33 comments

  1. Alexandra M
    I'm not a libertarian myself, but I do agree with Tom Naughton that it's not Burger King that's responsible for people getting fat and sick. If people were given the right information, they'd be looking for healthier choices and that's what Burger King would be providing if they wanted to stay in business.

    I guess you could argue that the advertising is powerful enough to make people consume things that they know will make them sick, and that marketing itself can create demand. I would argue that people still don't know. They think "the jury's still out" and "Last year they told me not to eat fat. This year they're telling me not to eat sugar. It's all bollocks. I'm just going to eat what I want."

    For me, I got the message a long time ago and when I look at a billboard like that I just think "Yuck!"

  2. Megan
    I agree with Alexandra. Fast food joints will provide us with the food we ask for - the problem is that we ask for the wrong foods. The addictive nature of those foods are bound to have had some impact on those choices - but a lack of knowledge is surely more to blame?

    Look at the cigarette industry. Just 20% of people now smoke due to a campaign of awareness. No such campaign exists about the dangers of sugar (unless we count the good DietDoctor and his friends!). A sustained campaign of awareness is what it will take and until then, BK and Maccy D's will continue to sell what sells best - sugar, carbs and combinations thereof.

  3. Tom Hepplewhite
    This is fantastic.
  4. AnneDK
    I'm lucky to live in Copehnagen where we have a Paleo Fast Food restaurant at Torvehallerne.
  5. Moreporkplease
    Alexandra, "education" and "information" aren't enough. A recent study showed that only 1in 6 people used the fast food nutrition information posted. http://www.miller-mccune.com/health/some-people-do-heed-fast-food-cal... Nutrition info isn't enough to kick a cocaine-style addiction. It's pointless to argue a libertarian right of choice when addiction is involved. The entire point is that addicted people are rationally impaired: the "choice" isn't there. A Cass-Sunstein-style nudge would be better. That is, more effective.
  6. MarieDK
    I also live in Copenhagen, and yes there is one paleo restuarant, but there's still Several Burger King's and McDonald's scattert all over.
    Denmark is still hopelessly behind Sweden and Norway, when it comes to health issues. Mainly because, and this is my suspicion, the health system is bribed by the medicine industry.
    It is NOT in their interest, that people in general get healthier in any way, 'cause they profit on sicknesses.....

    Just saying......

  7. Alexandra M
    "Nutrition info isn't enough..."

    No, of course it isn't - not if people don't know the basics. The "basics" is what's missing. But that's the fault of the USDA and the AHA and the ADA, et. al. who have drowned out any meaningful conversation about healthy diet with their endless warnings against fat - not the fault of Burger King. As Megan said, a sustained campaign of awareness was effective in reducing smoking which is certainly an addictive behavior. Unfortunately the only sustained campaign of awareness to date has been one to spread the low fat message.

    So do you think the government should intervene and forbid Burger King to sell certain foods? (If they did that, though, they'd eliminate the "greasy" hamburgers, not the low-fat ice cream!) Or restrict their advertising?

  8. Lisa I.
    Alexandra, you are perfectly right. It's the fault of government entities and medical experts. The information has been there since the early to mid 1900's but for some ridiculous, unknown reason it has chosen to be ignored in favor of the low-fat/high cholesterol myth. If sugar was discovered today it may be classified as a controlled substance. There are SO many people who just don't get it. It's so out of control. The HFCS in everything and people still mistakenly believe that it's the fat that is making America fat and causing all this sickness and disease. I do think awareness is coming to more people but probably too slowly to save our country.
  9. Hugo
    Since it is an addiction problem, refined sugars and corn syrup have the same effect that opiates in the chemic of brain, we can not expect that people can regulate the consumption of this kind of crap by them selfs. Im from México and here the cost of this kind of products are very cheap, thats another factor to consider.

    So, corporations knows it very well, we are addicted to all that crap. Information an education are good but not enough. Some doctors, like Robert Lustig, are asking for regulate sugars the same way we regulate alcohol and tabacco. High taxes and restrictions.

    Peace :)

  10. lori
    Oh, come on now! How stupid do you have to be to know that a burger, fry's, and a milkshake are not good for you??? Give me a break!!! Perhaps a 10 year old may not know but any other human knows!!

