Public Health

Obesity has made Covid deaths worse – but let’s not learn the wrong lessons

Whichever way you look at it, obesity is on the rise in Britain. By 2018, the proportion of British adults classified as obese had reached 28 per cent. Deaths attributed to obesity and excess body fat are climbing with each year that passes.

In fact, a recent study went so far as to claim that obesity is now responsible for more deaths than smoking. Smoking-related deaths have been falling in recent years and as of 2017, 23 per cent of deaths were linked to obesity, versus just 19 per cent for smoking.

As we know all too well by now, this seems to have contributed to the UK’s disproportionately high Covid-19 death toll. Obesity is one of the key coronavirus risk factors identified by the NHS early on in the pandemic, for good reason. Even setting aside other risk factors like diabetes and heart disease, from the data we have so far, obesityappears to have an additional effect of its own.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, public health nannies have leapt on these facts to push their extraordinarily damaging political agenda. From sugar taxes to food advertising restrictions, this Conservative government looks as though it has been well and truly conquered by those who want to see enforced plain packaging on crisps and chocolates and calorie counts on pints in pubs.

That might sound like hyperbole – but it isn’t. Enforced calorie counts are on the agenda, according to documents leaked to the Sun. And the idea of plain packaging for unhealthy foods, like we already have on cigarettes, is a real, straight-faced proposal from the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-wing think tank, and has been publicly endorsed by the nannies-in-chief at Public Health England.

Sugar might well be the new tobacco – and these campaigners want to see us repeat all the harmful mistakes that were made when trying to regulate smoking out of existence.

Sadly, the fact that this proposal comes from the left doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about it becoming a reality under a Tory government. Just a few years ago, those same groups of fringe lobbyists were the only ones campaigning for advertising bans on junk food and taxes on soft drinks – but now, ad bans have been embraced as government policy and the sugar tax is already in force.

Neither of those policies work, and both have disastrous side-effects. The so-called “sin taxes” are ineffective – the evidence shows that when confronted with taxes on sugary drinks, people either pay the inflated prices, switch to other high-sugar, high-calorie options like fruit juices, or buy cheaper own-brand soft drinks to offset the price difference.

In other words, they don’t have an impact on the amount of calories people consume – as we can see from the fact that obesity rates continue to climb.

These regressive taxes also make the poor poorer. Analysis has consistently shown that making essential items like food and drinks more expensive hurts the poor more than anyone else.

Advertising restrictions have similar problems. The government’s ad ban policy – whichappears to have been axed at the eleventh hour, but given the lack of official confirmation, could rear its head again any second – is to restrict advertising of what it deems to be “unhealthy foods”. The immediate issue with that is that the government’s definition of unhealthy foods which cause obesity and must be restricted apparently includes honey, yoghurt, mustard and tinned fruit.

Even more damningly, the government’s own analysis of its policy, which it stuck by for many months despite universal industry outcry, concludes that it would remove an average of 1.7 calories from children’s diets per day. For context, that is the equivalent of roughly half a Smartie. And that’s to say nothing of the immense cost of hamstringing the advertising industry, precisely when we are relying on private sector growth to revive the post-Covid economic recovery.

Government interventions are always going to be short-sighted and ineffectual by their nature. We should not ignore obesity – but the way we confront it must allow people to retain control over their own lives. Rather than taxing or regulating obesity in the hope that it goes away, government policy should create an environment which can facilitate weight management.

For instance, recent research found that a diabetes drug can do wonders for weight loss. People who took semaglutide suddenly found the pounds dropping off, with many losing 15 per cent of their bodyweight. 

And health innovation goes far beyond the lab and the GP surgery. Studies have, shown, for instance, that the simple act of chewing gum can help people lose weight. “Chewing gum had a dual effect on appetite,” said researchers at the University of Liverpool and Glasgow Caledonian University. “It reduces both the subjective sensations associated with eating and the amount of food eaten during a snack… leading to an 8.2 per cent decrease in appetite for sweet and salty snacks.”

Instead of giving public health nannies free rein to govern our diets and shopping habits, the government should be investing in pioneering research like this to find free-market answers to obesity. If sugar really is the new tobacco, let’s not resort to excessive state meddling once again. Let’s instead harness the power of innovation and let our world-class scientific research institutions do the hard work for us.

Originally published here.

