Dr. David Kessler was a guest on Here & Now with Steve Goldstein on NPR. He’s speaking near me at ASU tomorrow night. I won’t go to his lecture, but I was pointed to this interview by a friend. The discussion topic of the interview was obesity and regulation of food by the government.

This may get a bit political, a natural consequence of the topic, but it also ties to one of the basic components I like to touch on when coaching individuals about their weight loss; it’s YOUR responsibility to put into your body what it needs and not the responsibility of anyone else.

Kessler says the acceptable roles of government are:

  • Requiring disclosure of what’s in food, on labels.
  • Educating our kids about nutrition.
  • Subsidizing healthy foods instead of less healthy foods.
  • He hedges at the idea of taxation on certain foods. Frankly, I don’t see what the difference is between taxes and subsidies.

I would make these counter-arguments.

  • To disclosure – I know what’s in the foods I eat. There’s broccoli in broccoli, beef in beef, and apple in apples. See my point? Eat whole foods and you don’t have to worry about much disclosure.
  • To education – take one look at the food pyramid. I’ll educate my own children, thank you, if I ever have any. The government has done one hell of a job screwing that up so far and they don’t show any sign of stopping anytime soon.
  • To subsidies and taxes – each one wants to use our money (that’s what government money is, since we’re their main source of income) to make certain foods less or more expensive than others, relatively. Here’s another instance where the government has proven not only ineffective, but actually harmful. From 1995-2009, corn, wheat and soybeans were 3 out of the top 5 in subsidy payments (http://farm.ewg.org/region.php?fips=00000). Great!

With the internet sprouting up all kinds of different ways to bring people together in a common cause and at the same time allowing access to tons of information, we really don’t need the government’s help when deciding what to eat. Keep in mind the government has already been educating us (about how great grains are!), requiring food labels (can you call it organic, or not? Depends on who’s lobbied!), subsidizing foods (why are cows fed corn and not grass?), and look at the mess we’re in. Is it in spite of their help or a direct cause of it?

The responsibility is all ours. Find good places to learn about food and health in general. Verify the information. Tell your friends. Repeat.

Dr. Kessler's Invterview on NPR – What is the government's role in nutrition?
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