Would Taxing Unhealthy Foods Improve Public Health?

Would Taxing Unhealthy Foods Improve Public Health?
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Increasing the cost of cigarettes through tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to decrease the harms of smoking—so, what does the science say about sodium, sugar, and saturated fat taxes?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Increasing the cost of cigarettes through tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to decrease the harms of smoking. Increasing the cost of cigarettes by just 10% could prevent millions of tobacco-related deaths. So, what about taxing unhealthy food? In general, public health decision makers have had three main options: inform consumers with labeling, “nudge” people with incentives, or more heavy-handed approaches, such as instituting regulations or taxes. These “policy approaches have proven crucial…[in] reducing tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and deaths from car crashes. For example…driver education alone or by labeling cars with information [about] crash risk,” didn’t help as much as making sure they installed air bags.

Given that heart disease alone kills more than ten times more people than injuries on the road, maybe “[t]he current epidemic of nutrition-related disease requires a similar, multifaceted approach. [E]ven modest dietary improvements could [significantly] reduce the burden of chronic disease…” So, maybe “a national system of subsidies [for good foods] and taxes [for bad could] facilitate more sensible dietary choices.” But, do they work?

A systematic review of the available evidence suggests that they do, decreasing the consumption of unhealthy foods—the more you tax, the lower consumption drops—and, increasing the consumption of healthy foods—the more you subsidize foods like fruits and vegetables, the cheaper you make them, the more may be eaten.

“[A] small price difference” succeeded in decreasing our exposure to lead. What about a tax to decrease our exposure to saturated fat? Such a tax could potentially save thousands of lives. But, wait a second, wouldn’t such a tax disproportionately affect the poor?  Yes—they “would benefit [the] most!” It’s like cigarette taxes; the poor stand to benefit the most.

That’s the classic tobacco industry argument—cigarette taxes are “unfair” and “regressive,” burdening the poor the most—to which the public health community responded, “Cancer is unfair;” cancer disproportionately burdens the poor. So, taxes would affect the greatest health gains for the least well-off.

The so-called “Committee Against Unfair Taxes” was just a front, “organised and funded by the tobacco industry”—a common tactic used by the industry to hide its role in fighting tobacco taxes, beyond just trying to overtly buy politicians off. The fact that the industry fought tooth and nail suggests that tobacco taxes can indeed affect consumption.

But, much of the data on food taxes and subsidies have been based on models or stated responses to hypothetical scenarios, with people just saying they’d change consumption patterns based on price. But, there hasn’t been as much real-world data.

You can put people through fancy 3D supermarket simulators, and find a 25% discount on fruits and veggies appears to boost fruit and veggie purchases by 25%—nearly two pounds a week. But, virtual vegetables don’t do you any good. Does this work out in the real world?

Yes. “South Africa’s largest…health insurance company” started offering 10 or 25% “cash back on healthy food purchases” to hundreds of thousands of households—up to 500 bucks a month. Why would they do that? Why would they give money away? Because it works—apparently increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, while decreasing the consumption of foods high in added sugar, salt, and fat, including processed meats and fast food.

Subsidies are more popular than taxes, though. In Europe, a number of countries have instituted taxes on sugary foods or salty foods. But, “Denmark was the first…to introduce a tax on saturated fat,” like meat and dairy. But, it only took the food industry about a year to squash it, demonstrating “that public health advocates are weak in tackling the issues of corporate power; an enormous imbalance [between] the influence exerted by public health professionals,” compared to the political might of the food industry—bringing to mind the fight over traffic-light labeling on food.  That’s way too easy to understand; so, the industry went nuts, and spent more than a billion dollars killing the proposal in favor of the bring-your-calculator-to-the-grocery-store guideline daily amount labeling, to make it as confusing as possible.

Denmark ended up canceling the “fat tax” and shelving their “sugar tax,” because the farming and food company interests claimed too many jobs would be lost if people ate healthier. Apparently, a healthy economy was more important than a healthy population. Ironically, it was abolished just when evidence of the effects started to appear.  The introduction of the saturated fat tax did end up contributing “to reducing the intake of saturated fat among Danish consumers” from some meat and dairy products, but not from sour cream. Huh. Why?

Well, the public ended up eating so much more low-fat sour cream that it ended up outweighing the smaller “reduction in…high-fat sour cream.” So, you always have to think about the unintended consequences.

If people swap out sugary cookies for salty chips, for example, it might not be doing the public’s health many favors. One field study of a tax on soda found that you can drop soft drink purchases—at least in the short term—but, households may just end up buying more beer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Rafael Edwards via flickr. Image has been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Increasing the cost of cigarettes through tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to decrease the harms of smoking. Increasing the cost of cigarettes by just 10% could prevent millions of tobacco-related deaths. So, what about taxing unhealthy food? In general, public health decision makers have had three main options: inform consumers with labeling, “nudge” people with incentives, or more heavy-handed approaches, such as instituting regulations or taxes. These “policy approaches have proven crucial…[in] reducing tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and deaths from car crashes. For example…driver education alone or by labeling cars with information [about] crash risk,” didn’t help as much as making sure they installed air bags.

Given that heart disease alone kills more than ten times more people than injuries on the road, maybe “[t]he current epidemic of nutrition-related disease requires a similar, multifaceted approach. [E]ven modest dietary improvements could [significantly] reduce the burden of chronic disease…” So, maybe “a national system of subsidies [for good foods] and taxes [for bad could] facilitate more sensible dietary choices.” But, do they work?

A systematic review of the available evidence suggests that they do, decreasing the consumption of unhealthy foods—the more you tax, the lower consumption drops—and, increasing the consumption of healthy foods—the more you subsidize foods like fruits and vegetables, the cheaper you make them, the more may be eaten.

“[A] small price difference” succeeded in decreasing our exposure to lead. What about a tax to decrease our exposure to saturated fat? Such a tax could potentially save thousands of lives. But, wait a second, wouldn’t such a tax disproportionately affect the poor?  Yes—they “would benefit [the] most!” It’s like cigarette taxes; the poor stand to benefit the most.

That’s the classic tobacco industry argument—cigarette taxes are “unfair” and “regressive,” burdening the poor the most—to which the public health community responded, “Cancer is unfair;” cancer disproportionately burdens the poor. So, taxes would affect the greatest health gains for the least well-off.

The so-called “Committee Against Unfair Taxes” was just a front, “organised and funded by the tobacco industry”—a common tactic used by the industry to hide its role in fighting tobacco taxes, beyond just trying to overtly buy politicians off. The fact that the industry fought tooth and nail suggests that tobacco taxes can indeed affect consumption.

But, much of the data on food taxes and subsidies have been based on models or stated responses to hypothetical scenarios, with people just saying they’d change consumption patterns based on price. But, there hasn’t been as much real-world data.

You can put people through fancy 3D supermarket simulators, and find a 25% discount on fruits and veggies appears to boost fruit and veggie purchases by 25%—nearly two pounds a week. But, virtual vegetables don’t do you any good. Does this work out in the real world?

Yes. “South Africa’s largest…health insurance company” started offering 10 or 25% “cash back on healthy food purchases” to hundreds of thousands of households—up to 500 bucks a month. Why would they do that? Why would they give money away? Because it works—apparently increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, while decreasing the consumption of foods high in added sugar, salt, and fat, including processed meats and fast food.

Subsidies are more popular than taxes, though. In Europe, a number of countries have instituted taxes on sugary foods or salty foods. But, “Denmark was the first…to introduce a tax on saturated fat,” like meat and dairy. But, it only took the food industry about a year to squash it, demonstrating “that public health advocates are weak in tackling the issues of corporate power; an enormous imbalance [between] the influence exerted by public health professionals,” compared to the political might of the food industry—bringing to mind the fight over traffic-light labeling on food.  That’s way too easy to understand; so, the industry went nuts, and spent more than a billion dollars killing the proposal in favor of the bring-your-calculator-to-the-grocery-store guideline daily amount labeling, to make it as confusing as possible.

Denmark ended up canceling the “fat tax” and shelving their “sugar tax,” because the farming and food company interests claimed too many jobs would be lost if people ate healthier. Apparently, a healthy economy was more important than a healthy population. Ironically, it was abolished just when evidence of the effects started to appear.  The introduction of the saturated fat tax did end up contributing “to reducing the intake of saturated fat among Danish consumers” from some meat and dairy products, but not from sour cream. Huh. Why?

Well, the public ended up eating so much more low-fat sour cream that it ended up outweighing the smaller “reduction in…high-fat sour cream.” So, you always have to think about the unintended consequences.

If people swap out sugary cookies for salty chips, for example, it might not be doing the public’s health many favors. One field study of a tax on soda found that you can drop soft drink purchases—at least in the short term—but, households may just end up buying more beer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Rafael Edwards via flickr. Image has been modified.

Doctor's Note

This is kind of the flip side to my video Taxpayer Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods.

For more on how the food industry has borrowed from the tobacco industry playbook, see:

But wait, what about those who insist that sodium really isn’t bad for you? See:

But wait, what about those who insist that saturated fat really isn’t bad for you? See The Saturated Fat Studies: Buttering Up the Public and The Saturated Fat Studies: Set Up to Fail.

But wait, what about those who insist that sugar really isn’t bad for you? See Big Sugar Takes on the World Health Organization and Does Diet Soda Increase Stroke Risk as Much as Regular Soda?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

209 responses to “Would Taxing Unhealthy Foods Improve Public Health?

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  1. There is free food in America now ,as one in seven visit food banks Why not make basic whole foods free ,grains,vegetables, fruits and watch America become healthy like never before.




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    1. I just checked our food bank donations request lists Ignatius, and they ask for non-perishable items specifically. Canned fruit and vegies, fruit juice boxes and snack items for kids, mac dinners etc. On the “do not donate ” list was three items. Chick peas, lentils and black beans.