14 розвинутих країн розкритикували Всесвітню організацію охорони здоров’я

Цього разу ВООЗ критикують через сумнівний звіт щодо походження коронавірусу. Але експерти також зауважують: ВООЗ “збилася з дороги” – замість протидії пандеміям організація все більш займається боротьбою з дитячими кашами, солодкими газованими напоями і тютюновими виробами.

США, Велика Британія та ще 12 країн висловили занепокоєння через доповідь експертів Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я (ВООЗ) щодо походження коронавірусу.

Про це повідомляє прес-служба Державного департаменту США.

Уряди Австралії, Канади, Чехії, Данії, Естонії, Ізраїлю, Японії, Латвії, Литви, Норвегії, Республіки Корея, Словенії, Великої Британії та США розкритикували Всесвітню організацію охорони здоров’я за те, що міжнародне експертне  дослідження джерел походження вірусу SARS-CoV-2 «було значно затримано, не мало доступу до повних, оригінальних даних та зразків».

Речниця Білого дому Джен Псакі закликала ВООЗ активніше «ставити питання людям на місцях»: «У цьому процесі є другий етап, який, на нашу думку, повинен здійснюватися під керівництвом міжнародних і незалежних експертів. У них повинен бути безперешкодний доступ до даних».

Держави закликають ВООЗ продовжити дослідження та наголошують, що необхідно зміцнювати «потенціал, аби підготуватися до можливих майбутніх спалахів інфекції».

Нагадаємо, це не перший випадок критики на адресу Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я. Минулого року за попередньої адміністрації США навіть оголошували про вихід з цієї міжнародної організації через її неефективність.

Як повідомляв Wall StreetJournal, «з самого початку позиція ВООЗ дозволила політичним міркуванням взяти гору над об’єктивною реакцією громадської охорони здоров’я. Рішення виступити проти ранніх заборон на поїздки і відкласти оголошення «надзвичайної ситуації у сфері охорони здоров’я, що має міжнародне значення», призвело до жахливих результатів».

Більше того, на думку оглядачів Wall Street Journal, «в останні десятиріччя ВООЗ менш зосереджена на своїй первісній місії, вона даремно витрачає гроші на підтримку державної охорони здоров’я та на війни з тютюновими компаніями».

New York Times цитує старшого наукового співробітника Центру безпеки охорони здоров’я ім. Джона Хопкінса, доктора Амеша Адалжа, який заявив, що «є підстави для критики Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я». Він навів приклад попередньої епідемії Еболи, коли ВООЗ не змогла оперативно зреагувати на надзвичайну ситуацію. 

Британська Guardian також нагадувала про вкрай незадовільну реакцію ВООЗ на епідемію еболи в 2013-2015 рр. «ВООЗ вкрай повільно реагувала на спалах Еболи, який почався у віддаленій лісовій частині Гвінеї. На той час, коли ВООЗ почала діяти – лише через6 місяців після першого спалаху –  ебола вже досягла великих міст. Наслідки для ВООЗ були серйозними та підірвали її авторитет».

Заступник директора глобальної групи захисту прав споживачів Consumer Choice Center Єль Островський у своїй статті для Washington Examiner частину провини за зниження ефективності ВООЗ покладає на приватні фонди (передовсім, на фінансові організації екс-мера Нью-Йорка Майкла Блумберга), які своїм фінансуванням впливають на напрямки роботи організації.

«ВООЗ збилася з дороги. Замість того, аби організовувати роботу із покращення обладнання для лікарень, підготовки лікарів і всієї системи охорони здоров’я до можливих нових епідемій, «глибокі кишені» Блумберга перетворили ВООЗ на глобального «поліцейського» для країн, що розвиваються, – проти дитячих каш, солодких газованих напоїв і тютюнових виробів», – впевнений Єль Островський.

Originally published here.

Germany’s Vaccine Drive Problems

Fred Roeder went on TalkRadio’s Mark Dolan Show to discuss the shortcomings of the German Government around the COVID19 vaccine procurement.

Originally published here.


Le gouvernement ne veut que votre bien – et il vous le montre… en vous traitant comme un enfant et en vous empêchant de faire vos propres choix, même dans les plus petites choses.

Il ne se passe pas un jour sans qu’un militant de la santé publique ne vienne frapper à notre porte (bien qu’actuellement il s’agisse plutôt d’un courriel) pour nous expliquer quel produit devrait être interdit ou taxé.

