Saturday, January 30, 2010

MIKE DAUBE'S FATSO TAX - Tueday 26th January 2010

I heard Curtin University professor and member of the Federal Government's Preventive Health Task Force, Mike Daube saying there ought to be a tax on fatty food.

Seems a dubious proposition - for several reasons.

Firstly people are getting fatter, not because they eat too much fat (though that may be the case for some) but rather because they eat too much flour and sugar. Remember the days when every household had in their fridge (or cool safe) a sunshine condensed milk tin full of dripping? Those days are gone. I don't think fat is the big culprit, unless people eat huge amounts of chocolate. The villain of the peace is sugar, and fructose in particular.

The manufactured foods with added sugar usually have a high percentage of fructose in them. The fructose makes a bee-line to the liver where its turned into fat. (I think it might be a bit more complicated than that, but you'll get my drift.)

Secondly taxing food will only put up the CPI and next thing you know, the rest of the people who aren't over weight will just be paying more for their mortgages.

Thirdly it's people that need the greatest of encouragement to stay close to their ideal weight. Let's not beat around the bush. If being fat is so bad then we need a tax on fat people. There is no greater encouragement than that which seeks to avoid the stimulation of the hip pocket nerve.

It's people that make the choices about what to eat and how vigorously to exercise. It's people that should be in the spotlight.

Establishing a tax on fat people is not such a tough assignment as it first appears. All that needs to be done is increase the Medicare levee up to 5% of taxable income and then provide rebates for men who are less than 25% body fat and women who are less than 35% body fat.

I wondered about whether this would disadvantage people with a disability and thought, 'not'. I don't think it disadvantages poor people either. Until relatively recent times people who were financially disadvantaged in our community were thin, in fact haggard. There weren't many fat people living in Central Park in 1930!

The reason to have a personal fat tax is to give people to incentive to trim down. Why? Being overweight is good predictor of metabolic dysfunction. It is also a good predictor of musculo-skeletal dysfunction. Our medical system is collapsing under the weight!

So here's the proposal.

1. Up the Medicare levee to 5% of taxable income. It's costing far more than is currently levied.

2. Provide people who meet the percent body fat requirements with a 1% rebate - the lean body rebate. This is all possible for regular folks. Just watch Biggest Looser to see how it's done.

3. Provide people who can run more than 35 x 20m laps in 5 minutes with another 1% rebate - an aerobic fitness rebate.

4. Provide people who can do 30 situps and pressups on the trot and in less than 1 minute with another 1% rebate - a musculo-skeletal rebate.

You can give fitness practitioners, doctors and nurses a license to test the people who want to be involved - at their own expense.

That ought to provide the fat, the unfit and the weak with an incentive to save some serious money.

It will go a long way to putting half the medical industry on the dole.

The big plus, of course is as soon as people get fitter and trim down they'll feel better. Again, just ask anyone who's been on Biggest Loser, or Magda Szubanski. She's been ripping off the kilos and is both looking and sounding like she's in rude health.

It's strange indeed that it should be the an established medical convention to subsidize blood pressure, diuretic and diabetes pills and the joy of being hooked up to a ResMed breathing system and NOT subsidize the health insurance of people who are in exceptionally good nick.

Changing the Medicare arrangements will provide people with great encouragement be fitter as well as healthier. They won't go near a surgery or pharmacy. In double quick time people will be thanking the Government for saving their life, even if the sugar industry is cursing it.

But there's no doubt that the health of the Australian public, particularly the health of those who don't want to pay a cracker, either to keep themselves in good shape or their medical treatment, is a higher national priority that the health of CSR

As for Mike Daube, if he is going to take a swipe at any industry the first one off the rank needs to be the industry that manufactures food and beverages with added sugar.

These manufacturers have been running amok making a mess of public health which has to be cleaned up by the Government.

Any species is going to be attracted to sugar if just about every form of food it eats becomes loaded with it. Over the years and the decades they won't eat anything else.

Affluence has something to do with it. In my day if you said to your mother you were thirsty she'd say, 'there's a tank outside.' Now days kids and adults will only drink stuff loaded with sugar.

So, first target for Mike Daube's brush needs to be the manufacturers of sugared drinks. Over the next 10 years there needs to be a law that makes it mandatory for all soft drink and milk drink manufacturers to reduce the percentage of sugar in their drinks down to below 5%. People like Coca Cola, Schweppes and National Foods need to be reined in. Enough is enough.

A gradual 0.5% reduction each year will mean people get acclimatized to less sweet drinks - the starting point at the beginning of 2011 being less than 10%.

If Coke in Australia tastes different from Coke in America then so be it.

All we need is a law that says on January 1st 2020, no manufactured drinks will contain more than 4.9% added sugar - and non of that sugar will be fructose.

Kids would start to get a taste for bitter, salt, sour and savoury, and not just sweet.

In the grand march of history, the sugar culture is a recent phenomenon. Cutting it back shouldn't be such a tough assignment, if people know the reasons why: - it's destroying their health and it's sending the country bankrupt.

The next target will be chocolate, breakfast biscuits and manufactured food generally. There'd be a lot less Nutrigrain, chocolate and Milo eaten if added sugar was capped at less than 5%.

And while I'm at it, we need a law to gradually reduce fructose in manufactured food.

As for the Preventive Health Task Force, I'm pretty interested to know how many members can run more than 35 laps of the 20m course.

On the track
An exceptionally good morning. On the stepper for 40 minutes, all over 140bpm.

Then off for a swim with Christine. 40 laps non stop. I don't think I've swum that far since I went in the Swim Thru Adelaide on the Torrens in 1963, except on that occasion I didn't have my Zoggs on.

In the meantime stay tuned, highly tuned and when you're less than either 25% or 35% fat, report back.

John Miller

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