NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 22, 2008

France, Japan, Britain, Australia: this list catalogs countries with athletes participating in the Summer Olympics.  But it also represents governments with officials who are increasingly viewing individual diets as a matter of public health.  America makes the list too.  From "sin" taxes on tasty snacks to outright bans on "fast foods," lawmakers around the globe have narrowly targeted food as the scourge of our health.  But the athletes sent by each country to the world's stage exemplify a different point entirely, says Consumer Freedom.

Consider Michael Phelps:

  • Eating a diet loaded with so-called "junk" foods (white bread, fried eggs and pasta by the pound), the famous Olympic champion downs an astonishing 12,000 calories each day.
  • However, at 6'4" and 195 lbs, Phelps is far from obese or unhealthy.
  • The swimmer's big appetite and lean physique seems to contradict the dietary rules eschewed in obesity policies.

The explanation is balance.  Phelps offsets the energy he eats with the energy he burns.  Most Americans don't achieve that same balance.  According to the Center for Disease Control, obesity would basically cure itself if children engaged in the informal outdoor activities that used to be normal.

Food cops, like Michael Jacobson from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, pay little more than lip service to these couch-potato habits that have become the norm in recent years.  Instead, Jacobson and other "obesity" experts single out "junk food" as the culprit behind our burgeoning behinds.  Pushing a food-only approach, these sticklers lobby for highly restrictive public health policies that leave no room for common sense (and diets that leave no room for dessert).  But the nutritionally risqué diets of Phelps and other top-performing athletes show that any food can be part of an active lifestyle, says Consumer Freedom.

Source: "Michael vs. Michael (Food vs. Fitness)," Consumer Freedom, August 14, 2008.


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