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The deceptive rebranding of aspects of science-based medicine as “alternative” by naturopaths continues apace

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103 thoughts on “The deceptive rebranding of aspects of science-based medicine as “alternative” by naturopaths continues apace

  1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Don’t you think a corporation has any responsibility?

    Corporations produce things that people want to buy. None of their products are acutely deadly (bar allergic reactions). There is a tremendous difference between acute and chronic dangers for a lot of things – our perceptions of risk, our interventions, and the like. Acute events tend to get a lot of attention – and they should, they can result in immediate harm. Chronic conditions, far less so. Corporations should be acutely aware of acute consequences, there should be tremendous incentives for them to mitigate these consequences as they have for peanut allergies (these incentives can come from consumers, but also from well-designed regulations). Chronic conditions are a totally different kettle of fish. Should a corporation have responsibility? Tough question. Consumers very rarely react to chronic problems, these are the kinds of issues we tend to have legislation to address. Things like car roll-overs or peanut allergy are relatively easily addressed by market forces (people stop buying the products). Chronic conditions need things like legislation to change the corporate incentives for production, safety and the like, which generally needs political support, which ultimately comes down to democractic support (or a powerful astroturf campaign). Do I think corporations have a responsibility to ensure consumers don’t get fat? Not really. I think given the way American society is approaching and thinking about food, the incentives they face to redesign their products may change. Certainly, if they can create a chocolate bar or bag of chips that don’t make you fat, they’d be happy to do so (witness olestra for instance, or low-fat products, which don’t really work since they tend to be just as high-calorie due to sugar).

    Perhaps corporations have some responsibility, but I think far, far more responsibility lies in the consumer and parents. It’s not like there’s some hidden magical code for weight control that “They” don’t want you to know about. It comes down to eat fewer calories than you expend. Eat fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grains. Eat meat, chips and junk food in moderation. Exercise. I can’t think of any incentives for corporations to address these things beyond marketing and PR. In order for a company to make money off of their products, people need to buy them.

    The economics seem to be skewed from what one would like to encourage healthy eating. So, due to the cheapness of HFCS sugary (often low nutrition foods) are often cheaper than high nutrition foods like fruits, vegetable, meats…I think proteins like beans are the exception

    Yep, I agree – the economics are definitely skewed towards fast, cheap, convenient junk. Even the garbage from an apple is less convenient than a candy bar wrapper. I would totally support increased taxation of junk food. In my mind, the mockery aimed at Bloomberg by Jon Stewart regarding the penalties for a big gulp versus an ounce of pot should have been addressed by legalizing pot. Happily would I endorse government intervention to make fruits and vegetables cheaper, more delicious and more available. In fact, I think it would be a great thing to invest in genetic modification research to produce apples that remain fresh longer, can be pickec while ripe, and two weeks’ after the fact, still taste as good. I don’t know if the corporations are in the best position, or have the best incentives to support such changes (but once such a wonder fruit exists, I have no doubt they’ll find a way to sell it to us cheaply). Hell, I’d even support genetic engineering to alter human taste buds so cauliflower tastes like milk chocolate! Enter my brave new world!

    From an economics perspective, I don’t think there would be a market solution here. But there might be a government solution (though that would in turn require support from tax payers). But my knowledge of economics is pretty thin, I’d be intrigued to see what a real economist had to say.

    At the minimum maybe we should examine our government subsidies and school lunch programs to make sure that they are not encouraging a less healthy market dynamic.

    I know that you (WLU) previously dismissed the school lunch programs as optional or a luxury item, but in the U.S. the school lunch program is used to feed children in lower income levels. For some children, it is the primary meal of the day. The nutritional content is important, especially to children of low income families. (In my son’s former school, about 40% of the children received free “hot” lunch for economic reasons).

    I’m from Canada, we didn’t have a lunch program when I was in school so I can’t really give an informed comment. I might have said lunch programs were a luxury item, but I don’t have much problem with them. In my mind they’re a pretty good way to spend taxpayer dollars, provided they’re oriented towards fresh, whole, tasty and nutritious meals rather than fries and pizza. For that matter, you can make delicious, nutritious fries and pizza. Might be expensive, but I think you’re much better off spending $4M on a school lunch program than on a Predator drone. Of course, given lobbying and how that skews political incentives, you might have a hard time with that.

  2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @MTR

    Someone linked to one of Henry Miller’s articles on Forbes.com, and I read about a dozen of his contributions in a day (I liked ‘em, very interesting).

    I revisited them this morning, and propos of our discussion, this article on a book came to my attention:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2013/05/08/exposing-the-tyranny-of-the-food-fascists/

    This in turn led to the Amazon page for the book, with a Q&A for the author:

    http://www.amazon.com/Food-Police-Well-Fed-Manifesto-Politics/dp/0307987035/ref=la_B001HD1SBO_1_1_title_1_har?ie=UTF8&qid=1369487473&sr=1-1

    And that, finally, led to one A that I firmly agree with:

    Q. In your book, you discuss the importance of us consumers making our own choices. Are we as consumers really so weak as to succumb to the whims of Big Food and their flavor construction, marketing, and placement at the grocery store or deli?

    A. There is schizophrenic paternalism that results from an awkward attempt to walk a fine line between a liberal agenda that yields to freedom of choice and expression when it comes to abortion, sex, speech, and drugs but stops short when those same freedoms might benefit evil corporations like Big Food. It is an odd position that posits us so weak as to fall for anything offered by Ronald McDonald or Tony the Tiger yet so strong as to know when to keep a baby alive or which truths to speak to power.

    It is true, of course, that we are affected by advertising. However, much of the research shows that advertising is primarily used to persuade consumers to switch brands (rather than buy more). The truth is that Big Food can’t force us to buy anything, and they constantly scurry to meet our every whim.

    I plan on reading the book :)

  3. mousethatroared says:

    WLU – Sorry for not responding earlier. I think it’s an interesting topic, but sadly, not one I have much time to peruse. I do wonder if food companies are constantly “scurrying to meet our every whim” why we even need agencies like the FDA to prevent or track down E coli, Listeria and melamine in our food. – I’m not sure that forming opinions on the recommendations of a conservative think tank Fellow and cigarettes/cancer denialist is the way I’d go. But it’s your time.

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