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IBM Medicine Patents The Almighty Buck

IBM Granted Your-Paychecks-Are-What-You-Eat Patent 455

theodp writes "On IBM's Smarter Planet, at least as envisioned in Big Blue's recently-granted patent for 'providing consumers with incentives for healthy eating habits', the FDA will team up with employers and insurers to determine your final paycheck based upon what you eat. IBM explains that whether a given food item is considered healthy may vary based on a number of factors, including 'individual health histories, family health histories, food intake, exercise routines, medications, and other health related factors', and may even be time dependent ('incentives are greater for consumption of a particular food item during a designated lunch time and less for consumption of the particular food item during other periods of time'). Before being issued, IBM's patent request languished for ten years and was only granted after a Patent Examiner's rejection was overturned on appeal. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano has been a cheerleader for pay-for-monitored-healthy-eating on a national level, which seems to be neatly aligned with the goals of his fellow CEOs on the Business Rountable, who told President Obama in 2009, 'It's very important that we don't have a government [healthcare] plan competing with a private plan and finding out that our employees or the citizens in general could go to a plan that doesn't have the same incentives and requirements and behavioral characteristics to make sure that they do the right things long term'."
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IBM Granted Your-Paychecks-Are-What-You-Eat Patent

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  • by InterestingFella ( 2537066 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @09:51AM (#38514158)
    In my opinion, the official food guide pyramids are unhealthy in many countries. They consist mostly of fast carbs. Those aren't that good to you, but I understand that they were good choice before, especially in countries with long winters.

    You know what rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes, grain, pizza and similar have in common? They have, historically, been food of low class people. They were what even the people with not so much money could get. While good food like meat, fish and similar are still pricier than the foods with fast carbs, they are generally available to everyone thanks to increase in our technological knowledge and means of mass producing food.

    This is why I find it mind blowing that the official food guide pyramids still promote fast carbs so much. They should not be your main source of energy. They are needed, but not at the amounts people eat them today. The ratio should be more like 33%/33%/33%, or even have more fat and protein than carbs. Pizza isn't bad because it contains fat, it's bad because it contains mixture of high amount of fast carbs and fat, and generally not that much vitamins. If people lowered the amount of carbs they take then they would be both more healthier and more lean.
  • I knew it. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @09:56AM (#38514200)

    Ok.. it's gonna be real unpopular to say. And fairly ugly... But it's the truth.

    The nazis would be proud of what america has become. And what we're turning into.
    We came up with ways to dehumanize people they never even dreamed of. :(

  • by CarsonChittom ( 2025388 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:07AM (#38514292) Homepage

    Not to be glib, but [citation needed]. At least in the US, the food advice handed out by the USDA [] is generally considered to be accurate to the current information available to scientists. Everything I've personally seen contradicting it has been merely bare assertions without citation or data, or else points to a study done by a clearly biased group or individual. If you've got something substantive, I'd love to see it, as this is a special interest of mine.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:08AM (#38514304)

    I lost 60 pounds in 6 months on the "Eat correctly, not so much fast carbs you moron" diet.

    Basically, I eliminated the refined sugars (HFCS is one of the fastest carbs in the universe) and then removing the other low end ones like rice, pasta, bread, noodles, potato, corn, wheat, most fruits. The hardest thing to cut was wheat gluten; they put that shit in everything!

    So what do I eat now? Like you said, mostly fish and fowl, with some red meat in there. I also eat liver on a monthly basis for the super-dense protein.

    " If people lowered the amount of carbs they take then they would be both more healthier and more lean."

    However, if "everybody" did that, then we wouldn't have nearly enough food. Note the percentage of your diet that the pyramid says should be cheap-carbs and then look at the percentage of US food that comes from wheat and corn.

  • by deck ( 201035 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:20AM (#38514426)

    I am fine if you don't wear your seat belt and maybe the law shouldn't be that way. But please don't ask to have your injuries caused by not wearing it covered. The auto insurance company I am with does just that. If you don't wear a seat belt then they pay a small percentage of the medical and don't cover anything that is obviously a result of not wearing the seat belt (like being ejected from the vehicle and bouncing down the road). It is a business proposition between my insurance company and myself. To keep my rates lower, I wear a seat belt. And if the law should state something, it should be that insurance companies and individuals are not liable for injuries incurred because a seat belt is not worn.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:23AM (#38514450)

    Pizza isn't inherently bad. It's a bit high on protein, but other than that it's perfectly fine and easily included in a balanced diet. Cheese, tomato, oregano, crust, those are all things that fit well in a well balanced diet. Where you start to get in trouble is with the toppings, pepperoni, sausage and such.

  • Irony Bomb (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:37AM (#38514582)

    I've worked a combined total of 8 years at IBM as a contractor over the course of my career. The cafeteria in their 500 building in Research Triangle Park is infamously bad. Notorious, even. Their idea of saying they have healthy foods is having a salad bar. Most of the food served at IBM is below the quality of what I remember eating in a public school cafeteria as a kid, and that was pretty bad. The overwhelming majority of what they sell there is low grade cheeseburgers & fries, pizza, fried chicken, and sub sandwiches.

