Jamie Oliver’s description of poor people as eating “chips, cheese and styrofoam in styrofoam trays” while watching “massive fucking televisions” is not representative of all poor people. Oliver’s lazy cliche about people with low incomes is not true. Inactivity and poor nutrition are key factors in obesity.
In less wealthy areas, foods high in salt, sugar, and fat are cheap and easily available. Fresh fruit and vegetables are less known, sold in fewer local outlets, and cost more. They are also less convenient, not as appealing, and easily go bad.
Many families are unable to find healthy, affordable, and satisfying options due to geographical and economic factors. They also lack the support of the food industry and its advertising. The only things that many families can afford are these foods and drinks.
Many shops in Britain’s poorer ethnic communities, where people tend to cook with fresh ingredients and sell cheap fruits and vegetables, are laid out like old greengrocers. In these communities, both the levels of adult and child obesity remain high. The way people cook is also a big factor. Recent data show that celebrity chef meals, which include Oliver’s, are often high in sugar, fat, and salt. These meals are “middle class” versions.
Parents must share responsibility for their children’s diet. In spite of the fact that national data is available and there are important public health initiatives in Liverpool and the north-west, Oliver’s portrayal of people experiencing poverty as part of the promotion of his new TV show Money Saving Meals is not accurate.
It doesn’t address some of the insecurities and issues of poverty.
Lifelong learning and its environment influence our choices. To change behavior is a difficult task, and to make it last, the environment in which that behavior takes place must also change. Oliver, by aligning himself with those who want to demonize the “undeserving” poor as “chavs” in the style of Jeremy Kyle, joins the ranks that are eager to blame parents for the obesity epidemic.
The food and beverage industries are the ones that bombard children with messages that promote unhealthy levels of sugar, salt, and fat while supporting the “blame victim” argument.
We know that victimization does not work to change people’s behavior (in fact, the results are often counterproductive – obese people become more isolated and less inclined to seek help), but it grabs headlines and guarantees advertising sales – which is likely what Oliver wanted in the first instance.
Criticism of a report that’s comprehensive, systematic, and practical. The panel used a thorough methodology that was clearly laid out and adhered to strict scientific guidelines.
The committee studied a large amount of data over two years in a scientifically rigorous and detailed manner. The USDA Nutrition Evidence Library published the committee’s responses to scientific research questions. The committee used systematic reviews, which pay close attention to biases and sources. They also graded the evidence using strict criteria.
Teicholz’s criticism of saturated fat is perhaps in line with her conflict of interest, which she has in promoting her ideas and those listed in the BMJ article (honoraria from the meat, dairy, and restaurant industries). In the US, saturated fat is prevalent in many foods, including pizzas, cakes, desserts, biscuits, and savory or sweet snacks. This is due to vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated and used in commercial frying. It comes partly from the high consumption of processed meats and fatty foods, such as burgers. Cheese is another major source.
Saturated fat controversy
The report of the advisory committee does not ignore recent controversy about saturated fats and heart disease. Discusses in detail major studies conducted between 2009 and 2014, including randomized controlled trials. The committee focused on studies that examined what replaced in the majority of diets. This was suggested by recent research reviews, which found that there is no relationship between total saturated fat intake and heart disease.
The best evidence shows that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated ones improves cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease. The key is to know where the polyunsaturated fatty acids come from. For example, if you get them from snack foods or deep-fried food, it won’t help your heart.
Some critics claim that the report of the committee advocates a high-carb or low-fat diet. This is incorrect. The report states that it is pointless to swap saturated fats for refined grains and sugar. It recommends instead foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids, echoing the World Health Organization’s recommendation that added sugars should not exceed 10% of daily calories.
The US diet contains a lot of saturated fats, and cheese is a big source. Alan Levine/Flickr, CC BY
Teicholz says the committee ignored many low-carbohydrate studies. As the report points out, many of these studies were small, short, and often case-control or pilot studies, which rely on recalling information subjectively (both of those are not considered good evidence). If you compare the results of published studies that have been undertaken over six months, it’s not clear whether they are better than more balanced diets.
Teicholz acknowledges that the effects of stricter low-carb diets are not sustained over time but defends his position by referring to only one meta-analysis. The authors chose to include “grey literature,” which was not peer-reviewed and came from organizations outside academic publishing channels. The study she chose also concluded that even strict low-carb diets have little clinical impact in the long run when compared to conventional therapy.