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        1. hi WFPBRunner, yes they are talking about canned or dried. My take on it is that there are a couple of issues. One is that the people receiving food hampers complain because either they dont know what to do with them, or because lentils and beans require a lot of support to taste great.. ie spices, other canned items like tomatoes, and vegies. Bear in mind folks here get 1 hamper per month. 1 bag of groceries for a single person, thats it.




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          1. #susan “…becaue lentils and beans require a lot of support to taste great…” ? What kind of lentils and beans do you use? All (!) lentils available in Germany have a fine nutty taste. Kidney beans also have a good taste – ok some of the withe beans have a poor taste. I think it depent on the personal taste – if some one comes from junk food, food with high salt, sugar or other additives then he will not tate this fine flavour but after a while… :-)




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            1. geetings Steffen! Yes, I agree with you about the pleasant nutty taste and satisfying quality of beans and lentils, but to some degree we have an educated ” palate, healthwise. I do remember as a starving student making pea soup and lentil soups that were delicious.. maybe I should donate recipes?
              Also, I may have judged the situation incorrectly.. it is possible that the food bank is able to purchase these items in bulk case lots as staples and it represents efficient use of their dollars. I dont know for sure, but I will ask.
              The fast food places here have the cheapest “food” .. unfortunately. Part of the problem is education, motivation and accessibility. We do however have marvelous community garden programs in the summer that donate food or garden space. Its a start.




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              1. #Susan… sharing recipes is always a great idea. The problem with the “cheapest food on fast food places is world wide the same in addition to “I don’t like to think about issus like: How can they sale the burger so cheap? What kind of quality I can expect?” The world hunger is man made, like so many other problems – sometimes I’m thinking it needs a big BUM on this earth to chance this from scratch. Until this time we can do something for our self and therefor for the world… I hope on a better 2017. ;-)




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                1. ty Steffen, I am wishing a very happy, healthy new year to all the NF team and participants also. And for new years day, a short play, “Dinner for One”,..enjoy !




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            2. I was thinking the same thing about lentils; to me they smell / taste of spice as well. When I pressure steam red kidney beans they have an almost chocolate or coffee type aroma.




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      1. susan: Thanks for sharing this. I’ve had a similar issue with food banks in my area. It’s one reason I started giving to A Well Fed World as one of my main food donation recipients. If interested: http://awfw.org/
        .
        Their Mission:
        A Well-Fed World is a hunger relief and animal protection organization chipping away at two of the world’s most immense, unnecessary and unconscionable forms of suffering… the suffering of people hungry from lack of food, and the suffering of animals used and abused for food.
        .
        We have a positive, practical, and action-led approach that produces immediate assistance for those in need and structural change for lasting results.
        .
        In addition to our direct programs, we raise funds, partner with, and promote innovative, highly effective projects that strengthen:
        >plant-based feeding & farming programs
        >farm animal care & rescue efforts
        >vegan advocacy & community building




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        1. Thanks Thea I will read up on A Well Fed World. It sounds like a wonderful organization worth supporting.
          What I have done in the past here (and many folks in this town have done ) is plant extra in their garden, or simply donate surplus. The food bank usually cant officially distribute it (because of liability with fresh /perishable items), but the soup kitchen may except it, or it can be given away in seconds in the parking lot.




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      2. I knew some people who were getting large amounts of daily left over bread from Panera for the local food bank. It was full of very good whole wheat bread and decent sourdoughs. One day the supply stopped because the lady who was getting it said the local food bank told them to stop bring it. Apparently the food bank recipients did not like the baked bread and wanted the highly refined Kerns, Bunnybread, and Rainbow white breads. I was incredulous…




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        1. People in need ought to be given what they would like to eat not what you would like them to eat, that is generous, you are not giving to convert them but rather to help them.




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    2. I work with a nonprofit in the Chicago area growing fresh vegetables for needy families. In 2016 we provided over 2,100 lbs of top notch produce to a local church pantry serving 24,000 people. From my experience I will say that fresh vegetables, in particular leafy greens are the most difficult to come by for pantries. A big part of the problem is the food distribution network from large food banks to the local pantries. The semi truck is loaded the day before delivery making the only vegetables possible those that do not need refrigeration. Ditto that for fruit. The pantry we support relies on a local grocery store to supply meat, fruit and vegetables. Meat is easier to handle and store due to being frozen. The grocery store only sends produce past or nearing expiration with much of it better suited as farm animal food than for humans. This was the catalyst for our organization to expand our growing capability and fill a crucial need. Another part complicating this is the storage capacity of the local pantry. To provide a large amount of leafy greens requires an equal size of refrigeration. The church luckily had a few home refrigerators donated and every weekend we stuffed 4 of them to the brim. The last point is the lack of a functioning kitchen in low income homes. This is actually a much bigger issue than most realize. I won’t go into why, but please know that it is a problem for many needing help. I encourage everyone to start a home garden and share with their local community. As Dr. Greger has noted even one serving of fruits and vegetables a week can make a lasting impact on long term health.




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    3. Unfortunately, the answer as to the seemingly arbitrary classification of what (not) to donate to your local food bank is the incompetence of those charged with running food banks, as well as most community-based organizations in general.

      Also unfortunate is that I’m speaking from experience. I actually tried working with a community council a number of years ago. The objective was to get a better handle on who was using what services to gauge the effectiveness of the various community organizations and see if there was any overlap. Although most of the community organizations involved were to varying degrees incompetently run, the community food bank was far and away the worst.

      Publicly, the local food bank claimed to serve a ridiculously large number of people given the size of the community. When I asked to sit down with one of its admins to get a grasp of how that number produced (which was part of the community council project), the request was denied. I later found out that they basically just kept track of the number of hampers given out and did a ridiculous ‘rule of thumb’ estimate to come up with the number of community members served. Ever since that experience, I’ve taken all facts and figures thrown out by food banks (as well as most community-based organizations) with a huge boulder of salt.

      As to why a local food bank may ask members of its community not to donate certain healthy food items, the choice likely comes down to the whim of whoever was tasked with coming up with the list. Some here have speculated that a decision to decline donations of dry or canned beans may come down to the fact that beans pose a challenge in terms of preparation as they need to be cooked. Others have speculated that beans likely aren’t appetising unless paired with other food items that may not be donated as often.

      Neither of these make much sense when you think about it: Dry pasta and Mac’n’Cheese, which all food banks more than welcome, also require preparation. You basically need a pot or pan, stove or hot plate and water to prepare these items, which is all you would need to prepare beans, legumes or other dried veggies. Also the most popular variety of canned beans already comes packed in tomato sauce and spice. And it’s standard practice for all low-cost canned beans to be packed in brine with citric acid for preservation, which also adds salty, citrusy flavour. And what goes better with pasta and rice – two of the items foods banks more than readily accept as donations – than beans, lentils and other canned or dry veggies?

      There’s no real rhyme or reason behind the decision to exclude beans or legumes from the donation list. It likely comes down to nothing more than the individual charged with coming up with the list not liking beans, or something else equally as inane.




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  2. In the US, meat industry is heavily subsidized. What if we take the subsidies away? Likely will get people to eat more beans and Lentils.
    Taxing junk food is a good start IMHO as I hope we move to a one payer system for health care and savings through better health will affect us all.




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    1. Aye, but removing subsidies might cause industries to lose money and then the “honorable” congresspeople (as well as all their supporting actors and lackies) might have to move their investments into other areas-where their _profits_ might not be as dependable. And we all know that this can be related to the lifespan of a snowball in Hell. Small circles in the big world yo.




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    2. Interesting. Yet to be said how big those subsidies really are. So many hidden subsidies (screening dairy for infectious disease is borne by all of us through taxation instead of just dairy consumers).

      I saw a little economic analysis that seemed to think eliminating the direct subsidies to junk food won’t affect consumption. But I had no idea what to think about it.




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    3. I agree with removing subsidies, the true cost of meat will come through and we’ll act like poor people used to act: Eat lots of taters and greens, with little meat. I don’t favor raising taxes, however…I prefer a smaller government getting the heck out of my life, not a larger one pushing me in its desired direction. Remember that part of this problem was created by government subsidies, and different subsidies or taxes will just have further negative impacts. We need the government to get out of the way and to quit trying to manipulate markets of any type.




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    4. You need to make people pay the true costs on both sides of the equation. Taking away industry subsidies helps with half the battle, but consumers also need to pay the true health care costs of making bad decision after bad decision. It’s ludicrous that those of us who eat a healthy plant-based diet, exercise regularly, and rarely incur health care costs pay the same insurance rates as work colleagues or others who eat junk food, never exercise, weigh 350lbs, and incur major health care costs for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol medications, etc. To my company’s credit they started offering a health insurance premium discount for non-smokers; they should be able to offer the same type of discounts for people who make even modest steps toward a healthy lifestyle. I know many people who’s unhealthy behaviors would change quickly and substantially if they had to pay the true costs for their bad choices.




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      1. I totally agree with your statement, “It’s ludicrous that those of us who eat a healthy plant-based diet, exercise regularly, and rarely incur health care costs pay the same insurance rates as work colleagues or others who eat junk food, never exercise, weigh 350lbs, and incur major health care costs for diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol medications, etc. ”
        Let people pay for their own medical care when, and only when, they get sick from not caring for themselves.




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        1. “Let people pay for their own medical care when, and only when, they get sick from not caring for themselves”
          Yeah, imagine how fast that could motivate people, I wish! ..if only there was a definitive way to prove it.




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      2. I supervised one woman who told me that she parked in a lot that was a bit further from our office and the walk to and from counted as 20 minutes total of daily exercise towards a health care benefit rewards system. The walk was maybe 5 minutes one way. ‘But I use the stairs’… (she had a habit of stretching the truth on other things, also). So she got the reward and I didn’t.




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    5. Ending subsidies is simple (political will notwithstanding), but taxes are fraught with unintended outcomes. You’ll also be creating new niches in the lobbying industry, as companies fight to win exemptions for their “healthy” junk food like eggs and butter.




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    6. In the UK, we have a single payer health care system and what we’ve seen is that there are no savings from better health. People who are healthier will tend to live longer lives and cost more in the treatment of degenerative conditions, such as dementia.