    Over the course of time, I've seen the quality of the food go down, the healthy choices reduced, and the quality (and headcount) of the cafeteria staff continue to shrink.

    I did complain once about the guy who operated the grill, who sneezed into his gloved hands and then continued serving food without changing his gloves. This guy hates vegetarians, as evidenced by the abuse he dishes out on the veggie burgers. Sure, they are on the menu. But I defy you to eat one. It's served in a consistency not unlike dried codfish, before you soak it in lye to make lutefisk. Anyway, complaints go nowhere. The slob still works there. He still makes unhealthy food, badly, and uncleanly.

    If IBM wants to be taken seriously on being interested in the health of its workers, it needs to loosen up the purse strings a bit and get a vendor into their campus cafeterias that will provide healthy food options (and make it *harder* to buy unhealthy food there!)

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:40AM (#38514612) Homepage Journal

    As noted in TFS (TFA is firewalled off here), "whether a given food item is considered healthy may vary based on a number of factors, including 'individual health histories, family health histories, food intake, exercise routines, medications, and other health related factors".

    The guidelines say we're eating too much salt and we're all going to die of heart disease and high blood pressure, but there's no heart disease at all in my family, and my own blood pressure has always measured either normal or low -- and I eat a LOT of salt.

    It annoys the hell out of me. I'm genetically thin, and everything is low fat, low calorie, diet. Damn it, I'm too thin, not too fat. One size does not fit all!

    My grandmother was born in 1903, back in the day they cooked with lard and butter and ate eggs and bacon every morning. Her doctor told her that if she didn't get her cholesterol down she was going to die. Well, the doctor died. So she got a new doctor who told her the same thing, then he died, too. Five doctors later she finally did die -- she fell down and broke her hip in 2003.

    If you want to diet and exersize, more power to you. But keep your goddamned nanny state micromanagement out of my kitchen. I'm going to die from something, it might as well be eating unhealthy foods and having fun.

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @10:57AM (#38514798) Homepage

    What's most remarkable about this is that people who would wail and howl about the government directing you what to eat and when, apparently think that it would be appropriate for the corporations most people depend upon for employment to do so.

  • Re:I knew it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:02AM (#38514850)

    Actually, it reminded me more of something that really happened in the former East European countries.

    Every time something went low in stock, suddenly the whole propaganda apparatus was afloat with reasons why eating or using this product would be bad for you. Coffee? Yuck, increases your blood pressure and pushes you into your grave. Meat? Unhealthy to the max, it's a killer. Butter? Well, use it sparingly and eat a lot more bread.

    I kid you not when I tell you the first thing that came in mind is something like this. Now add things like declaring ketchup a vegetable to save money on kids' cafeteria food and some other ludicrous ideas and you end up with something not much different from what we could watch in the eastern European countries not that long ago.

  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @11:15AM (#38514996) Homepage Journal

    This is 1.5 hours long, but this man speaks the truth: sugar (fast carbs) is poison. []

    The rest of this is addressed to anyone interested enough to read it:

    I can also attest to the massive changes in my health after eliminating simple carbs and going for complex carbs (meaning more fiber as well) in my diet in 2003. Weight loss wasn't even a goal as I didn't even think I was near the upper end of "healthy" for my size at the time (6' and 185 lbs. at that time. I have been consistently 155 since developing a new relationship with food). The changes I made were to combat reflux. That worked. No purple pill or surgery for me and the reflux is gone.

    A lot of the illnesses in western culture are clearly linked to the western diet (read Michael Pollan's book An Eater's Manifesto). The western diet is far too focused on simple/fast carbs. I believe this is largely a self feeding addiction (I believed that long before seeing the video linked above but it's nice to have a doctor confirm this). The hardest part of changing how you eat is making it to the point where your sense of taste very literally changes.

    Believe it or not, if you eat the standard American diet, it's likely that your taste buds lack much sensitivity. I would not have believed it if I didn't experience it myself. Eating all of those heavily processed foods with artificial flavors that beat the hell out of your taste buds is akin to staring at a bright light for hours and then going into a darkened gallery with the most beautiful art... that you cannot see until your eyes readjust. Same thing with food. Processed and artificially flavored food is like the bright light. You aren't really tasting real food when you encounter it. That's why many of the healthier choices "lack flavor" or even "taste bad". Try going for a month without eating anything but fruits, vegetables, and high quality cuts of meat and poultry, but being heavy on the vegetables. Also avoid all sugared drinks. Just drink water or tea. I guarantee that you'll open up a whole new world of flavors and what you used to think tasted great, will be too intense.

  • by MHolmesIV ( 253236 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @01:58PM (#38517072)

    In the late part of the second world war, the US did a study on partial starvation. The study probably couldn't be repeated nowadays due to ethical concerns, but it gave a lot of interesting data. []

    Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis as measured using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) (a standardized test administered during the experimental period). Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression. There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe, though the subject was unsure if he had done so intentionally or accidentally). Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase

    Basically, it's very difficult to make diets work. If you want to lose weight, you need to increase your calorie burning, and keep your calorie consumption at reasonable levels. Restricted calorie diets will just make you food-focused, and as soon as you stop, you'll return to your genetically predisposed weight.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall