Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Our Food Is Killing Too Many of Us (nytimes.com)
72 points by mitchbob 53 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments



>More than 100 million adults — almost half the entire adult population — have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Though one can't pin this staggering number on one thing (the article mentions 10 factors[1]) sugar-sweetened beverages are a nice first target.

Soda is looking more and more like cigarettes in terms of health effects and nutrition.

At a bare minimum we should stop subsidizing the production of corn syrup and other raw materials than enable soda to be so cheap.

[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2608221


Honestly, I'd say an even bigger problem is that we add sugar to everything. Ketchup? Sugar added. Some brands of milk? Sugar added. Lunch meat? Sugar added. Bread? Made with so much sugar that people from other countries complain that American bread is practically cake.

Sure, sugarry drinks are a problem, but they're a part of the larger overarching problem that is everything has sugar, so for something like soda or dessert to taste particularly sweet, we add even more sugar.


Interestingly, sugar was originally added to mass-produced Ketchup to act as a preservative. I'm not sure if that was the only reason, mind you, but it was a part of it. At the beginning of the 20th century there was a lot of public outcry about the use of preservatives in various food items. I actually wouldn't be surprised if a lot of food manufacturers switched from using some of those chemical preservatives like sodium benzoate to sugar to avoid some of that public scrutiny, and kept using it to improve the flavor.

Which of course raises a question. I suspect most food products could cut back on the majority of the added sugar and be fine, but for some of those food products some portion of that sugar is necessary as a preservative. So, in those cases, would the public prefer to have some added sugar, a more "artificial" preservative like nitrates, another preservation method (freezing, canning, pickling, etc.), or accept food products that will have a much shorter shelf life?


> or accept food products that will have a much shorter shelf life?

This is rarely a problem for the customer, but a huge one for everyone else in the chain.


+1

As with so many things, it seems like incentives are at the root of this problem: manufacturers want to sell more foods, and adding sugar (whose addictive properties are likely to increase consumption x retention) is an easy tactic to pursue.

What should be done to counter this? Tax sugar and it will be substituted for some other unhealthy, manipulative thing. Perhaps only shifting preferences via culture / education (s.t. sweetened products sell relatively worse) can work?


It's hard to get away from. Unless you're having plain salad/meat meals every time, you're getting an overload of sugar in one way or another.


A lot of salad dressings have sugar in them, and they add sugar (corn syrup) to most sausage and some bacon now too.


I think you missed the part about “plain salad”. As soon as you add dressing, you’ve shot yourself in the foot.


It's not correct to conflate complex and simple carbohydrates into "sugars", as the complex ones have a significantly different profile.


I had a friend that ran a small food shack (basically a food truck that didn't move) serving hot dogs and nachos and the like. He said the cups cost more than the soda in them.


Diabetes seems to be one of the main causes of heart disease.

> People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes. In adults with diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes [0]

[0] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overvi...

[1] "What if Heart Disease and Diabetes had the same cause?" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofq-8ToY2fc


Diabetes is the cause of nothing. Diabetes is not a disease, it is a status. Like a runny nose when you have the flu. What you can say is that people with Diabetes tend to develop something... Sure. But causality is not causation.


How do you explain diabetic foot or diabetic retinopathy or diabetic neuropathy or a host of other stuff caused by diabetes?


I hate how some people are completely fine with making drugs illegal, but when you mention putting some restrictions on food it becomes the end of the world, as if something edible can't be a drug.


On the alternative, I’m both opposed to drugs being illegal and food restrictions. Look at Switzerland and how they’re handling heroin.

The US government pushed the lie that fat is bad for you for decades, and everything became sugar laden because of it. If the US eliminated sugar tariffs and corn subsidies, we’d have far less high fructose corn syrup in our diet overnight. They’d also need to stop strong arming public schools into serving all this low fat no taste nonsense. Government intervention got us in this mess, even more regulation by incompetent (or worse, competent) bureaucrats won’t get us out.


Right on. The government gets things so so wrong sometimes that they cause massive epidemics much worse than anything they solve.

Good Ted Talk on the diabetes epidemic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMhLBPPtlrY


It makes much more sense to regulate food if you think about it. Taking drugs is more or less a choice. Eating is indispensable. We're wired to favor fat, sweet and salty food. The damage is done by merely following our evolutionary programming. But I don't think this will ever happen in the US, mainly because of the lack of socialized health care.


People have trouble thinking outside of the limited world view that was forced upon them as children. It's much easier to put things into containers in your mind that can't be overlapping.


They introduced sugar taxes in the UK, and now almost the only carbonated drinks available with sugar are Coke and Pepsi. Everything else has swapped sugar for sweeteners, which for those of us who find their taste foul has been an unpleasant reduction in choice


> Everything else has swapped sugar for sweeteners, which for those of us who find their taste foul has been an unpleasant reduction in choice.

A few years ago, I adjusted my diet to have a lower carb percentage, but (1) Pepsi was my favorite drink, with Dr. Pepper as a close second, and (2) I could not stand the diet versions of Pepsi or Dr. Pepper.

By doing some contortions I was able to arrange things to keep having Pepsi or Dr. Pepper while still meeting my overall carb goals, but it was annoying as those drinks were pretty much using up all of my carb allowance.

So I took another look at Diet Pepsi, which had a couple different kinds available with different sweeteners, and Diet Dr. Pepper. Still terrible, but I could power through and choke down a few sips with a meal.

I know a lot of people don't like coffee or beer when they first try them, but are told that they will learn to like them if they keep drinking them, and they do so to fit in...and in fact do come to like those drinks.

So I kept choking down Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Pepsi in small amounts with my meals...and after a week or so, found that I actually had come to like them!

I'm tempted to try a Tab now, to see how far the "learn to like" phenomenon can be pushed, but I'm still waiting for the bizarre aftertaste from that Tab I tried in the late '60s to fully fade, so am somewhat afraid to do any further experiments.

Anyway, my point is that if you just tried the non-sugary stuff once and gave up because of the foul taste, it might be worth trying a few more times. You may be able to learn to like it, and so restore somewhat variety to your carbonated drink options.


Why not just drop soda entirely? It seems like you're forcing yourself to drink something you don't like just to keep soda in your diet...

Perhaps flavored waters might be a good choice?


Try some of the new Virgil's drinks, they are truly low carb( sweetened with erythritol) and the canned versions taste really good. They have a cola version as well.


Isn't that the desired outcome? Ideally it seems like coke and pepsi would be extremely expensive and a rare treat. Meanwhile the non-sugary beverages would be the ones most people drink.


>Isn't that the desired outcome?

Not for me, and the way you've framed this is creepy. I don't have diabetes and I very much do not desire to have some of my favorite drinks eliminated by a nanny state trying to solve someone else's self-inflicted health issues. The top-down, metric-based, technocratic ideology doesn't even take my freedom of choice or personal stake in the matter as input.


When you have a public health crisis, extreme measures need to be taken.

We can't drive on the wrong side of the street. We can't sell tainted food. We can't lie in order to drum up sales.

Society has restrictions on freedom.


AIDS is a public health crisis. Are we to limit homosexual intercourse too? If a can of soda invites government meddling into people's lifestyles then literally nothing is safe. There will always be some aggregate cost that can justify intrusion until every private decision is optimized and regulated according to some central rubric.


The thing is, it's not some pure freedom of choice to consume soda. Soda is massively subsidized by government policy, and marketed aggressively by corporations that make huge profits because of its addictive properties, which they carefully enhance. They spend part of those profits on lobbying to ensure that there are no countervailing forces in society, and that the subsidies remain in place. And the negative externalities of it on our health and on the environment are born by society as a whole. If anything, forces that counter-act their marketing and lobbying enhance your freedom by making it so that you are making a more-informed choice if you consume their product.


Once medicine for all becomes a thing, technocrats believe it is their right and duty to tell you what to eat and drink.


Desired by whom, and for whose benefit? Drinks I used to like no longer exist, but have just been substituted by coke so there is zero reduction in sugar consumption, but my quality of life has been reduced.


> Desired by whom, and for whose benefit?

Desired by the lawmakers who passed the tax. And for the benefit of the larger group. A public health crisis is taking place - and if the sugar tax lowers the amount of resources spent on treating the widespread occurrence of diabetes, it will be a net benefit for society.

Yes, at the cost of your personal freedom to have readily available sugary drinks.


The drinks are all still available, but have been reformulated to avoid the sugar tax. Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Irn Bru - they're all still on the shelves, but they have little or no sugar. Aside from a brief outcry about the reformulation of Irn Bru, nobody really noticed or cared.

The sugary drinks tax follows on from a highly successful salt reduction programme.

https://publichealthengland.exposure.co/salt-reduction-progr...


Is making your own an option in the UK? I have a few friends in the US that love it, but I think you need easy service for the canisters. More effort to be sure, but at least then you can use whatever syrup you like.


Obligatory "Sugar: The Bitter Truth" link for those that haven't seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Best watched on a lazy Saturday morning or train ride. It's a long (but rewarding) lecture on how sugar is somewhat like poison to our bodies in the quantities we consume. It starts out jovial and gets very scientific.


He's not the only doctor to suggest that the average person eat less sugar, but he does it in a way that oversimplifies it and makes people susceptible to fad diets with excessive meat consumption. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/is-sugar-rea...


The US cup sizes are ridiculous. In Germany (and most of Europa IIRC), the biggest cup size in McDonalds is 500ml compare that to the smallest US size of about 450ml (there are smaller ones but only on request).


Our cups (US) are absolutely filled with crushed ice. I’ve heard that in Germany ice isn’t provided with the drink, is this not the case? It’s certainly not good to chug soda and I’ve met a few people who both get a large and specify “no ice”, but maybe it’s not quite as bad as it seems.


You usually get ice, though not the same amounts as in the US. Free refills are also not available in every restaurant.


I grew up thinking you could substitute fruit for fruit juice. It turns out fruit juice has just as much sugar as soda and almost none of the benefits of raw fruit.

I think better health education would go a long way.


Agreed, I can't help but believe that subsidizing sugars in general is ridiculous.


That sounds intuitively right, but that this might not be the main cause. Fried potatoes (french fries and chips) are causing obesity, which in turn causes diabetes. They also are high in carbs, though not sugar.


I’d argue it has more to do with the fat/salt/fried factor than just the carbs. Foods with a combo of fat, salt and certain textures make you both thirsty and more likely to crave more.


I think it's a distraction to try to find the main cause and argue whether it's sugar for fried potatoes and other junk food. Both are very bad and need to be reduced.

Arguing about sugar vs. fat gives the food industry an opening to say "the science not in yet" and do nothing. Spearing this kind of uncertainty is their favorite PR strategy.


Where does that statement come from? I'm not saying it's wrong, but it's not exactly an opinion. The problem with (refined) sugar is that it's in damn near everything (processed foods anyway).


It goes even further.

An experiment: go to the pet food aisle of a grocery store, and try finding a dog treat/biscuit that doesn't have added sugar.

Treats labeled as "chicken" or "bacon and cheese" have sugar as the second, third, or fourth ingredient.

Sugar is omnipresent even in pet food.


French fries top this list, are processed, and contain no sugar. https://www.ibtimes.com/what-causes-obesity-10-food-items-ca...

It is strange that bread has sugar in it now but it's typically a small amount like one gram per serving: https://saraleebread.com/our-breads/classic-100-whole-wheat-... It does make snacking more harmful though, as a blood sugar spike can be added where not expected.


Potatoes are starchy and have a high glycemic index (like sugar) as well as fats (potentially saturated) from the oil.

They’re not good for you, but I’d argue they’re not as much of an issue because you can avoid fried potato products much more easily than sugar.


French fries contain no sugar? What? What do you think starch is?


This sort of context ignorant pedantry is extremely tiresome.

The comment they replied to literally says "(refined) sugar". They are talking about added sugar, not the constituent molecules of the food.


Okay, but lots of people don't realize the effect things can have on your blood sugar. Potatoes can raise your blood sugar just as quickly as white bread, or even sugary drinks depending on how you cook them (i.e. baked potatoes get processed differently than french fries). It isn't just added sugar, it's also how you cook it, and the other things you eat with it.


Could you explain what you think the difference is between "carbs" and "sugar"? Fried potatoes have a very high glycemic index, making them pretty much no different from eating candy IMO.


Sugar is like processed carbs with more badness.


The whole debate about nutrition confuses me.

We have all of this hyper-specific advice that sells a lifestyle, like telling people to eat kale or chia seeds or whatever the new hip of the week is. Hyper-optimization for overachievers; or at least those who like to pretend.

In reality, you could basically fix this situation overnight by killing off TV dinners and fast food. Yes, my pleasure centers are also tickled by a McDonalds, cause I'm an idiot just like you, we don't need it.

We call it "junk food" as a sort of humorous quip. If it's actually junk (and it mostly is), then it shouldn't be on sale, because it crowds out alternatives.


> The whole debate about nutrition confuses me.

It is only confusing if one spends too much time paying attention to those who want to sell you something, or develop some sort of guru personal-brand (I vomit in my mouth a little bit when I write things like "personal brand").

Here's what most people need to know: Eat unprocessed food, mostly from vegetable sources.

This means no refined-anything (no added sugar, no white flour, no hydrogenated-fats, etc.)

The less ingredients the better. The more you recognize the ingredients as something you could grow in nature, the better.

I imagine I will be bombarded with paleo-something, keto-whatever, broscience, etc etc. You don't need any of that. Eat unprocessed food, mostly from vegetable sources and you will be way ahead of the vast majority of western people in terms of having a healthy nutrition.

It's boring, unsexy and it works.


Unprocessed != nutritionally balanced, although it often is. The “fewer ingredients == better” people often forget that you still need to balance your diet. The “mostly from vegetable sources” part might leave you in need of more fat and protein, but this is of course depends on the person.


non-scientific thoughts: I believe eating unprocessed food is important due to how the body breaks it down. Eating corn vs. corn flour I imagine has different effects on the body and on indicators of satiety


Ah, but eating unprocessed corn as a primary part of your diet will cause pellagra, unless you soak it in lime water. So unprocessed isn’t always best.


Eating healthy is pretty simple: A plant based whole foods diet will do it. The 4 major food groups are as follows: Beans, Grains, Fruits and Veggies with maybe a little bit of nuts, and meat maybe once a week.


I disagree. The Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest, and practically speaking very easy to apply, has plenty of cheese and wine for example. The scientists haven't been able to figure out all aspects of it, but it definitely works, and fortunately for us all it's not boring, there are some delicious dishes there so you can actually celebrate your diet rather than treat it as a sort of punishment like most people do.


That's boring though and don't you know that whole grains are poison? /s

For real though- the big battle is convincing people of this simple but boring fact. Limiting portion size and adding a little moderate exercise is all you need but it doesn't sell books and make the social media rounds. What is the best way to portray this to the public?


> What is the best way to portray this to the public?

Make your own fast food restaurant chain. Sell healthy full-feeling food in correctly sized portions for competitive prices. Include meats for people who mock people who eat "rabbit food". Include vegetables for people who hate meat. Good luck keeping your menu current.


You need people to eat real food, which means cooking, which means taking time to cook. That's antithetic to the US way of doing things, which is to work all the time and outsource everything else to someone else (I'm caricaturing a little here of course).


Processed food doesn't, by definition, have to be poison. We've set up this race to the bottom between competing food brands where the brand with the most sodium, fat, or high glycemic index sugar wins. The "free market" has an unfortunate tendency to select local maxima in the form of addictive substances.

I don't know how to get there, but I can conceive of a reality where we could eat healthy and also not have to cook everything from scratch. It would require a shift of incentive from maximizing consumption to maximizing consumer health.


It's not just cooking. The problem that we as Americans (and possibly other countries have) is that we don't understand our ingredients. It's easy to "cook" when you put a jar of store bought sauce over some noodles without ever looking at the ingredients. The grams of sugar in lots of store bought "pre-made" items is shocking.

As an example with the staple "PB&J" when you look at the P. One tablespoon of a popular peanut butter has 1.5g of sugar. If you get an "organic" or "natural" alternative you often see that number drop to 0.5g of sugar per tablespoon. If you've been fed the 1.5g of sugar version growing up then you're going to have a hard time accepting the 0.5g version.

Bread is another area. Bread shouldn't have sugar in it unless it's a dessert bread. Yet most store bought breads have corn syrup or sugar in them.

Detoxing from sugar sounds like it could be a joke. But if you cut out most sugar from your diet for a month (read ingredients and pick low or none sugar alternatives as best you can). You'll be amazed at how much sweeter items such as tomatoes, carrots, and other fresh fruits and vegetables begin to taste.


Well yeah, that's why you don't buy pre-made stuff.

It makes me feel like some sort of weird Zen-master to say this, but you don't need that. It's super overkill, not every meal has to be this thing with 500 ingredients like a budget version of what a high end restaurant might serve.

"Sauce" (saying that word without a qualifier makes me kind of shudder) is a tin of chopped tomatoes, an onion, and maybe some spices. Done. It barely takes longer than emptying a jar.