    Quit making excuses for laziness, and lack of discipline. Motivation to change ones health comes from within, if there is no motivation, then one wont change.

    So many factors play into this, the addiction to the food; for example a drug addict knows that doing the drug is not beneficial to their health, but they are addicted. Just as the fast food junkie cant say no the the drive thru, they know that it is the reason for their ill health, obesity, ect, but they can not say no, they to are addicted to the carbohydrates and the sugar.

    These people who are addicted to the food, do not know why they are addicted. They just crave it, it is their life style, and they do not know anything different.

    I also think; this is all my own opinion, that they are uneducated in what is affordable and healthy. And this is the government, our schools, and the RDs out there preaching the food pyramid. They do teach that fast food is unhealthy, but the mixed message is in the food pyramid info.

    This is just a Rant, and a Vent. I am frustrated with the unwillingness and slow acceptance of this whole food revolution that we are a part of. It seems so simple to me! why dont others get it?? Peeps are so afraid of fat, and run to the processed grains and sugars.

  11. Alexandra M
    From a coupon I found yesterday for Honey Nut Cheerios:

    "Honey Nut Cheerios Cereal Makes a Great Heart Healthy Snack!...That same delicious honey taste you love in the morning can show your heart some love all day long...3/4 cup...a snack that can lower your cholesterol on the go!"

    3/4 cup = 22g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 9g sugars.

  12. Alexandra M
    "Quit making excuses for laziness, and lack of discipline. Motivation to change ones health comes from within, if there is no motivation, then one wont change."

    I wish you could see the kids at the high school where my husband teaches. The school is also a working organic farm and they get the "junk food is bad" message every day. They do projects where they cover the walls with posters demonizing Burger King and McDonald's. They get it. And you know what? They're still fat - in fact they're morbidly obese. One girl was over 400 pounds, and the faculty raised money and pulled strings and got her into the Duke University program, but her mother wouldn't let her go because she needs her at home to babysit her younger siblings. This girl has attempted suicide 3 times.*

    I think the people at the school are finally starting to get it. They had the maker of the movie King Korn give a talk. But mostly, as is the case with many supporters of organic farming, they believe that a vegetarian diet is best and that fat is the enemy.

    Poverty is a huge factor. Some of these kids don't have any food at home. They'll show up at school at 6am because it's warm and they can get breakfast. Usually the "healthy" breakfast they're given is low-fat fruit yogurt, skim milk and orange juice.

    So please don't call them lazy and undisciplined. It makes me cry.

    *The 400 pound girl's mother relented last week and she's gone off to a program in Virginia.

  13. Margaretrc
    @Alexandra M., I do hope the program in Virginia that they sent this poor girl off to is not the usual fat camp, where they feed the kids a calorie restricted low fat diet and work them to death! Because, if that's the case, the kid will be miserable and it won't bring about lasting change. This kid and your hubby's school need to get the message that it's not the fat. It's the carbs that need to go.
  14. Alexandra M
    Me too! The Duke program was low carb (not the rice diet!) but I don't know about this one. I'm asking for info and updates.

    Seriously, I wish I could get some of these kids to come live with me for a month! But it's really not doable. I do pack a low carb lunch for my husband every day and he gets a lot of questions. I hope that's helping a bit.

  15. Margaretrc
    @Alexandra M., "If people were given the right information, they'd be looking for healthier choices and that's what Burger King would be providing if they wanted to stay in business." I tend to agree. It worked (and is still working) when the low fat message was propagated. Industry and fast food supply all kinds of "it's low fat--eat all you want" foods and ads. If/when people start learning the real disaster that sugar is (and the message is starting to get out) they will be less inclined to make a habit of eating/drinking such things and Burger King and other fast food establishments and industry will rush to boost the supply of sugar free options. If they're sugar free and fat free, they will taste awful and people won't be interested, but trust me, they will supply us with whatever we are willing to buy! It's true that the addiction factor will make it an uphill battle for some, but I honestly don't like the idea of regulating food ads or what FF establishment and industry can make available, because the government still thinks fat is the problem (or is protecting financial interests of the grain industry) and fat will still be the first to feel the effects. Cigarettes are also addictive, but an aggressive campaign to educate, especially in health classes in school, has drastically reduced the number of people who smoke. Let's hope the same happens with sugar.
  16. Let me tell you a true story:

    I was attending night school, so my husband was solo caring for our daughter in the evenings. He is a great cook and always makes healthy meals, unlike many of her friends who typically ate at fast food restaurants several times a week. I think our daughter had eaten at a fast food restaurant a few times in her entire life at that point--we only ate fast food when we were on the road for the 10 hour drive to Grandma's house.

