Yay Soda Firms

It is usually bad for people to die, and so good for them to keep living. Overall in our society, people who weigh more for their age and gender tend to die more, and so many are concerned about an “obesity epidemic”, and seek ways to reduce people’s weight, such as by getting them to consume fewer calories. Such as from drinking sugary soda.

TIME magazine says that evil soda firms, like evil tobacco firms before them, are lying about science to distract us from their evil:

You may not have noticed it yet, but sodamakers are working hard to get you off your couch. On Aug. 9, a New York Times article revealed that Coca-Cola was quietly funding a group of scientists called Global Energy Balance Network that emphasizes the role of exercise, as opposed to diet, in fighting obesity. … This has some nutrition and obesity experts charging soda companies, whose sales of carbonated soft drinks have hit a 20-year low, with cherry-picking science to make its products more appealing. … Indeed, there isn’t strong evidence to show that exercise alone … can help people shed pounds and keep them off. … It’s not the first time science has been used to sway public perceptions about the health effects of certain behaviors; the tobacco industry famously promoted messaging passed on studies that claimed to prove that “light” or “low-tar” cigarettes were less harmful that regular ones. (more)

Yes, it is true that the literature usually suggests that for most people exercise won’t do much to change their weight. However, another consistent result in the literature (e.g., here, here) is that when we predict health using both weight and exercise, it is mostly exercise that matters. It seems that the main reason that heavy people are less healthy is that they exercise less. Obesity is mainly unhealthy as a sign of a lack of exercise.

So if we cared mainly about people’s health, we should cheer this effort by soda forms to push people to exercise. Even if that also causes people to cut down less on soda. A population that exercises more doesn’t weight much less, but it lives much longer. In fact, exercise seems to be one of the biggest ways we know of by which an individual can influence their health. (Much bigger than medicine, for example.)

I suspect, however, that what bothers most people most about fat people isn’t that they’ll die younger, its instead that they look ugly and low status, and so make them also look low status by association. So we don’t want people near us to look fat. All else equal we might also want them to live longer, but that altruistic motive can’t compete much with our status motive.

So boo soda firms if you want your associates to not seem low status. But yay soda firms if you want people to live and not die (sooner).

Added 11a: The New York Times reports this as the main message:

… Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the argument that weight-conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink while not paying enough attention to exercise. Health experts say this message is misleading …

Actually that message seems exactly right to me, and not at all misleading.

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  • Dave Lindbergh

    Status is zero-sum, so why should I want other people to have higher status?

    I think you’re onto something here, but it may not be about status. Perhaps it’s fear of contagion – if other people around me are unhealthy then I’m at risk. Even tho being fat isn’t contagious.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Even in zero sum games it makes sense to have allies. So we all care about the status of our associates.

      • IMASBA

        Can it not be an altruistic act to want people in the world to feel healthier, more energetic, more attractive, etc… even if it doesn’t mean they’ll live longer?

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        A long miserable life isn’t a new Robinesque project.

      • Dave Lindbergh

        Sure, that works for associates.

        But it doesn’t explain the wider disdain for “junk-food” companies and global anti-obesity pushes such as Michael Bloomberg’s ban on large-size sodas in NYC.

        But the moral foundations idea of “purity” does.

    • Brienne Strohl

      It’s not obvious to me that obsesity isn’t contagious. Fecal transplants from skinny people seems to cause fat people to lose weight. I would not be surprised if fecal transplants from fat people cause skinny people to gain weight. I would also not be surprised if people’s microbiomes were partially determined by the people they spend a lot of time around, and especially the people they frequently touch and kiss. Even without that, if you start spending a lot of time around someone who’s fat, and their obesity is a result of their diet and/or activity patterns, social pressures might lead to you having diet and/or activity patterns more similar to theirs. I was certainly a hell of a lot more active, and also ten to fifteen pounds lighter, when I was hanging around skinny dancers all the time. This might not be a totally unfounded fear.

      • IMASBA

        I remember reading about a study that basically concluded being overweight is contagious through social pressures/patterns.

      • Christopher Chang

        You’re right about fecal transplants from fat people potentially causing skinny people to gain weight: see http://ofid.oxfordjournals.org/content/2/1/ofv004.full .

