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The government’s sugar strategy is having problems

Summary:
The National Audit Office has had a look at that plan by Public Health England that we should all be eating less sugar. Given PHE’s ability to concentrate upon the day job, pandemics and infectious diseases, this was unlikely to be laudatory:Despite pledges to cut sugar consumption by 20 per cent between 2015 and 2020, a review by Public Health England found that in fact it had dropped by just 2.9 per cent.. Well, yes.A starting observation would be that humans seem to have a taste for sugar. Few reports about hunter gatherer lifestyles are free of the wonder at how many stings will be accepted just to gain a few pounds of that sweet, sweet honey. Many languages use both sweetness and honey as synonyms for everything from a pleasant person to a complaisant lover. The history of our own

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The National Audit Office has had a look at that plan by Public Health England that we should all be eating less sugar. Given PHE’s ability to concentrate upon the day job, pandemics and infectious diseases, this was unlikely to be laudatory:

Despite pledges to cut sugar consumption by 20 per cent between 2015 and 2020, a review by Public Health England found that in fact it had dropped by just 2.9 per cent..

Well, yes.

A starting observation would be that humans seem to have a taste for sugar. Few reports about hunter gatherer lifestyles are free of the wonder at how many stings will be accepted just to gain a few pounds of that sweet, sweet honey. Many languages use both sweetness and honey as synonyms for everything from a pleasant person to a complaisant lover. The history of our own society shows that we enslaved some three, three and a half million, went to war several times to conquer the islands upon which to do so, just to grow sugar for the palates of our forbears. Human beings really, really, like their sugar and we’re unconvinced that a few prodnoses, from their comfy offices, yelling at us to stop doing so is going to have much effect.

But there is more here from the report. Their major observations:

In 2018/19, nearly one tenth of 4 to 5 year olds and more than one fifth of 10 to 11 year olds were obese.

This is not true, not in the slightest. As Chris Snowdon has been pointing out for years it isn’t even vaguely true. Further:

The government estimates that treatment of obesity-related conditions in England costs the NHS £6.1 billion each year.

This is also not true in any useful sense. As we have been pointing out for years obesity saves the NHS money. Yes, there are costs to treating obesity related diseases but in a lifetime health care service it also matters how many years of life health care needs to be offered over. And since the - truly, and morbidly - obese die younger there’s a saving there. The net position being that obesity, as with smoking and booze, saves, not costs, the NHS money. This before any issues over taxation and the like.

We regard the aim itself as being one of those near impossible things to do and both reject and refute the evidence on offer as justifications for even trying. Fortunately, this does mean that we agree with the first recommendation from this NAO report:

Recommendations

a The Department should establish a robust evidence base

Yes, that probably would be a good idea, wouldn’t it?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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