High-fructose cornball

The nonprofit (that’s a legal term) Center for Science in the Public Interest is headed by Michael Jacobson, once described by me as “the Perez Hilton of health”; when he’s not haranguing Starbucks into putting out a Broccoli Venti, he’s sending out something called the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a promotion for which landed on my doorstep in an envelope ominously marked “You Wanted This.” Obviously NSA isn’t as efficient as they think they are.

One of the sheets is headed “We Name Names!” It contains specific examples of Things You Dare Not Eat, including Cold Stone Creamery’s Oh Fudge! shake in the “Gotta Have It” size (24 ounces), which contains, they say, “the saturated fat content of two 16-oz ribeye steaks plus a buttered baked potato, all blended into a handy 24-oz cup.” Truth be told, I don’t think I could get both those steaks and a spud into my Seventies-vintage blender, but now I’m keen to try.

I was most amused, though, by the pitch for watermelon: “When they’re in season, watermelons are often locally grown, which means they may have a smaller carbon footprint than some other fruits.” This would almost make sense if they hadn’t also plugged mangoes, which are grown on this continent in laughably small quantities; flying in a bag of mangoes is likely to burn up more precious hydrocarbons than trucking in a couple of dozen watermelons.

Still, there’s nothing here appreciably more alarmist than your average issue of Consumer Reports, and it’s decidedly cheaper: $20 for a year. Then again, Jacobson doesn’t test cars, and if he did, he’d want to know why we’d own such fiendish devices in the first place.

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A sacred golden cup

It is an article of faith in some circles that people gravitate toward the welfare system because it makes more room in the budget for, as the phrase goes, prescriptions available without a prescription.

Or, you know, not:

Last year, the Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature passed a law that requires drug screening of adult applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF. The Oklahoma Gazette reported this week that only 29 out of about 1,300 applicants were supposedly caught under the new program from November 2012 to February 2013. That’s a whopping 2.2 percent, and even those who refused to take additional tests weren’t exactly caught doing illegal drugs or didn’t receive money.

Given some of the measures they come up with, I’d be surprised if only 2.2 percent of legislators were doing drugs.

And even if they’d caught twenty, forty, fifty percent, a rule like this sets an extremely bad precedent: it opens the door for all manner of mischief. What’s to stop some petty tyrant of the Michael Jacobson mindset from installing a weigh station at the supermarket checkout and disallowing any purchases he deems inappropriate for your BMI? Legislative Republicans need to put down the bong and rethink this thing.

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They can’t be beet

Two years ago, Necco wafers were reformulated with natural colorings and flavorings like beet juice and turmeric, the better to appeal to customers who insist on that sort of thing.

Demand promptly landed in the dirt, and now we’re back to Necco Classic:

“There were stacks and stacks of letters and e-mails that said, ‘Why did you do this? You ruined it’,” recalled Steve Ornell, Necco’s vice president of sales… [T]wo years after going all natural, the Revere company has gone back to its original recipe in hopes of recouping lost sales and loyal fans of the 164-year-old candy.

Sales dropped 35 percent during the Unfortunate Experiment. The project’s one defender turns out to be chalk-eating buffoon Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who said:

“The unfortunate experience indicates the need for national action,” he said. “People’s perceptions would change if artificial coloring were removed from all foods.”

After issuing his statement, Jacobson slunk off to the broom closet, where he’s kept two McRibs on ice since last November.

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Adrift off Statin Island

This is not my idea of a Happy Meal:

Fast food outlets could provide statin drugs free of charge so that customers can neutralise the heart disease dangers of fatty food, researchers at Imperial College London suggest in a new study.

In a paper published in the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr Darrel Francis and colleagues calculate that the reduction in cardiovascular risk offered by a statin is enough to offset the increase in heart attack risk from eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake.

Tom Naughton, no fan of statins, doesn’t like this idea at all:

[A]pparently these researchers are convinced that saturated fat clogs your arteries the way tobacco stains your teeth: a little bit with every dose. Eat a burger, grow some plaque — unless, by gosh, you pop a statin immediately to halt the process.

If, heaven forbid, we start serving fast food with a side of statins, here’s what will happen: five or 10 years from now, you’ll see headlines about a new study that links fast-food consumption to muscle weakness, depression and memory loss. The blame, of course, will be assigned to the burgers. Michael Jacobson of CSPI will seek out the nearest TV camera and declare Quarter Pounders “Alzheimer’s in a bun.”

Apart from the fact that Jacobson, the Perez Hilton of health, is never far from a TV camera to begin with, Naughton’s prediction looks good, though really it’s pretty easy to see that fast food, if it’s still permitted to people outside the Federal government five or ten years from now, will be blamed for everything from crib death to the heartbreak of psoriasis.

(From Margi Lowry’s Facebook page. I think I owe her a McRib.)

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