  • IMASBA

    “Yes, it is true that the literature usually suggests that for most people exercise won’t do much to change their weight.”

    This also follows from simple caloric arithmetic, even when you factor that not all calories in your food will be absorbed by your body.

  • IMASBA

    “But yay soda firms if you want people to live and not die (sooner).”

    Are you sure about that? If your premise is correct than this may win you one battle but it will leave you with a lingering false belief (exercise being more significant in weight loss than dietary changes) that may end up costing you a future war.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      I don’t actually see evidence that the soda firms will in fact promote a false belief. The NYT reported that soda firms are hiring an org to promote exercise, and they seem to have filled in the rest with speculation.

      • IMASBA

        That action wouldn’t be sucessful if they don’t at least stop a reduction in soda consumption that would have taken place if they did nothing (it would be even more successful if they could get consumption to rise). They can only do that by imprinting, consciously or not, on people the idea that sugar intake matters less than the medical consensus says it does (because people listening to their doctors is apparently considered a threat to soda consumption). They could also make it even easier for people by foregoing talking much about sugar and just imprinting the idea that eating unhealthy food doesn’t matter as long as you exercise, this could then spill over to salt, fat and alcohol consumption. I’m not saying it will, it’s just a pattern I think we should be wary of: false/fanatical belief tend to be a net negative in the long term, no matter how useful they may appear in the short term.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I don’t actually see evidence that the soda firms will in fact promote a false belief.

        You don’t look very hard when defending corporations others see as evil.

        From Time Magazine: “a New York Times article revealed that Coca-Cola was quietly funding a group of scientists called Global Energy Balance Network that emphasizes the role of exercise, as opposed to diet, in fighting obesity”

        Either you overlooked this evidence in replying or are guilty of sophistry. [By assuming that emphasizing the role of exercise in controlling weight (where lack of exercise is a minor factor in obesity) does not (as a matter of pragmatics rather than formal logic) imply (falsely) that for avoiding or overcoming obesity exercise is important.]

        Or, to be complete in listing possibilities, it may manifest an extraordinarily thin and formalistic (Clintonesque) interpretation of the demands of honesty.

        The aim of this science project is to mislead folks. You justify (effectively) false propaganda because it serves a different end (health rather than weight-reduction), of which you approve. You say we should all cheer the liars on.

        I for one don’t cheer false propaganda, and it’s not a proper role for an intellectual.

      • truth_machine

        “I don’t actually see evidence that the soda firms will in fact promote a false belief.”

        So you’re admitting to being grossly intellectually dishonest.

  • Eliezer Yudkowsky

    Malfunctioning fat cells make exercise very difficult and unpleasant. “Controlling” for exercise does not make it an independent variable. We know exercise doesn’t reduce obesity, we know the correlation, ergo, obesity causes non-exercise.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      The second link I gave above (here) goes into great detail on why we think the causation between health and exercise goes in both directions.

      • Eliezer Yudkowsky

        (Actually, to word it more precisely, there’s probably an energy balance disorder that causes obesity, non-exercise, and general ill health.)

        See https://www.facebook.com/robin.hanson.754/posts/10102388295608407?comment_id=10102388312744067&offset=0&total_comments=3&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D for more discussion on the second link – it seems to me that a plain reading of the text does not say that they found a causal influence of exercise on health. (It was a correlational study!)

      • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

        Strong causal evidence is in very short supply in the entire health area. But can we at least agree that the evidence for exercise health effects is at least as strong as the evidence for weight loss health effects?

      • Curt Adams

        Sure, but Coca-Cola isn’t pushing this to get people to exercise more, they’re doing it to keep them buying and drinking soda. And the evidence that cutting back on sugar-sweetened beverages is good for your weight is about as good as anything gets in the weight-loss field. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/2/274.full Saying it’s all about the exercise is actively deceptive.

        Waiting for well-controlled studies on soda with significant health effects is just not an option, both because you’d have to wait too long and because the studies will almost certainly never be done (too hard.)

        I also find it much easier to order water or unsweetened tea than to exercise an hour a day. If you’re looking for an action to take for improving health, cutting out sweetened soda is a very low-hanging fruit.

      • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

        I’m not at all defending firm motives, but I am defending the good consequences of getting people to focus more on exercise than on losing weight.

      • truth_machine

        You’re dishonestly bullshitting. And learn what “begs the question” actually means — it’s something you do a lot.

    • pancakemouse

      What is a malfunctioning fat cell, Eliezer?

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I can’t say with confidence what he means (like I sometimes can with Robin ;)), but here’s one explanation. When the liver gets more fructose than it can digest, the production of insulin goes up, which suppresses leptin, which causes fat cells to act like they’re starving. Thus one in this state is chronically hungry, indisposed to exercise, and generally feels shitty.

        This finding is the main one that threatens the food industry. Advising exercise is a nonstarter when metabolic syndrome makes people want do anything but exercise.

        [But to be honest, I’m more disturbed by the perversion/corruption of science than by the deceit of the public. The alliance between institutionalized science and pharma has already corrupted medical research.]

  • IMASBA

    “However, another consistent result in the literature is that when we predict health using both weight and exercise, it is mostly exercise that matters. It seems that the main reason that heavy people are less healthy is that they exercise less. Obesity is mainly unhealthy as a sign of a lack of exercise.”

    Shouldn’t the main worry be whether a high sugar intake (the primary source of “badness” in sodas) or a lack of exercise are worse for a person’s health outcome (so you filter out phenomena such as couch potatoes who stay thin by smoking)? It would also be fair to mention any societal resource spending which affects the difference in outcomes and to mention differences between regions/groups/countries.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      I framed my discussion in terms of weight instead of sugar because that was the framing of the articles I’m responding to.

      • IMASBA

        Fair enough, but it would matter for your conclusion that overall we should cheer the soda companies for this campaign (there is of course a small chance research will point out that applying your reasoning to potato chips manufacturers would be correct).

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Do the food companies (or Robin) expect their new propaganda will trigger a new exercise fad? Hardly to be expected. Such a fashion could easily depress sugar consumption.

        What it will do is what it is intended to do–as Robin as much as anyone should know: it will help folks rationalize sugar consumption. Help break down any defenses folks may have. Not because they are exercising but because exercising (not cutting sugar) is what they think they should be doing (but aren’t).

        Why say yay to that?

      • truth_machine

        “it would matter for your conclusion that overall we should cheer the soda companies for this campaign”

        Indeed. Hanson’s response is blatantly intellectually dishonest.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    High fructose corn syrup (as in soda) has numerous health consequences because it is the only carbohydrate metabolized by the liver. Excess causes diabetes, high cholesterol, liver dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. This isn’t simply a weight issue, as the corporate parasites pretend. Their fear is the research that links high fructose corn syrup to metabolic disorder. [Get your obesity from fats if you must.]

  • Chips

    What the literature really suggests is that soda is really bad for you.

    • truth_machine

      Robin isn’t interested in what the scientific literature generally tells us, just in cherry picking it for the purpose of making sophistic arguments.

  • Anonymous

    The main reason I feel the urge (which I suppress when I’m aware of it) to tell smokers how bad it is for their health is because I know they are addicted, so they’re not going to quit, so I have a infinite, safe source of advice (read: criticism/bullying material) to give them and decrease their status. I don’t really care about people dying from smoking when they’re old, but I semi-consciously welcome every report that confirms how bad smoking is. Free ammunition to target the helpless.

    Same goes for obesity.

    • truth_machine

      So you’re a dick. Not everyone else is.

  • Dan

    Robin, couldn’t fat people make you look high status by contrast, instead of low status by association?

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Depends on if they are associated with you or not.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    The food companies (there are about ten of them that dominate international production) concentrate on fructose sweeteners because of huge subsidies to corn growers, which of course cheapen their source, corn. (These sweeteners appear to be the most significant metabolic disrupter–via stimulating insulin and suppressing leptin). The (U.S.) subsidies originated in the 1930s because it was a cheap way to provide calories to the masses.

    Conservatives and libertarians really have no honest business apologizing for the food companies, whose practices are here driven by misdirected government largesse.

  • Trimegistus

    It’s simple: corporations which are not media corporations are EVIL LIARS! Media corporations never publish anything but truth, and exist only to serve the greater good, not make money or anything like that. I’ve learned this from media corporations so it must be true.

    • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

      And who supposedly believes this ridiculous belittling of the other side. Everyone knows how the newspapers embedded themselves in imperialist wars.

      But there’s one good reason to believe the media when they attack Coke factually. Defaming coke can’t be done with legal impunity

    • truth_machine

      Extraordinarily stupid and childish hyperbole … most likely a right wing ideologue.

  • Andre

    Evidence shows that exercise has marginal influence on weight loss, whereas diet has a major influence.

    The idea that society will lose weight by moving a little more while at the same time drinking more sugar water is worthy of ridicule.

    It’s the same as in business: if you lose money on every sale, you can’t make it up on volume.

    • ipencil

      I think you missed the point. Dr. Hansen’s clearly states that a “consistent result in the literature … is that when we predict health using both weight and exercise, it is mostly exercise that matters”, thus if you are actually worried about people’s health worries about weight are largely over blown. Additionally, the Coca-Cola company is doing more for people’s health than the people myopically focused on weight. The Coca-Cola encourages people to be more active, the most important indicator of health.

      • Andre

        “if you are actually worried about people’s health worries about weight are largely over blown.”

        This is utter nonsense. There is a direct correlation between extra weight and adverse health impacts.

        Health – as measured by risk factors, sense of well-being, etc. – are adversely impacted the higher you go outside ideal body weight range (bmi 18.5-24.9).

        Misusing the concept of “weight” as a proxy for “diet” is a red herring, by the way.

        No one is saying don’t exercise. What the crowd is saying is that the calls should be for diet first and exercise second. Not exercise alone, and certainly not sugar+exercise.

        The consumption of sugar drinks is directly antithetical to the enterprise of weight loss.
        If the goal is to get to ideal weight range (or move toward it), then the evidence shows that this is a task primarily for diet, or diet supplemented by exercise. Exercise alone is a poor path to this goal.

        “Additionally, the Coca-Cola company is doing more for people’s health than the people myopically focused on weight.”

        That’s Orwellian, right there.

      • ipencil

        “There is a direct correlation between extra weight and adverse health impacts.”

        Who said otherwise? There is also a direct correlation to weight and exercise. Now you have three variables that are highly correlated. Which one causes which? Turns out, exercise is much more highly correlated to health than weight. Do you even statistics? If you have variables X, Y, and Z and note that r(X,Z) is high and r(Y,Z) is similiarly high and that r(X,Y) is similarly high, if there is a cause, does

        1. X cause Z with Y a correlate
        2. Y cause Z with X a correlate
        3. X cause Y with Z a correlate
        4. Y cause X with Z a correlate
        5. Z cause X with Y a correlate
        6. Z cause Y with X a correlate

        Instead of investigating these various scenarios as they relate to weight, exercise, and health you merely assume weight determines health, with exercise a correlate, when in actuality is exercise cause health with weight a correlate.

        “What the crowd is saying is that the calls should be for diet first and exercise second. Not exercise alone”

        Talk about your red herrings. Who is calling for “exercise alone”? You know what it’s called when you change someone’s argument in order to argue against the changed argument? Straman.

        The crowd saying diet first, then exercise second is wrong. It’s exercise first, diet second.

        “The consumption of sugar drinks is directly antithetical to the enterprise of weight loss.”

        Of course, this is yet another strawman, which Dr. Hansen mentions in another comment, where he stated “I framed my discussion in terms of weight instead of sugar because that was the framing of the articles I’m responding to.” It helps to understand the framing of the article linked, which provides the context of the discussion. No on is arguing that sugar is not “directly antithetical to the enterprise of weight loss”, so it’s unclear with whom you’re arguing.

        “That’s Orwellian, right there.”

        When you actually understand statistics and health (such as the correlation between exercise, weight, and health and which one actually causes the other, rather than just noting a correlation), you’ll realize just how ridiculous your comment is.

      • Andre

        Exercise is not the best path to weight loss – no matter how many times you repeat it or misrepresent the science. Yes it’s good for health.

        So is avoiding soda. Dr. Hansen can “reframe” however he wants. It doesn’t change the fact that zeroing in on exercise only is not the best way – and it serves as a distraction from other important steps, like eliminating empty calories from one’s diet.