Auparavant, il s’agissait principalement du tabac, en raison des risques évidents pour la santé associés au tabagisme. Mais avec l’augmentation du nombre de consommateurs qui se tournent vers des alternatives plus saines comme le vapotage, d’autres produits sont devenus la cible des moralistes de la santé.

Qu’il s’agisse d’alcool, de sucre, de graisse ou de viande, aucun vice n’est laissé de côté dans l’éternel effort visant à punir les consommateurs pour les choses qu’ils aiment.

Evidemment, je ne défends pas l’idée que ces aliments ne soient pas dépourvus d’inconvénients. Ce n’est un secret pour personne que toute consommation doit être modérée et que cette dernière est une norme subjective que chaque individu doit s’approprier.

« 54 000 écoliers obèses » était le slogan scandé par les politiciens irlandais qui ont fait pression pour une nouvelle taxe sur le sucre en 2017. Les opposants à cette mesure étaient également préoccupés par la santé des enfants… mais peut-être qu’ils comprenaient qu’augmenter le prix du Coca-Cola n’allait pas résoudre le profond problème de cette maladie.

Des mesures absurdes

La mesure irlandaise s’est alignée sur l’augmentation française de la taxe sur les boissons gazeuses, il y a quelques années. Le président de l’époque, Nicolas Sarkozy, avait introduit cette mesure, qui a ensuite continué à être exploitée pour augmenter les recettes de l’Etat. La taxe initiale s’élevait à 7,53 € pour 100 litres de soda, soit 2,51 centimes pour une canette de 33 centilitres.

Depuis le 1er janvier 2021, la taxe est mesurée par quantité de sucre, donc entre 3,11 € par hectolitre pour un kilo de sucre et 24,34 € pour 15 kilos. Au-delà de 15 kilos, l’augmentation est de 2,07 € par kilo.

La situation est d’autant plus absurde que la France subventionne également le sucre par le biais de la politique agricole commune de l’Union européenne. Se voir demander de payer deux fois, une fois pour la subvention du sucre, et ensuite pour sa consommation, est probablement une ironie difficile à avaler pour les consommateurs français.

Lors d’une conférence du Fonds monétaire international l’année dernière, l’ancien candidat démocrate américain Michael Bloomberg a abordé la question des taxes sur les péchés « régressifs ». Il a déclaré :

« Certaines personnes pensent que taxer (la consommation) est une régression. Mais dans ce cas, oui, ça l’est ! C’est justement ce qui est bien, car le problème se situe chez les gens qui n’ont pas beaucoup d’argent et qui changeront ainsi leur comportement. »

Christine Lagarde, directrice générale et présidente du FMI, a rajouté un mot à la fin de la conférence :

« Il y a beaucoup d’experts fiscaux dans la salle… Et ils disent tous qu’il y a deux choses dans la vie qui sont absolument certaines. L’une est la mort, l’autre est la fiscalité. Donc votre idée est d’utiliser l’une pour reporter l’autre. »

« C’est exact. C’est tout à fait exact. C’est joliment formulé », a conclu Bloomberg.

Condescendance et paternalisme

On ne saurait être plus clair. Le principe de cette politique condescendante est le suivant : le consommateur pauvre est fondamentalement trop ignorant pour prendre des décisions concernant sa propre vie. Aveuglé par l’irrationalité de son esprit et ses pulsions instinctives, seule la bienveillance de la politique publique moderne peut le sortir de sa détresse. C’est littéralement la pensée de nos dirigeants actuels.

La vérité, cependant, est d’un tout autre genre.

Bien qu’ils ne soient pas particulièrement bruyants dans leur opposition aux taxes sur leurs soi-disant vices, les consommateurs s’expriment clairement lorsqu’il s’agit de prendre des décisions de tous les jours. Les gens veulent fumer ou vapoter, manger des aliments gras ou bio et boire du soda ou des jus de fruits… et les politiciens devraient commencer à accepter leurs décisions.

Ce sont tous des produits que nous devrions consommer avec modération et avec des informations transparentes en matière de santé, mais nous devrions cesser de pénaliser le citoyen pour l’exercice de son libre arbitre.

Nos Etats modernes semblent avoir créé un monstre bureaucratique qui s’est donné le rôle de tuteur venant nous taper sur les doigts lorsque nous regardons une boîte de biscuits du coin de l’œil.

Cette politique paternaliste dénote la déshumanisation qui régit les politiques publiques actuelles. Montrant un véritable mépris envers le libre arbitre des citoyens, les gouvernements pourraient un jour se retrouver avec une réponse de même ampleur.

Originally published here.

Michael Bloomberg turns the dial on Indian health policy

By Shrey Madaan

Large sodas, alcohol, vaping devices and the Internet are just a few of the things the World Health Organization wants to keep us away from.

Lawmakers say it is safeguarding its subjects from evil elements in order to protect them. But many critics also believe Indian sensibilities are composed of graver stuff and are concerned about India’s transition to a “Nanny State”.

The Nanny State is the idea of a government or authorities behaving too protective for their constituents, i.e interfering with their personal choice and hindering their liberty and right to life. 

This is something we have seen Bloomberg Philanthropies try to establish here in India. For years, Bloomberg Philanthropies has bestowed billions of dollars to global issues close to the billionaire’s heart such as education, environment and public health, transforming Bloomberg into a sort of flamboyant private government. 

This is evident when he began the Anti-Tobacco Campaign in India, causing a drastic boom on tobacco products, laying a strong foundation for intellectual precision on imposing bans on vaping devices and persuading the Health Ministry to adopt larger health warnings on various consumer goods

Thanks to his Nanny State mission, Michael Bloomberg was named as World Health Organisation’s “Global Ambassador For Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries,” a mission funded by himself for many years.

While it’s noteworthy to appreciate Bloomberg’s recent expenditures into Covid-19 research, his prolonged mission to spread the nanny state overseas via the soft power of the WHO is not only paternalistic but derogatory as well. This emphasis on soft power and negligence towards substantive reforms highlights the inefficiency of WHO. 

Their focus on soft power is evident from foisting soda taxes, imposing bans on e-cigarettes and vaping devices in third world countries and initiating Anti-Tobacco campaigns like here in India. Because the WHO and Bloomberg put so much emphasis on these various issues, it is not too difficult to draw a line between those activities and the failure of the WHO to help contain the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China. 

These lapses in Covid response, together with WHO detracting from its mission to safeguard us from pandemics, is a principal reason for opposing the global Nanny State expansion by people like Bloomberg. The recent channelling of funds into Indian non-profit agencies in exchange for a strong lobby against tobacco products and safer alternatives have called the credibility of Billionaire’s influence in question and has brought them under scrutiny. 

In response, the Indian government increased surveillance of non-profit groups, stating their actions to be against national interests. The Indian government tightened the scrutiny of NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The action has been opposed by critics claiming the use of foreign funding law by the government as a weapon to suppress non-profit groups concerned about social repercussions of Indian economic growth. 

The note drafted by the Home Ministry’s Intelligence wing raised concerns about targeting Indian businesses and its aggressive lobby against them. The three-page note acknowledged Bloomberg’s intention to free India from tobacco and other products but also elaborated upon the significance of the sector bringing revenue of 5 billion dollars annually for the governments, and employment generated for millions. The note also highlighted the negative implications of aggressive lobby against the sector and how it threatens the livelihood of 35 million people. 

The steps to promoting soft power Nanny State are not only appreciated but are aided by WHO. That is where WHO is pushing us into the abyss. Instead of providing doctors and health care workers with necessary supplies and honing the health care systems, the opulence of Bloomberg has commissioned the WHO as a “Global Police” enforcing taxes and bans on a plethora of consumer products around the world. 

Bloomberg’s Nanny Missions emerged as a grim threat to the health care sector, making the current pandemic more threatening. Let us hope we do not feel the repercussions here at home. 

Originally published here.

Bloomberg’s misguided push to outlaw vaping in developing nations

Since the fallout from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on improving global health, and that’s been a welcome sign.

study produced by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly three-quarters of hospitalized COVID patients were either obese or overweight. At the same time across the European Union, health ministries have put more resources into keeping their populations healthy, using education and incentive programs to encourage children and youth to exercise, eat healthy foods, and more.

Several of these initiatives have been funded and promoted by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the chief charity vehicle of American billionaire media executive Michael Bloomberg. His charity focuses on causes Bloomberg passionately has championed for years: climate change, public health, education, and the arts.