      There are many arguments in favour of living a healthier life, but cost saving isn’t one of them.




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  3. I watched all the related videos on this page and applaud Dr. Greger for his efforts to enlighten as well as reform. A while ago I read an oldie, but a goodie: Seeds of Deception, by Jeffrey Smith, a similar expose about how the chemical and Ag industries have successfully strong-armed reasonable efforts to alert and educate about GM foods. When that book was written I never saw a single Non GMO Verified label in any grocery or farmers’ market. Today they are ubiquitous. That’s the power of a grass-roots movement such as the one Dr. Greger is spearheading. I hope he continues in this fine and essential work for a long time.




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  4. I really think that this country should be freedom of choice still, and not tax unhealthy items. Don’t get me wrong, I have totally devoted in my life to consume only nutritious foods that are good for our bodies, and try to help others. Public awareness and education, then people won’t be forced into anything. I already think the next 4 years will be forceful enough.




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    1. I agree we need freedom of choice, but choices are so distorted by subsidies to all the wrong food producers that real choice is obliterated for many. Why are fast foods considered cheap? Because subsidies to inhumane meat, dairy and egg production factories and growers of GMO soy beans, grains, etc. keep prices artificially low. And, of course, there are many inner city food deserts where people simply don’t have access to anything but fast foods. Taxing may be one answer, but doesn’t it make more sense to stop the subsidies first? It seems like the tax would only be taking back what was given out in the first place – with a lot of bureaucratic leakage along the chain of paperwork.




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      1. It makes sense to stop the subsidies *only*…no new taxes, no new subsidies. Things will level out with time if the government gets the heck out of the way.




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      1. If you make junk food or animal foods more expensive or tax it more to try and get people to eat better then supply and demand kicks in and the healthy food will go up as demand increases. Sorry but I like my veggies cheep.




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        1. But if there is more demand then they will increase supply and the prices will stay the same or drop. They now have organic food at Walmart and that used to be a very expensive food niche.




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          1. If demand goes up then supply has to increase, if supply increases, labour and production cost goes up therefor someone has to pay either by subsidizing the industry or by the consumers (you and me)




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            1. You’re right. Labor and production costs do go up initially. Once demand increases enough though, the price will still see a decrease as labor and production costs decline due to economies of scale and investments in efficiency.

              For example we’re all using supercomputers to view this site. We see them as mundane now but even our phones have more computing power than an entire building could house back in the day.




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            2. Labor and production costs are already included in the price at any level of supply so they aren’t going to rise because supply rises. Plus if anything labor and production costs would be expected to Drop as supply increases because economies of scale would improve. With increased demand there would also be an increase in investments to make the whole process cheaper as well.

              Computers are pennies on the dollar from what they used to be because of investments in the process and economy of scale in their production. The effect wouldn’t be as drastic in farming but you would still see it. Like the example I already used above, organic food has plummeted in price compared to what it used to cost.




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    2. The problem that I see is the government deciding what is “healthy” and what is “unhealthy”. The lobbyists will have a field day. Also the cigarette taxes may not have worked as well as it appeared. Years ago Canada raised their cigarette tax really high and bragged about how much smoking was cut. It was wonderful until they realized the number of New York state citizens were getting rich running cigarettes into Canada. Around here in CA some people are beating the cigarette tax by buying loose tobacco and rolling their own.




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    1. Well, the government is already subsidizing unhealthy corn, GMO soy, sugar, white flour and meat. Do you think we should do anything about that? If we subsidize anything, it should be fresh fruit and vegetables.John S




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      1. Stop all subsidies. All. ALL. Taters, greens and the other foods of “poor” people throughout history will become the norm again, because they are relatively inexpensive to produce when compared to meat and dairy.




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  5. Instead of taxing unhealthy foods why not have free medical and dental for everyone and have it paid by the industries causing the health problems.
    That way the industries can sell all the products they want and the government (my taxes) doesn’t have to pay for unhealthy eating.
    For example. The tobacco industry can sell all the tobacco they want but they have to pay for anyone with lung cancer or related health issues.
    The sugar industry can pay for most other cancers and the obecity health issues and the meat industry can pay for any heart disease issues and their portion of the carbon emissions taxes instead of just my gas emissions. That way it also frees up extra money for the people and government to spend in other ways.




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  6. More unconstitutional growth of a Technocratic Nanny State???? Oh my Ford! (if you don’t understand this expression then read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World).




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  7. Maybe they should introduce discounted taxes for people that get less sick and use less the doctors?? DO you think is right that someone that restrict all their lives from crappy unhealthy foods following a WPBD and is constantly on a good health needs to pay the same tax on health cover like someone that is eating arteries clogging foods every single day, chips every hour or so, Mc Donald, KFC??? Cooking healthy good meals every single day cost time and money. It is not easy and it is a sacrifice. The governments saves a lot of money on hospital bills on people that eat healthy and I think these people should pay less taxes.




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    1. Shhh, the government doesn’t like common sense. I’ve been saying the same thing about the child tax deduction: those of us without children are subsidizing those who do.




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      1. Unfortunately, the government wants people to have kids so they’re going to make incentives to ensure that it happens. Tax breaks are either incentives to get people to do what the government wants, kickbacks to interest groups, or attempts to stimulate the market.




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    2. How would you build in the fact that people living unhealthy lives will tend to die younger and cost less in the treatment of degenerative conditions.




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        1. It’s the unhealthy people who get more of the degenerative diseases

          If you take two elderly people of the same age, but with different lifestyles, the person with the less healthy lifestyle will be more likely to develop a degenerative condition. However, that is more than outweighed by the fact that someone with an unhealthy lifestyle is for more likely to have died before getting to that stage.

          and you don’t necessarily die from most of them.

          Which is what makes them so expensive to provide care for. When people die, their healthcare costs drop dramatically.




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          1. The person that dies last has his or her health care expenses delayed and that’s good for the country. For example a person dies at 55 from lung cancer. The second person of same age dies of stroke at 100 years of age. The 2d person’s medical costs are delayed for 45 years which means a huge savings for the country (and an extra 45 years of productive live for the individual). We all die, but (in general) the more healthy we are and the longer we live the less the health care expenses in the long run for the society. That’s why Republicans want to push the social security benefits age to an older age.




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  8. I am not interested in paying more money for my plant based eating at the expense of forcing people to eat healthier. If you have more consumers eating plant based diets those industries will end up raising the prices as supply and demand increase. That sounds selfish but it is a reality. People can make their choices as long as the can get informed correctly as to what they are eating. Forcing people to eat a certain way by taxing their food choices is not, in my opinion, a correct approach. Most people do not like being told what to do and we supposedly in this country have freedom of choice. More taxes on products seems more like oppression of my money than a healthy choice. (by the way I am a complete plant based eater for many many years).




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    1. We will never have a level playing field of information. Food conglomerates make billions of dollars. Readers of this site don’t. It’s like a fight between a 250 pound bully and a 120 pound teenager.
      John S




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    2. You will end up playing less money for health care. Cardiovascular care is very expensive. The insurance company doesn’t pay–the consumer does.




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      1. That was my point. Industries making people sick should be funding health care not the public (you or me). If someone wants to eat the junk they produce that is fine but don’t make the rest of us pay for health care. The industries making us sick should be responsible for fixing the sickness they cause. Mainly Sugar, Dairy, Meat and Tobacco. Big industries such as Nestle, Kraft, Coca Cola etc all should be paying for the heath care and it should be free for everyone.




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        1. The counter argument would be that the producers of healthy food should be made to pay for the cost of treating degenerative conditions associated with old age, as they are causing people to live longer and adding to those costs.




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    1. I’ve said the same thing in several posts here. We don’t need more government, we need less, and the market will naturally sort it out.

      I’ve bookmarked the link to read it, thanks.




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      1. We need a government able to stand up to big industries. There has never been a successful free market and there never will be it’s a pipe dream. If you don’t want regulation move to Somalia, it’s a libertarian paradise.




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  9. The industry is not the one putting junk or greasy food into people’s mouth. I made a sacrifice to change and it took several years, a lot of effort and considerable cost if you see the prices in the supermarket of healthy foods like broccoli, beetroot, kale… compared to animal products but I have committed and done it. Others like me can do it too. People got the power to choose and inform themselves as a lot of people have Internet today and mostly a smart phone as well. Mostly do not care because they think they will die anyhow one day. So we need to Tax the unhealthy foods and the people using that specific unhealthy foods if we want to start change something. So if most people do not care to be healthier at least they will choose healthier foods to save money. The price of healthy foods must be lower then animal products if not nothing will ever change. We need to push governments and regulators to low the price of fresh produce. For bloody 2 kgs of organic carrots I pay here in Australia nearly 8AUD? For 2 organic beetroots 5-6 AUD? Organic banana 8-9 aud/kilo?? Dates 33-34 Aud/kg? Brasilian nuts 40 aud/kilo?? the meat I see in the supermarket start from 9 aud/kg, chicken even 5 aud/kg!! Are we going really nuts?? We need to force goverments to change things around!! What a hell is going on??? And we all keep sleeping while they force on us only foods that makes us all sick and dead.




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  10. Those objecting to taxes act as if they are not, in fact paying to create a totally uneven playing field. Bi AG gets huge subsidies to produce meat, milk, butter, corn and soybeans, much of which is for livestock. Very little goes toward small diverse farming and fuits and veggies production. You are PAYING for people to eat food poisons. Where is the choice?




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    1. We understand that, and we want ALL subsidies for the food industry to stop. ALL of them. Things will even out quickly, and the least expensive to produce (well, really, the most profitable to produce) will win out, and it will be plant foods. If we feed the government beast more, things will only get worse, and in ways we can’t yet imagine.

      We are wanting Godzilla, who we created, to fight another giant monster, who Godzilla created and continues to feed. More taxes is like giving more radiation to Godzilla to defeat the other beast…what the heck are we supposed to do with Godzilla once the fight is over? And who says Godzilla will use the new radiation to fight the other beast?

      We trust the government?? Really?