        [For most overweight people, cutting empty calories (and calories generally) is a far more accessible / viable option than exercising calories off.]

        “Instead of investigating these various scenarios as they relate to weight, exercise, and health you merely assume weight determines health, with exercise a correlate, when in actuality is exercise cause health with weight a correlate.”

        You are the one making assumptions. Weight does not determine health. Neither does exercise. One isn’t a cause and the other a correlation – or vice versa. They can each contribute to better outcomes.

        Health is determined by many things.

        What we do know is that, all else equal, maintaining ideal weight is associated with better health outcomes. So is exercise.

        The issue here is the problem of pushing exercise as if it should be the sole route to better health outcomes – pushing exercise as an alternative to encouraging healthier diets – diets where eliminating sugar water would be among the lowest of low hanging fruit.

        Is the typical obese person better off by a) walking an hour and drinking a couple of bottles of soda, or b) sitting and eating a big green salad with no dressing?

        It’s a trick question, sort of. But option “a)” is most definitely the wrong answer. One can come up with many better alternatives (one that excludes soda, to start with).

        The point is that the entire argument is false choice. Under no circumstances is “a)” a desirable route, based on empirical evidence, if our goal is to move toward best health outcomes.

        Btw, weight and all-cause mortality meta-study data:

        http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1555137

        http://epi.grants.cancer.gov/bmi/

        “Overall for men and women combined, for every five unit increase in BMI, the researchers observed a 31 percent increase in risk of death.”

        “if you are actually worried about people’s health worries about weight are largely over blown.”

        Again, I’d say that flies in the face of the science.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21121834

        “In white adults, overweight and obesity (and possibly underweight) are associated with increased all-cause mortality. All-cause mortality is generally lowest with a BMI of 20.0 to 24.9.”

        That’s controlled for physical activity.

      • ipencil

        “Exercise is not the best path to weight loss”

        Again, I didn’t say that. Nor did Dr. Hansen. Exercise is the best path to improved health.

        Dr. Hansen can “reframe” however he wants.

        Again, Dr. Hansen didn’t “reframe” anything. He framed his argument in the same frame the linked article used.

        There’s no reason to continue if you’re not going to read my actual responses. I’m not interested in reading your responses to the comments you wished I had written, rather than what I’ve actuall written. In short, obvious trolls are obvious and I’m not interested in discussing in good faith, when obvious trolls like you are arguing in bad faith.

      • Andre

        The studies Hansen linked do little but support the idea that exercise helps. The first in fact says that health behaviors generally have limited effect – rather, the best thing is to not be poor.

        The second goes on at length between the spuriousness of the link between physical activity and reduced mortality, concluding the link is there.

        Neither of these studies provides a good argument for cheering an approach which encourages the public to take their eyes off a problem’s cause (soda etc.) by focusing exclusively on another path (exercise) – one which on its own, we agree, is helpful – but only a part of the solution.

        “if you are actually worried about people’s health worries about weight are largely over blown.” These are your words, and this precisely is the danger here. I’ve linked several metastudies showing that weight is strongly correlated with increased risk of death.

        These are Hansen’s words: “yay soda firms if you want people to live and not die (sooner).”

        The problem with this conclusion is that
        studies have shown repeatedly that individuals give themselves license to “misbehave” after “behaving” (or even just thinking about behaving!). So promotional campaigns that imply “you’re good as long as you exercise” tacitly give people license to eat and drink whatever they want after a workout. That’s how the human mind works.

        Therefore, cheering a soda campaign to encourage people to exercise – and nothing more than that – is not necessarily part of a wise solution – even if they’ll benefit some from the exercise itself.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The Coca-Cola encourages people to be more active, the most important indicator of health.

        You’re of course correct that this is Robin’s message, but is it even remotely true? Coke argues mainly about weight gain, not health. (Because weight, not health, is their customers’ leading concern.) It is far from clear that encouraging people to exercise based on the (false) belief that it will cause weight loss or prevent gain will actually cause people to exercise. It’s very likely that the main effect will be to cause them to care more about weight loss rather than switch their focus to health. Robin doesn’t as much as consider this likelihood.

        Even on the most pragmatic, utilitarian reasoning, Robin’s argument is a loser.

