New research published in the British Medical Journal is revealing a game plan that can be used to fight the health-destroying efforts of the food industry. Lessons learned from the fight with Big Tobacco can be applied to fighting the food industry.
These results indicate there's a great deal of similarity between the food companies that market unhealthful foods and Big Tobacco. Both industries rely in misinformation, burying negative data, and confusing the public with conflicting evidence. And just as Big Tobacco has long insisted that nicotine is not addictive and there is nothing unhealthful about smoking cigarettes, the food industry and soft drink companies continue to insist there is no such thing as an unhealthy food. They say that any food, no matter what ingredients are in it, can be part of a healthful diet. They also tend to blame lack of exercise, rather than their foods, for causing obesity.
The position of the U.S. food industry is, of course, nothing short of outlandish. To suggest that there's no such thing as an unhealthy food strains the credibility of logic and common sense. Clearly, there are some foods that promote obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases. At the same time, there are other foods that even prevent those diseases.
Essentially, this can be understood by looking at the ingredients that are in the foods. It is the ingredients themselves that give the healthful or health-destroying characteristics to food and beverage products. For example, any food made with high-fructose corn syrup is likely to promote diabetes or obesity. Likewise, any food made with refined white flour will also promote diabetes and obesity. In a similar way, foods made with ingredients that cause cancer, such as sodium nitrite or saccharin, will of course result in cancer if a person consumes them in large enough quantities and with enough frequency.
Many of these ingredients, are, in effect, slow-acting poisons, and it appears to be the position of the food and beverage industry that poisons really aren't poisonous. Apparently, in their view, you could put any ingredient into a food or beverage, and it would have absolutely no effect on a person's health. In other words, the food industry is trying to destroy the cause-effect relationship between the foods and beverages a person consumes and the level of health they subsequently exhibit.
Accordingly, these industries would like to rewrite the rules of cause and effect in the universe, and overturn the laws of physics and biochemistry. Perhaps executives from these food and beverage companies should also join the Flat Earth Society in order remain consistent with their worldviews.
The real story in all of this is that foods and beverages do have a dramatic and obvious health effect on the human body. Every cell in your body is built from ingredients that you put in your mouth. If you consume ingredients that promote health, you will in time become a healthier person. If you choose, on the other hand, to consume ingredients that destroy your health, you will, of course, experience that outcome as well, and you will end up being diagnosed with various chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, mental depression, or heart disease.
It's also interesting to note in all of this that there are actually very few ingredients that need to be targeted and outlawed from the U.S. food supply in order to protect the health of consumers. Those ingredients include refined white flour, refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, sodium nitrate, homogenized milkfats, aspartame, MSG, and artificial food colors.
If these ingredients were made illegal tomorrow, and were emptied out of the food chain in a matter of weeks or months, we would see an immediate drop in chronic disease and obesity across the United States. Healthcare costs would plummet, quality of life would skyrocket, and people would be healthier, happier and even experience better moods and mental health. I believe that one day these ingredients will be banned from the human food supply, and there may in fact be massive lawsuits against food manufacturers someday for choosing to use these ingredients even while an enormous amount of evidence clearly shows the detrimental health effects of such ingredients.
But once again, the food and beverage industries insist that there is no such thing as a harmful food, and therefore there is no such thing as a harmful ingredient, either. From their point of view, you could insert lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic into any food product and eat it without consequence. There's no such thing as lead poisoning, the food industry seems to be saying. There's no such thing as mercury poisoning either, and in their minds, there's no such thing as obesity caused by foods, soft drinks, or food ingredients.
Getting back to the main point here, what we can learn from the war with Big Tobacco is that the food industry will continue to produce scientists that refute scientific reality in their effort to spread disinformation about the relationship between foods and disease. At the same time, we have good science as our ally. We can conduct studies that show and prove these nutritional relationships. We can publicize those studies and help make legislators and the public aware of the true cause of obesity and chronic disease in this country and around the world. We can counter their bad, distorted science with good science that shows foods and beverages really do play a role in the health outcome of individuals.
So where are we going with all of this? Let's say we've been able to produce outstanding scientific evidence showing that the food ingredients I've named in this article actually do promote obesity and chronic disease. What do we do with that information as an advanced society? How do we protect the public from ingredients that promote disease?
There are several recommendations on the table right now. They include taxing junk foods, which would of course make those foods and beverages more expensive. Other ideas include banning the sale of soft drinks and junk foods in our nation's public schools, which I think is not only a good idea, but just plain common sense. We shouldn't be dosing our children with harmful food ingredients in order to raise a few dollars for public school funding. Instead, we should be funding public schools at higher levels in the first place so they don't need to turn to vending machine gimmicks in order to buy textbooks for students.
Other ideas include banning the marketing and promotion of so-called junk foods. That would be easy to implement by outlawing all radio, television and print advertising for these foods. And finally, the most extreme but perhaps most effective measure would be outlawing these ingredients through action at the FDA. Fat chance of that happening any time soon...
For my part, I am in support of each and every one of these proposals, and I think that the faster we move on them, the more quickly we can protect the health of Americans and people around the world. The junk food industry, of course, will balk at all of these proposals, and they will raise a stink in Washington at any attempt to limit their ability to sell disease-promoting foods and drinks to the American public. After all, they're in it for the money, and if you protect the public by restricting the sale or marketing of these products, you're hitting these companies in the pocket book, and they don't like that. So you can expect a whole lot of political pressure to be applied to lawmakers in Washington by the food and beverage industries in order to protect their existing profits.
Ultimately, what we need as a civilized nation is for these ingredients to be outlawed altogether. They simply do not belong in the human food supply. We can start with things like hydrogenated oils, which are so obviously detrimental to human health and backed by such an overwhelming collection of scientific evidence that there should be no question in the mind of any reasonable person that hydrogenated oils promote heart disease and other disorders. Similarly, hydrogenated oils simply should not be allowed in the food supply. You could also make similar arguments for ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, and if we had the political courage as a nation, we could make the same argument for chemical additives such as aspartame, MSG, artificial colors, and of course sodium nitrite. None of these ingredients should be legal to use in foods and beverages. They should all be banned.
But at each and every turn, the food industry will wage a war of disinformation against the scientific facts in order to mislead lawmakers and the public about the true nature of these food ingredients. But in the end, I believe that with the freedom of information on the internet, and the weight of scientific fact, we'll overcome these efforts by the food and beverage industries and in the decades ahead, I have no doubt that these food ingredients will be banned from the human food supply. No intelligent nation should be feeding its people ingredients that promote chronic disease, obesity, and impaired mental function.