt and sugar (despite their protestations otherwise) – in the latter case, using a form of sugar that has been common in the U.S. for years, and as Tom Clarke has shown previously – vastly increases the amount of sugar in soft drinks etc.
    Finally, and sadly – we now live in a different era (in our minds – because those ‘carefree times’ of the 1970’s, when i went from the age of 5 to 15, weren’t as carefree as we all thought – considering recent high profile (and otherwise) trials. Gone are the days of when parents like my (now passed away) own, would make sure i’d done my homework – then say “Be back in when it gets dark” – as i flew past them to go playing 20 a side football in our local park, climb trees etc – and (ahem), go ‘hedge-jumping’ or plundering apple and pear trees. (Usually just leaving 1 on the tree) – I’ve just done a ‘facepalm’ typing that last bit – i STILL feel guilty about that after all these years!

    1. Robert says:

      I haven´t seen the TV programme, as I live in Spain and don´t have British TV.. Are you, effectively, arguing that Mr Snowdon invented the various graphs in his IEA paper “The Fat Lie”?
      Assuming they´re genuine, they would certainly need some explaining.. Also, Mr Snowdon does go into the question of people under-reporting (and sometimes, over-reporting) the food they´ve consumed.

      You presumably know that the issue of whether sugar is responsible for the “obesity epidemic” is nowhere near resolved, with various quite eminent people disagreeing with Dr Lustig et al. There are also the various paradoxes that no-one can quite explain – the Australian one and the French one.

  2. Prof Simon Chapman says:

    Asked if the IEA gets funding from the food industry Chris Snowdon says “I don’t know. Quite possibly .. by all means assume that we do.” So he writes a whole report on food, is well aware of the global concern about the corruption of science and policy by commercial interests, and on national television says he doesn’t know if his employer is funded by big food. An office boy or the car park attendant at the IEA might not know. Snowdon would know. Immortal words.

    1. The Meissen Bison says:

      I can’t agree with the substance of your post and its tone is unworthy of a serious academic- if that’s what you are. If the man is commissioned to write a report, why should he be expected to know who is funding the organisation which has commissioned him?

      The insinuation in your comment is that he knows full well and has tailored his report to suit some industry paymaster. If there were even the remotest substance in an accusation of dodginess, one would expect the Programme to have researched this beforehand and not to have run the item at all. Instead, the interviewer put the question on air which is sloppy journalism and partisan.

      Professor Mike Lean cited in evidence a study conducted in the US. I’m not sure what sort of academic he is either but you need not venture very far into the dreary world of statistics to know that you cannot make judgements about the validity of one set of data by pointing to an entirely different population. Consequently his insistence on his special expertise failed to convince of anything more than overweening smugness and an inability to explore any opinion other than his own.

  3. Paul says:

    the report misses one crucial point – that people lie about how much they eat.
    That sentence could be used to debunk almost any poll in the world ever, people will lie about anything if they think its whats needed…

    1. Robert says:

      Neither did he miss the point in “The Fat Lie” – it´s referred to, as are the peole who overstate their consumption.

  4. H Statton says:

    Food consumption is not the only thing that people don’t tell the exact truth about. There is a difference between lying and not telling whole the truth. Smoking is a classic example. If a doctor asks: ‘do you smoke’? The answer might be ‘just a little’, when in fact the patient might smoke heavily – more than ‘just a little’.

    Do you snack in between meals, ‘Just a little’? Not a lie but not exactly telling the whole truth either. Crisps, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks, biscuits, cakes, ice cream – they are plentiful on the supermarket shelves. They have a long expiration date because the turnover of such foods is rapid. It is easy to find a bar of chocolate with an expiration date of two to three years as supermarkets know they will easily clear their stock.

    It has become more difficult to find a healthy cereal on the shelves. There are far more chocolate and icing coated products than ever, none of which I can stand.

    Takeaway away food is another high calorie meal and some people indulge in eating it despite already having eaten an evening meal. Standard post-pub-food stuffs.

    It is about time we started watching what we eat and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Not taking enough exercise is not solely the answer. Take two weeks to add up all the calories (and no cheating) you consume, and it might prove to be a frightening result.

    Try and find your waistline.

    1. Garry Lee says:

      There is no doubt that of itself, exercise has very little effect on weight. I know. I cycle 7000 miles a year and have done so for going on 30 years.
      There is also no doubt that calorie counting doesn’t work. All the papers show that. What does work is a low carb diet of any variety. It’s effective because it flattens hunger
      Obesity is not due to overeating, primarily. It’s due to the combination of genes and eating a high sugar/carb diet. It’s triggered by raised insulin.

  5. H Statton says:

    Another pastime you may like to indulge in is to spot the overweight person behind an interviewer on the high-street. There is quite clearly a large (no pun intended) population that have serious health issues. And it is getting worse. Overweight children/teenagers are starting to suffer from illnesses more associated with middle age.

    It is a ticking time bomb. Young people will start to die younger, and not achieve the longevity of their grandparents. Living to the grand old age of 85 – 100 will be a thing of the past. Liver cirrhosis, cardiac disease, diabetes, to name but a few will develop much earlier than predicted.

    Alcohol is another impediment to maintaining good health. Teenagers etc. are getting drunk before they hit the clubs. These days it is too expensive to go straight to the pubs and clubs, so they go to the local off-license buy cheap plonk and drink before going out. They are not drinking less, as surveys suggest, they simply party at home then hit the town.

    I cannot off the top I my head think of a single neighbour (though I’m sure there are some) that is not overweight. We have a big social problem, and the message is not getting through. Even Ads on the television are normalising the rounded physique, to the point where we are becoming immune to a slowly but surely altering body shape.

  6. Chris O says:

    I note that Professor Simon Chapman cannot restrain his unfortunate tendency to demean academia buy launching into conspiracy theories and accusations every time he contributes. What kind of academic uses the expression “big food” and expects to be taken seriously? His ilk have done it a lot more damage than commercial interest ever could.

    Neither Chapman nor Mike Lean have provided eveidence to refute Snowdon’s argument, which is based on the sound principle that obesity is a caused by eating more calories than we burn. The topically named Mike Lean gives the impression that he thinks that merely being a professor makes him right and people such as DJ Footprint above confirm that there are those who give succour to such lazy delusions. I don’t expect sense from Chapman but Lean is normally a little more rational.

    I am currently on the Billy Connolly diet. The great man said, “eat less, move more”. It isn’t any more complicated than that so why do we need academics who tell us otherwise?

  7. Robert says:

    Fat people lie about what type of food, and how much food, they consume. They’re addicts. Addicts even lie to themselves. However, they can’t lie about their width and weight that we see. When your as- is as wide as the car hood on your car, no suit or dress can hide laziness.

  8. anon says:

    if people don’t start to lose weight soon, won’t the Earth start to SINK, under the weight of them all, sorry just joking,

    think I read somewhere that swimming good as it is for you doesn’t help you lose weight,

    but also a question how did these people get a slot on your show…….

  9. Simon Rucker says:

    I think that if data from the British Heart Foundation, DEFRA, the ONS, etc. does indeed question some of the assumptions and received wisdoms on this subject it would be worth reviewing and debating it properly – unfortunately a 5 minute slot on Channel 4 News is not really sufficient.

    It concerns me that scientists are so quick to poo-poo Snowden and the IEA – even resorting to rather childish ad-hominem tactics – when it was made very clear that the data comes from reputable bodies without links to ‘big food’ and that even taking account of the methodological issues outlined by Professor Lean, the overall trend in the UK appears to be down. It was also disappointing that Professor Lean quoted US studies in response to points made about UK data – smacks of a dogmatic viewpoint to me…

    As the American journalist A. L. Mencken once said (allegedly) “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”. Perhaps scientists like Professor Lean find it easier to scapegoat ‘big food’ than contemplate a more complex reality that involves criticising individuals? Or could they just be frustrated anti-capitalists using ‘public health’ concerns as a new angle of attack on corporations? Something smells fishy to me and it’s not my chip shop supper…

