I love Coke. Always have. I could drink nothing but Coke and my life would be complete. I dabble occasionally in the diet drinks, but they just aren’t as satisfying. Anyway, it turns out this stuff is really bad for you... all of it. Yeah, makes me sad.
There have been numerous recent studies involving drinks that contain high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is used in everything from Coke to cookies to tomato sauce. It’s made from corn. And according to these studies, high-fructose corn syrup activates the part of the brain which makes you hungry. In other words, there is scientific evidence gathering that drinking Coke makes you hungry. If this is true, then high-fructose corn syrup could well be a HUGE contributing factor to our nation’s obesity problem.
But is it true?
Well, I’ve done a little experiment. I track what I eat and I decided to go a few days without drinking Coke. Honestly, the difference was shocking. I found that I wasn’t nearly as hungry AND it was easier to eat less. In other words, I didn’t want to eat more than I should have and I had no interest in eating junk. I didn’t crave anything. I had more energy and I felt better. But that could be a fluke, right? So I tried this off and on for a couple months. Every single time the results were the same. Each time I skipped the cola (diet or otherwise), I ate less and felt better.
Now, I know that one person’s experience means nothing scientifically, but I am left to wonder when I see numerous studies all saying the same things and then I experience something this dramatic. That makes me think there is something to this and I’ve decided to cut my Coke to a bare minimum and even then to switch to the version with sugar in it (you can get that in Mexican grocery stores... at least around here).
As an aside, several studies say diet drinks are worse, i.e. they cause people to eat more, they slow the metabolism, and they are now linked to a significant risk of depression.
But here’s the catch: there is no such thing as certainty in science. Science simply doesn’t deal in absolutes. It deals in more likely than not. So you can never be 100% certain. And this is where the politics enters the picture. When a study comes out accusing some product of doing something harmful, the industry quickly runs out and attacks the study, and the preferred attack is bogus, it’s aimed at the idea that the study “isn’t conclusive”... which no study can ever be. This is a much higher standard than we even require to convict someone of murder.
Industry then calls their lobbyists who race to Capital Hill Republicans to get them to attack the study. In fact, all industry needs to do is complain that it must be “leftists attacking our jobs” and conservatives automatically knee jerk defend the product as blameless and Holy and accuse the scientists of being secret communists. This is really, really bad for America, for us, and for our ideology.
1. For one thing, there ARE dangers out there. Not everything is Alar. IF high-fructose corn syrup is causing the problem the studies claim, as it appears to be, then it’s foolish to defend that when a simple change back to sugar from corn could go a long way to fixing the public health. When did conservatism become about ignoring dangers just because we like the guy hiding the danger?
2. By dismissing everything, conservatives take themselves out of the debate. Name the issue and conservatives automatically jump to the defense of industry... nothing proven conclusively here folks, move along.
When you dismiss everything out of hand every time, people stop listening to you because they don’t think your position is fair or reasonable. They see you as an inverse chicken-little who will happily ignore real dangers for ideological reasons. And as much as some conservatives don’t want to hear this, the reality is that the public does care about pollution and consumer safety. The public simply does not want dirty air, dirty water, poisonous food or exploding cars. And the public doesn’t trust industry to police itself because they know better. They know that the incentive of industry is to get away with as much as possible because they are motivated by profit, not “the common good.” And they’ve seen industry take stupid risks to squeeze the bottom line. That means, the public trusts the government to regulate, not industry. Conservatives need to understand this and accept it as a fact.
Now, I’m not saying there aren’t bad studies. To the contrary, leftists are big on using half-assed studies and bad science to push an agenda. Look at the global ice age/warming/cooling/climate change industry. BUT if conservatives want to influence the public on regulation... if they want to be taken seriously when they point to something as a bad regulation or a false study... they need to stop knee-jerk defending industry and demanding a standard of proof that is scientific nonsense. Just because smoke doesn’t always mean fire doesn’t mean it never means fire either. Liberals are in the always camp, conservatives are in the never camp. . . the public rejects both.
Finally, let me address another aspect of this. Conservatives have been played for suckers with this idea that these studies (and regulations) are an on/off issue: either you bless the product or you ban it. That’s simply false. The reality is that there are many levels in between and those are where conservatism used to lie. For example, most conservatives will agree that a proper role of government should be the dissemination of accurate information to the public. Hence, a warning label makes sense. Yet, when the cigarette industry got their hands into conservatism, suddenly conservatives bizarrely started opposing that. Ask yourself why? Why should conservatives ever oppose people being well-informed? Ditto on genetically modified foods and ditto on meat from clones and ditto on publicly-traded company financial statements. Each time conservative objected that it would “cost too much” or “hurt the industry” to make them warn consumers. What a load of crap. The real fear was the public would reject those products and the industry paid Republicans to try to stop the government from letting the public make up its own mind.
Our entire ideology depends on having a well-informed public making rational decisions, how does it help to suppress the very information the public needs? The next time you hear conservatives scream that some study is just another “assault on industry,” ask yourself if that’s really the case.
In the meantime, I recommend cutting back the Coke.