In October of 2020, Bloomberg’s charity partnered with the Brussels-Capital Region Government for an initiative on air pollution and sustainability, boosting his role as the World Health Organization’s “Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.”

And while most of Bloomberg’s efforts to improve public health are well-intended, there are cases when the groups he funds are pursuing policies that would be detrimental to the health outcomes of ordinary people, especially when it comes to tobacco control.

Though there is a commitment to reduce tobacco use in middle and low-income countries, a significant part of Bloomberg’s philanthropic fortune has ended up going to global efforts to clamp down on novel vaping products, which do not contain tobacco, and have been proven to be instrumental in getting smokers to quit.

Across the globe, as the use of vaping devices has become more widespread, the number of daily smokers has continued to decrease, hitting low teen digits in many developed economies. This is an amazing achievement. Regardless of that, many of these charities are still dedicated to their destruction.

The conflation between vapers who use non-tobacco-containing vaping devices, mostly fabricated by small companies out of Asia and Europe, and the tobacco industry, however, has shifted the focus of these billion-dollar health efforts.

In direct competition with the all-powerful tobacco industry, independent companies have created alternative devices that are cheap, less harmful, and provide the real potential to quit. The vast majority of vapers use open-tank devices and liquids that do not contain tobacco, a point that is often glossed over in the debate.

Despite the rise of a technological and less harmful method of delivering nicotine through vaporizers, the well-funded tobacco control complex has retooled its efforts to ban vaping outright, using a series of drafted bills, gifts to health departments, and questionable foreign funding of domestic political campaigns.

This has been aided by Michael Bloomberg’s $1 billion global initiative on tobacco control.

In the Philippines, a federal investigation revealed that health regulators received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Bloomberg-affiliated charity before they presented a draft bill to outlaw vaping devices. Congressional representatives have complained that the law was presented with no debate, and came only after the large grant was received by the country’s Food & Drug Administration.

In Mexico, just this past week, it was revealed that a staff lawyer for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, one of the largest global tobacco control groups funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, drafted the law to severely restrict imports and sales of vaping devices. It is alleged that Carmen Medel, president of the health committee of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, contracted the charity to “advise” on the law, but ended up submitting a draft bill that still contained the name of the NGO lawyer who wrote the law.

This is compounded by ongoing investigations into foreign NGO influence on similar policies in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi severed ties with the Bloomberg charity after his domestic intelligence services raised concerns.

What makes all of these efforts a tragedy is that a real victory for public health is being stifled in countries that cannot afford it.

In nations where vaping is endorsed and recommended by health authorities, such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, real reductions in the number of smokers can be seen.

Unfortunately, though Michael Bloomberg’s charitable giving has been significant and well-intended, the groups that receive that money for tobacco control have made the deadly mistake of equating the cigarette to the real alternative of the vaping device. And that will be to the detriment of global health on a massive scale.

Originally published here.

Only the individual can solve Britain’s obesity crisis

As Britain becomes the fat man of Europe, a blanket approach to large-scale policy-making will not solve Britain’s obesity crisis. Only the individual can do the work, argues Bill Wirtz.

Am I overeating? This question is, in essence, a modern one. Our ancestors would have stood in awe at the sheer availability of refrigerated and affordable meat in our supermarkets. Even items such as salt or sugar, once luxury items, are now abundantly available in everyone’s cupboards.

With this luxury, we also face the genuine problem of obesity. Eating habits are complicated: we are stressed and strapped for time, and work-related lunch breaks are either a quick sandwich over our desks or lush business buffets to get someone to sign a deal. All too often, we “treat” ourselves to something that exceeds our optimal calorie intake, especially during this pandemic, which has upset our regular schedules.

As I’ve been explaining on this site on a few occasions, the path of lifestyle regulations is neither practical nor modelled after what we want a free society to be. Banning “buy one get one free” pizza options or banning fast-food ads on public transport is infantilising. It presumes that consumers aren’t free to make their own choices, and far worse, assumes the government ought to be the judge of a healthy diet. However, despite hiring highly educated individuals, the government isn’t free from monumental failures on dietary recommendations. Those readers who remember being instructed on the old-school food pyramid will be able to attest to that.