  10. Tim says:

    To get the right answers, you have the ask the right questions. There is no debate. Exercise is not the cause of America’s or any other country’s obesity epidemic. It is likely a confounding factor in certain cases, but not necessarily any more cases than in the past when rates were half what they are now. The question is not quantity either, but rather quality/type of food. Sugar consumption is 30 to 40 times what our grandparents ate, and for that you can lay blame on “food industry” and policy makers who never viewed sustainable local farming as a possible (profitable?) model for a sprawling modern society, yet it works in European nations with different values. Neighbors feeding their neighborhoods… 150 years ago people would have never dreamed that community farming would be a foreign concept. The reality is modern society has not valued food and the growth of food and preparing of food as part of culture, but more as an obscure detail that results in grocery store shelves getting full, or a hobby… but was this a choice by the masses? Or a resulting condition from decisions made by government and industry? Either way you can still make different choices, even today, and take control back over your health, but looking to big food, gov… or their sponsored “nutrition experts” will not give you the answers.

  11. Richard says:

    It is undoubtedly the case that Snowdon lost his cool and as a result, performed less well than he should have in the debate, there are some points that should be made about the discussion.

    First, Lean and in the preceding clip Malhotra proceeded from the argument that the ONS data had limitations (due to mis-reporting) to the conclusion that the opposite of what it found was the case. Their argument was basically “The ONS/IFS/BHF data is limited because it is based on self-reporting; The ONS data (which says calorie intake has fallen consistently over 40 years) is wrong; Therefore calorie intake in the UK has risen.”

    This is of course bunk for numerous reasons – just because the data has limitations, it does not mean it is useless. It may not give a full picture, but it gives the fullest picture of any survey on this topic in the UK over this period. No evidence was given to show the scale of under-reporting and how that would have changed over the period being studied. It goes without saying that even if the limitations of the data were so great to make the survey useless, it does not follow that the opposite conclusion (that calorie intake has risen). It should be noted that the data is also corroborated by studies of shopping till receipts.

    Second, Lean tried to argue that because studies had shown calorie intake had risen over a similar period in the US, that this proved the ONS data was wrong. This is an argument from false analogy. There are significant cultural, lifestyle, governmental, educational and commercial differences that would suggest that such a comparison is not valid. Indeed, we have the ONS data which directly contradicts it.

    Third, and Guru-Murthy is the culprit here, we have an attempt to discredit the arguments given in the report based on the motives of the organisation publishing it. This is the ad hominem fallacy. An argument isn’t right or wrong based on who was making it – it stands on it’s own merits. As an experienced news presenter (I hesitate to say journalist) one would think that KGM would be aware that casting aspersions about someone’s motives in a debate was irrelevant. Snowdon, exasperated at this point (probably by the concerted mis-direction of Lean and the supposed impartial chair) even conceded that for the sake of focusing on the substance of the debate, he was happy for everyone to assume that the IEA had funding from the food industry. Guess what? If that were the case, it does nothing to the validity of the data or the arguments he based on them.

    Similarly, if we suppose that Lean/Malhotra’s are motivated by their own celebrity/reputation, an anti-business political stance (to which C4News and KGM are sympathetic) and a worldview whereby scientific experts should be able to exert power to form policy in order to make society bow down before their conception of the good life, none of that has any bearing on the validity or otherwise of what they say and the evidence they use to say it.

  12. Chris Holland says:

    I was stunned that given Channel 4 has hosted the programme Secret Eaters, which is based on demonstrating how people putting on weight miss report what they eat, this wasn’t mentioned in this report. Whilst not a scientific study it clearly backs up existing scientific studies conclusions. There have been many programmes on television that clearly demonstrate how people do not understand the calorific values of food and what they eat but again no reference to these. I was left with my jaw on the floor at the apparent lack of reference to these in this report.

