Monday, May 23, 2016

When you mix politics and science

....what you always get is politics, of course.  Today's example is how First Lady Michelle Obama has apparently "guided" the FDA to require nutritional labels to not only list total sugars, but to differentiate "added" sugars from "natural" sugars.  The total cost?   A cool $1.4 billion--and of course the biggest victims of the First Lady's new tax are going to be those who eat foods with added sugars--read "poor people."

And surprise, surprise, a review of the FDA cost/benefit analysis finds it to be "deeply flawed", overstating the benefits by a factor of 300.  While the criticism was generated by those hit hardest--sugar producers, bakers, and the like--the ugly fact of the matter is that the body does not care whether it gets sucrose and fructose from grapes, apples, oranges, corn, or sugarcane.  It's the same chemicals that have exactly the same effects--a spike in blood sugar followed by a release of insulin and the rendering of those sugars into ATP, glycogen, and fat. 

I would actually go a lot further than the criticism did--I'd argue that by separating "added" sugars from "natural" (apple juice is OK, sugar not?), the FDA is actually harming the ability of people to make intelligent food choices, and hence the net benefit is substantially negative for all but the sons of dieticians who know how to read these labels. 

Which is to say that the First Lady has about the same expertise in chemistry and nutrition as her husband has in economics and the law.  Either that, or they do know better and they don't care.  Beating up on the sugar industry is a lot easier than coming up with good ideas, after all.

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