Personal responsibility is complex, and it will not always provide a workable solution for each individual in a matter of months. Yet, the idea that consumers are left defenceless against big sugary food machinery is dystopian and has very little to do with the truth. From personal experience, I am blessed with being naturally tall and a forgiving metabolism. Still, I revert to easy steps to keeping myself in shape without following a painful or time-consuming routine.

Exercise is one of the keys to a healthier life without depriving myself of the joys of the occasional treat. In fact, exercise is all too often a forgotten key to the solution. In October 2018, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on physical activity, which according to Public Health England, has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade.

On top of making sure I go on regular (fast) walks, I also keep myself informed on down-to-earth solutions for regulating my appetite. This 2011 study found that chewing gum reduces the desire for snacks by 10%, which makes a significant dent in my afternoon cravings for those foods that are unhealthy. The benefit is also that this applies just as well to sugar-free gum. On top of the widely known added benefit of preventing tooth decay between regular dental hygiene, it has also been shown that chewing gum leads to increased cognitive performance and productivity. Given that I, as much as many others, currently spend their days on Zoom calls, chained to our desks, I find that sugar-free gum has been one of many practical solutions that helps me snack less and be more focused.

Many people regulate their diets with new apps, calorie counters, or making radical shifts in their diets. Be it getting rid of meat or only eating meat, the array of digital solutions and dietary diversity shows that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. To many governments, the response to obesity has too often been targeting consumption itself. Instead of using the scientific knowledge we have to our advantage and leading us to individual responses, regulators prefer to find a culprit, then advocating abstinence.

Yes, we lust for high sugar and fat, but that does not make us children that need to be penalised. In our community, in our families, we can be a positive nudge that gets friends or siblings to try new ways of regulating their behaviour. For me, it’s been regular breaks, walks in the fresh air with a podcast, sugar-free gum, and a green smoothie for my veggie intake. For you, it might be a Paleo diet.

Let’s celebrate our responsibility instead of a blanket approach to large-scale policy-making.

Originally published here.

The obesity crisis? Innovation, not nannying, will cut our calories

Britain’s obesity crisis is acute and urgent. The government’s decision to make tackling it the number one public health priority has an empirical basis. Britons are fatter than ever before, with excess body fat responsible for more deaths than smoking every year since 2014. But as sound as the public health concerns might be, when they are translated into policy, we find ourselves running into a world of problems.

A few years ago, Boris Johnson liked to talk about rolling back the “continuing creep of the nanny state”. He once promised to put an end to “sin taxes” on sugary drinks. He liked to talkabout Britain as a “land of liberty” and, for many, he represented a break with the past. Theresa May had denounced what she called the “libertarian right” upon her elevation to 10 Downing Street, opting instead for “a new centre-ground”. Boris, we were assured, would be something entirely different.

So how did we get here? We have somehow reached a point where the pillars of the Government’s anti-obesity strategy are the regressive sugar tax – which remains firmly in place – along with a draconian advertising ban on foods high in salt, sugar or fat. Plus a bizarre £100 million fund which, one way or another, will supposedly help people to drop the pounds and keep them off.

In between the old Boris and the new, the man himself slimmed down following his jarring bout of Covid-19. After he came out of hospital and recovered from coronavirus, the Prime Minister embarked on a personal slimming programme of his own, allowing him to make himself the poster boy of his Government’s anti-obesity drive.

“The reason I had such a nasty experience with the disease,” he said in October of last year, “is that although I was superficially in the pink of health when I caught it, I had a very common underlying condition. My friends, I was too fat. And I have since lost 26 pounds… And I’m going to continue that diet because you have got to search for the hero inside yourself in the hope that that individual is considerably slimmer.”

Metafictional interpretations of ‘90s song lyrics aside, Johnson’s point here is essentially correct. All the data bears out the fact that obesity has a substantial effect on the dangers posed by a coronavirus infection. But it is unclear why that should warrant an abandonment of principles of liberty in favour of gratuitous and often random state intervention in people’s lives. No nanny state told the PM how to cut his calories. So if Boris could lose weight on his own, why can’t the rest of us?

It’s not like there are no alternatives on the table, leaving costly and damaging policies like new taxes and ad bans as the only option. The menu of unintrusive and unobtrusive anti-obesity policies, free of cost to the taxpayer, is endless. Studies have shown how simple changes, like marking out a section on shopping trolleys for fruit and veg with yellow tape, or rebranding healthy foods to make them more appealing to children, can have an enormous positive effect over a short period of time.

