Sunday, April 26, 2015

Return of Freedom Fries in Texas Means Increased Obesity for High School Students

by Nomad

Texas state officials continue to march backwards in the name of deregulation. Serving fat and sugar to Texas children is a salute of freedom.

According to a top official at the Texas Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Sid Miller, a decade-old statewide ban on deep fat fryers in public schools must be repealed. 
That ban prohibits deep fat fryers and soda machines on school campuses and places limits on the time and place that junk food can be sold there.

Miller says he thinks that repealing these parts of the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy will streamline things, pulling the state into line with less-strict national standards. Under his plans, the presently-mandated schools will be free to decide for themselves whether to abide by the policy. 

Miller claims that “it isn't about french fries, it's about freedom." 

And who on Earth could be against freedom?

For the Love of Freedom and Fat
The deep fat fryer and soda machine ban are the last of strict nutritional policies introduced by former Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. In 2004, in addition to those bans, Combs introduced the more comprehensive Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, which banned foods with high levels of sugar and fats in public schools. The policy was repealed last year, when Todd Staples was commissioner, and Miller has consistently expressed his support for less regulation of food in schools.
Three Texas whoops for de-regulation!

The problem is, as nutrition experts and doctors will tell you, that deep fried foods are extremely unhealthy. 
Some of the reasons are that unhealthy oils are generally used, and reused, which causes free radicals to be formed. Free radicals are a major culprit in causing cancer....Many nutrients are destroyed during the process as well.
But.. the taste is soooo good! However, as one source reminds us, that crunchy goodness, so tempting to young adults, comes at a cost.  
Foods high in fat, such as fried foods, are also higher in calories, since a gram of fat provides 9 calories compared to the 4 calories found in each gram of protein or carbohydrates. If you eat fried foods regularly, you are more likely to become overweight or obese. A study published in the February 2013 issue of "Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases" found that consuming fried foods more than four times per week increased the risk for obesity compared to consuming these foods less than two times per week.
As most of know, young adults are not exactly trained in our society to resist temptations. Indulging is an American pastime. 
All of those factors necessitated some kind the change in school nutrition policy in the first place. Ironically, before the policy was repealed, it appeared to be producing good results. 

The Sweet Smell of Success
According to a study by American Public Health Association, the school food policy implemented by Texas had been successful in its goal of improving the quality of food served and sold to students. 

Regardless of district and school size, the study found, cafeterias served significantly fewer high-fat vegetable items per student. Additionally, snack bar sales of large bags of chips were significantly reduced. Whether that translated into improved lunch choices outside of the school was not determined. 

Another study found after policy was initiated. there were positive changes within just two years.
During the 2005–2006 school year, middle-school student lunch consumption of milk, fruit, and vegetables significantly increased, whereas consumption of sweetened beverages, candy, chips, and dessert foods decreased compared with consumption in 2001–2002.
Even with the program in place, the task of combating obesity is a daunting one.

In 2013, Texas ranked fifth in the rate of obesity at a high school level. Nearly 16% of the students were considered obese.  That's above the national average of 13%.  Only Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee reported higher levels. 

One source has more bad news:
  • 20.4% of Texans children are obese today--one of the highest rates in the country.  
  • 27.1% of Texas kids are considered to be food insecure and receive most or all of their meals at school.
The Price Texas Pays for Backward Policy
Obesity is more than just a personal matter. It is also more than just a public health issue.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased markedly in the last two decades in the United States. with more than two-thirds of the population being overweight or obese. Each year in the United States, 400 000 deaths can be attributed indirectly to obesity.

Both taxpayers and employers are affected too. One report claims that obesity related costs to the healthcare system and business amounted something in the range of $270 billion in 2011 and have continued to increase since then. 

One of the problems is that obesity generally leads to other serious health problems which would require more expensive health management. In fact, according to a 2013 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, chronic obesity-related diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, among people younger than 65 drive two-thirds of medical spending.

Texas already has a healthcare problem and the decision not to expand Medicaid compounds that problem. Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States. More than 6.3 million Texans - including 1.2 million children - lack health insurance. Of all of the disease, obesity is especially a problem for in the lowest income group. Unfortunately, that's exactly the group that would benefit the most from Affordable Health Care.

Still, Commissioner Miller's celebration of freedom and fat is a example of the thoughtless approach to public policy that Texans must love. They must love bad policy to death.
That's the only way to explain how people like Sid Miller. Rafael Cruz and Rick Perry can rise to the top of Lone Star politics.