> "Sauce" (saying that word without a qualifier makes me kind of shudder) is a tin of chopped tomatoes, an onion, and maybe some spices. Done. It barely takes longer than emptying a jar.

If you have decent prep skills, you can prep the ingredients for a basic sauce of the type in question fairly quickly, but it still needs to be cooked, which is more involved than bringing a canned sauce up to serving temp. It's a lot more work than emptying a jar, when you consider prep, cooking, and added cleanup.


In the same vein, brushing your teeth is more work than not, cleaning the table is more work than leaving it, etc.

I dunno, I don't subscribe to this 'hyper-optimize all the things' mindset, you're already in the kitchen anyway, it's a normal thing for humans to do.


> In the same vein, brushing your teeth is more work than not, cleaning the table is more work than leaving it, etc.

Yeah, and it would be wrong to suggest the opposite, just as it was when you did it for homemade sauce.


My specific quote:

> It barely takes longer than emptying a jar.

Because it doesn't. Making pasta takes the same amount of time either way.

You know just as well as I do that this is silly, we both exist in the real world and know how long things take, and you know the point I'm trying to make.

Realistically people don't do these things because it's not habit, or because their workplace has no cooking facilites, not because of some epsilon seconds longer on meal prep or whatever.


> Making pasta takes the same amount of time either way.

Making the complete dish does not take the same amount of time either way, even ignoring added cleanup; the prep+cooking time of a from-scratch sauce is greater than the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta (while bringing premade sauce to temperature does not), so even though it can be parallelized (which may be problematic if you are already multitasking, e.g., supervising children while making dinner, as a prepping and cooking a from-scratch sauce also takes more attention than reheating premade), it definitely adds before-serving time.

It also adds cleanup time.

I’ve got two young kids, and cook pasta with premade sauces (often, sauce I previously made from scratch, but sometimes store bought) and with scratch-made-at-the-same-time sauces each fairly regularly.

> Realistically people don't do these things because it's not habit, or because their workplace has no cooking facilites, not because of some epsilon seconds longer on meal prep or whatever.

I did nothing but scratch-made sauces, mostly in parallel with cooking the pasta, for several years before having kids; I now use store bought between a third and half the time.

It's absolutely because of the delta in work involved, which is not mere seconds.


" It's easy to "cook" when you put a jar of store bought sauce over some noodles without ever looking at the ingredients."

That's not what I would call cooking. That's "heating up".


Hence the quotes around the word cook. :)

Even if a person is cooking, if that person isn't preparing everything from scratch it's quite possible they are using sweetened ingredients (I'm not suggesting everyone should cook only from scratch).


I dislike the use of the term "from scratch" here because it implies something.. esoteric or special.

Boiling potatoes is just cooking, there's nothing "from scratch" about it, you're not a farmer.

It's more about using real ingredients rather than processed stuff. (Sure, we can talk about what you consider 'processed' - I'd say basically anything that has more than one or two constituent parts).


I get where where you're coming from with regards to "from scratch". Non-processed is a better way to describe it.


It doesn't necessarily mean cooking though. That's the solution right now because the market is stuck in this minima.

It means no junk food.

There's nothing at all stopping McDonalds or whoever from making the hotpot I just cooked up from fresh vegetables without adding 1 billion bollocks preservatives or whatever else. Scaled up the labour costs become trivial.

But that's not the world we live in. I go outside and I want non-shit food and there's nothing there, so yeah, the option is eat shit or don't eat.


My concern with this statement is that restaurants can surely cook you "real" food and thus allow you to have your time back.

Where I think we've made a big cultural mistake is in food _industry_ and in franchising.

In essence, food isn't as "real" when it's meant for shelf life, to always look and taste the same, and to scale for every point of presence where it's intended to be sold such that there's strong profit margins / brand recognition to be made.


> My concern with this statement is that restaurants can surely cook you "real" food and thus allow you to have your time back.

But they won't, because it's more expensive.


I think this is just the media you are consuming.

For the most part; health care workers, government agencies, etc. are all pushing the same message: avoid processed foods and added sugar, don't drink your calories, eat more vegetables and fruit, choose whole grains and healthy proteins. This article reads like hundreds of others I've seen over the past decade.

For reference: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/


I'm not talking about media, I'm talking about actual actions in the world.

I go outside and look for food, pretty much anywhere in the Western world, and anything that actually resembles a real meal is fast food bollocks. Sugar/salt/chemical laden perfectly formed crap is pretty much everywhere and crowds out alternatives.

Like, I want a bowl of mashed potatoes with some boiled chicken or whatever. Doesn't exist. The only time I've seen close is in Poland in the old milk bars.

Even in say, a pub, it's hard to find a meal that isn't trying to be "fancy" or "luxurious" in some way, ends up being fatty or salty or whatever because for whatever reason people wouldn't buy home cooked stuff.


It's true. 95% of the restaurants are like this.

The solution: stop going out until restaurants get their act together. OR Goto Subway. Just make sure to tell them to hold the oils, the salt, the cheese and make sure it's on whole wheat with limited amount of meat. then you should be fine. OR get some sushi - just watch out for the oils they pour on top. and beaware, they sometimes add sugar in the rice. OR Mixt - a darn good salad bar restaurant.


I pretty much don't. Subway is horrible, by the way.

UK sandwich shops are sort of alright, at proper bakers. But then that's not really a meal, it's a sandwich.


Of course not, that kind of meal won't bring in customers. You'll need to make boiled chicken at home because it's healthy yet unappetizing.


Sure, that's the state of the world now.

Healthy food is incredibly difficult to source on the go.

It doesn't have to be that way, though, hence my comment.

As an aside - unappetizing isn't the correct word here at all - you mean that put next to a treat food it's not necessarily going to be chosen - that's very different.