    My daughter was in first grade and they were studying rainforests. Her teacher explained how large fast food companies were destroying rain forest in order to have land to graze cattle inexpensively. When I called her to wish her good night during a class break, she told me all about how horrible the fast food companies were to be destroying precious rain forest.

    On the next night, when I called to say goodnight, nobody was home. Later my husband explained that when it came time to fix dinner, he asked my daughter what she wanted to eat. She said "You know, I've always wanted to try rainforest beef." She asked to go to McDonalds, and the request was so unusual that my husband agreed. My daughter ate a little bit of the Happy Meal, but when questioned further, it was really about the toy. Her friends told her about a great toy in the Happy Meals, and since she had to backpedal a bit about the harm to rain forests, she managed to turn it around stating she wanted to taste beef grown in a rain forest.

    Pretty clever, and pretty funny, but the takeaway here is that McDonalds and their ilk have such insidious ways to market to our children (and their parents!). They are hard to resist for people with little time and concern about their food.

  17. moreporkplease
    "Cigarettes are also addictive, but an aggressive campaign to educate, especially in health classes in school, has drastically reduced the number of people who smoke."

    Was it the education campaign, Margaret, or the bans on advertising and the steep taxes that in some places has doubled or even tripled the cost of a pack of cigarettes? How important were the increased insurance premiums for smokers and the automatic referral to smoking cessation programs?

    Here's where the behavioral economics kicks in. People are addicted, and even when not addicted, they are irrational. We find that the taxes/penalties have to be really high before people start making the effort to quit, and then *effective* cessation programs have to be available.

    If Duke University wanted to make a mint, it would contract with major insurers to open "Westman Diet Centers" in major cities and have the health insurers refer folks to them - Dr. Westman has proved his community-based approach can work. So why don't they roll it out as a for-profit venture? But in tandem, as with smoking, we do need to regulate advertising of sugar-y junk, stop the sugar subsidies, and tax soda - to double or triple the price, as with tobacco.

    If the USA doesn't admit the scale of the problem, it will soon be spending 20% of GDP on diabetes treatment - by 2020. I've posted here on this before. You can argue "choice" and "non-intervention" all you want, but you also then have to realize that your tax dollars will go to clean up the mess. How much money are you willing to spend in your taxes to preserve and maintain other people's addictions?

    If you are rational, you will refuse to support these costs from your pocket via taxes and will insist on strong public health measures now.

  18. Alexandra M
    "Was it the education campaign, Margaret, or the bans on advertising and the steep taxes that in some places has doubled or even tripled the cost of a pack of cigarettes? How important were the increased insurance premiums for smokers and the automatic referral to smoking cessation programs?"

    I'd argue that it was the education that caused smoking to become "moralized." Many people today describe smoking as "disgusting," and feel free to sneer at those who still smoke (they get really nasty about it, too, sort of like the vegans who think eating meat is disgusting).They don't say, "Gee, I'd love to smoke but it's too expensive." Usually that sort of pressure results in black markets and bootlegging, of which there's been some but not much.

    Unfortunately, the high taxes on cigarettes are a regressive tax because the people most likely to smoke are those with low income and less education. The same would be true of taxes on sugar and soda.

    The high taxes and restrictions on alcohol advertising haven't done much to reduce its consumption, either, nor has the "war on drugs" done much to reduce the demand for illegal substances.

  19. JAUS
    There's nothing wrong with a nice burger as long as you don't eat it with bread, fries and a sugardrink. I make my own burgers filled with cheddarcheese and wrapped in bacon, sugarfree mustard and mayo. A tip is to mix finely chopped chives with the grated cheese.
  20. Alexandra M
    I wouldn't necessarily call a Burger King burger nice, though. Not long after I went low carb, we were on a road trip. The only place we could find was Burger King. "I can do this," I thought. "Just follow Dr. Atkins' advice and don't eat the bun." I sat down with the burger, lifted off the bun, and after a moment, said to my husband. "You know there's a reason why they hide it inside a bun. If you could see what it looked like, you wouldn't want to eat it."

