Nanny State

School Junk Food Ban Study Loaded With Empty Calories


Which of these do I eat? Tell me, government functionaries!

A study showing that California high school students consume fewer calories on campus than teenagers in other states following a state ban on junk food sales has been greeted with a small burst of excitement. But there is no evidence that the ban actually influenced teen eating habits.

First the good news: Unlike the subjects in some previous studies, these kids are not snorting Doritos at home and making up the difference. They are generally eating fewer calories per day than students in states that don't ban junk food at school. Nanny state nutritionists are salivating over the findings. 

The study, by the University of Illinois, involved 680 students in 15 states — 114 in California — during a four-month period in 2010. The students reported their eating habits, and researchers compared California high school students' intake with those in other states. They determined California teens were consuming about 160 fewer calories per day than students in other states, and the decrease was taking place at school. The California teens consumed less fat, sugar, and salt at school, but they also consumed fewer vitamins and minerals. The teens just ate less of everything at school in California, getting only 21 percent of their daily calories while at school compared to 28 percent for teens in other states. California teens made up some of the difference elsewhere, but when all the numbers were crunched, they were still eating less overall.

But the study leaves plenty of unanswered questions. First, we have no idea what the California teens' eating habits were prior to the junk food ban (passed in 2007). We don't know if California students are eating less than they used to, which you'd think would be important data if you're calculating the success of a school junk food ban. (There is a brief reference to another study relevant to the matter, with the results vaguely described as "cautiously optimistic")

Second, more than half the students on the non-California side of the study attended school in Southern states. This is relevant, because while California's teen obesity rate is high, it is not as high as the obesity rate in the South. Again, because the study only measures intake post-ban, for all we know the California students had already been consuming fewer calories than their peers in this study.

Finally, researchers note that even allowing for the cutting out of fat and sugar, students' food consumption at school wasn't really healthier, per se. "The nutritional composition of California students' in-school diet was similar," the study states.  (The study seems to assume here that more nutritional choices aren't being offered, rather than that students are declining to eat them.) In the comments section, the researchers offer all sorts of caveats about the inbalance in representation of the subjects, the problems of asking teens to accurately report their own eating habits, and the possibility of self-selection bias.

The study's authors concede that they cannot conclude California's laws were the cause of any differences in intake. That uncertainty doesn't stop them from proposing even more policy changes.

But the students in California feel like they're eating healthier, and isn't that what matters? Here's what an Elk Grove High School Student told San Francisco's ABC affiliate: "This would be a large size, these shorts, this shirt. I do feel like I would be heavier." He feels like he would weigh more if junk food hadn't been banned.

California Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician, weighs in: "We've just shown that in the school, we've created an environment where kids will take fewer calories. We can now use this as information to talk to parents about, 'How do we create the environment at home?'"

Elsewhere: Reuters argues that our mocking of fat people is discouraging them from losing weight, so knock it off. Also, it's all the fault of advertisements and restaurants.

NEXT: Sex Politics and the GOP as We Know It: An Interview with Nancy Cohen

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  1. Limiting fat in young people’s diets is a really, really fucking bad idea.

    1. butbutbut, they should be eating more carbs, The Divine Pyramid says so!11oneoneone

  2. The students reported their eating habits

    I’m seeing a design flaw already. . . .

    1. I’m sure the subjects of the study signed a piece of paper attesting to the veracity of thier self-reporting.

    2. That was the first thing that jumped out at me.

    3. RC, are you serious suggesting that self-reporting research subjects would knowingly skew data based on representational bias?

      Next you are going to tell me that poll respondents tell pollsters what they think want to hear, or climate scientists manipulate data to skew a result to a preconceived notion. Utter twaddle!

      Or even, people might even actually…lie. Inconceivable.

      1. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

  3. Dr. Yueh, if you’re around, I have a question: Could an alcoholic beverage be derived from the fermentation of human (or animal) blood?

    Warty found a Yahoo Answers discussion on this topic that I find highly unsatisfactory and unimaginative. Even if blood lacks sufficient sugar to ferment, surely the blood could be enhanced to make blood-based alcoholic beverages feasible. Ditto on filtering out coagulants.

    1. By the time you filter out coagulants and add fermentable sugars, aren’t you pretty much just using a blood extract for flavoring?

      1. I don’t know. This is why I turn to GM, as our resident blood expert. I bet he’s fermented some.

        I don’t know for sure how much added sugar would be necessary. Perhaps the sugar in the blood could be concentrated through some process prior to fermentation?

        1. Could an alcoholic beverage be derived from the fermentation of human (or animal) blood?

          The answer is yes. However, there are some major caveats here, you would have to add sugar to the blood, like D5W (5% dextrose in water) as an IV to have enough to do so. The problem here is agglutination, since the heat from a any reaction is going to cause both de-naturation of proteins and throbocytes to apoptose, causing even more clumping. What could be done is using a high powered blender similar to what is done to prepare both vaccination material and DNA extraction to get a relatively homogenous liquid, but it will still be a colloidal suspension, and what actually been cooked in the distillation process is blood serum.

          It’s a lot of trouble, and I haven’t tried it mysel; I would akin to creating gold in the lab via a cyclotron: possible but not worth the effort.

          1. “actually would be cooked”. Sorry for my crappy smertphone typing. What was it DesigNate called it? Smertphonebonitis?

          2. Hmmmm. Well, perhaps some nonhuman variety would work better.

          3. creating gold in the lab via a cyclotron

            Yes, go on . . .

            1. Yes, go on . . .

              ….inflation and crashing world markets. RC, are you really GoldFinger?

              1. Not necessarily. Just make enough to enrichenfy yourself. You know, a hundred billion dollars worth. Nothing significant.

          4. Addendum: I forgot about hirudin, the noted anti-coagulant produced by leeches, which in theory could prevent the agglutination, but you still have the protein denaturation problem presented by the heat of fermentation and distillation.

            The closest you actually get is the production of lactic acid after strenuous activity, and is a product of fermentation.

            1. My God, you’ve improved the concept twice in the same comment. First, blood and leeches combined to make booze. Excellent.

              Second, lactic brew. Brilliant, especially given Time‘s endorsement of mother’s milk.

              1. Third would also to infuse large amounts of glucogon to dump the glycogen stored in the liver to massive raise the BSL quickly, but that is not a terribly accurate method of doing so, and it would be hard to precisely accomplish in an assembly line manner.

          5. From what I can find online, blood sugar is around 0.004 mol/L. As best I can figure, you need at least 0.07 mol/L sugar to make beer. (1 mol of sugar = 1 mol of alcohol assuming complete conversion, probably the number is at least twice this). so you need to concentrate blood at least 18:1.

            1. Or use my blood after a Twinkie bender.

              1. We may be moving away from human blood, given GM’s comments above, but maybe a diabetic of another species?

                He’s also moved on to endorsing fermented mother’s milk, which, really, sounds more like something you’d suggest than a trained doctor would.

                1. Fermented mother’s milk is far better. Although lactic acid is only incidentally related to milk. As in, lactose is a sugar isolated from milk, and lactic acid is a similar molecule manufactured by anaerobic respiration in the body.

                  1. Fermented mother’s milk is far better. Although lactic acid is only incidentally related to milk. As in, lactose is a sugar isolated from milk, and lactic acid is a similar molecule manufactured by anaerobic respiration in the body.

                    Brett is actually correct here. This would be much, much easier to do.

                    1. That’s fine. We can take the profits from that and make the blood booze later.

                2. Maybe don’t try to avoid coagulation, but exploit it… Blood cheese!

                  1. Or Blood Jell-O. Fuck, I’m calling Bill Cosby right now!

                  2. Maybe don’t try to avoid coagulation, but exploit it… Blood cheese!

                    Krauts beat you to it Saccharin Man: there is this lovely stuff called blutwurst.

                    The Limeys also have Black Pudding.

                    1. They don’t use human blood. At least, I assume they don’t. Not anymore.

                    2. Blood sausage? No, blood cheese!

                    3. Blood sausage? No, blood cheese!

                      Easily done. Find an unwashed, fattie lass, perhaps one of the full figured gals in this study, make sure she has a yeast infection, and promote clumpy menorrhagia.

                      With enough of this stuff, you seal it in wax and let it age. The product name would be called “Bloodcake(tm) blood cheese.” But this would be the gourmet brand. The proles get the mass produced version with the breast milk and cheap xenograftic blood. Like porcine or bovine, or something like that.

                    4. I may never stop retching.

                    5. I may never stop retching.


                    6. You out SugarFree’d SugarFree. I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified.

                    7. Horrified is too tepid a word.

                    8. You out SugarFree’d SugarFree.

                      Impossible. That would cause a rift in the space/time/metabolic continuum.

              2. Or use my blood after a Twinkie bender.

                Don’t you mean Twink bending over?

                1. Sorry, Groovy. I’m not into that sort of thing, maybe you should ask your boyfriend sarcasmic to help you out.

                  1. maybe you should ask your boyfriend sarcasmic to help you out.

                    He “divorced” me as soon as His Pestilency endorsed gay marriage, knowing full well Obama never keeps his promises.

                    I gave that bitch my best years!!! (sob!) I need Haagen Daaz.

    2. Klingon blood wine.

      1. That’s fiction. We’re talking the real thing here. Though I think you have hit upon a niche marketing opportunity. Kor Winery. We kill no wine before its time.

        1. I know it’s fiction, but I just couldn’t help mentioning it.

    3. Are you suggesting czarnina liqueur?

  4. They aren’t going to ban Fat Bottomed Girls, are they?

    1. John hopes not.

    2. How else would the rockin’ world go round?

  5. Why not just have the teaches double as wet-nurses? If sucking a titty is good enough for that kid on the cover of Time Magazine, it should be good enough for every kid.

  6. The solution to childhood obesity: Go the fuck outside and play. Change diets all you want, but if people are not active, they will not be healthy.

    It seems to me that the problem behind the increased obesity of people of all ages is on the output side, not the input side.

    1. But that is a simple solution that requires no government intervention and no asinine “scientific” research.

      1. The students must exercise in the properly prescribed way to ensure maxiumum output of energy while not risking injury or possibly othering people.

        1. If the precious little butterflies go out side some man in a candy van will diddle their pee-pee’s… True story I saw it on CNN… Honest!

  7. Obviously the solution is to tax excess or insufficient weight directly. Each family member would be weighed at a government facility once a year — randomly, of course — and the snapshot compared to an ideal weight for that body type and age. I’ll leave it to the economists to determine the appropriate dollars per pound.

    1. Each family member would be weighed at a government facility once a year — randomly, of course

      synergize it with emissions testing.

  8. do we keep blaming the troglodytes for doubting scientific inquiry? when does the blame shift to the scientist and statisticians who put out this crap?

  9. Msut totally suck to be a kid now days. Can you imagine? Wow thats scary dude.

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