I don't think you can make boiled chicken appetizing. Grilled with some spices, nearly as healthy and far more appetizing in look, smell, and taste.


Sure, OK, you're being a bit overly literal here.

I just mean normal food that people cook at home. Meat and two veg. Spaghetti bolognese. Basic curries without loads of butter etc.

Pub food. Except as I said, only in Polish milk bars have I ever seen this done as something you could feasibly eat every day without health issues.


I think a big issue is that plant based foods are considered boring and ummarketable. You can’t upsell anyone on broccoli and carrots. People who want to “hyper optimize” are falling into a trap of marketing themselves, in a sense being told that they can’t really be healthy unless they optimize the nutrition of everything they eat.

As a datapoint of one my diet consists mostly of pasta, salads, and whole vegetables, and I would consider myself to be wildly healthy by any metric upon which health could be judged. When I bring in lunches my coworkers look at me like I’m crazy because my meals seem boring, and in a real sense compared to flaming hot Cheetos and guacamole chorizo fritatas they are boring. But there is a certain zen which comes from enjoying the simple things; unfortunately this will never be a popular thing to do.


"In reality, you could basically fix this situation overnight by killing off TV dinners and fast food. Yes, my pleasure centers are also tickled by a McDonalds, cause I'm an idiot just like you, we don't need it. "

Also reduce portion sizes. But yes, most people's nutrition is so far out of whack that there is no reason to argue about details. Pretty much any change will be a huge improvement.


We could solve it overnight simply by acknowledging that people are free to live their lives as they choose. If we allow people to snow ski, to sky dive, to ride motor cycles without helmets, then we should allow them to eat nothing but table sugar if they so choose.

Some might say that these people are driving up health care costs for the government, and my answer to that is that the government should not be paying for people's health care. It enables bad behaviors and it forces people who make good choices to subsidize people who make bad choices. Which is legitimately bullshit.


> the government should not be paying for people's health care. It enables bad behaviors and it forces people who make good choices to subsidize people who make bad choices

What bad choice did a 5 year old with leukemia make? Do you want to live in a country where parents have to simply accept the death of their child because they can't afford a treatment? What about when your friend, lover, spouse can't afford treatment for a curable condition that they weren't responsible for causing?

You may be happy with that situation, but I'm not. I'm happy to contribute and benefit from a government funded healthcare system and I accept the trade off that that this means that sometimes we're collectively going to pay for people who have made bad choices in their lives.


>Do you want to live in a country where parents have to simply accept the death of their child because they can't afford a treatment?

I want to live in a country where people are responsible. The argument presented basically holds children hostage so the parents can live their lives free of trade offs between lifestyle and health, education, and etc. I fail to see why I should care more about my neighbor's child than my neighbors do.


I'm sorry but I don't understand the argument you're making, or why you think contributing to universal health care would mean you care about your neighbours child more than they do. Bad things can and do happen to people no matter how "responsibly" (according to who?) they live. Maybe you are suggesting only the wealthy should have children?


I'll be happy to continue when you acknowledge that there are more than the choices of universal health care and paying for everything out of pocket.

It's very strange how insurance works for homes, for cars, for libel, and many other things, yet somehow no one here is willing to entertain the fact that health insurance also works to pay for health care.


So how does the neighbour determine how much they value their child? Are they paying for it all out of pocket, or are they investing in insurance?


> my answer to that is that the government should not be paying for people's health care. It enables bad behaviors and it forces people who make good choices to subsidize people who make bad choices. Which is legitimately bullshit.

Bullshit. The government is not "paying for people's health care". In most of the civilized world, you pay a percentage of your income to the national health care system, and then the national health care system takes care of you if you need something.

Why? Because you can be suddenly diagnosed with all sorts of diseases that could not be prevented by having "good behavior". That is puritanical bullshit to blame those who need help and compassion the most. People have life-threatening diseases because of genetic factors, environmental factors that are out of their control, receiving a cosmic radiation at the wrong moment, etc etc.

Also: people get old. The older you get, the more shit starts to happen.

Not having a national health care system leads to a nasty and cruel society.


> That is puritanical bullshit to blame those who need help and compassion the most. People have life-threatening diseases because of genetic factors, environmental factors that are out of their control, receiving a cosmic radiation at the wrong moment, etc etc.

I don't see where OP is implying that individuals suffering from unfortunate accidents outside of their control are driving up health care costs. This whole discussion seems to be centered on lifestyle choices, eating large quantities of sugar, that have a significant effect on the health care costs of the population as a whole. Those are the types of decisions that have the ability to drive up health care costs. Childhood cancer or other unfortunate illnesses are statistically too infrequent to be driving up health care costs alone.

As a parallel example: A family might have their house burn down due to no fault of their own, and yet the monthly premium that families pay for home insurance to cover such an event is within their means. Note: The US market actually forces this by default as no lender will underwrite your mortgage without casualty insurance.


> I don't see where OP is implying that individuals suffering from unfortunate accidents outside of their control are driving up health care costs

No, OP is just proposing that help is denied to everyone who needs it and can't afford it, because it is deemed more important to prevent free-riders than to be humane. It's a nasty ideology, that is only embraced by the US among all developed countries.

It means that your life is only valuable to society if you have (or had) some economic value. It doesn't matter, by the way, if this economic value comes from actually contributing, or by inheritance, or by winning big at a casino. The important thing is that you have money, otherwise go (literally) die in a corner.

> This whole discussion seems to be centered on lifestyle choices, eating large quantities of sugar, that have a significant effect on the health care costs of the population as a whole.

So why not tax the big corps that make all of this junk for the costs to society that they externalize? Sure, it would be great if people had the level of education necessary to make the right choices. It is pretty hard to get that level of education in the US if you are born into an unprivileged situation, because the education system for the poor is shit, because said companies avoid paying taxes as much as possible, and the more well-off are selfish and shortsighted, and vote for politicians that do not spend public money on what can improve society as a whole.

> Childhood cancer or other unfortunate illnesses are statistically too infrequent to be driving up health care costs alone.

You are very young, I imagine. Perhaps you haven't yet started to understand that things go to shit as you age, and it is not "infrequent", it is part of the human condition. A part that is hidden out of the public eye because it is inconvenient to talk about it. All Americans are immortal and about to be millionaires!


I see you've never had your appendix spontaneously decide time was up.


I don't get why Marianne Williamson gets labeled as some crazy person when she says we have a sickness problem and that we need to have a conversation on all the causes, including food, that contribute to people getting sick and thus needed to seek healthcare in the first place.

I think most rational people inherently get that, but for whatever reason talking about preventative care seems to be taboo at the national political level. That needs to change.


I imagine it's usually because of her other views.

I'm just guessing though, I haven't looked closely.


Possibly, though I think the bigger problem is that personal accountability has somehow become politically dangerous.


why not brutally enforce cut down of sugar in sweet items (including softdrinks, ice cream, chocolates, cakes, etc.) by 50%? To he11 with the taste - sugar is as bad as cocaine when it comes to addiction.

Sugar is literally killing humanity as something inside of us makes us hooked to it. And some ethnic cuisines are culprit in this: The stupid practice of overloading sugar in sweets in Pakistan (I am Pakistani for record) and Middle East, weird North American sickly sweet kids cereals (and Krispy Kreme, etc.).

Not only artificial sugar but even the propaganda about stuffing our mouth with fruit needs to stop -- more than 1 fruit (e.g. banana or apple or orange) per adult is excessive in terms of sugar.

Finally, not only sugar, low sodium levels need to be enforced.

Would also be nice to charge 100% tax on deep fried items and fatty products such as cheese and white rice (in developed nations).

Frankly speaking, all unhealthy foods should be sold with a clear and bold "THIS FOOD PRODUCT IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH" type of warning -- similar to labels on cigarettes.

It is not about being a nanny state but rather than keeping our generations and humanity healthy. For far too long the greedy, unethical food corporations have been profiting off our health. This has caused untold misery for countless people around the World - not only diabetes and heart attacks but even forms of cancers are linked to unhealthy food.


In my opinion, from their inception in the early 1970's, the official US food recommendations have been flat wrong, captured by the food industry from the start. The Food Pyramid and its successors, for instance, are far from an ideal diet, and actively harmful to people like me.

I don't want the same people who made those decisions to have the power to force me to eat more of this or less of that. Even if they happen to be right now on a particular issue that is not their track record.

If I were to eat according to USDA recommendations, or even the recommendation of the American Diabetes Association, I think my diabetes would be out of control, compared to being held in remission by a low carb diet.


I agree with some of the sentiment, but I do disagree on a couple of notes: 1. I don't think white rice needs a tax, nor would I consider it a "fatty product". I end up eating white rice probably 4/7 days of the week, paired with whatever vegetables we bought, and either a legume (chickpea, lentil, black bean) or tofu/seitan. If I didn't prep anything, I'll pop a bit of rice in the instant pot and mix it with peanut butter and nutritional yeast in the bowl. I love brown rice, but for a couple of reasons we mostly eat white rice, and I would still consider us healthy people. We do Quinoa and oats a lot as well. I think the main problems with white rice apply to any food. I could get just as fat over-eating brown rice or quinoa. Grains, no matter which you choose, should be just a component of your meal.

2. I'll keep this one short since I rambled for way too long about rice, I think eating more than one piece of fruit per day is fine. Depending on what is in season, my personal tastes sometimes have me missing my fruit target, but I still think having an extra apple or some berries is a way better snack than anything but maybe some raw vegetables. Juice, and dried (with sugar added) fruits are unhealthy except in moderation, but fruit shouldn't be lumped in with those. The fiber helps slow the digestion, and they are vitamin-bombs.


>why not brutally enforce cut down of sugar in sweet items (including softdrinks, ice cream, chocolates, cakes, etc.) by 50%? To he11 with the taste - sugar is as bad as cocaine when it comes to addiction.

No it's not.

>Not only artificial sugar but even the propaganda about stuffing our mouth with fruit needs to stop -- more than 1 fruit (e.g. banana or apple or orange) per adult is excessive in terms of sugar.

I'd love to see a source for that statement and you seem to be ignoring the effects of the fiber in apples and oranges on digestion (i.e. insulin spikes).

>Finally, not only sugar, low sodium levels need to be enforced.

Outdated and incorrect.

>Would also be nice to charge 100% tax on deep fried items and fatty products such as cheese and white rice (in developed nations).

And you completely lost me. There's nothing wrong with cheese and white rice. Like almost any food, in moderation they are fine and healthy. Also, I stay in very good shape; can I please opt out of your 2x tax on my occassional serving of french fries?

>Frankly speaking, all unhealthy foods should be sold with a clear and bold "THIS FOOD PRODUCT IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH" type of warning -- similar to labels on cigarettes.

Except the definition of what's bad for you seems to change about every ten years. Again, moderation is key.


> I'd love to see a source for that statement and you seem to be ignoring the effects of the fiber in apples and oranges.

How many people peel their apples or take the seeds out of their oranges, which reduces the amount of fiber?


>How many people... take the seeds out of their oranges

...Everyone? Are you saying that you eat the seeds? What?

Either way, no one is developing diabetes because they eat three peeled apples on a daily basis. C'mon.


Yeah, I eat the seeds ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And yeah, assuming the rest of your diet is healthy, eating a few apples won't make you diabetic. The problem is a broader lack of knowledge about what is healthy. People will eat a lot of garbage, and then eat a few apples and think that it offsets all of the pizza/burgers/soda/etc they ate somehow.

Watch this show https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Eaters


>Yeah, I eat the seeds ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Ha, well more power to you brother.

>And yeah, assuming the rest of your diet is healthy, eating a few apples won't make you diabetic. The problem is a broader lack of knowledge about what is healthy. People will eat a lot of garbage, and then eat a few apples and think that it offsets all of the pizza/burgers/soda/etc they ate somehow.

Sure, people tend to be pretty ignorant about how this stuff works on any level. When I see someone talk about fibrous fruit in the same vein as refined sugar though... I feel someone has to call that out.


The thing with the sodium was debunked like a hundred times already, how long is this myth gonna last? Beside a temporary spike in blood pressure, there is nothing wrong with eating salt.

https://medium.com/@drjasonfung/the-salt-scam-1973d73dccd


> For far too long the greedy, unethical food corporations have been profiting off our health.

Nonsense. As knowledge of nutrition has advanced, companies have adapted to demands from consumers to produce healthier food options. See: salads at McDonalds.

This idea that there was some magical past where food was healthy and abundant is not supported by fact. My parents grew up on farms in Canada in the 40s/50s, and food security was still very much a big issue - the amount of time they spent just to ensure everyone had adequate food was staggering vs. the ease with which anyone can buy inexpensive, high-quality food at the supermarket today.

Yes, many products have far too much sugar in them. The right approach is to stop buying those products and force manufacturers to reformulate them as they realize their market is drying up, and you already see this happening at a huge scale.


I'm concerned that any action on sugar will drive up artificial sweetening. I don't believe that's a good alternative.

I've recently come across content that discuss palatability, food triggering your reward center, and how we're maybe meant to consume a bland diet: https://chriskresser.com/the-healthy-skeptic-podcast-episode.... I've posted this link before, in another thread. I'm a big fan of the message.

All in all, it's hard to say. I don't think the public has a good understanding of what "healthy" and "good" food actually is. Schools of thought say there's nothing more dangerous than mixing carbs and fats, while fats and protein and carbs and protein are "good."

Nutrition science doesn't help make things any clearer, on a weekly basis you can find studies contradicting each other.

I suppose I'll add: there are particular diets (macronutrient combinations, unprocessed - food preparation) more effective for fat loss where palatability doesn't trigger fat storage, than say maintenance of body weight with good nutrition.


> why not brutally enforce cut down of sugar in sweet items (including softdrinks, ice cream, chocolates, cakes, etc.) by 50%? To he11 with the taste

A lot of the processed stuff sold in the US would actually taste better with less sugar in it, I bet. I found the taste of sugar pretty much overpowering in a lot of sweets.


>More than 100 million adults — almost half the entire adult population — have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Cardiovascular disease afflicts about 122 million people and causes roughly 840,000 deaths each year, or about 2,300 deaths each day. Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy.

Jesus Christ. Aside from many of the obvious causes I think the public just has no idea what a "good" scientifically supported eating habit looks like. They turn to fad diets that go around social media. Their heart is in the right place but it's become difficult to determine BS from scientifically supported habits- even on this site I see fad diets being promoted. Internet searches usually turn up blogs touting fad diets and not real science. The deck is stacked against the average citizen in this regard.


To get people eating more healthily you have to get them accustomed to eating healthy dishes. In India a go-to meal might be various curries with legumes and vegetables. In Japan an everyday meal might include grilled fish and tofu soup. In America many people default to foods like fatty ribs and butter-laden mashed potatoes.

They may want to eat healthier but people turn to foods out of familiarity and convenience. People don't have time to always think of new ways to eat vegetables. When you encourage Americans to eat more vegetables many will instantly think MORE SALAD. I mean salad is great but it's not enjoyable all the time.

You can think of different food cultures as providing different proportions of nutrients. American schools should introduce kids to food from other parts of the world early on that taste great and are great for the body. If they default to tried and true "American" foods like burgers and pizza, they prepare young people for a lifetime of unhealthy eating.


This is way to radical to ever actually be tried, but sometimes I think what we need to do is put taxes or subsidies on pretty much everything that has calories to make it so that all foods cost the same per calorie to the eater.

That would make keeping track of your calories a lot easier, which may make it easier for most people to get to and maintain a healthy weight.

It would probably also result in healthier eating for most people. When you see that a big sugary soda takes up the same amount of your food budget as a nice big steak, you are probably going to drink less sugary soda. To avoid feeling hungry at the end of the day, you'll shift to more foods that make you feel full without giving a lot of calories, and/or to foods that provide high satiety.


IMHO, Calorie is an awfull unit when it comes to nutritions.


I'm likely slightly biased due to recency (I'm researching the effect of tobacco taxes in LMIC's) but I think the tax component is critical here. It's not strongly emphasized here but as it's coming more into vogue, sin (or as they're rebranding) health taxes, are one of the more effective ways to get people to cut down on using something. I don't have the data on the company side, just the consumer side, but if you look to other inelastic markets such as tobacco, increased taxes have been massively effective. Add to this the fact that the higher taxes on these goods can also lead not just to reduced health care costs for individuals and the nation, but also to increased revenues that can be allocated for net positive uses. It'll also likely be more effective pound for pound than tobacco taxes because (well, I'm just wildly speculating here) I can't imagine Kellogg's and Kraft engaging in some of the schemes that the tobacco companies do to avoid taxes.


Increased taxes on sugary drinks in Seattle have not led to a decrease in consumption.

The consumption appears to be growing faster than the population.

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/drink-les...


From the article:

> But by definition and by its main purpose, this tax should erode over time. If the revenues don’t start dropping, at least relative to population growth, then it just isn’t working.

