One of the many groups looking to profit from the so-called “obesity epidemic” is the American Obesity Association (AOA). Their primary goal is to have obesity universally recognized as a disease. Think that’s silly? It makes a lot more sense when you find out where the group gets its funding.
AOA admits: “Our financial support comes principally from pharmaceutical research and development companies as well as other companies in the weight management field such as Weight Watchers Inc., Jenny Craig, Inc. and SlimFast Foods.” If AOA succeeds in convincing the world that obesity is a disease, health insurance will cover the diet drugs made by AOA donors (firms like Medeva, Knoll, and Amgen, according to AOA’s tax returns). Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers, meanwhile, would love to see their products become broadly tax-deductible — another AOA goal. The group even gets support from a company that makes body fat monitors. If obesity is a “disease,” you can write off the purchase of those too!
AOA has posted an open letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Mark McClellan on its website, in anticipation of the FDA’s public hearing on obesity next week. In that letter, AOA proposes dividing all foods into three categories — A) healthy, B) modestly healthy, and C) unhealthy. They would then seek a “change in the corporate tax laws” so that:
Category C advertising expenditures would not be eligible for the deduction from corporate income. Category B advertising expenditures would be eligible for a one-to-one deduction. Category A advertising expenditures would, however, be eligible for a two- or three-to-one deduction.
Is such a division into healthy and unhealthy foods even possible? Advocates of “fat taxes” and trial lawyers looking to cash in on your love handles think so. They’re convinced that dividing good foods from bad foods is easy as pie. As John “sue the bastards” Banzhaf pointed out in June, Sri Lanka did it.
Well, maybe. But we’re skeptical. There is a great deal of evidence that dark chocolate, consumed in moderation, can be good for you. The same is true of alcohol and nuts and olive oil and dozens of other foods that can contribute to obesity if you eat too much of them. Would they fall into category A, B, or C? AOA doesn’t say.
Which is funny, since their letter runs to nearly 5,000 words. It even has a generous helping of overblown rhetoric, including this bit of hyperbole crafted to scare the wits out of anyone within earshot: “Obesity is the most prevalent, fatal, chronic disease of the 21st Century.” Of course, “prevalent,” “chronic,” and ultimately “fatal” are adjectives that also accurately describe life itself. But life, like obesity, is not a disease. You can lose weight by eating less and exercising more. You can’t defeat cancer by cutting the fat grams and hitting the gym.