Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Organic chicken is less nutritious, contains more fat and tastes worse than free range or battery-farmed meat, scientists have discovered. Tests on supermarket chicken breasts found organic varieties contained fewer omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of antioxidants, giving the meat an inferior taste. Some were found to contain twice as much cholesterol.

The study, by food scientists at Strathclyde University, contradicts the common view that the premium paid for organic meat guarantees a healthier and tastier product. Despite costing twice as much, the organic products scored lower in all the nutritional tests in the study, "It is safe to say that you are not getting any nutritional benefit from buying organic chicken," said Alistair Paterson, co-author of the study, which is published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. "You could be better off buying conventional or free-range chicken. There is no guarantee that organic chicken gives you more omega-3, better taste or a lower cholesterol level."

Organic food, which is produced according to standards covering the use of pesticides, additives, animal welfare and sustainability, has become big business with sales in the UK doubling in six years. Last year, the market was worth 1.6 billion pounds, up from 800 million in 2000, according to Datamonitor, the market research firm, and is forecast to be worth 2.7 billion by 2010. However, there are growing concerns that the increasing industrialisation of organic farming to meet demand has led to a dilution of its green credentials and quality.

The Strathclyde team found that organic chicken was lower in antioxidants than conventional or free range chicken and, in blind tastings, scored lowest for succulence. According to Paterson, the differences in taste and nutritional composition are due to the feed the animals are given. Synthetic vitamin supplements are standard in conventional feed but are prohibited under organic farming rules.

The Soil Association, representing organic producers, insisted that organic standards were not being compromised. "This research contradicts the bulk of evidence which shows organic food is higher in omega-3, vitamins and minerals than conventional chicken," said Hugh Raven, director of Soil Association Scotland.


Financial discrimination against fat people

All totally unjustified except in the case of severely overweight people. If fatties are so unhealthy, how come they live longer than slim people?

There is another consequence to packing on extra weight: being fat costs money - tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Heavy people do not spend more than normal-size people on food, but their life insurance premiums are two to four times as large. They can expect higher medical expenses, and they tend to make less money and accumulate less wealth in their shortened lifetimes. They can have a harder time being hired, and then a harder time winning plum assignments and promotions.

We're not talking about people who are merely carrying a few extra pounds, or only those who are Jabba the Hutt in their dimensions, either. People carrying 30 to 40 pounds extra can be affected. "Being overweight can be dangerous to your wealth," said Jay L. Zagorsky, an economist at Ohio State University who has looked at the relationship between various economic and sociological factors and a measure of obesity called the body mass index.

Doctors use the index to determine whether a person is merely overweight or dangerously obese. You divide your weight in pounds by the square of your height in inches, which is then multiplied by 703, to adjust the English-system measurements to the metric system. (You could use kilograms and centimeters, but that would be too easy.) Or use a Web calculator like the one at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ or www.halls.md/ideal-weight/body.htm. Anything under 25 is considered a normal reading of the index. From 25 to 30 is overweight, and above 30 is obese. People who rate above 40 are considered morbidly obese, meaning they are facing serious and sustained health problems. The index has been criticized for its inability to distinguish between a well-muscled person and a fat one. Nevertheless, it is by this measure that academics estimate that 97 million Americans, about a third of the population, are considered obese. Almost 10 million Americans could be considered morbidly obese.

Academics have struggled to place a price tag on the cost of treating those carrying around too much weight. The obese suffer from heart disease, diabetes, depression, arthritis and joint problems, liver disease and sleep apnea. Complications from obesity, particularly diabetes, which afflicts 21 million Americans, push up the bill: $44,000 for a heart attack, $40,200 for a stroke or $37,000 for end-state kidney disease, estimates Judith A. O'Brien, the director of cost research at the Caro Research Institute, a health costs consulting firm. Amputating just a toe, a not uncommon consequence of untreated diabetes, averages $15,000, she estimates.

Academics have not spent much time calculating what that care costs the overweight individual. Instead, they look at what obesity costs society or insurers. The sum usually arrived at is about $80 billion a year and steadily growing. The government or insurers pay about 85 percent of that. In other words, the fit and the fat pay for it indirectly through taxes or higher health insurance premiums.

This year, two nutritional scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rachel N. Close and Dale A. Schoeller, took a unique twist on the calculations to determine what "supersizing" a fast-food meal costs society. Paying 67 cents to supersize an order - 73 percent more calories for 17 percent more money - adds an average of 36 grams of adipose tissue. The future medical costs for that bargain would be $6.64 for an obese man and $3.46 for an obese woman. "The hidden financial costs associated with weight gain from upsizing a value meal may help convince people it is not a bargain," Mr. Schoeller said.

Even routine care can put a dent in a family's finances. Office visits and prescriptions for medicines to manage diabetes, high cholesterol, back pain and depression can reach $7,000 in annual out-of-pocket expenses for someone - admittedly one with nearly every problem associated with obesity - covered by an employer's health insurance, according to an online health care cost estimator United HealthGroup provides to its customers.

While the health problems ravage savings, an overweight person may have difficulty accumulating a nest egg in the first place. One of the earliest sociological studies of the overweight, in 1966, found that the heaviest students had a harder time getting into top colleges. More recent studies have found that the obese, particularly white women, are paid less. A study by John H. Cawley, an associate professor of human ecology at Cornell University, found that a weight increase of 64 pounds above the average for white women was associated with 9 percent lower wages.

Evidence from decades of discrimination studies has led Mark V. Roehling, an associate professor at the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University, to the conclusion that there is "consistent evidence of weight discrimination." One factor is that some employers do not want to be burdened with higher health insurance costs. Other times it is a matter of appearances or a belief that "people of size," as Mr. Roehling terms the obese, are lazy, weak-willed or considered too unattractive to interact with customers. He has found that some employers are upfront about it, even in Michigan, which is the only state that outlaws weight discrimination. While conducting research, he said, he was told by a personnel manager, who himself was overweight, that the company would not hire overweight people, even after Mr. Roehling told him that was illegal. The bias is more pronounced toward white women than white men, Mr. Roehling said: "Blacks are more accepting of large people and whites are more accepting of overweight black females."

Mr. Roehling is convinced that weight bias is stronger than bias stemming from race. You can test that thesis yourself with the Implicit Association Test, at implicit.harvard.edu/implicit. It was created by researchers at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington to plumb an individual's attitude toward race, ethnicity and religion. Take the test for prejudice against overweight people and compare your result against the similar test for race.

More here


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter? It is just about pure fat. Surely it should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). For a summary of the weak science behind the "trans-fat" hysteria, see here. Trans fats have only a temporary effect on blood chemistry and no lasting harm from them has ever been shown.


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