One week ago, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) decided to pick a fight with The Institute of Medicine (IOM). In response to the new report, “The Weight of the Nation,” the WSJ accuses the IOM of politicizing obesity. They use familiar language as most opponents of health reform do, maligning the recommendations for new regulations or taxes to attempt to combat our exploding epidemic of obesity. The editorial is light in the department of suggested alternatives to the IOM recommendations, with one mention of “entitlement reform” and another of “end to subsidies for…corn,” but the general tenor of the piece is all too predictable. The WSJ takes the position of criticizing the IOM report – a product of years of research and consensus building among our country’s most reputable obesity experts – with tropes of over-regulation and accusations of partisanship.
I would encourage you to watch the companion documentary to the report. It has 4 parts, each about an hour in length. It describes in detail the obesity epidemic in our nation and suggested solutions – highlighting successful programs across the country.
What the WSJ seems to want its readers to do is ignore science and support their own partisan view of government policy. Already, there is research that shows interventions in California Schools banning sugary sodas and instituting new nutrition standards is working, leading to 158 fewer calories consumed per student per day. By reducing calorie intake among students to this degree, it will result in 16 fewer pounds gained per year (3500 calories per pound of fat in humans)! The WSJ cites conservative economists at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University to diminish the efficacy of soda taxes. Yet there is ample evidence that raising cigarette taxes has dramatically reduced teen smoking rates.
The vast majority of the IOM report and documentary focuses on combating childhood obesity. They do so because science tells us that obese children are much more likely to become obese adults. But logically, adults have the ability to make their own choices in an informed way, whereas children are impressionable – most children are not going to turn down soda, pizza and French fries in the school cafeteria. If the last several decades have seen the deterioration in the nutritional value of school meals, and we are now waking up to the devastation of our waistlines, I would hope that we care enough about future generations to do something about it.
It comes down to: who do you believe? I choose to believe the dedicated scientific experts of the Institute of Medicine rather than the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. I will let you judge who has partisan motivations and who has ambitions to better the health of our nation.