      • ipencil

        “You’re of course correct that this is Robin’s message, but is it even remotely true?”

        Yes. Exercise, particularly heavy barbell training remains the best way to improve your health.

        An actual switch by the public to concerns about health would be a disaster for soda.

        Of course, consuming moderate amounts, instead of high amounts, of sugar, such as high fructose corn syrup, HFCS, can improve health as well; however, the demonization of HFCS is misplaced. A lot of the research into HFCS shows that it’s not metabolically different than any other sugars, such as honey. Constantly using honey as a sweetner in your drinks is just as unhealthy as drinking a lot of softdrinks.

        The public concerns about health follow closely the terrible recommendations of so-called public health officials. The public is very concerned with health, but disastrously followed the recommendation of so-called public health officials. As a result the public switched to the obesity and diabetes inducing high carb, low fat diet. Also, switched from heart healthy, and health needed, saturated fats to heart attack inducing transfats. And the public relies heavily on health damaging long slow distance exercises, rather than health inducing heavy resistence and high intensity training.

        Generally speaking, the public is very concerned with health, but as Dr. Hansen points out, there’s a LOT of misinformation out there coming from people who are supposedly health experts, such as those “experts” focusing on weight as a measurement for health. And a lot of that misinformation stems from a basic misunderstanding of statistics, like mistaking correlation for causation.

      • truth_machine

        Arch right winger ipencil weighs in predictably.

      • ipencil

        Because nutrition is super right wing? Ha! And by extension, since I am simply arguing Dr. Hansen’s position, Dr. Hansen is “arch right wing” as well, right?

        Thanks for the laugh!

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        You think Robin’s a leftist? Or just not arch?

      • ipencil

        Reading fail. Self proclaimed ‘truth_machine’ that my comment, which put forth the same argument as Dr. Hansen, represented an “arch right winger”. So I asked the so-called ‘truth_machine’ if he thought Dr. Hansen is an “arch right winger”.

        It’s not that hard to follow this simple thread. Not sure why you’re having such a hard time with it.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I understand all that. What I don’t understand is why the idea is laughable. (You arch-rightists are always saying you’re misunderstood!)

      • ipencil

        Of course you understood. I never thought you didn’t. I knew that you were simply being dishonest, as was the so-called ‘truth_machine’, because you, and the so-called ‘truth_machine’ feel more comfortable identifying people by their politics (unsuccessfully) in order to … what, exactly, wrt nutrition? I wasn’t accusing anyone of being a leftist or a rightist. The so-called ‘truth_machine’ was. I find it hilarious that people like you and the so-called ‘truth_machine’ are so obsessed with left/right politics that you can’t even have a discussion of nutrition and exercise without invoking it.

        Further, it’s not clear at all as to how my nutritional assertions in any way associate me with either the left or the right. To clear up my own confusion, I asked that so-called ‘truth_machine’ if, since my nutritional assertions aligned pretty closely with Dr. Hansen, if he then would conclude that Dr. Hansen is “arch right wing”.

        Can you explain to me how anyone’s left or right or any other politics in any way is relevant to nutrition? Or are you just going to laughably continue, in your trollish way, to act as if it is?

        Ha! Now you’ve made me laugh. Thanks for helping me start the weekend on a light note!

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Of course you understood. I never thought you didn’t. I knew that you were simply being dishonest,

        Then who was being dishonest when you wrote “It’s not that hard to follow this simple thread. Not sure why you’re having such a hard time with it.” Or is that just a troll’s version of irony?

        Use a little introspection. Who is the one inflaming the present discussion with accusations of immoral behavior?

        [Readers capable of some objectivity should also note that Robin’s previous post, explicitly on the left-right distinction, primed that aspect of this discussion. If you ask me, Robin has been taking great pains (even at the expense of logic) to prove he’s a legitimate rightist, and I do him no disservice by agreeing.]

      • truth_machine

        “‘ feel more comfortable identifying people by their politics (unsuccessfully)”

        BWAHAHAH! You’re a far right winger through and through … why are you not proud of that? Why deny it when it is so obvious?

        “Further, it’s not clear at all as to how my nutritional assertions in any way associate me with either the left or the right.”