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      1. And you trust the market, loaded as it is with chemicals, marketers and con artists? No, I certainly will NOt be trusting the federal government for the next four years, at least.




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        1. The government enforces its edicts at the point of a gun. The free market, properly understood, is based on freedom of choice. No one is forced to purchase a product that he or she doesn’t want. It is only the government that forces people to buy a product (e.g., health insurance) for their own good. The Nanny State will dictate how you live, based on its own standards of health, which may not be yours. If you give it the power to dictate how you live, you deserve what you get.




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  11. Countries don’t exists. They are conceptual objects. Till fat people get convinced that being fat is bad there is no point in wasting effort for their unconscious benefit. On the other hand, it could have a post secondary effect. Once they appreciate how being healthy feels like they make accept healthy promoting ideas. Ideologically, it is an economical machine. The ideas are to boost the economy and anything that weakens it (losing money transactions, longer life, etc) is most probably unwelcome but unspoken. Wars are banker wars. Hospitals are economical factories. Food is a commodity. Health is expensive. There is a huge cultural bias that economy is better than health. The argument that saving the animals doesn’t make a dent either when that culture promotes violence as a means to an end. It is like living in a zombie apocalyptic world except that it is where it is-has, not a thread of the future. It is being awaken to a world of dirt-horror but nobody sees it.




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  12. Ah, the Nanny State rears its head again, courtesy of our friend, the Good Doctor! So you want to tax unhealthy foods to discourage people from consuming them, eh?

    What if the current administration doesn’t agree with your views on nutrition. What if they’re Atkins dieters or grain-brain enthusiasts, who want to ban carbs or discourage their consumption by taxing such foods as oats, potatoes, whole grain breads, cereals, dates, raisins, fruit juice — you name it.

    When you put the government in charge of your life, you get the policies of whichever dictator happens to be in power. Good luck getting the one who agrees with you!




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    1. Amen!

      We’d probably wind up with the government using the money to subsidize GMO crops, in order to “increase yield” and “provide more for the people”, if I were to venture a guess. And that assumes the government would use the money in a way that even begins to resemble the misguided vision of the well-meaning folks here (yes, I think they’re well-meaning, just wrong).




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  13. It is appropriate and relevant to draw parallels between the tobacco and food industries. The tobacco industry under assault by civil suits, regulatory pressures and flush with cash started diversifying into food industry in a big way in the 80’s. Philip Morris purchased General Foods and Kraft. R.J. Reynolds merged with Nabisco, etc.

    At first blush, it didn’t seem to make sense that the “merchants of death” would segue into life affirming concerns, but it retrospect in makes perfect sense that these experts in addiction would turn their interests to the food industry because they understood full well the potential for chemical manipulation on the addictive behavior, and marketing products from subsidized agricultural commodities are well within their expertise.

    I submit that a two prong public policy approach to discouraging the consumption unhealthy, edible industrial products. Taxes, as mentioned in this video, would dampen demand for these dangerous life destroying substances by making them relatively more expensive. The other prong would be to shift subsidies away from GM grains and soy that are the foundation of the beverage, meat and dairy industries to support the production and distribution of healthy alternatives such as fruit and vegetables.

    Poor food choices are being blamed upon the public, and while people do bare some responsibility for their own behavior, bad food choices have been structurally integrated into public policy. Governments do choose winners by means of easy regulations, tax advantages and subsidy payments. It is time to coherently employ these tools to promote the well being of people. The flesh and blood variety as opposed to the legal fictions that currently dominate policy concern.




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    1. Tax subsidies are like the One Ring from Tolkien’s world, and we should remember Gandalf’s words when offered the Ring for himself.

      “With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly….Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength.”




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  14. I like when there are innovative ways to promote health through private companies…. like the example of the insurance company giving financial incentives to buy fresh whole foods. But I am not in favor of the government having any further hand in what we do. It will always find a way to twist the rules in their (or some other interests) favor and the welfare state is an utter disaster and robbed generations of the benefit of self responsibility.




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  15. Government subsidies have to end. Period. Across the board. Level the playing field and drain the swamp. And then investigate and dismantle the CDC.




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    1. I am sure that the big food industries, and junk food retailers, would absolutely love it if the CDC were dismantled. Not to mention the big polluters, the tobacco industry, the booze industry and ………….




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      1. I agree 100%. That is the reason why I am against “Lobbying” lawmakers & congress. People’s reps. should only represent the best interest of the people and not be influenced by giant industries & corporations.




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    1. hi Ben, not quite sure what you are asking , but these videos might be of interest to you in comparing plant foods vs animal derived foods in nutrient benefits . http://nutritionfacts.org/video/antioxidant-power-of-plant-foods-versus-animal-foods/.
      And the second video explains why plant proteins are preferable. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-protein-preferable/ The search feature at the top of your screen can help link you to hundreds of videos surrounding the topic of whole food plant based eating.




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    2. Vegetable broth without a doubt since it doesn’t contain all the pain and suffering that is the primary ingredient in chicken broth. Oh, and it tastes better too.




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    3. I use a brand of powdered stock which has (animal-free) chicken/beef/vegetable flavours. So you can use whatever flavour suits the dish :)




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    1. And yet politicians are mum about various food lobbies who pay them to keep quiet about the detrimental affects of various foods. You have to consider all sides of those involved.




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    2. I don’t think it’s holding a governmental gun to somebody’s head to say they won’t subsidize meat and dairy anymore (and thus drive up the prices of those products)- it’s not even the case if they taxed meat and dairy. People can buy whatever they wish they would just have to pay a different price for the same product. There are a lot of products that are taxed- income is taxed. It’s not that big of a deal.




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  16. There’s a big difference between the government imposing taxes on what they decide are unhealthy foods and a private insurer offering incentives for purchasing healthier foods. The latter, I would favor, as it empowers the consumer to take better care of themselves rather than further emboldening the “nanny state.”

    It is also true that the insurer might pass the cost of those incentives down to the consumer through their premium rates. But, theoretically at least, an incentive program should in the long term, yield a healthier customer base, thus reducing health insurer’s costs and offsetting that expense.




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    1. Insurance companies have no business being in health care. They are not qualified to determine who gets care and who doesn’t. They make those decisions all the time. Fine. Insure a house or a car but a human body? It’s just wrong.




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      1. I’m taking your comment to mean that you don’t believe in private health insurance at all and would advocate for universal health care managed by the government. Am I understanding you correctly? If that’s what you were getting at, indeed, that is an entirely different discussion and debate. My comment was in response to the 25% cash back benefit from South Africa’s Discovery Health Insurance Company cited in the video, and is based on the assumption that the majority of us here in the United States will continue to be privately insured.




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        1. Well actually you brought up insurance companies. They need not be part of the discussion.

          I say tax the crap out of junk food, cigarettes etc. And use that money to educate the population on just how bad a hamburger is.




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  17. One of the many difficulties in taxing disease causing foods and ingredients is that there is scientific confusion on many of the issues. You can go to any number of places to find rigorous argument against any role for saturated fats in atherosclerosis and heart disease. They are backed by peer reviewed studies in many cases.




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    1. Most people, including those of a Paleo bent, would agree that Processed meat is not that healthy. Potato chips, processed pastries, chips, soft drinks etc would all enjoy wide consensus as to their unhealthiness. Most people would agree that very highly processed foods would not be healthy.




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      1. Daniel, how about a tax not on the end product, but the unhealthy ingredients, specifically refined grains, refined sugar and refined vegetable oils (and rendered animal fats since we don’t want demand to just shift from vegetable oils to lard). Then the more of these now more expensive ingredients are in a food, the more expensive that food becomes. That would then let the power of the free market find solutions where unrefined (and hence untaxed) alternatives could be used and sold at a lower cost.Producers would save more more money as they swap out ever larger percentages of the unhealthy ingredients for untaxed healthy ones. They could use all of their marketing muscle for good rather than evil by helping consumers see the advantages of buying their new healthier products that is now cheaper than their competitors unhealthy products who are still full of the unhealthy ingredients.

        I know that doesn’t follow my other comment about going with subsidies rather than taxes, but a tax at the ingredient level might stand a chance of equally burdening all end products that used them. That way we don’t worry about the equity of taxing soda and not chocolate milk that can have just as much added sugar. If refined sugar is taxed, then the cost to make both soda and chocolate milk goes up.




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    2. I am not aware of any credible authorities arguing that saturated fat has no effect on disease risk.

      It is incorrect to suggest that there is some kind of equivalence between the worldwide conclusions of the scientific community and the beliefs espoused by people like Gary Taubes, individuals associated with the dairy industry and those with links to the Atkins orgamisation.




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      1. I did not say there is an equivalence. I said that there are studies that can be used as ammunition by forces opposed to a tax on saturated fats. There is no equivalence in climate change deniers “science” and the consensus of climate scientists, but the deniers, fossil fuel giants and their paid pols use it to create confusion and obstruction. I was pointing out a problem, not commending bad science.




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    3. Confusion yes, but it is orchestrated by the very industries that profit from it, who are expert at twisting and warping the truth. Scientific consensus is a much less arbitrary thing!




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      1. Of course there is no equivalence in the science and of course scientific consensus is less arbitrary and of course I am in line with the scientific consensus. I am merely pointing out the substantial difficulty. Consider the preponderance of science re: climate change and the human cause of it. The tiny group of naysayers are enough ammo for the big money fossil fuels to arm their paid shills in Washington and the states.