Plus, Britain is home to some of the best scientists and research institutes in the world. Even in times of economic constraint, thanks to lockdown, innovation in the private sector is booming. It was recently discovered, for instance, that a diabetes drug called semaglutide can also function as a weight-loss “miracle cure”. Something as simple as sugar-free chewing gum can suppress appetites, cutting down on unhealthy snacking by a tenth, with very little effort. Why is the Government not enthused by this constant shower of scientific breakthroughs?

For whatever reason, ministers and officials are unwilling to explore the wealth of opportunities for cost-free nudge policies and innovative scientific investments. It is wedded to its model of centralised diet control and appears to hang on Jamie Oliver’s every word. Obesity is shaping up to be the next global health disaster and if we’re not careful – if we remain blinkered by these short-sighted policies – we might find ourselves as unprepared for the next pandemic as we were for the present one.

The Government must step up to the plate now and offer real solutions that work. That is our only hope of preventing the looming catastrophe.

Originally published here.

Sugar is the new tobacco. Here’s what we should do about it!

Whichever way you look at it, Britain is facing an obesity crisis. A study into long-term public health in England and Scotland published earlier this month reached the startling conclusion that obesity is causing more deaths than smoking, with nearly two thirds of British adults now overweight.

This past year has brought rising obesity levels into sharp focus because of the effect that being overweight seems to have on the fatality of Covid-19. According to research from the World Obesity Federation, nine out of ten deaths from coronavirus occurred in countries with high obesity levels, which might go some way towards explaining why the UK has seen a disproportionately high death toll.

This issue has not passed the Government by. Led by a man who was elected on a platform of halting ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’, this Conservative Government has unveiled a raft of policies designed to ease the pressure on Britain’s weighing scales, including the sugar tax, a ‘junk food’ advertising ban and even a fund – with a £100m price tag – which is apparently designed to bribe people into losing weight.

The problems with these policies are too numerous to count. Sin taxes hit the poor harder than anyone else, making the weekly shopping trip more expensive for families who are already struggling. The junk food ad ban is set to remove around 1.7 calories, or half a Smartie’s worth of energy intake, from children’s diets per day – according to the Government’s analysis of its own policy. And the state-funded version of Slimming World sounds like something that comes out of a pop-up book of policies. Yes, and ho!

It is unclear why Boris Johnson, who was able to lose weight after his brush with Covid without any of these new Government-sponsored initiatives in place, is now so firmly of the belief that the Government must crack down on unhealthy eating if we are to have any hope of slowing down the increase in obesity rates – especially when the private sector is doing most of the hard work voluntarily.

Tesco, for instance, recently bowed to external pressure by committing itself to increasing its sales of healthy foods to 65% of total sales by 2025. Time and time again, when there is an issue people care about, companies go out of their way to do their bit – even at the expense of their bottom line. We saw the same thing happen when the world woke up to the reality of climate change, with businesses eagerly signing up to costly net-zero plans.

Positive moves like this from incumbent giants are complemented by the wealth of innovation taking place around obesity. Semaglutide, a diabetes drug, was recently found to be extraordinarily effective in helping people lose weight. Even something as innocuous as sugar-free chewing gum might just represent part of the solution. Datasuggests that the mere act of idle chewing suppresses the appetite, resulting in a 10% reduction in the consumption of sweet and salty snacks.

Crucially, these remarkable steps towards a less obese Britain can take place at no cost to the taxpayer, free of the grip of Whitehall bureaucracy and at an astonishing pace. We have just lived through a year in which the Government pumped billions into a near-useless ‘test and trace’ system and repeatedly failed to clarify whether or not drinking coffee on a park bench is illegal. If there is one incontrovertible lesson we can surely take from that, it is that we should not leave such important tasks to the state.

Sugar is the new tobacco, so we need to be smart in how we tackle it. Sporadic, ill-thought-out Government interventions like banning Marmite adverts are not the answer. Private-sector innovation, not centralised policy, is Britain’s best hope of slimming down.

Originally published here

Why a vaccine should cost 250 EUR: Penny-wise and pound foolish

Even if the EU would pay a whopping 250 EUR per dose and 500 EUR per resident, it would end up paying merely a third of what’s being earmarked for the recovery fund.

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