Thursday, August 05, 2010

Egg on Their Faces

Steve Malanga has an interesting look at how the impulse to tell people what to eat-or, in some cases, regulate-runs afoul of the lack of real scientific knowledge of what actually is really good for you: "As government agencies in places like New York seek a greater hand in shaping diets, the next set of federal nutrition guidelines, to be published this year, could prove controversial -- for growing scientific evidence suggests that some federal recommendations have simply been wrong."

So, aside from the fact that we believe that government telling you what to eat is simply wrong, it turns out to be actually wrong-and when government is wrong, entire industries are wronged-as was the case with eggs: "The public-health establishment has been slow about reversing course before. Starting in the 1970s, the American Heart Association advised people to reduce drastically their consumption of eggs to limit total cholesterol intake. The recommendation, seconded by government and other public-health groups, prompted a sharp drop in the consumption of eggs, a food nutritionists praise as low in calories and high in nutrients. In 2000, the AHA revised its restrictions on eggs to one a day (from a one-time low of three a week), but it also recommended reducing consumption of other cholesterol-heavy foods to compensate. Yet a 2004 Journal of Nutrition article that looked at worldwide studies of egg consumption noted that the current restrictions on eating eggs are "unwarranted for the majority of people and are not supported by scientific data."

Which brings us to Mother Mike's assault on salt: "In 2006, New York City passed the nation's first ban on the use of trans fats by restaurants, and other cities followed suit, though trans fats constitute just 2 percent of Americans' caloric intake. Now the Bloomberg administration is trying to push food manufacturers nationwide to reduce their use of salt -- and the nutrition panel advising the FDA on the new guidelines similarly recommends reducing salt intake. Yet Dr. Michael Alderman, an Albert Einstein College of Medicine hypertension specialist, observed in The New York Times that because sodium is an essential component of our diets, the city's effort amounts to a giant, uncontrolled public-health experiment that could have unintended consequences. In 2006, Harvard Medical School professor Norman Hollenberg concluded that evidence "is too inconsistent and generally too small to mandate policy decisions at the community level."

And, as Malanga observes, we're turning Woody Allen into a seer: "More and more, the history of dietary guidelines that our public-health authorities promulgate resembles the Woody Allen comedy "Sleeper," in which the main character, awaking from a centuries-long slumber, learns that every food we once thought bad for us is actually good, starting with steak and chocolate."  Of cour5se, in our view, it is the government instructing you, whether good or bad, that is intrinsically bad-because it comes down to politicians, with no claim to any kind of life style supremacy, acting in loco parentis for the brainless citizens.

This is a situation fraught with greater significance than even the threat to the survival of the egg industry-and this danger is underscored by the all encompassing nature of the recently enacted federal health care initiative-where eager bureaucrats are already busy at work devising mountains of health guidelines. And make no mistake about it, if the federal government can insist that you buy health insurance, they can insist that you eat certain foods-and they will. if nothing is done, control the health insurance premiums to enforce such a mandate.

But it turns out that individual choice is not only essential for freedom to thrive, it is  also crucial for insuring real health: "As medicine focuses on tailoring therapies to individual needs, sweeping public pronouncements on health have become outdated at best and dangerous at worst. The best advice that government can give citizens is to develop their own diet and exercise regimes, adapted to their own physical circumstances, after consultation with their doctors."

So, in our view, freedom and health mean the loosening of the growing grip that the government is slowly exercising on your food intake-and rebelling, as Missouri did on Tuesday with Proposition C-against the federalization of health. And that means, telling Mike Bloomberg and the federal health bureaucrats to stuff it!