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  18. This is a great video! I like how the video doesn’t just raise the theoretical possibility that subsidies and taxes could have an effect on purchasing food, but has some good studies to back it up. I also like that the issue of unintended consequences is covered.
    .
    My Take On The General Discussion Going On: I agree with those who have said that we would do well to start with the removal of subsidies for meat, dairy, eggs and other junk food. However, that is not sufficient for evening the playing field. Removing subsidies for the animal industries ignores the vital role that only government can play in protecting our freedoms from corporate over stepping. What I’m talking about is dealing with externalities. (If you are not familiar with what that term means: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/externality.asp )
    .
    I was first awakened to the giant amount of externalities enjoyed by the animal industries when I watched the documentary Cowspiracy. It’s been a while, but if I remember correctly, the animal industries have created wastelands (made out of um, wastes) that are so big, you can see the dead areas from space. These are public lands that are no longer available for American’s to use. And of course, there is the animal industry’s effect on global climate change, something that is affecting the entire word. If the meat, diary and egg industries were to exist on a level playing field, they would have to cover the true cost of producing their products. They would have to internalize the externalities. The two ways to make that happen are through regulation and taxes. Thank goodness for government, an institution that allows us to deal with these types of problems–when the government is on its toes.
    .
    Imagine how much meat, diary and eggs would cost if those industries had to cover the full cost of their products instead of pushing those costs onto us. Suppose part of the solution was taxing. Some posters have expressed a concern that the government would not use taxes responsibly. I disagree. Suppose for the sake of argument, however, that the government employed taxes then just threw the money away. (Not that I’m thinking that’s a good idea. The point is:) We still win. Just raising the cost of meat, diary and eggs, as shown in this video, would have a positive impact for all of us because people would buy less of those products. Shrinking those industries means lowering health care costs for all of us, lowering the suffering and financial impact of global climate change, etc. It’s all good.
    .
    So sure, lets start by removing subsidies, but we can’t stop there. That’s not enough to solve the problem.




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    1. Wow, someone actually has some faith in our government? Good for you Thea! Wish I could say the same :( Not saying there aren’t good people in it surely, but In school I was taught we lived in a democracy, and even that was propaganda, we never were. I see us progressively becoming a $oulle$$, corrupt, corporatocracy whose least concern seems to be the people who it was supposedly created to serve. When the USDA, whose job it is to promote business, is also tasked with drawing up healthy dietary guidelines for the masses, per our government, it speaks volumes about their priorities. And that scares me to death for my grand kid’s futures. (As does our presidebt elect. Oops, humorous typo! lol)




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      1. Vege-tater: I am painfully aware of how much the government has let us down again and again. However, we can’t just say that all we have to do is get away from “government” and the problem would be solved. That’s an important point I was trying to address.
        .
        Another of the points I was trying to make above is that we don’t have to have faith in government for regulation and taxes to work. The government doesn’t have to use the funds terribly efficiently it to work. What’s more, there is no other institution that I am aware of that can deal with externalities like the ones that we are talking about, and this is not something we have the luxury to throw up our hands and say “Oh well. The government can’t do it well enough, so we can just hide our heads in the sand and have not one fix it.”




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        1. @disqus_K7phDDUeXq:disqus @disqus_EXJURIXKLQ:disqus Char and Thea, the nice thing is that each of us has the power of our own buying habits. This is definitely preaching to the choir here, since most here have voluntarily changed their diet. But in the absence of uniform government action in this area, “We the People” can collectively make the change. That is why I spend so much time and effort to spread the word to as many people as I can so they can have the information they need to see past the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) sown by Big Animal and their herd of tame (or at least avowed carnist) researchers. This kind of bottoms up grass-roots movement is much slower than a more top-down efforts that government is capable of, but it can be just as effective. The nice part is that it can follow a geometric progression. Initial results can be hard to see, but if each person tells two people who each in turn tell two people, it doesn’t take very many doubling periods before a critical mass is reached and animal free diets become first normal and then common.

          And as dietary patterns shift and the money dries up for Big Animal then so too does their political power. The worrying part is that as animal food consumption falls, the need for all the current farmed land to raise all the millions of tons of animal feed diminishes. We are already seeing the “plight of the family farmer” being used by the large industrial companies as a reason for government to continue pushing hard on the general population to consume more of their unhealthy products. Perhaps a politically popular role government could take is to be purchaser of last resort for farmers made redundant by reduction of the need for their crops. Then that land could be held in the public trust and allowed to return to a natural state. And the aging of the American farmer will, regardless of any other policy changes, result in many farmers leaving the business (usually in a terminal way since most farmers never retire). So this might provide a way to absorb farm land that the heirs do not want to continue farming (like me!).




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          1. Jim Felder: I don’t think individuals spreading the word is 100% sufficient to solve this problem. However, I definitely agree that the power of individuals stacking up is nothing to sneer at and that we can impact others. That’s the very reason I spend so much time volunteering on this site as well as talking to anyone face to face who cares to listen. Thanks for pointing out this very important piece of the puzzle – us!




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    2. Shrinking those industries means lowering health care costs for all of us

      Unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t.

      It would reduce the cost of dealing with certain cardiovascular diseases, etc., but it would increase the costs associated with treating degenerative conditions, such as dementia.




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      1. pablo: Your basic assumption is flawed. Living longer does not necessarily equate to having more dementia. Only in a generally sick society, like the UK which you mentioned in another post, would that be true. NutritionFacts has a video somewhere showing that in America people are living longer, but also more sick years. In societies like say the traditional Okinawans, people lived to 100+ years and had no systemic problems with dementia as far as I know. Althzeimers is one form of dementia. Here is an overview of what NutritionFacts has linking diet to Althzeimer’s: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/alzheimers-disease Here is the general topic page on dementia: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/dementia/




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          1. pablo: Your claim is established for societies like America and the UK. Ie: societies which eat diets linked to dementia and other palliative care costs.




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          2. You may be correct but I am not so sure that it is a well established fact. Major health care costs tend to come at the end of life – whether 60 or 90 – but also tend to be less as people get older.

            ” several studies indicate that end of life costs decrease in old age (Brockmann 2002; Lubitz & Riley 1993; Polder et al. 2006). This, in turn, means that the end of life approach will predict a reduction in health care costs simply because more people die at an old age, when their last year – as measured by the current average costs pattern – is less costly. For predictions over a longer time horizon, the effect of this is quite strong since end of life costs tend to fall substantially as age increases. For instance, in data from the Netherlands the average cost of a ninety year old who dies was
            half of that of a seventy year old (Polder et al. 2006). A similar trend, but not as steep, is observed in US data (Lubitz et al. 1995). Moving a large share of the population into age categories where their last year of life is significantly less costly, will produce a large cost saving.”
            https://www.med.uio.no/helsam/forskning/nettverk/hero/publikasjoner/skriftserie/2013/hero2013-9.pdf




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              1. Yes, it is a very complicated subject though.

                Incidentally, for some reason, I was apparently logged in as “Pie” earlier today and a couple of my posts are consequently attributed to Pie. A disqus problem I suspect but very strange. I cannot access them now though.




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                1. Tom Goff: I have seen this problem before. It’s a terrible bug that disqus would all of a sudden have you logged in with someone else’s ID. Disqus lets you act as if you are that other account. I don’t know what causes it. I’ve been able to fix the problem myself by rebooting. But that’s still not OK. It’s still too easy to do some posts as someone else and not even realize it. Sorry that happened to you.




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            1. Major health care costs tend to come at the end of life – whether 60 or 90 – but also tend to be less as people get older.

              The second part of that sentence is valid, the first part isn’t.

              As people get older, they are more likely to die of “old age” – dying in their sleep and requiring no specific death-related care – so end of life care will tend to be proportionately lower. However, a factor of that increased ageing is that the reduced costs at the point of death are outweighed by the costs associated with supporting physical and/or mental degeneration across a long old age.




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                  1. Thanks for the link to that 1997 Netherlands study. The later 2006 Netherlands study referred to in my first post, found exactly the opposite.




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                    1. No, it didn’t find the exact opposite, because they were examining different things. The study you referred to was looking at end-of-life costs. The study I linked to was looking at total costs.




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                    2. Perhaps. The bulk of lifetime health care costs are incurred at the end of life so I am not sure that the older study you refer to is still valid. Also, are we talking about costs to the taxpayer (ie government), to the patient, to private insurers or all three?

                      As I wrote previously, it is a complex subject.

                      I also find it difficult to believe that someone who has eaten a healthy diet etc and lived to 90, will have higher lifetime health costs than someone who has eaten the SAD, developed diabetes, CVD etc etc and died at 70.




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                    3. I doubt that it was looking at TOTAL costs in the full sense of the term.

                      According to the World Health Organization
                      “Research in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2011 estimated that, the contributions older people made through taxation, consumer spending and other economically valuable activities were worth nearly GBP 40 billion more than expenditure on them through pensions, welfare and health care combined”
                      http://www.who.int/ageing/features/misconceptions/en/

                      As I say, this is a complicated area that is still hotly debated by health economists. I am not saying that you are wrong, merely that there is no consensus on whether ageing populations necessarily represent a financial burden – especially healthily ageing populations.




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    1. On many levels I agree. But, the first sentence under the video:
      “This is kind of the flip side to my video Taxpayer Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods.”
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/taxpayer-subsidies-for-unhealthy-foods/
      Helps to put the discussion in balance, or attempts to do so. If we subsidize “junk”, why not subsidize healthy foods? What are healthy foods? There’s no doubt all the science, as well as broad consensus among all sides of the nutritional debate point to fruit, veggies, plants.

      The thing is we already have massive government intervention, but in a one sided biased way. No, we don’t want to tax “unhealthy” foods. But why subsidize them? We just want greater balance, or at least that’s one opinion. For the record I’m an (GASP!) omnivore, and I also want more affordable and accessible produce.




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  19. The video touches on a very important point toward the end, but doesn’t spend time discussing it in any detail: Consumer behaviour and substitution effects.

    While governments like to tout the effects of taxes on changing consumer behaviour, most of the research deduces effects indirectly. For example, did taxes on cigarettes actually have that significant an effect on reducing smoking relative to public awareness campaigns, legislation banning smoking in many public spaces and youth carding initiatives, which were all undertaken concurrently with the increase in cigarette taxes?

    What would be interesting is a study looking at the change in behaviour based on household income. Did more low-income individuals quit smoking due to an increase in cigarette taxes relative to high-income individuals? Is it possible that those who continued to smoke substituted away from healthier choices – for example, purchasing more and/or healthier foods – so they could afford to continue smoking?