    Yours sounds WAY better JAUS!

  21. I agree that it's not Burger King being evil but more indicative of our culture's acceptance of sugar as this wonderful consequence-less treat. If more people were educated and savvy, I'm sure BK would catch on and switch it up.
  22. My younger daughter saw the pediatrician today, and there was a poster in the exam room called "Go, Slow, and Whoa" which categorizes food. We spent our waiting time discussing why I don't agree with the poster. "Go" foods include "almost all vegetables without fat" (how does one absorb fat soluble vitamins without fat???), low or no fat meats, cheeses, and salad dressings, 1% milk, DIET SODA!!!, and whole grains--these are foods that are "good" for kids, supposedly. Avocados and vegetables with fat are put in the same "slow" category (meaning eat only in moderation) as canned fruit, fruit juice, processed cheese spread, hot dogs and margarine, while "whoa" foods (to be avoided) included butter, beef and pork with fat, whole milk, cream cheese and yogurt. Sheesh. I agree with some of the "whoa" foods--like doughnuts, crackers with hyrdogenated fat, sweet rolls, but most of it was bunk. http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/go_slow_whoa.html#

    THIS is what they are teaching our kids. I have to constantly tell my daughter that this is what the world THINKS is healthy, but we know that it is not.

  23. Galina L.
    The only thing I have against fast food meals - meat is not a grass-fed variety, which is fine occasionally. I don't complain that my favorite health store sells organic mac-and-cheese and torfuku, or that at least 75% food in a supermarket is junk in boxes.Why to hold fast-food places to higher standards? I like to buy bunless burger in Hardees . It is a nice size burger wrapped in a big leaf of lettuce with mayo, tomato, onion and pickles, always buy it on a road, plus an unsweetened tea with a lemon.
  24. moreporkplease
    Hi Alexandra:

    "The high taxes and restrictions on alcohol advertising haven't done much to reduce its consumption, either,"

    That's because in the USA, the taxes aren't nearly high enough. For example, here in California, the tax on vodka/spirits is just US$3.30 a gallon. Whereas in Sweden, it's something like SEK200.5 per liter - or at present value, about US$112 a gallon. And it is sold only in special government stores that have limited hours. Despite various scandals, the Swedish model may be working: teen drinking appears to be on the decline (http://www.thelocal.se/34748/20110705/)

  25. JAUS
    #20 We have a burger chain here in Sweden that's way worse than BK, it's called "MAX" and their "hamburger" patties contains only 80% meat, their burgers also have fake cheese, sugar in the dressing, lots of E-numbers, as the lesser evil BK is the best place to go if you have to go in this country. I personally never eat burger places anymore. Low carb version of Scottish eggs are great as carry on food, don't need re-heating.
  26. Alexandra M
    Wait. Didn't you say that the taxes on cigarettes were responsible for reducing cigarette smoking?

    Now you're saying that the only reason the taxes on alchohol aren't helping is just that they aren't high enough?

    That's like Dean Ornish saying that the reason the low fat group had more breast cancer than the control is that they didn't lower their fat intake enough.

    Look. The thing that makes change is the moralizing. And that's what we're up against: the idea that fat is "disgusting" and "evil."

  27. moreporkplease
    Hi Alexandra:

    This is very simple. There have been many economic studies of how high taxes have to be raised to actually affect buying behavior. It's a well-studied subject in economics and public health.

    Generally the price of the object has to double from the tax before consumption will be significantly discouraged among the population. So yes, the tax shouldn't be 2% or 8% - it really has to be about 150-200%. Smoking falls just 2.5%-5% for every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    New York City, for example, has over the years raised cigarette taxes to be about 200% of the "base" price. Only then did the most hard-core smokers finally get themselves into smoking cessation programs or go cold turkey. Various states have successfully created steep declines in smoking rates with high taxes against the base price. (For example, see http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-08-09-1Alede_N.htm)

    Based on this model, it's clear how much we probably have to tax soda if we intend to follow the successful tobacco model. If a 20-oz. soda costs US$1.20 now, then to reduce consumption by a useful amount, say about 35% - and assuming a modest 3% reduction in consumption for every 10% price increase - we should impose a 120% tax, making a 20-oz soda then cost about US$2.65.

    The state of Indiana studied its tobacco taxes and related consumption changes to discover that young people are about 3x more sensitive to price than adults, and people 18-24 are about 2x as sensitive to price than older adults. So a soda tax would likewise probably be effective at discouraging soda consumption among children, teens, and young adults.

    The tobacco and alcohol tax models have been acceptably successful from a public health point of view. If we are serious about tackling sugar as a public health problem, we have to follow the same path.

    One of the reasons the Danish fat tax is so laughable is that it only increased the cost of a pound of butter by US$0.50 against a base price of US$2.50 a pound. The price of butter is increased to just US$3.00 a pound, leading only to perhaps a 6% reduction in consumption. Hardly a public health benefit worth the vast effort to pass and enforce it. :)

  28. Megan wrote...
    "Fast food joints will provide us with the food we ask for - the problem is that we ask for the wrong foods."

    And why do people ask for the wrong foods? Click on -> Manipulating the masses is easier than you think.

    But go on blaming the government for everything if it makes you feel any better (that's not aimed at you, Megan).

  29. Wolfstriked
    I'll be honest and say that I eat mcdonalds 3 times a week for breakfast and for some odd reason I look and feel AMAZING everytime.Big breakfast is my usual meal but I throw away the biscuit(stopped trying to tell them I do not need it and so just trash it).So its two eggs,sausage,hash brown(18gms carbs)and I get two pats of real butter.Then a coffee light with cream and I am good for 6 hours.
  30. Alexandra M
    "The collaboration between the Culinary Institute and Harvard epidemiologists and nutritionists goes back to 2002, when Dr. Willett, chairman of the institute’s scientific advisory board, began researching the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The team is now working with chefs from mega-chains like Applebee’s, Starbucks and Subway, to encourage them to reduce sodium and add more whole grains, nuts, legumes and healthier oils to their menus.

    *face palm head desk*

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/dining/doctors-learn-to-cook-health...

  31. Alexandra M
    moreporkplease - I don't doubt that what you say is true. I'm more interested, though, in how certain things - fat, tobacco - acquired so much emotional baggage. The popular disgust for fat is as strong as the disgust for tobacco, yet one is heavily taxed and one is not. It won't be enough to discourage people from consuming sugar without overcoming the fear of fat. Because as (I think) every low-carber has learned, it's a lot easier to give up the hamburger bun if you can have cheese and bacon and avocado on the burger.

    Imagine if people were suddenly told that it was absolutely vital for their health to consume at least a pack a day of cigarettes! That's the sort of thing we're up against.

  32. capernicus
    I would just like to respond to someone's comment regarding brains size and use. The notion that we only use 10% of our brains is a myth, it was a misunderstood quote from Einstein who was waxing poetic about human kind using it's full potential.

    Also the argument that vegetarians would have smaller brains; even if this were true, there is no relationship between brain size and intelligence. It's the amount of neurons in your brain that create intelligence, you could argue that the larger the brain the more potential for neurons but there is not empirical evidence that is true. I'm not a vegetarian just pointing out lazy science arguments.

    I have not seen this film but does it suggest no carbohydrates or would a sweet potato be fine? I suspect people will always seek a cure all diet to fix them. Most of the time, i think it boils down to eating less, eating less junk (sugar, processed "food") and moving your body around more. I hope they discuss the degree to which ancient man was active in his life compared to our current sedentary set up. You can just isolate diet when there are likely numerous compounding and conflicting variables.

    Thanks for reading my rant.

  33. Galina L.
    There is no need for everybody to go to a LC diet to get healthy. It depends on individual reactions. It looks like everybody would be better with serious limitation of sugar and grains, especially wheat. For many , however, eating "real food" is not enough to get into optimal weight. The appetite-lowering quality of LC diet is a very important feature. Besides, it is so much easy to avoid carbs than count calories, measure portions, tolerate hunger.

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