  13. Dj Footprint says:

    There used to be a saying….’It starts in the U.S. – then arrives at some point in the UK.
    It has, – FAT. Super-size this, Super-size that. Hence, i’ll take the Professor’s findings any day of the week.
    Conspiracy theories?….Pfff.
    ‘Big Food’ – contributing to ever more and more expanding waistlines, heart disease, strokes etc – Absolutely.
    As Tim noted above – people are consuming 30 or 40 times sugar alone, than our Grandparents did. That alone is adding to what is essentially a crisis.

    Snowdon can’t hold his own in a short debate – and we’re supposed to take this ‘expert’ seriously?
    Do me a favour.

    1. Richard says:

      I urge you to look at the ONS data for yourself – sugar consumption has fallen consistently over the last 40 years. The data from the 70s shows types of food consumed in the home and from the early 2000s, we have data for food consumed outside the home too.

      It is conceivable that we are on average eating many times more sugar than during a period of rationing of cane sugar, but if we look at the most recent decades, when the problem of obesity has really taken off, you will see that sugar consumption has followed a consistent downward trend.

      I’d also like to point out for your benefit that whether an argument is right or wrong does not depend on who is making it. If Prof Lean said that the moon was made of blue cheese, that doesn’t make it any less true. Similarly, although he got flustered it doesn’t mean that when Snowdon says 2 + 2 = 4, that that is wrong.

  14. David Preston says:

    There is an old saying: “A little of what you fancy does you good” that rings true for so many things especially diet. Excess is bad for your health clearly; but there are so many add ons to the list of what people should know or at least should look for when buying food. Over the years we have seen many programmes looking at what we eat and more importantly what the manufacturers put in to the recipe. So called fast food, ready meals and even fresh meat’s all have additives put in to them; add that to the new evidence slowly being released regarding genetics and bacteria in our guts its no surprise that people are overeating/drinking. Next time you are shopping look at the ingredients for the cheaper sausages you might be surprised! There was a modicum of truth in both arguments and KGM was acting as the Devil’s Advocate as C4 tend to do; although they have allowed things to get too personal of late. The basics still apply, we eat for energy and if you eat more than you use it turns to fat in all the wrong places; not everyone can exercise because of health, manual work has disappeared as machinery has taken over both peoples roles and jobs & cheaper types of lazy food have all led us to where we are now. Addiction is hard to beat especially when your body craves more of what is so easy to obtain at a price people can afford; being a know-all does not help and help is needed to reverse the trend for individuals and Government action to control the food producers.

  15. JB says:

    There are several problems connected together in the obesity/quality of the food discussion. First of all, the quality went down by including a wide range of conservants, chemicals, and other substances that are not necessary if you don’t need to rely on mass production of everything. A mere hundred years back, work on the field was difficult and time consuming activity for the community. Nowadays, we are thinking about how to be able to localize our production, we once abandoned in favor of mass production a capitalization of the whole industry. Now, the tastier the better. This means more sugar, more bad stuff included. And obviously the lack of any education. People are disconnected from the food making process. This is bad. We need to localize it again, with the help of current technologies. We can do that right now, and increase our food independence as well as the quality of our production.

  16. Dj Footprint says:

    @ David Preston & JB – Excellent posts and comments.

    @ Richard – How can you say that sugar consumption has fallen over the last 40 years?! Walk around any town or city these days – and you’ll see multitudes of children drinking cans / bottles of soft drinks – and it’s been acknowledged that they’ll drink maybe 6 or more per day! And this just doesn’t apply to children. Plus, there’s the Coca-Cola ‘Secret Recipe’ – which no doubt includes (as i mentioned above) – the drive by food and drink manufacturers to replace cane sugar with a syrup based sugar content that is widely used in the U.S. – creating a far greater craving for sugar – which is, essentially a DRUG! Leading to the consumer of such products (and others) to want more and more.
    The ONS data may be one thing – but the FACT is, people in the U.K. & Ireland have NEVER been so fat and obese to the levels seen today. – Take a look around you in the streets, on transport (some airlines now charging a person for TWO seats because of their weight. Unheard of previously). Weight & obesity levels are at a crisis level – 60% plus.
    The ‘food’ manufacturers and their lobbyists in high places have a lot to answer to.

    Your last paragraph made no sense to me whatever by the way, and offered nothing to the debate.

    1. PhilT says:

      @Dj Footprint – sugar consumption per head has been flat or declining for thirty years in the UK. We have two companies that make the stuff and an EU regime with production quotas, tariffs etc and plenty of statistics available online.

      In the past we may have baked a lot more at home or ladelled sugar onto cornflakes and into tea, whereas now we have sugary soft drinks and other visible forms of consumption. Retail sugar consumption has been replaced with industrial, with volume largely unchanged.

      You have the same problem as Lean and Malhotra – you have a preconceived idea of what causes obesity. You see obesity and therefore your chosen cause must be responsible, whatever any data says.

      If we’re being scientific, the IEA report and others by the IFS and Susan Jebb in the 90s have all failed to explain the rise in obesity by reference to the consumption of food from any data whatsoever. They then assume it must be exercise / activity, which they didn’t look at. Either we need better data collection or a different theory, and I am unclear which.

    2. Richard says:

      @DJ Footprint – I can say that sugar consumption has fallen over 40 years, based on the best source of evidence we have in the UK – the ONS data. You appear not to see how laughable your position is in dismissing the hard evidence that has been collected according to a strict scientific methodology in favour of your personal experience of seeing people drinking soft drinks. That you think your ‘facts’ are irrefutable proof that sugar consumptions has risen is a joke.

      My last paragraph was to illustrate that you had made a mistake in your previous posts, whereby you thought that how Snowdon had acted made his arguments less convincing. You made the ‘ad hominem fallacy’ – the idea being that by attacking someone for their manner/appearance/personal deficiencies etc. you undermine their arguments. The point was that an argument is right or wrong based on the argument and the evidence from the real world, not based on the irrelevant facts of who is making the argument.

  17. H Statton says:

    For a documented view of life on a subset of food-types (fast food), try watching “Super Size Me” by Morgan Spurlock. It is a significant commentary but also irreverently entertaining. It made me laugh out loud but it also highlights the dangers we are causing to our bodies via poor choice of diet (and lack of information of the ‘hidden’ dangers).

  18. H Statton says:

    Three friends of mine, two of whom you would easily class as obese, were flying to America (from UK, circa 2002) and were all seated next to one another. My larger friends sat either side of the other. Not long after being in the air the stewardess approached my friend sitting in the middle because he “looked rather uncomfortable”, so she offered him the opportunity to upgrade to business class. He said afterwards that he felt embarrassed but he was genuinely quite uncomfortable and as it was a long flight took up the offer.

    I always feel uneasy telling this story because of the regret I feel in not doing enough to help or encourage my friends to lead a healthier lifestyle. Of the two friends on the flight, one of them has gone on to develop type II Diabetes and the other, my best friend, died just after his 44th birthday from a serious heart condition brought on primarily by obesity. Basically it was a lifetime of dietary neglect and alcohol that induced cardiac failure.

    I had a similar experience with the same two friends during a visit to the cinema. I felt squashed between the two of them. I didn’t say anything to them as I didn’t want to move away to another seat – that would make the whole situation awkward and risk hurting their feelings. So I sat through three ½ hours with considerable back pain.

    It is always difficult to impress on ones friends the need to change their lifestyles especially when they are not stupid people. How do you have a serious conversation, without seeming to care about their feelings? How do you not seem to be ‘a bit of a nag’? The conclusion I’ve come to is it’s worth taking a bit of flak if it saves someone’s life; but there is this thing called diplomacy

  19. Gabriel Scally says:

    Under-reporting happens on an enormous scale with regard to physical activity and it is entirely logical that the same occurs with regard to food intake.
    In the 2008 Health Survey for England adults were asked to recall how much physical activity they had done over the previous four weeks. Based on this self-report survey, 39% of men and 29% of women aged 16 and over met the Chief Medical Officer’s minimum recommendations for physical activity. That is that they should be active at moderate or greater intensity for at least 30 minutes a day on at least five days a week.
    However a sub-sample of adults then wore a device called an accelerometer for a week following the survey; this showed that only 6% of men and 4 per cent of women met the recommendations.
    Why would we expect people who are grossly inaccurate about their physical activity will be accurate about their food intake?

    1. Richard says:

      @ Gabriel Scally – I’d like to see a link to the survey you are discussing. Of course, that isn’t a very well designed study for measuring mis-reporting, if it functioned as you’ve described it. If you have just taken part in a survey relating to health lifestyle, wouldn’t you be more inclined to do some exercise in the next week? Also, in the survey you’ve described, the participants are being asked to remember what they were doing over the last four weeks – whereas, the ONS food consumption data is gathered with participants making contemporaneous food diaries – so the time between activity and recording is shorter and less prone to error through mis-remembering.

      I think everyone acknowledges that the ONS data is affected by mis-reporting. However, that doesn’t make the data useless. If you seriously want to claim that it is, you need to explain the scale of mis-reporting and also why the rate of mis-reporting has changed over 40 years (as if it were constant, the underlying trend in consumption would still have been observed).

      1. Gabriel says:

        As I stated, it is the 2008 Health Survey for England. The point is the participants did less exercise than they stated on average, not more. The clincher is that the children were very accurate indeed compared to the children.
        It is stretching it to think that there is a recall error of more than 600% amongst the adults. It is pretty obviously that adults over report exercise because they think they should be exercising more. It is entirely consistent with adults reporting that they eat less than they do because they think they should be eating less.
        The explanation is of course that obesity has grown over the last 40 years and as it has grown so has the popular sense that we should be eating less.

  20. Dj Footprint says:

    @ Richard – You speak of the ONS Data as if it were some Holy Grail of Science – Plus, i don’t feel there is any need for you to resort – as you did in your first paragraph, to deride my thoughts and comments as ‘laughable’, and ‘a joke’. If you can’t debate without some sort of ‘schoolboy taunting’ – please don’t bother replying to my posts. Which, by the way, are not just ‘based on people drinking soft drinks’.
    I have for many, many years led a healthy lifestyle: food-wise and exercise also – a fair degree of that i could say is down to the very close friends i’ve had for 25-30+ years – a good percentage of them vegetarians, who informed me no end of perfectly healthy diets, that involved using simple unprocessed foods to make very healthy meals. I’m not averse to ‘white meat’, ie: chicken (suitably sourced obviously) – or the occasional steak.
    ‘Everything in moderation’ – You must have heard of it.
    Alongside that – I have previously spent 5 years (up to 2001 – when i moved to Ireland) as the Assistant Manager of a Residential Home for 12 Adults with varying degrees of Learning Difficulties etc., and also oversaw the care of a further 8 Clients living in the Community. One high item on a very wide-ranging agenda of tasks – was preparing (or overseeing), the preparation of approximately 250+ healthy meals per week (on a budget of £80 for the Home) – also taking into account that 3 Clients had eating disorders (compulsive over-eating) – and accounting for their requirements also. All this was enabled by myself and the rest of the Team i worked with – and NOT ONCE did we fail any spot checks by any Authority, ie: Social Services etc, as regards the quality of food our Clients consumed. Quite the opposite, achieving a high rating at every inspection.
    On a personal level, in the early to mid 00’s, i found myself working in the music industry (a dream job for me, as i had been a serious music lover since my early teens) – as a Stagebuilder, Lighting Technician etc etc, One night, in 2005, i prevented a truck driver from having his back broken by a falling Flight Case (a reinforced box on wheels, containing 2 very large stage lights) – I am not saying this for any ’round of applause’ by the way.
    In the process, i received a hell of a blow to my left temple – and had my first ever full blown epileptic seizure. I spent a week at a major hospital in Dublin – and a Consultant of Neurology (on some 200k Euro per year) put me on a high dosage of a drug called Epilim – 2000 m.g.per day – which remained the same for approx 4 years – until i changed to another hospital, as i was unhappy (and not getting answers) as to why i was experiencing severe back pain, tiredness, the lack of ability to walk / hike any kind of distance as i used to.
    My new Neurologist literally almost fell out of her chair – The extremely well paid previous Consultant had omitted to put me on a simple addition to my prescriptions – very high strength Calcium tablets. By then however, the damage had been done – and continues to do so.

    Last year, the effects and pressure etc of having Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Chronic Pain Syndrome, a collapsing spine, Fibromyalgia & Ankylosing Spondylitis got too much – and i spent 5 weeks in my local Hospital recovering.
    During that time, i had a multitude of tests done on me – everything imaginable. Despite the fact that because of a number of years of dealing with the above – i hadn’t taken to a life of ready-made microwave meals full of additives and god knows what, or takeaways – I maintained a healthy-eating regime (and haven’t had a ‘drink’ in years) – The results being – no problems with my liver, kidneys, heart, no blocked veins etc. (Surprising in part because i’ve been on very strong Painkillers for years – averaging approx 20 various meds per day since – plus Morphine patches as of this year).
    During those 5 weeks i saw a multitude of people coming into and out of the Hospital for various reasons. (And a number exiting via the Mortuary).
    You may deride my ‘people watching’ – but it’s a habit i’ve had for years and years. Apart from being on the Ward, i used to regularly sit in the Cafe, having a tea or a coffee, sometimes reading the paper, sometimes not. That was an occasion to see first-hand, a ratio of approx 60% overweight or obese people – either patients, or visiting – Something i discussed at length quite a few times with the Nurses & Doctors – valuable information from the people ‘on the front line’ – the one’s who told me that invariably, the people less likely to walk (or be wheeled out in an adapted wheelchair) – would be those very likely to have been spending their last days in the Hospital, or may get another few months because a massive coronary would end their life. Because of years of poor eating, too much drinking. Sugar. Salt. Additives.

    I’ve got one shelf on one of my bookcases – spanned by books written by a variety of Professors, relating to food, healthy eating, pain management through a healthy lifestyle – all of them read cover to cover. You can quote ONS Data all you want – but it doesn’t deny the fact that food manufacturers have an agenda – and well paid lobbyists behind them, to deride and smokescreen the facts – the same way as the Tobacco Industry does – and the Climate Change Denier’s too…..
    They’ll sell you anything.
    Me – I’ve plenty, plenty of reasons to look at this subject first-hand. In less than 24 hours i’ll be 49. I’ve got the bones of a 65 year old – and gone from 6 foot tall three years ago, to 5′ 9″ now. Could walk 20 miles ten years ago – one these days and i’m in agony, knees ‘screaming’
    All thanks to an overpaid numpty of a Consultant.

    So do some proper reading Richard – or if (touch wood you don’t) you end up in Hospital for any reason – have a natter with the Nurses / Doctors about ‘The Obesity Crisis’.

    @ H Statton – Very sorry to read / hear about your Best Friend. Condolences & Best Wishes.

    1. H Statton says:

      @ Dj Footprint Thank you very much. Appreciated.

  21. Richard says:

    @DJ Footprint – I’m sorry to have to read about your ailments but what your writing is simply nonsense.

    I think you are confused about what I am arguing for. There is of course an increase in obesity and the number of people who are over-weight in this country. Healthy eating is of course important for a wide number of reasons – not only weight but to ensure we get all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Similarly, being physically active is important to maintain one’s health.

    But the fact remains that this debate is about what has caused the rise in over-weight and obese people in our country. The only sensible source of data for this debate is going to be rigorously conducted scientific surveys, that adhere to strict methodologies to remove biases from the data and try to achieve the integrity of the results. These surveys are trying to establish what is happening across a population of about 60 million people. Now, the ONS data is limited due to the self-reporting problems, but that doesn’t make it useless, unless someone can explain and prove why self-reporting error has changed over 40 years.

    Your claim is that your personal observations are a useful source of information in this debate. They are not. I can tell you that in my London office of 600+ people, there are fewer than 5% of people who are noticeably overweight/obese. Of my 200 closest friends/acquaintances, 1 is obese and about 25 are over-weight. On the tube this morning, I saw about 150 people and only one was obese. In my block of flats, of 16 adults, not one is over-weight. But the fact is, all this information is irrelevant. Your and my personal experience is but a tiny bubble of the population as a whole – yours, working class, under-educated and over-weight; mine middle classed, professional, highly educated and slim. We cannot draw any conclusions from our own pocket of society about the wider society.

    As for food companies – yes, they have an agenda to make as much profit as possible. The profit motive is what got them in to the food industry and got them producing foods that people want to buy. People are free to buy healthily or unhealthily, as they choose. That is as it should be. Scientists can research and provide evidence that certain diets are unhealthy and the press and education establishment can spread that information around – but ultimately, people should be free to buy what they want and eat what they want.

  22. Dj Footprint says:

    @ Richard – Thank you for your first nine words – other than that, i do not – and never have made a habit of talking ‘nonsense’ (there you go again with the derogatory remarks – maybe it’s because you’re middle class, and also perceive yourself as ‘professional’ and ‘highly educated).
    Nor am i confused – having obtained a degree in my early to mid 20’s (in Business Management & Economics – the latter of which delved deeply into many – and wide-ranging matters of Social Mobility, Class-divisions etc etc) – and that Degree was gained with full-honours, whilst running a Business of my own at the same time throughout. I’ve also worked with, and for some major and very well-known Companies during my employment career – including a long spell one of the oldest High-Street chains in the UK – where my initial starting point was to undertake a Retail-Management course. – Projected time of completion by the Company – 6 months. Took me 6 weeks.
    In very recent years – a highly-Certificated 2 year Course in Community Welfare Studies & Nursing. Effectively, i have almost 2 Degrees.
    I say all that not to make myself sound like some kind of bragging ‘artist’ – i say it because –

    a) You constantly have ridiculed me, saying that i don’t know what i’m talking about. – and

    b) I take serious issue with your paragraph containing the statement – “Yours, working class and under-educated” – Whatever that, and the rest is supposed to mean.

    I have moved within and out of many sectors of Society during my 49 years – always taking measure and stock (as it were) – worked with the advantaged – and the dis-advantaged – seen, and taken in (and not forgotten) a lot of things along the way.

    It is truly my belief that you are enclosed in your comfy middle-class bubble – probably always have been. And you can’t see the wood for the trees / see the bigger picture. And neither seen ‘The Real World’.

    It is you that speaks nonsense – and you choose to defy anyone who disagrees with you, despite the facts and information proffered by myself and others on this blog – especially me.

    So do me a favour Richard. Don’t bother replying – you’re becoming, in fact have, become rather tiresome and weary. Continue there in your high-falutin’ job, marvelling at how few overweight people work there – and after work, look forward to meeting all your slim and many friends. (Ever thought that with the latter, you may be ‘filtering’ without you actually knowing you do?).

  23. Richard says:

    @ DJ Footprint – I can see you have some low level qualifications. That hasn’t impressed me much. I also see you have failed to get the joke in the opening line of my previous comment – and there you are telling me how bright you are. Also, if you were above average intelligence, you would have realised that my point about all my friends and colleagues being slim WAS EXACTLY TO POINT OUT THAT MY (AND YOUR) EXPERIENCE IS ‘FILTERED’ – i.e. necessarily partial, biased and incomplete. So rather than being oblivious to this filtering, as you put it, my very point was to highlight that this filtering takes place – something you wholly failed to grasp.

    If you really were as bright as you think you are, perhaps you’d cut down on the extraneous biographical detail and tackle the central point of my argument – the best data available disagrees with your assertions about sugar consumption. I am not simply ‘denying’ anyone who disagrees with me – I am presenting the arguments to show why I think you are wrong. Perhaps you’d like to seriously engage with those arguments instead of giving me a lengthy description of your tedious life, trying to prove how clever you are and complaining that I’m a meany who’s been hurting your feelings.

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