    It’s a fair question to ask, since we’re about four decades into applying the various anti-smoking strategies mentioned above and lung cancer is currently the most diagnosed form of cancer as well as the leading cause of cancer death in Canada

    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cd-mc/cancer/lung_cancer-cancer_poumon-eng.php

    From anecdotal observation – the checkout at my local discount grocer, which also happens to have a service desk right behind it that sells cigarettes, lottery tickets and the like – the people who continue on to buy cigarettes after checking out happen to be the ones that purchased the least, and usually least healthy, foods.

    The opposite could also happen if subsidies were placed on healthy foods. If they became a lot cheaper, sure, some who would otherwise have purchased fewer fruits, veggies and whole grains due to their initial high cost may purchase more due to reduced cost. However some consumers may buy no more than what they bought in the first place, choosing instead to funnel what little they may save back into their vices – cigarettes, lottery tickets, etc. Depending on how the ratio of the former to the latter group skews, such a subsidy could actually end up backfiring, having a detrimental effect on public health.

    The better solution, as some have already alluded to, would be to kill the direct and indirect subsidies to meat and dairy. This would include subsidies for GM corn, soy and other agricultural crops primarily used as (unnatural) feed for livestock. Let the price of meat, milk and eggs float to its natural level and consumption will eventually decline.

    The dairy industry is already in the throes of adjusting output as demand for milk products has begun to drop. See the recent record fine imposed on the dairy industry for its efforts at price fixing in the face of declining demand

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-08/cow-killing-and-price-fixing-in-your-supermarket-dairy-aisle




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    1. To your last sentence, I read that dairy farmers were actually dumping milk as a way of lower supply in response to lower demand. Guess there’s a dairy OPEC in the world. I’m surprised that demand is actually lower for dairy. I mean, pizza sales haven’t fallen, or have they? The one section most crowded and under stocked in my local supermarket is yogurt. Sure, competition is fierce, but consumers, myself included, sure do buy a lot of yogurt.




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  20. Denmark was the first…to introduce a tax on saturated fat like meat and dairy. But, it only took the food industry about a year to squash it, demonstrating that public health advocates are weak in tackling the issues of corporate power; an enormous imbalance [between] the influence exerted by public health professionals compared to the political might of the food industry.

    The argument is not logical and not true.

    If the food industry had sufficient political might to force the repeal of the tax, then there’s no reason that their political might wouldn’t have prevented the introduction of the tax in the first place.

    The reason the tax was repealed was that it didn’t work. The idea was that the tax would be revenue neutral, to ensure that it reduced consumption, rather than being a source of increased tax. What actually happened was that the tax provided incremental revenue, while having minimal impact on consumption. The real surprise is that the government was willing to attempt something and then accept it didn’t work. Far too many governments would plough on, regardless of the evidence, in order to save face.




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      1. That would be the citation which states:

        The fat tax was associated with marginal changes in population risk of
        IHD. One estimate suggests an increased population risk of IHD by 0.2%
        and the other estimate suggests that the risk of IHD decreased by 0.3%.

        It helps to read the provided citations before using them as the basis for snarky comments.




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        1. There was actually more than one citation.

          I thought that mine was simply a factual observation but since I have no idea what snarky actually means, you can have that one. .




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  21. The other side of the problem is that we the healthy eaters are taxed through Obamacare to pay the added medical costs of the unhealthy eaters. Those eating a healthy diet are subsidizing the medical costs of those with a poor diet.

    Perhaps this is the approach public health officials should use: if your annual blood work is excellent, your annual health care payments are reduced.




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  22. Reducing subsidies on dairy and other high fat foods could have potentially important health consequences according to real world experience. This is relevant not just to the US but also to the European Union and other polities where such industries are subsidised.

    According to the Bulletin of the World Health Organization:

    “Recent evidence of the potentially powerful impact of reducing dietary saturated fats is graphically illustrated by the recent large falls in CHD mortality in Poland, between 1990 and 2002 (by 38% in men and 42% in women). This reduction across socioeconomic groups was attributed to the abolition of national food subsidies for saturated fats and the emergence of new, competitive markets, greatly increasing consumption of polyunsaturated vegetable oils.”
    http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/7/08-053728/en/

    How many lives would a 40% reduction in CHD mortality save?
    http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/7/08-053728/en/




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  23. A simpler, less manipulative, and more libertarian approach would be to simply stop the subsidies for harmful foods. It makes no sense to pay producers a bonus for bringing to market a product that will then be taxed because it is harmful. Unintended consequences galore.




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  24. How come Nobel Prize nominees and potential elects, at the cutting edge of metabolism and longevity research, encourage higher intake of saturated fat — at least in the context of a ketogenic diet, long established in reducing or curing epilepsy, curing type II diabetes, potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, etc.? I think more should be said about other factors such as the specific diet, because clearly saying “SATURATED FAT IS BAD” needs to have a few caveats and explanations. These are brilliant scientists considered experts in their field, who eat this diet themselves specifically for life extension and anti-neoplastic reasons. They don’t have an Axe to grind and are not payed by big saturated fat. Thoughts?




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      1. Intermittent fasting is not natural? Fasting for 14-16 hours daily is completely natural and have clear health benefits. Whats unnatural is to eat from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. Fasting for 14-16 hours is easy. Just quit eating a few hours before you go to bed and have a late breakfeast.

        Sally Fallon on the other hand is clueless.




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        1. No. He gives no examples of who these alleged experts are. Hitler and Stalin were both nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for example.
          Being nominated doesn’t prove they are experts, it just means they have been nominated for some reason or other. All sorts of interest groups make nominations to push some point or other.




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          1. Yes, Linus Pauling and Vit C for example. But the obfuscation can still be effective for those who are less critical. One recent example was a meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine which concluded that evidence doe not support the contention that saturated fats are a causative factor in heart disease. It was roundly critiqued in a Harvard publication, but it garnered a lot of headlines, apparently and people use it.

            https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2014/03/19/dietary-fat-and-heart-disease-study-is-seriously-misleading/
            My point is, those who want to vindicate meat as harmless will seize on any sort of research if it smacks of credibility.




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            1. Oh, yes I agree with you there. But my point is that no credible health authority anywhere in the world (to my knowledge) says that high saturated fat consumption is not a risk factor.




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                1. Hi – thanks for the link. This particular study is new to me but seems fairly typical of Volek’s work. He has been on the Atkins advisory board for a long time and has authored at least one popular book pushing the Atkins diet, as well as a number of papers in professional journals..

                  It is known that people with damaged metabolic (and endocrine) systems (“metabolic syndrome”, “obese” etc) respond differently to various nutrients, than do people of normal weight.. Consequently, many of his studies use this knowledge and focus on people who are morbidly overweight to present SFA intake as harmless or even healthful. In this case, the subjects’ average BMI was 38!

                  “many studies show that excess adiposity attenuates the expected lipid and lipoprotein response to a plasma cholesterol–lowering diet. Diets low in SFA and cholesterol are less effective in improving the lipid profile in obese individuals and in patients with metabolic syndrome. In contrast, lean persons are more responsive to reductions in dietary SFA and cholesterol. Multiple mechanisms likely contribute to the altered plasma lipid responses to dietary changes in individuals with excess adiposity. The greater rate of hepatic cholesterol synthesis in obese individuals suppresses the expression of hepatic LDL receptors (LDLR), thereby reducing hepatic LDL uptake. Insulin resistance develops as a result of adipose-tissue induced inflammation, causing significant changes in enzymes necessary for normal lipid metabolism. In addition, the LDLR-mediated uptake in obesity is attenuated by alterations in neuroendocrine regulation of hormonal secretions (e.g. growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and cortisol) as well as the unique gut microbiota, the latter of which appears to affect lipid absorption. Reducing adipose tissue mass, especially from the abdominal region, is an effective strategy to improve the lipid response to dietary interventions by reducing inflammation, enhancing insulin sensitivity, and improving LDLR binding.”
                  http://advances.nutrition.org/content/2/3/261.full

                  The evidence that dietary saturated fat (in significant amounts) is a health challenge is overwhelming.although, in this paper, Volek et al refer to this merely as a “perspective”. Given that the funders of this study are who they are, it is unsurprising that the paper skates over this issues very quickly (and incompletely)..
                  http://www.nel.gov/evidence.cfm?evidence_summary_id=250189




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                  1. Thanks for this terrific response. You really know your stuff! Do you mind if I copy and post this on the very misleading Livestrong article?




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                    1. Done. I credited you as researcher. Thanks again. I need to spend time learning how to analyze nutritional studies more thoroughly and intelligently.




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                  2. I think I can agree with you on this, in fact I would suggest that LDL receptor function may be the main cause of heart disease. When the 1920’s chap fed rabbits a cholesterol inducing diet it produced heart disease somewhat similar to humans but his work was critcised as rabbits are nothing like humans in terms of expected diet. However he also discovered that injecting cholesterol had not effect, in other words it had to be processed in the normal dietary way and bound up in lipids. this leads nicely to the idea that when LDL is not removed normally from the blood stream due to poor LDL receptor function it circulates for too long and the Polyunsaturated component of the lipid membrane becomes oxidised as its anti oxidant components degrade. Now what is one cause of such poor function ?, Leptin resistance as a component of poor thyroid function which ties nicely in with iodine deficiency which in turn ties nicely in with Japan and low HD incidence and yet very high rates of iodine consumption due to their use of seaweed. Pass me the Miso soup please




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                    1. Thanks Mark. It is a complicated area and I wouldn’t like to speculate on which one of a an entire complex of interacting mechanisms is actually the crucial one. Or even if there is a single such mechanism.

