Michelle's Flawed Crusade

The recently passed child school nutrition legislation is exemplary of the administration's deficiency in basic knowledge and its willingness to elevate politics and ideology over all scientific fact, despite assurances to the contrary.

Its approach to this matter, where there is but a single issue in play, strongly suggests a profound inability to comprehend more complex concepts, perhaps explaining much of what has transpired during its tenure.

Michelle Obama, who appears overweight (a feature common among weight control advisors), has chosen to campaign about childhood overweight/obesity.

POTUS supports her efforts.

There are four prongs to her program:

First Lady Michelle Obama has announced a four-pronged assault on childhood obesity that focuses on increasing the number of "healthy schools," adding more physical activity to youngsters' lives, encouraging consumers to make smart food choices, and improving access to healthy foods, which she calls a major barrier to healthy eating.
Focusing only on the matters of childhood overweight/obesity and school food policy considerations...
Mrs. Obama states:

I am thrilled that Congress has taken a major step forward today in passing the [$4,500,000,000.00] Child Nutrition bill ... that will help us provide healthier school meals to children across America and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity.

POTUS variously claims

to "restor[e] scientific integrity to government decision making." ... science advisers should be appointed based on their credentials, "not their politics or ideology," and that officials should "be open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions."

How do POTUS's words reconcile with the Mrs.' efforts on this issue and his support of them?

Childhood overweight/obesity, like adulthood overweight/obesity, like any creature overweight/obesity, results from one thing and one thing only -- more Calories in than out.

Though other factors have been blamed, in the absence of more Calories in than out, weight gain is virtually impossible.

The human body functions in accord with the laws of thermodynamics. If total food calories exceed daily energy expenditure, excess calories accumulate and store as fat in adipose tissue. [Italics in original.]

Suggesting there are ways to defeat these laws is akin to suggesting there are ways to overcome the option of gravity.

Further, the source of Calories is immaterial:

Weight loss occurs whenever energy output exceeds energy intake regardless of the diet's macronutrient mixture [fat, carbohydrate and protein -- i.e., nutrients that contain Calories], reaffirming the first law of thermodynamics. [Italics in original.]

As to the matter of health -- i.e., the statistical likelihood of developing certain bad illnesses -- it is related to body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight.

The materiality of caloric source vis-à-vis health is unknown.

Currently, we do not know if there is any health difference between two children (or adults) with equal and elevated BMIs, wherein one achieved this distinction by eating red meat and the other made it by eating boneless, skinless, free-range, organic chicken breasts.

We know just that each is at greater risk of developing certain bad illnesses than intended-size children -- i.e., kids without an elevated BMI.

Therefore, the only food policy issue to be addressed "in our efforts to combat childhood obesity" is how to get kids to consume fewer Calories than they burn (for the already overweight/obese). The "wisdom" of addressing that in school is beyond the scope of this essay.

The data are clear that school lunches are not the problem.

The Third School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study (SNDA-III) assessed the quality and contributions of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

SNDA-III was based on a nationally representative sample ... Data were collected in the second half of school year 2004-2005[.]

NSLP meals were to provide one-third of the Recommended Energy Allowance (REA). They failed.

Caloric intake was evaluated.

Although 71 percent of schools offered the required minimum for energy, only half of them served meals that met the energy standard, suggesting that students (given OVS) did not select all meal components. [OVS = offer-versus-serve]

The failure to meet "the energy standard" was that too few Calories were served, despite one-third of the REA being offered.

Although more than 70% of schools serve meals that meet standards for many nutrients that contribute to healthful diets, few schools (6% to 7%) met all nutrition standards in school year 2004-2005, primarily because most meals served contain too much fat, too much saturated fat, or too few calories.

It is impossible to maintain or become any level of overweight from eating too few Calories.

A study published before passage of the $4.5-billion bill, "the first to evaluate the long-term health and educational effects of participation in the National School Lunch Program," indicates that NSLP provides "healthful" meals and that somehow, in some way, the effects are undone outside the schoolhouse (parents?):

... the program may have had short-run health effects that dissipated over time ...

... based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, the study finds no lasting effect on adult health. The author speculates...that perhaps the program improves health temporarily but that the effects fade away by adulthood.

Of note, SNDA-II (the prior evaluation), based on 1998-1999 data, concluded that "[o]nly lunches served in secondary schools, where students' calorie needs are greatest, fell short of providing one-third of the recommended level of calories."

Thus, for about a decade, it has been impossible for school lunches (on a population basis) to cause childhood overweight/obesity.

These are their data and the science.

Anything else is "politics or ideology."

Regarding "healthy foods," in point of fact, we would generally not know a "healthy food" if it bit us in the face.

As examples, here are some references to the conflicting data of the "healthy" foods debate:

In any event, there are no "healthy foods" in the overweight/obesity conversation.

There are only Calories, since only Calories are involved in weight, which is related to BMI, which is related to health -- and caloric source matters not, given current knowledge.

Therefore, the resolution of existing childhood overweight/obesity is predicated on a singular, fundamental concept - fewer Calories in than out. Nothing more, nothing less.

That is the science.

Anything else is "politics or ideology."

In contradistinction, there is "healthy eating," which is eating to achieve a healthy BMI -- i.e., where the likelihood of developing certain bad illnesses is minimized.

Lastly, a brief word about nutrients.

There is much talk of "low-nutrient" or "nutrient-poor" foods. This is more "politics or ideology" without basis in science.

This type of talk not infrequently comes from organizations, e.g., the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that appear to have agendas.

It also comes from the administration -- another organization with an agenda, as this piece suggests.

There are six nutrients -- this is taught even to children -- fats, carbohydrates, proteins, water, vitamins, and minerals. (Some consider alcohol to be a seventh nutrient.)

Food must be virtually 100% nutrients, excepting certain additives, such as preservatives, which may not be from the six (or seven) nutrient groups and generally are a very small component of a food product.

One may not like the ratio of nutrients in a food for whatever reason, but it is almost impossible for a food to be "nutrient-poor" or "low-nutrient." (It is similarly impossible for a food to contain "empty Calories." A food Calorie is a standard unit of energy measuring 4186.8 joules. An "empty Calorie" is like an inch without length.)

That is the science.

Anything else is "politics or ideology."

Therefore, the entire expensive charade of "healthier school meals ... play[ing] an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity" is nothing more than a lie devoid of "scientific integrity," "with no "science behind [their] decisions."

It is merely a fantastical creature of "their politics or ideology" -- a pipe dream, where, yes, POTUS did inhale. Arguably, a contribution comes from gross stupidity demonstrated by the Mrs.' adherence to and practice of discredited "junk science."


This ill-conceived program will fail, as it must fail, since it is not related in any way to the stated problem, the science, or the likely factors in caloric overconsumption.

As recognition is due Allen Drury for presciently authoring the first book on the Obama administration (it remains wait-and-see as to the arguably honorable climax), so, too, should Sam Cooke, Lou Adler, and Herb Alpert be acknowledged for writing its theme song, "Wonderful World":

Don't know much about history (check)
Don't know much biology (
Don't know much about a science book... (
check and see above)
Don't know much about geography (

Apparently, also "don't know much about integrity/honesty." (Check and see above.)

Michael Applebaum is a physician and attorney practicing in Chicago, IL. He advocates for adult, youth, and children's fitness. His website is www.fitnessmed.com.