Last week, the bipartisan Treat and Reduce Obesity Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. It is meant to "give Medicare beneficiaries and their health-care providers 'additional tools' to treat and reduce obesity." It is also meant to reduce the scope of the ever-expanding Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), which increases exponentially year after year. Unfortunately, like so many government projects before, it is likely to become, as we say in French, another white elephant — a costly project of little use.
Indeed, the CBO already noticed that preventive medicine ends up increasing health care costs, even though it can be beneficial for the individual person. The New England Journal of Medicine also casts doubts on such measures, after reviewing nearly 2100 articles between 2000 and 2005. Besides, government trying to fund the fight against obesity is akin to hiring a pyromaniac as a firefighter.
Yes, you read right. A big part of the obesity "epidemic" can be linked to government intervention in food, mainly through dubious recommendations like the food pyramid. The most recent one recommends six to eight servings of whole grain a day as part of a healthy diet.
Healthy? Even with 100% whole wheat bread, what you eat is mainly starch, which is basically a long chain of simple sugar held together by weak bonds. Once it get in your body, it spikes your blood sugar so your body can digest this toxic compound. Yes, toxic: If you were to take at once 300 to 375 grams of carbohydrates (the daily recommended amount on food labels; one pound is 454 grams), you would die, as there is barely a teaspoon of sugar in your body when it functions normally. If you do it on a regular basis, then you are likely to become insulin-resistant, which leads to type II diabetes, but also to diseases like arthritis, kidney stones, Crohn's disease and many more.
In fact, when the government, mainly through Senator McGovern, wanted to implement this low-fat, high carb diet in the 1970s, scientists were opposed to it as there was no proof that such a diet was healthy. And they proved to be right: While saturated fat (mainly from animal sources) intake went down, carbohydrate intake went up, and so has obesity. On the other hand, recent statistics seem to show that saturated fat intake decreases heart disease.
So what should politicians do about the obesity "epidemic" and the burden it creates on the health care system? The same thing it must do when there is an economic crisis: laisser-faire, laisser aller. Since it is one of the main causes of the problem, it must therefore get out of the way so that things can finally settle down. Putting money into it will solve absolutely nothing, and is likely to make the problem worse, if government intervention in economic crises is any indication.