                      Certainly when it comes to oxidised LDL, it is not a simple thing to understand.
                      “instead of increasing the amount of cholesterol uptake and accumulation in the macrophage foam cells, mildly oxidized LDL almost completely prevents increases in cholesterol,”
                      https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140904121247.htm

                      However, if you are truly concerned about oxidised LDL, you might want to eat more fruits and vegetables eg
                      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejlt.201600077/pdf
                      http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/6/1436.long

                      However, as I understand it, this speculation about LDL oxidisation is very popular in the saturated fat crankosphere where it is used as part of some elaborate but flawed argument that polyunsaturated oils just must be more unhealthy than saturated fats. The evidence actually shows that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats reduces CVD mortality and adverse events eg
                      “We previously described a rapid decline in mortality due to coronary heart disease in Poland between 1991 and 1994, corresponding with increases in the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat in people’s diet and fruit consumption.1 The changes in food consumption followed changes in economic policy, including reductions in subsidies for dairy and other animal fats…….In the prospective nurses’ health study, the ratio of dietary saturated and unsaturated fats was inversely related to the incidence of coronary heart disease.2 The change in coronary mortality in Poland was similar to that predicted by the slope relating this ratio to the risk of coronary heart disease in the study……………The experience of Poland is consistent with epidemiological and clinical evidence4 indicating that mortality due to coronary heart disease can be reduced by partly replacing dietary saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats while maintaining a low intake of trans fatty acids.

                      Polyunsaturated fat reduces serum concentrations of low density cholesterol,4 but this cannot account for the size and rapidity of changes in coronary mortality in Poland. A higher intake of polyunsaturated fat also improves endothelial function, reduces platelet aggregability, and reduces ventricular fibrillation.4 The net effect can therefore be appreciated only by evaluating coronary end points. Increased intakes of polyunsaturated fat also probably explain most of the major declines in coronary mortality in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia over several decades.5”
                      http://www.bmj.com/content/331/7510/187

                      And of course, as already mentioned, PlantPositive has dissected the claims about LDL oxidisation used by the saturated fat advocates
                      http://plantpositive.com/41-pufas-oxidize/




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  25. needs to also cut cost of organic fruits and vegetables down like organic grapes cost about $4 a pound when no-orgaic cost only .98 cent a pound if you cut cost of organic fruits and vegtables more people could get organic foods




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  26. please do a video on de novo lipogenesis. theres lots of people who believe its easy for humans to turn sugar into fat. and as dr mcdougall says: “the fat you eat is the fat you wear”




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  27. I think that a “carrot” rather than a “stick” will increase the likelihood that actual results will match the intended results. When you tax something people will indeed consume less of it, but they still have the same bad habits and so the money not spent on one unhealthy food is very likely to be spent on another unhealthy food. It becomes a case of whack-a-mole with taxes being placed on increasingly numbers of unhealthy foods trying to force consumers away from them. Subsidies on the other hand act as a magnet drawing consumers to the desired healthy foods. We have already seen the power of this as consumption of meat, eggs and dairy skyrocketed when government subsidies directly and indirectly through subsidies on animal feed crops reduced the price of these unhealthy foods to the point that nearly everybody in the entire society can afford to make these foods the center of their diet.

    So I think it would be interesting to see if a direct subsidy of whole plant foods that are sold to consumers doesn’t reduce the price to the point where nobody can with a straight face say “it’s too expensive to eat vegan”. But care has to be taken. Too large a subsidy directly to growers will reduce the cost of that crop to the point where it becomes economical to use it as animal feed. I think I would cry to see broccoli and kale being fed to pigs and cattle. So I would propose that subsidies be given at steps along with way. Help growers and then help distributors sending the produce on to groceries stores. And the subsidies are only paid on food that does not undergo a substantial nutritional reduction during packaging, since it isn’t the packaging of food that is the problem, but the stripping of nutrients during the packaging process. So then whole wheat pasta and brown rice ends up substantially cheaper than the white versions rather than as “health food” that commands a premium.

    The money for the subsidies could come from the current subsidies given to growers of animal feed grains (with an exception of whole grains sold to consumers). Of course the problem is that while this makes sense from a human health perspective, it make no political sense at all and the people who would have to take action to implement this only understand politics. As such it is unlikely to ever see the light of day.




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      1. This issue would be that a lot of corn bound for human consumption end up being consumed as corn syrup or other food fragment rather than as whole or nearly whole food. But you do have to draw the line somewhere and no subsidy on animal feed is an excellent first step and far better than nothing.




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      1. People are free to buy a product or not. They’re also free to buy the ingredients and make their own. My question is should taxation (men with guns) be imposed on food to steer behavior of supposedly free people (free to choose what they want) ? This idea is the exact opposite of freedom.




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        1. cooperbry: The “men with guns” analogy makes no sense for the situation being discussed. A better analogy might be: superman sweeping in with his special powers to help the common person when he/she is being preyed upon by super villains.




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          1. Information and knowledge is power. Government should have no role at all if we as a nation claim to be or want to be “free”. Certainly, nutritionfacts.org or other private organizations are doing very well to educate people. Nothing to stop them from trying to reach fast food consumers and educate them… Not every problem in life deserves the “there ought to be a law” mentality. Educated people should have the benefit of the doubt that they know what’s best for them.




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            1. cooperbry: re: “Government should have no role at all…” is to ignore the reality of the situation. See the following post about externalities: http://nutritionfacts.org/?post_type=video&p=35581#comment-3073080423 True freedom and private life is only possible when there is a government that is working well.
              .
              I agree with you 100% that “not every problem in life deserves the ‘there out to be a law’ mentality.” I disagree with you if you think that no problems in life are helped by laws.




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              1. No role regarding this particular topic. Behavior modification with regard to individual diet is out of scope in my opinion of government.




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                1. I think this is exactly the governments role – to steer individuals to a path that is productive to the well-being of everyone in society, by constantly evaluating and balancing freedom and rules as best as possible. (I’m of course aware the system is nowhere near that elegant).

                  Well implemented taxes and subsidies are a great way to balance responsibility and freedom, because it still gives the individual the right to choose, but also gently steers them away from harm.

                  Granted, education also goes a long way and should definitely be part of the process, but the results take longer, so taxes and subsidies are sometimes needed at least in the short term.




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            2. Cooperbry, I think it is difficult if not impossible for some people to know the truth about what to eat. You are lucky if you know what to eat. It is not taught in schools, and the meat and dairy industry distribute materials to teachers to ensure that children will not learn “truth.” Sure, people can use the Internet, but why? They have been taught in school–brainwashed by industry and big money. I, for one, ate the wrong way for more than 6/7ths of my life. I tried–I ate whole grain bread, for example, and oil–because the news said it was better for me than butter…. But I am STILL learning…. It is not easy for a layperson to learn.




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            3. A further example: shall we leave it up to teens whether or not to smoke cigarettes? I did not leave it up to my children. My “law” trumped their “choice.”




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            4. The problem is is that people ARE being educated–via ads, power of lobbies, etc. There is no “broccoli” lobby because there’s no money in it. So this argument doesn’t hold.




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        2. Cooperbry,

          I can’t agree with you more ….. however you’re being held responsible via the medical costs and availability directly due to people’s poor choices.

          If we were not a society and we allowed corporate vs civil governance exclusively, the cost to you not only in terms of dollars but choice would be reduced and be laser focused on basic monetary rewards to shareholders.

          Now before you suggest that I’m unaware of the fact that many people are considerate, thinking and voting with their dollars, take a look at the backlash that has occurred just a few days ago when discussing the plant based diet reality that many are embracing. The meat/ dairy industry started the backlash with : http://www.organicauthority.com/plant-based-foods-under-livestock-industry-led-attacks/ and then did it’s classic “study” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219202034.htm…. but wait…. read the first sentence and let’s focus on the keywords….short term…..will the average reader “get it” , I’m a bit dubious. As a reader fo the last 2+ years of this blog/site you know that short term does not make cardiovascular disease.

          And not unlike the other countries mentioned in the video….jobs and short term economics rule.
          Dr. Greger’s look at smoking, is a great example where you can see and feel a difference in both medical and subsequent cost reductions, by taxation. I firmly believe that you should make the choices that you’re wanting, but not if it’s costing everyone else. If we could find a means of shifting the burden of “bad” habits to the individual and not penalizing those making….what we think are better choices….it would be great, albeit unrealistic, but one can always wish.

          I encourage you to vote with your dollars and support the firms and causes you hold dear. Dollars speak and the only reason you’re even hearing the upswing in plant based diets is because people are demanding better ecological reality and want to actively enhance and maintain their health.

          I appreciate this is a long reply, however just consider the growing Expo West/East shows, speaking of dollars. A clear sign of consumers voting with their dollars. Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger.




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    1. Everyone blows the horn of “Freedom” when it comes to their own niche and subjective issues. For my Republican friends, Abortion, crack-cocaine, Open borders and free trade, free prostitution and child porn comes to mind.




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    1. Good question! Given that it takes more time, energy, water, land etc to produce, you would think junk food would be more expensive. I would love to know more about this as well.

      One thing I can think of government subsidies for the industries which make harmful foods. But there has to be more to it as well.




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  28. Have I missed the point? Presumably the idea is to tax the industry who pollute what is already junk with excess sugar and salt so as to add excitotoxins for a repeat customer. The only people who should be taxed for this metabolic disaster are the cartels, certainly not the unwitting individual devoid of nutritional knowledge and a perfect client for white collar nutritional criminals aided and abetted by the white collar crooks in the government.




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    1. That’s an interesting point – If the business producing harmful foods were taxed instead, then they would need to drive up prices in order to stay profitable. The end result to the customer would be the same, a product that costs more – except now the customers wouldn’t feel like they are the ones being targeted by a tax, so it might stop some public backlash.




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  29. I am in favour of taxing harmful food products but there has to be clear evidence that the item is harmful which is why I was concerned that the main thrust of the video was on Saturated Fat (loads of evidence making this at least controversial), whilst the main and obvious culprit, sugar, should have been top of the mention list. A sugar tax in Mexico seems to have had some positive effect.




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    1. Hi Mark, I’ve been a long time viewer here, and from the videos I’ve seen over the years there is a lot of evidence supporting saturated fat and cholesterol as being harmful (and even more so than sugar, especially given that it takes only small quantities of saturated fat for it to be harmful).
      I’m a fan of taxing harmful foods, and at the same time subsidizing healthful foods. I’m fairly certain that if you only implement a tax, apart from complaining, people will simply switch to another cheap and harmful product, because they feel like they are being punished. But if you subsidize as well, then you are also encouraging them to switch to a healthy diet.
      Mind you I think it would also be a lot easier if shops would encourage better farming practices (instead picking fruit/veg early and spraying them toxins) so that everything actually tastes good. Sometimes it’s so bad that tomatoes taste as bland as lettuce, and apples taste like potatoes!




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      1. Saturated fat comes in many forms so it makes sense to talk about what form it arrives in. For example the Katavians eat loads of sat fat and are noted for good health and no heart disease but their fat is mainly in the form of Coconuts. The masai again in the form of milk. On the other hand sat fat from CAFO raised beef is probably a different story.




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        1. Mark: The Masai are not an overall healthy people. They also have very stiff arteries from their diet. What saves them from heart attacks is a genetic quirk that most people are unlikely to share. If you want to learn more, you can here: http://plantpositive.squarespace.com/blog/2012/3/25/tpns-29-30-the-masai-model.html Hence, talking about the Masai is not a valid pro-saturated fat argument.
          .
          Likely something similar is going on with the Katavians. You can learn more about what we know about coconut and it’s effect on the human body from some of the following NutritionFacts videos: http://nutritionfacts.org/?fwp_search=coconut&fwp_content_type=video




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          1. Thea you put me in an awkward situation. The link you sent me from Nutritionfacts (thank you by the way) tends to focus the fact that coconut oil raises HDL but does nothing for LDL and we should focus on LDL. Now I hesitate to comment on this because you don’t like me doing so but I have just read a very large report of hospital admissions for heart disease problems in America by your own heart foundation if memory serves me. This found a larger percentage with low LDL and the lowest with high LDL. Even accounting for no previous heart disease these patients had the same trend. The most problematic data was for low HDL and high Trig’s. It would seem therefore that raising HDL would be a very good way to go especially if LDL is protected via lowering inflammation.




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              1. I am a big fan of the Pritkin Institute and have already trumpeted the research that shows olive oil impairs endothelial function, in that sense I am on the same page as Esseltyn and co. However the article does state that the monkeys had similar LDL but very different artery damage on the two fat diets. This again suggests that something else is at play and I would suggest oxidisation of the LDL is a more likely candidate.




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    2. I forgot to mention, that as you said “clear evidence”, it reminded me that the waters are muddied on purpose by those that make a profit from products containing saturated fats. There are many times more manufactured studies, designed to show results which exonerate saturated fat, than there are the other way around, simply because 1) someone profits from the skewed results, and 2) the people profiting from also have the money to create this research, over and over again(where as genuine research usually lacks funding, since the results generally don’t make anyone big money).




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  30. The food banks and food pantries should include many samples of tasty whole foods recipes. People need to taste how good non-junk food can taste. Obviously this will require more staff/volunteers. Regardless if people continue or not to eat meat (this is a free country) they should be strongly encouraged to increase their consumption of beans and veggies.




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    1. I agree, but many food pantries need largely shelf-stable foods, and that means packaged foods, and that means largely the very worst food from a nutritional aspect. Before Christmas there was a food drive at our fellowship and nearly all of the food donated was boxed junk like Mac n Cheese or canned junk like beef stew or other ready to eat foods. I was so tempted to donate a 20 pound bag of brown rice since if you want biggest caloric and nutritional bang for the donation buck, there is nothing better than bags of rice. Recipients can then use their precious food dollars to add some perishable items like vegetables and get complete nutrition. But I know that past donations of food that takes preparation have languished on the shelf of the food pantry we help support for a long time. Not that I blame the people going to the pantry for food. One, they are nearly overwhelmed trying to keep their lives from completely dissolving, if it hasn’t already, so they have little time or energy to devote to meal prep. Two, many are losing even basic cooking skills such as how to cook raw brown rice. And three, the propaganda from Big Food as so obliterated any understanding of nutrition and what is and is not healthy food, that many don’t have any idea that the food they are eating is not healthy. As a result they gravitate towards the foods that are fast and filling and least nutritious.




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  31. I don’t understand the “some jobs will be lost if we encourage healthy eating” argument. Would I be wrong in thinking that the jobs would slowly shift to plant agriculture from animal agriculture? Farming is a skill no doubt, but I think any costs to retrain individuals would be peanuts compared to the spiraling healthcare costs in public hospitals.




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    1. I think the issue is that if we didn’t waste so much food feeding it to livestock so that they can turn most of it into manure and a small fraction of it into edible flesh and instead ate the plant food directly, then we wouldn’t need nearly as many acres under cultivation. If I could wave my magic wand and everybody became completely plant based I would estimate that we could reduce the number of farmed acres by 70%-80%. The result is a tremendous number of farms would become redundant and not only the livelihoods of the farmers and those they directly employ would be impacted, but the economy of all the towns and small cities in farm country whose entire economy is dependent on farming. Also the farmers who go out of business would have no one to sell their farms to and so the millions of dollars that some have spend buying and improving land would be lost. Most would have to simply declare bankruptcy, and so the banks and other lenders would likely also take a major hit.

      And all of this would come on top of decades of population loss due to improvements in farmer productivity, which is largely due to improvements in farming equipment, that lets far fewer people farm the same number of acres. My family is from farm country in Oklahoma and every time we went to visit the grandparents you could see more abandoned farm houses as small family farms were consolidated into fewer larger farms. My own Grandfather’s wheat/cattle farm went from 160 acres right after WWII to just over 1000 acres by the mid 1980’s. The result is that the closest tiny town where my other grandparents lived is now pretty much a ghost town with only a couple stores still open.

      Is it any wonder that farm groups, not just agribusiness groups, are such a powerful force pushing on the USDA to not change any of their dietary recommendations and why farm state congressmen and senators are pushing on the USDA from the legislative side. They know that most of them would lose their farms if the nation stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs and they are scared.




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      1. Yes Exactly. It’s like hiring many people to dig a large hole with their hands (without tools) and then hiring a night shift to fill up the holes ! It’s totally useless idiotic work unproductive work. It make increase GDP and reduce unemployment but at the end everyone will be poorer because nothing useful is being produced. It’s like burning a mansion or in this case animals.
        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/08a09bd3c269f39de54fb42c8fac53e816199cd5af2e89bf682b5ea2c16f947b.jpg




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  32. There are so many suppositions here that I’m not sure where to start…
    (1) Where do you get the idea that tobacco tax actually resulted in reduced smoking? I realize that it’s supposed to do that just like the tax on booze is supposed to reduce drinking. Do you see people giving up beer/wine/liquor in droves due to taxes? From when I was a kid to today — a long time — there’s been a tobacco tax that still continues and seems to keep going up, but I STILL see people smoking. Where the evidence that taxes in and of themselves cut smoking? Personally, I think peer pressure and government/corporate regulations (no smoking in hospitals, some places of business, eventually cities, etc.) has done way more than taxes ever could.
    (2) I love this one. Tax unhealthy foods? Who decides what’s healthy? I’ve had the good fortune of travelling all over the USA. What do I see when I walk into a supermarket? It’s riddled with Fat-Free and Low-Fat versions of everything. Yet, we’re still one of the fattest nations on the planet. And I love this one: what did I hear about late-ish last year? WHOLE MILK may be good for you after all! NPR even carried it (if the link doesn’t work, search for it please): http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean
    Who decides?
    Who knows?
    Who among you wouldn’t have taxed whole milk? And what if it’s reduction in consumption has made us fatter? Happy now that your tax might have made us all more fat?
    These are just a few things that make me think we’re not smart enough to know what causes obesity and overweight and why I think using taxes is a bad idea.
    Personally, I think part of the problem is the lack of fiber in all processed foods. We (yes, mostly the USA) took fiber out to extend the shelf life of foods because we couldn’t get them to market and then sold fast enough to keep them from going bad (buy a loaf of fresh multigrain bread from a bakery and see how long it lasts – I’ve had it get moldy in 2-3 days).
    Secondly, I think there’s at least one mystery factor related to overweight/obesity that no one is looking at: Adenoviruses. Yes. I said it! There may be several of these that help you become fat. Here’s one (Human adenovirus 36 (HAdV-36)): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenovirus_serotype_36
    Even if the link posts, I’m adding this excerpt from a similar link that is quite revealing:
    “Ad-36 is known to cause obesity in chickens, mice, rats, and monkeys. In addition, it was present in 30% of obese humans and 11% of non-obese humans. The prevalence of Ad-36 positivity in lean individuals increased from ∼7% in 1992–1998 to 15–20% in 2002–2009, which paralleled the increase in obesity prevalence.”
    Let’s tax the virus!




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  33. I have a better idea than taxing, quit subsidizing the meat, dairy, egg, and sugar industries. That will have the same if not more of an impact on raising prices. We subsidize all the things that kill us and make us sick by making it and the junk food affordable and we don’t subsidize the healthy food which makes it too expensive for too many people.




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  34. Shouldn’t we be eating food which is rich in sugar (excluding fruits) or salt in the morning too?
    I’ve heard from somewhere that that can increase blood pressure even more, but can’t remember.
    Please help me.




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    1. Thanks for your question Ryo,

      A 2015 review states that:

      “Taking together, these studies suggest that in humans, like other mammals, salt is a major drive to thirst, and an increase in salt intake increases the amount of fluid consumed, and if part of this fluid is in the form of soft drinks, they will be increased proportionately. It is therefore likely that the observed association between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and BP is, at least, partially mediated by salt intake. At the same time, an increase in sugar intake stimulates insulin secretion, which in turn increases the consumption of food. A greater intake of ultra-processed food will increase salt, fat and sugar consumption and thereby increasing BP and CVD risk.”

      Hope this answer helps.




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      1. Thanks a lot for your reply. I know greater intake of salt, sugar and fat increase BP.
        However, I’m not sure wether your body is not ready for it right after you wake up, and food with high amount of these is more likely to cause higher BP.




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