This is an easy statistical mistake to make. He is comparing today's consumption to the past and declaring failure because the today isn't better. But the correct comparison to make is today versus the alternate today we would have now if the tax had not been passed.

It may be that sugary drink consumption has gone up, but would have gone up even more had the tax not been passed. In that case, the tax is a success.

Of course, figuring out how to estimate and measure an alternate timeline is hard. But that's what you have to try to do to make sound choices.


Lots of plonking pronunciations about "what humans should eat" in the comments here. Not everyone needs the same diet; sure there's some gross classifications we can make but any individuals level of "too much" sugar will be different from another's. There's little concern for this in most discussion of nutrition.

I survive on meat, cheese, and refined sugars, chiefly dextrose. I wouldn't recommend my diet even to those with my medical condition, universally; but it does work for me. Most of the dietary advice thrown so confidently on this thread would kill me quick.


I have a theory that added food sugar makes people more aggressive as that what is happening in monkeys. Could sugar have the same effect in humans? Reason human and monkey dna are quite similar.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/monkeys-bann...


Any stimulant is likely to make you act more aggressively.


One of the interesting things mentioned here but not really explored is the claim that custom provided meals according to health needs delivered to the home actually saves money.

Does anyone know if this is true and where this came from?


There's no inherent reason that new technologies will increase costs.

They are often introduced with high prices, but a closer look also often shows that they are still cheaper than the care they replace.


Watch "fed up" and "cowspiracy" on netflix about how powerful the food industry is to shut all this down, they rather you get ill and buy more meds


The ideas in "Sustainable"[1] are a good start.

[1] https://sustainablefoodfilm.com/


I'm noticing this in my peer group. Folks way too young to be having serious health issues dying or seriously sick, all diet related.


Coca-Cola is gonna do a counter study with findings that shows health benefits of drinking Coke™


any way I can read this without a paywall?


Try clicking on the 'web' link under the HN title and going through the google search results page.


got it, thanks a lot.


[flagged]


Posting like this will get your account banned, so could you please review the guidelines?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


It is sad that the photo illustrating this article shows cheeseburgers. Cheeseburgers haven't killed anybody. Cheeseburgers are not junk-food. Stop making amalgams.


Highly processed flour bun. Processed cheese. One cheeseburger is basically a quarter of your fat and sodium for the day.

Agreed that the large soda that many wash that cheeseburger down with is certainly worse (320 calories of pure sugar), but they are certainly junk food.


> "Highly processed flour bun. Processed cheese"

If you choose to make a cheeseburger out of that sort of garbage, that's on you.

> "One cheeseburger is basically a quarter of your fat and sodium for the day."

A cheeseburger is also one third of the meals I might eat in a day, so if anything, one fourth of my daily sodium and fat intake is too little.


Those WERE the cheeseburgers in the photo. Those are the garbage cheeseburgers we are talking about.

If you make a burger out of lean ground chuck, a whole grain bun and real cheese that is a different discussion.

Also, the burgers pictured (McDonald's cheeseburgers) are only ~250 calories, so I don't see how that is one-quarter of your daily food intake.


They have a lot of saturated fat (beef and cheese) and simple carbs (bun), but sugary drinks are probably worse.

I’m sure excessive saturated fat consumption from a cheeseburger addiction has killed someone by way of heart disease.


Yes, sugary drinks are much worse, but also prepared industrial dishes that you can find in supermarkets.


It's sort of ironic that the NYT decided to caption a shot of a soda fountain calling for more taxes on sugary drinks when the high fructose corn syrup is only so cheap in the first place because of subsidies. Maybe instead of subsidizing on one end and taxing the other we could just stop subsidizing unhealthy foods?


Replacing HFCS with cane sugar basically doesn't add any cost to the consumer. It's cheaper and more profitable to use HFCS, but the sugar calories in a serving of soda are ~$0.10 either way…


Sadly it seems like it is many times easier for politicians to push a soda tax (which also serves as a political gesture on its own that can be framed as being for the good of the every day people and against the controlling influence of Big Soda) rather than undo decades of agricultural policy, which would also be controversial amongst more rural bases.

As you point out, it completely defies elementary logic - but politics and policy seem to have preoccupations and incentives that are orthogonal to elementary logic.


Perverse incentives. Corn farmers are in Iowa. Iowa is where presidential elections start [1], and several Congressional reps are from. Hence, the need to pander to these folks and their biofuel and ag subsidies if your run for office touches Iowa ag.

If you can't dissuade unhealthy subsidies as a state or other jurisdiction, you're only left with enacting your own opposite disincentives. Farmers are going to hold onto their subsidies to the bitter end, no different than fossil fuel/O&G industry. I'm always surprised when people assume these economic actors would do the "right thing" voluntarily.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_caucuses


The Presidential caucus may have something to do with it but "and several Congressional reps are from" makes it sound like they have disproportionate representation in Congress, or don't deserve representation. Iowa has 4 reps. California, for comparison, has 48. I don't think those 4 reps are the reason for these subsidies. Maybe the Caucus makes it a political third rail. I think most voters are simply ignorant of the situation, however. That ignorance could be alleviated by better reporting by large organizations like the NYT.


> and several Congressional reps are from" makes it sound like they have disproportionate representation in Congress

They do, specifically in the upper house of Congress: Iowa has about one Senator per 1.55 million people; the US as a whole has about 1 per 3.3 million, California has less than one per 19 million.

> Iowa has 4 reps. California, for comparison, has 48.

Actually, California has 53 seats in the House, but the House is approximately proportional to population; while there is a pretty big range in representation ratios for the songle-district states because of the limits of whole representatives, the real ddisproportion in Congress is in the Senate.


Iowa can grow more than one crop yes? Why not subsidize not corn?


I wonder why the downvotes -- this was a very insightful observation.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: