August 29

Steven Colbert minces Michael Jacobson

11  comments

A reader sent me a link to the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) Scam site, which is great. It will become a part of my daily read.
In the particular link she sent, there was a video of Michael Jacobson, the director of CSPI, making an appearance on Steven Colbert’s show. jacobson.jpgColbert, of course, made Jacobson look like a fool, which he pretty much does with everyone who ventures onto his show. But his making a fool of his guests only works if the guests don’t go along with the joke and try to remain on their message and stay the pompous windbags that most of them are.
Jacobson didn’t disappoint. In fact, he played right into Colberts hands. I’m sure Jacobson had a media consultant tell him to try to be light and upbeat and go with the flow, which, in Jacobson’s mind translated into hunching over the table while maintaining a Cheshire cat rictus throughout the interview. Pompous windbag that he is, Jacobson couldn’t resist trying to stay on message, which made him look all that much more ridiculous. I’ll have to admit to experiencing more than a little schadenfreude as I watched.
What I found most interesting about the interview comes at the end. Under Colbert’s prompting Jacobson spirals off into a discourse about the dangers of trans fats and how they’re slowly but surely being removed from the food supply, saving thousands of lives in the process. What Jacobson doesn’t elaborate on – and what I wish Colbert had known and injected into the dialog – is that CSPI, Jacobson’s own group, is largely responsible for putting trans fats in the food supply in the first place. I guess it’s a great gig if you can get it. First, you militate to replace a harmless substance with a harmful one (replacing saturated fat with trans fat in this case), then you get traction and publicity by militating to remove the harmful substance that you were greatly responsible for putting in place. And look like the hero in both cases.
At the very end, Jacobson goes off on a riff against salt, which I find hilarious. Au contraire to what you read all the time and what such idiots as Jacobson babble, salt is actually good for you. Especially salt in its natural form, filled with other minerals and trace elements (which deserves a whole post by itself). Even regular old table salt, which has been vilified, has, in the end, been shown to be pretty harmless. All the Sturm and Drang about the dangers of salt have turned out to be way, way overstated. I can’t believe that Jacobson is now making a case against salt when it has been shown to be innocent of the charges against it. I guess old habits die hard.
Here is the the video. I hope you enjoy it at much as I did.


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  1. Agreed on all points, but to be fair, your readers should know that the CSPIscam website is run by The Center for Consumer Freedom, a group of fast food restaurants and snack food manufacturers on the defensive from the likes of CSPI and PETA (I’m pretty srue from past posts you know this). So CSPIscam and CCF are hardly unbiased. But I do find their counter-attacks on CSPI and PETA very good. Doesn’t mean I like their constituents’ products, though.
    As much as I think Colbert made mincemeat out of Jacobson, who clearly has no sense of humor or self-deprecation, Colbert could have done some extra homework, too. I would have liked it better if Colbert had countered with sugar and refined grains as the real evils in his banter with Jacobson. Unfortunately, even if viewers see Jacobson for the boob that he is, they still come away with the message that it is saturated fat and salt that are bad. They only think that Jacobson is a killjoy puritan with a message they don’t want to hear or acknowledge. They don’t realize that his message is so incredibly wrong.
    Not surprising, a few commenters on Marion Nestle’s blog What To Eat tend to think that Jacobson did ok or even well on the Colbert Report (one commenter criticised that Colbert never mentioned or picked up Jacobson’s book, which I’m sure was the real reason he was on the show – he should have booked himself on The Daily Show instead but then he would have ruined my Daily Show experience). Not surprising to find support from her readers, considering Nestle’s long association with CSPI. I wish she would distance herself from that CSPI, as it dilutes and discredits some of her better work. Just my 2 cents.
    And yeah, I agree with Colbert that dinner with Jacobson must be a horrible experience. He’d hate watching me eat homemade full fat cheese, wild venison or grass fed beef (or liver!!!) , and at least 3 really free range non-industrial eggs a day, cooked in butter or home rendered lard. At least he could happily eat our local seasonal veggies and fruit (some even homegrown), but he’d be very hungry at my table without the pasta, brown rice or soy pseudo food-to fill up on. And if he thinks Colbert’s favorte Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream ice cream flavor is too full of saturated fat, he’d have a hard time with the low sugar ice cream I make with real eggs, lots of heavy cream and whole milk (that approaches 8% butter fat instead of the industry-manipulated 3.5%). But his post meal blood sugar and insulin levels would be good, even if his humor isn’t.
    If I ate at his house I ‘d have to suffer through his recommended pasta primavera. At least I could pick the veggies and the parmesan cheese off the top and eat that without blowing my blood sugar control.
    Ciao,
    Anna
    Hi Anna–
    I had to dash off today so I didn’t get a chance to dig up who was behind the CSPIscam site. I suspected it was at least funded by the food industry. Thanks for doing my detective work for me.
    But, irrespective of who funds the site, it was on the money with the comments on Jacobson’s appearance. And Jacobson didn’t fail to disappoint with his own ravings. What a twit!
    And I’ve got to forewarn you, I’m getting ready to savage your friend Marion Nestle in the next day or two over the idiocy she wrote in Scientific American.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  2. Please write a post someday about your thoughts on salt! The very idea that it could be anything but completely dangerous is totally new to me.
    I’ll post it in due course. It seems that I have a zillion posts I need to make, but more immediate idiocy that needs attacking arises every day and I just can’t let it alone.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  3. I love Colbert. And I hate CSPI. Great vid! Isn’t potassium:sodium ratio more important than just total salt intake?
    There is no doubt that potassium is important, but I’m not sure that there is a golden ratio that is the best.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  4. I love Stephen Colbert….but I am convinced that some of his guests have no idea what he’s all about!!
    As for Jacobson…..to quote a comic…..what a maroon!
    What a maroon indeed. Thanks for the heads up on this one, Cindy.

  5. Dr. Mike,
    If your readers want to read the complete story of CSPI and how they caused trans fats to increase so much in the public food supply, there is a great article on it by Mary Enig, cofounder of the Weston Price Foundation and a PhD in lipid chemistry and also one of the people who first blew the whistle on trans fats. See
    http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/cspi.html.
    Porter
    Thanks for the link, Porter.
    I read this piece a while back – it’s a good one.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  6. I wish the government and people like Jacobson would stay out of everyone’s business. If people want trans fat to be against the law then they’ll vote with their dollars. If people want nutrition labels, then they’ll vote with they’re dollars. If the people want anything they’ll vote with their dollars. Most people don’t give a hoot, but for those of use that do, someone will put out products to fit our demands so long as it’s profitable to do so. That’s the beauty of the free market. Jacobson is free to spread his message but making legislation is ridiculous, and as we’ve seen time and time again, every time the government tries to fix something it just results in unintended consequences.
    What’s you’re opinion of Dr. Ron Paul, Dr. Mike?
    What’s my opinion of Dr. Ron Paul? I’ve met him a time or two and heard him speak a few times at various medical functions years ago. Of all the candidates out there, he’s my favorite because of all the candidates out there he is the only one who has consistently voted his principles throughout his time in office. And since I agree with the majority of his principles, I think he’s great. But even if I didn’t agree with most of his principles, I would rather have him than someone who constantly holds a moistened finger to the wind to assess public opinion before making major decisions. As Socrates said, it’s better to have someone in office who is principled even if you disagree with him/her than someone in office with whom you agree, but who has no principles. Of all the candidates out there I believe Ron Paul is by far and away the most principled and has proven it through thick and thin with his principled stances unpopular with his own party. There you have it. I hope he has a chance.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  7. On the subject of the conventional thinking that saturated fat is bad for you, I wonder if there may be some hope that this belief can change. I remember a few years back when the message was that all fat was bad and you should aim for as little of it in the diet as possible. Then a few years after that you started hearing that no, not all fat was bad; in fact, fat from vegetable oils, esp. olive, walnut, etc., was healthy in moderation, as well as fats from nuts, avocados, and so on. So maybe eventually we may start hearing, well, actually some saturated fat is healthful (but not too much!), until finally the evidence becomes so irrefutable that the message has to be that saturated fat conveys health benefits and is a necessity in a healthful, balanced diet. We can hope, can’t we?
    Another fat-related question: it’s popular these days for the fast food chains to prove they are concerned about our health and are “doing something” about it by elimininating trans fat from their foods. However, I have yet to see any article reporting that Chain X is no longer frying with trans fat state what fat is replacing the trans fat. Anyone know what the new wonder fat is now in use as a replacement? Not that I am too personally affected by this: I don’t eat fast or processed food anymore, but just in the interest of the legion who do, I’m curious.
    Hi Ethyl–
    I hope you’re right about the saturated fat. It may happen, but it will take a while for the academic pin heads to buy into it.
    Like you, I don’t frequent fast food joints, so I haven’t paid a lot of attention to what it is they’re using to replace trans fats. Let’s hope it’s coconut or palm oil. It would be too much to hope for beef tallow or lard.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  8. Dr. Mike,
    In response to Ethyl’s question, the chains are not going from trans fats back to natural fats, rather they are going to another unnatural man-made fat called interesterified fat. It has it’s own different problems. See this link
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/60980.php
    Porter
    Hi Porter–
    Thanks for the link. I guess I need to read up on this new stuff. (I actually have read a little on it, but not nearly enough. Since I don’t plan on eating it, I haven’t given it a lot of attention.)
    Cheers–
    MRE

  9. Michael Jacobson held up well, gracefully and amiably, under the relentless pressure of Steven Colbert’s relentless interrupting and accusatory haranguing.
    In recent years, it’s official policy in the UK to reduce salt intake from about 10 to1 gm daily,
    in order to save scores of thousands of lives yearly from strokes and heart attacks.
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameNM/message/1458
    ASDA, Wal-Mart’s UK supermarket chain, bans artificial colors, trans
    fats, MSG and aspartame, Marguerite Kelly, The Washington Post: Murray
    2007.08.03 ]
    So far, USA print and broadcast media are deaf, blind, and dumb,
    regarding recent major bans of aspartame and MSG in the UK and EU.
    The EU Parliament voted July 12 to ban artificial sweeteners
    in newly born and infant foods.
    On May 15 four huge UK supermarket chains announced bans
    of aspartame and MSG, food dyes, and many additives
    to protect kids from ADHD —
    Sainsbury, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, and ASDA, a unit of WalMart.
    I guess Jacobson’s performance was all in the eye of the beholder. I thought he performed like a grinning idiot.
    Where is the valid data correlating the average salt intake to anything bad?
    It doesn’t matter to me what some governmental agency’s policy is toward banning any substance. The vast majority of the time they’re totally in the wrong or ban the right stuff for all the wrong reasons. And the fact that large commercial establishments ban something carries no weight whatsoever. Most of them just follow the governments lead. Look at all the low-fat, no-fat crap out there in response to the US government’s unsubstantiated edicts about fat in the diet.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  10. The trans fats are a big mess, because they are not being replaced with coconut oil and palm oil and butter that they replaced. They’re being replaced with non-hydrogenated oils that are high in PUFAs and extremely dangerous when heated or cooked, like canola and soybean. The CSPI people are totally inept. They see no problem with telling people to eat fast food and all sorts of high-carb junk foods, long as they are low in fat (esp saturated fat).
    After getting the restaurants and junk food companies to switch to hydrogenated oils, CSPI is not attacking (and suing) them for doing so. What oils will be used now? More processed junk like “interesterified” fats, corn oil, soybean, canola oil, safflower, and rapeseed oil. Avoiding a hydrogenated oil by eating more omega-6 vegetable oils is a step backwards.
    Hi Bruce–
    You said it all in one sentence:

    The CSPI people are totally inept.

    They helped get us into the trans fat mess in the first place, and now they’re leading the charge to undo it, all the while trying to take credit for improving the health of America.
    Maybe they’re not inept; maybe they’re malignant.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  11. Just a correction. I said “After getting the restaurants and junk food companies to switch to hydrogenated oils, CSPI is not attacking (and suing) them for doing so.”
    That should have been “NOW attacking (and suing) them for doing so.” Hopefully, you got the gist of what I was trying to say. Getting rid of trans fat is a step in the right direction, since partially hydrogenated oils seem to cause abdominal obesity (at least in animals). But using an omega-6 vegetable oil in its place is not healthy, either. We need a campaign for restaurants going back to coconut oil, beef tallow, palm oil, and other natural fats.
    Hi Bruce–
    Thanks for correcting the typo. I figured that’s what you meant.
    I agree with you 100 percent. I’m not so sure that going to omega-6 vegetable oils instead of trans fats is an improvement. We definitely need a move back to tallow, palm oil, coconut oil or even lard.
    Cheers–
    MRE

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