        They don’t, you cretin … it’s your *body of comment* that identifies you as a right winger. As I said, it’s simply *predictable* that you would take a right wing stance — defending the Coca-Cola corporation — here. You don’t seem to understand what that word means, but then you are dumber than dirt so it’s no surprise.

      • truth_machine

        ” Self proclaimed ‘truth_machine’ that my comment, which put forth the same argument as Dr. Hansen, represented an “arch right winger”.”

        No, you dolt, that’s not what I said at all. What I said was that *you*, being an arch right winger, predictably took a right wing stance. The stance could have been just slightly right wing and it would still be predictable that *you* would take it.

        “It’s not that hard to follow this simple thread.”

        It is for an imbecile like you.

      • truth_machine

        No, because *you* are super right wing, as you have demonstrated numerous times. Again, your comment was *predictable* … of *you*.

        ” And by extension, since I am simply arguing Dr. Hansen’s position, Dr. Hansen is “arch right wing” as well, right?”

        A typical right wing failure of basic logic — fallacy of affirmation of the consequent. That Robin and you agree in this instance does not alone tell us anything about his overall ideology.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    Actually that message seems exactly right to me, and not at all misleading.

    One must wonder whether Robin is incapable of understanding a text when it disagrees with him or he is simply unable to admit he is wrong (except to Bryan Caplan or his boss).

    The Times article says, “The group says there is ‘strong evidence’ that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake — as many public health experts recommend — “but maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.”

    Preventing weight gain; NOT improving health as Robin wants to think (or have others believe).

    Note the Times article also says this: “Studies suggest that the funds tend to bias findings. A recent analysis of beverage studies, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that those funded by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors reported no financial conflicts.”

    One wonders if a similar relationship obtains between the Kochs wishes and GMU econ.

    • Daublin

      Fine, but the Times made a motte and bailey argument here, and Robin is pointing it out in his usual super-terse style. Look closely at the part Robin quoted, and you’ll see a motte and bailey argument. The Times took a narrow but strong result about weight gain, and then made a giant and unjustified extrapolation to what people should “fixate” about.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Why on earth would Robin use a super-terse style to make a crucial counter-argument? And why would he pick on the Times article to ridicule when he was the one to introduce that article.

        It’s nothing of the sort. What Robin quoted, if we really must submit it to a textual analysis, is an ambiguous sentence that is only clarified by context. “Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the argument that weight-conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink while not paying enough attention to exercise. Health experts say this message is misleading.”

        It is ambiguous whether “weight-conscious” is a restrictive or nonrestrictive modifier. ( http://disputedissues.blogspot.com/2009/05/logical-grammar-restrictive-and.html , including two comments, for definitions and application if unfamiliar ) This makes the sentence Robin quoted a bad sentence to rely on. [In context “weight-conscious” is nonrestrictive, which is the opposite of what you need to make your case.]

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      For what it’s worth, the group also denies the NYT’s characterization of its stance toward dietary habits.

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  • Sam Dangremond

    Has anyone else mentioned the “wanting other people to live longer is only good if those years are *productive*” angle?

    Just like with smoking… low status activities that cause early death *after productivity ceases* [i.e. retirement] are win-win, and should be promoted by public policy.

  • JFA

    It’s misleading because it uses the qualifier “weight-conscious”. If it had used “health-conscious”, then it wouldn’t be misleading. As you stated, exercise doesn’t do much for weight but does increase health.

  • truth_machine

    If you actually think that the soda companies are doing good and thus should be applauded, you’re a fool. (Add this to so much prior evidence.) The actions of soda companies are strictly aimed at their bottom lines; any good that — through a very dubious parsing of the evidence — they happen to do is coincidental. And if you really want to evaluate whether they are doing net good or bad, you need to take into account diabetes and tooth decay among the people who drink that garbage.

  • Srikumar

    At the end of the day, weight is about accumulating carbon. We release stored carbon through breathing (O2 in, CO2 out). So every weight reduction program must be some combination of “eat less” and “breathe more” – i.e. less carbon in, more carbon out. Of course, “breathe more” doesn’t mean “hyperventilate”, but more like “metabolize more” – a.k.a. exercise.

    What is health more correlated with – metabolism or metabolic efficiency?