O’Leary the man to lead the charge on fight with obe­sity

Irish Independent - Farming - - Comment -

ODV and they also need to be told of the role played by their diet in this process; and specif­i­cally what they are drink­ing.

Thing is though, there is no-one else like Michael O'Leary. In his 20 years of be­ing at the helm and chief spokesman of Ryanair, he has turned the air­line into the big­gest in Europe and this was well fa­cil­i­tated by his abil­ity to gar­ner an in­cal­cu­la­ble amount of free pub­lic­ity through his straight talk­ing style of com­mu­ni­ca­tion - a shock jock who al­ways keeps the mes­sage sim­ple for mass con­sump­tion.

The Ryanair boss’s con­ver­sion to the cause of milk may not be as far­fetched as it might first seem. O'Leary has long been promis­ing that he will re­tire in three years' time. Last month, the air­line ap­pointed Kenny Ja­cobs as its first chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer in what is be­ing seen as an ef­fort to soften its con­sumer im­age and, given that O'Leary has al­ways been bet­ter at skin­ning sa­cred cows and crack­ing eggs rather than ic­ing the cake, maybe, just maybe, the time to go is ap­proach­ing.

He loves to take peo­ple by sur­prise and doesn't seem to be the kind that will just fly off over the hori­zon and hang up his guns. Farm­ing is one of his few self-pro­claimed in­ter­ests (along with race­horses and Manch­ester City Foot­ball Club) and it’s hard to imag­ine that he's go­ing to be sat­is­fied by a daily herd­ing of his cher­ished An­gus.

The op­por­tu­nity for the dairy sec­tor to start milk­ing its po­ten­tial ap­pears to be re­open­ing with the lat­est round of the ‘Good Fat' ver­sus ‘Bad Fat' bat­tle, in which it seems that sat­u­rated an­i­mal fats may, af­ter half a cen­tury of be­ing railed against, be bet­ter for our bod­ies that polyun­sat­u­rated plant oils.


Even more cen­tral to our na­tion's de­te­ri­o­rat­ing health is su­gar and ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers, and this is where sports drinks come into play. A cou­ple of months back, I heard the nutritional ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Donal O'Shea speak about the coun­try's build­ing avalanche of obe­sity/di­a­betes and how many kids play­ing sports to­day con­sider an en­ergy drink as in­trin­sic a part of their kit bag as their boots. One quar­ter of Ir­ish chil­dren are over­weight or obese. In the US that fig­ure is 66pc. There are now more peo­ple in the world who are over­weight than hun­gry.

Be­cause, yes, of course, when we drink an en­ergy/soft drink, we feel bet­ter be­cause, what­ever sweet­ener they con­tain gives a sud­den lift. In­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Sadly, it's short-lived and we find our­selves reach­ing out for another fix. Most peo­ple un­der­tak­ing mod­er­ate ex­er­cise would be bet­ter off go­ing for a low tech boost of a glass of milk, so you're get­ting a nice dose of nu­tri­ents along with the calo­ries.

As for the zero or low calo­rie ver­sions of th­ese drinks, they may have fewer calo­ries but they are also highly pro­cessed and con­tain a va­ri­ety of ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers which can be hun­dreds of times sweeter than su­gar, and may ac­tu­ally trig­ger over-eat­ing, re­sult­ing in weight gain and di­a­betes.

But Donal O'Shea and any other obe­sity ex­pert can say all they like be­cause it doesn't seem to be get­ting through. Are we not lis­ten­ing, do we not un­der­stand, do we not care, do we not un­der­stand enough or care enough to change? We need some­one to push our bums off seats and pull our hands off cans.

Be­cause they look fit and healthy, sports­peo­ple are good sub­ject ma­te­rial for mar­ket­ing and hasn't it come a long way from the days of Tony Do­ran and Joe Cooney telling us how they pro­tect their live­stock with Rani­zole.

The main ar­eas pro­moted nowa­days by Ir i s h s por t s per­son­al­i­ties are sports­wear, soft drinks, per­sonal care and cars; and I per­son­ally would have no prob­lem with any of th­ese ex­cept for the drinks. (And I would also ex­clude from this crit­i­cism those elite sports­peo­ple who are pro­fes­sional in ev­ery way ex­cept pay and have to do en­dorse­ments just to sur­vive in their cho­sen sport.)

So what if some fella be­lieves Brian O'Driscoll uses a par­tic­u­lar brand of ra­zor; he is un­likely to be­lieve that this is why he is good at scor­ing tries or has a gor­geous wife. But drinks ads reach out to teenagers and younger kids who don't sift through mar­ket­ing hype. Be­cause, if a drink looks good, tastes good and su­per­star X uses it, then they want to drink it too.

So, Michael, if you read this, what do you think, you have your moola made, do you want to move on to a fresh pas­ture, to save the health of the na­tion? You changed the way we fly, maybe you could also change the way we eat and drink. I prom­ise you won't be dis­ap­pointed at the scale of the chal­lenge.

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