Man Without Qualities

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Creme de la Creme

One of the more intense and peculiar politically correct crusades is the drive against "obesity" - especially "childhood obesity." It's not that obesity shouldn't be avoided or isn't generally a bad thing. But as with many PC obsessions, many of the most intense participants in the anti-obesity drive often seem to be motivated by an entirely different agenda, one that often seems to be obscure to such participants themselves. That agenda seems to have something to do with a deep disapproval of fast food, unfettered personal choice and a whole consumerist attitude towards life.

Perhaps nowhere is this confused and obscure agenda suggested more strongly than in the drive against certain milk products, especially full-fat milk served in school. We are often told in the highest political decibels that schools that serve full-fat milk are all but guilty of child abuse. Yet there is no evidence whatsoever that serving non-fat milk to school children would even correspond to a likely weight loss, still less that serving non-fat milk would actually cause or result in weight loss or control. Yet the PC brigades soldier on.

Now comes Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, which now reckons that daily consumption of full fat dairy products will lead to a reduction of obesity:
The startling result was based on interviews with almost 20,000 women whose dietary habits have been tracked since 1987.

When the study began, the women had an average body mass index (BMI) of 23.7. Ten years later, the women who had regularly consumed full fat milk or cheese had a lower BMI than the rest of the group.

A glass of full fat milk every day will, according to the researchers, result in 15 percent less weight gain. But full fat cheese was an even more effective slimming product: one portion a day resulted in 30 percent less weight gain.

"The surprising conclusion was that increased consumption of cheese meant that overweight women lost weight," said Alicja Wolk, professor at Karolinska Institute, to Svenska Dagbladet.

Actually, the result is far from "startling" or "surprising" given that we know very little about obesity other than that it results over time from eating more calories than one metabolizes - and especially given the pre-existing lack of any scientific correlation between consumption of skim milk and weight control. How can one be rationally "startled" or "surprised' when one had no idea what to expect in the first place?

Will the anti-fat-milk PC brigades back down now on the drive to eliminate full-fat dairy products from school menus and children's diets? Or, better yet, will the brigades now lobby for serving full-fat milk ad dairy products in public schools? Probably not. And their not backing down would make their agenda seem even more obscure and confused, wouldn't it?

POSTSCRIPT: New York City — the nation's largest school district — has famously decided to cut whole milk from its school menus in response to criticism from the anti-milk-fat brigade. Moreover, current federal government nutrition guidelines suggest drinking 3 cups of fat-free or lowfat milk a day. If the Swedes are correct, following those guidelines should help anyone - including children - swell up nicely. And New York City school children should have an advantage over children from the rest of the country in swelling to ever more Brobdingnagian proportions! (Perhaps a misuse of the term, since the Brobdingnagians were just really big - not fat, actually. But, then the term has come to mean "gigantic" or a "size problem" generally - at least in some quarters.)

This is consistent with growing evidence that high-fat diets usually lead to weight loss, while high-carb diets favor obesity. A major factor in obesity may be insulin resistance, which is triggered by excessive insulin levels, triggered in turn by too much consumption of sugars & starches. Since the calories in non-fat milk are primarily from the sugar lactose, while the calories from whole milk are primarily from fat, the whole milk induces much less insulin release per calorie consumed.

BTW - welcome back.
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I agree the evidence and theory for much fat - especially milk fat - playing little special role in obesity is pretty copious. That makes the focus on fat - especially milk fat - all the more peculiar. In some respects the anti-milk-fat enthusiasts remind me a bit (unfairly, perhaps) of the hitch hikers Jack Nicholson picked up in the old movie "Five Easy Pieces." They were headed to Alaska, which they had decided was "clean" or at least not so "filthy." After hearing hours of obsessive raving about "filth" (if the movie were made today, these could easily become raves about "fat" or "obesity"), Nicholson finally has enough, as indicated in this passage from the screenplay:

Though no one listens, she goes on, working herself

And you know, I read where they
invented this car that runs on...
that runs on... when you boil


Right, steam. A car you could ride
around in and not cause a stink.
But do you know, they will not even
let us have it. Can you believe it?
Why?! Man! He likes to create a
stink. I wrote them a note once,
and told them to clean it... I
mean, don't you see that? It's just
filthy! I mean, I've seen filth you
wouldn't believe! Oofh, what a
stink! I don't even want to talk
about it...




deposited at the side of the highway, with their
luggage, duffle bags and television set lying on
the road edge. Terry lifts a bored hand to wave

... Bobby, behind the wheel. He waves back, pulls
out onto the highway and drives off.
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