Is the Food & Drinks Industry Deliberately Making You Fat?
Have you found that despite your best efforts, it is incredibly hard to lose weight … and to keep it off! In this article I will prove that for 50 years a conspiracy has been taking place that has been deliberately keeping us fat … and the culprit is someone we thought we could trust!
If I was to ask you “who is Daniel Lambert and what was he famous for?” … you’d probably scratch your head and say … “No idea … I’ve never heard of him!” But back in 1806, Daniel Lambert was quite a cause célèbre, a medical oddity who attracted a great deal of public attention.
You see Daniel Lambert was Britain’s first obese man … weighing in at a portly 53st (335 kg) and like his contemporary John Merrick (“The Elephant Man”), became very well known in London society, with patrons willingly paying a shilling to enjoy a pleasant half hour conversation with this sociable, humorous and extremely well spoken giant of a man.
Things have dramatically changed 200 years on. Specially designed Bariatric Ambulances regularly pick up a dozen Daniel Lambert’s every week in the UK. Fifty-three stone is at the lower end of the weight spectrum, with 80st patients being far from uncommon.
Bariatric Ambulances carry a fascinating array of devices and gizmos including a “spatula” to help with people who have fallen out of bed and a special device to assist morbidly obese people who have jammed themselves between the two walls in their hallway … apparently another common occurrence.
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Once the ambulance arrives at the hospital, it is greeted by a convoy of support vehicles which often contain a winch to lift patients onto a special, reinforced stretcher.
As you can imagine, all of this costs the NHS (National Health service) a pretty penny.
For example, the UK newspapers reported a recent case involving a 63st teenager called Georgia Davis who’s latest trip to hospital cost the NHS a staggering £100,000!
But these extreme cases are only a tiny part of a far reaching global obesity crisis.
On average, in the UK every man, woman and child are three stone heavier than we were in the 1960’s, as evidenced by bigger car seats, swimming cubicles, and bigger and bigger garment sizes becoming available at regular department stores, not just at the more traditional outsize man and woman stores.
So why are we so fat? Has the human race become greedier and more sedentary than those who lived in times past?
Contrary to popular wisdom, a 12-year study, (which began in 2000 at a hospital in Plymouth, UK), measured children’s physical activity and found it to be basically the same as it was 50 years ago.
But something has changed … and that something has been dramatic.
That something is very simple. It’s the food we eat. In particular,the incredible amount of sugar we now eat in our food. And its often sugar we’re not even unaware of.
So how did we get into this mess?
The story begins way back in 1971. Richard Nixon was facing re-election. The Vietnam war was seriously effecting his popularity at home … but the war was not the only big issue he had with the voters.
Another was the soaring cost of food. Nixon knew that his political survival was in jeopardy. He needed food prices to drop and the quickest way to do that was to get a very powerful lobby on board — the farmers. Nixon appointed Earl Butz, an academic from Indiana, to make the arrangements. Butz, an agriculture expert, quickly came up with a radical plan … a plan that would transform the food we eat, and in doing so, the shape and health of the whole the human race.
Butz pushed farmers into a new, industrial scale of production, and into farming one crop in particular … corn.
US cattle were fattened by corn. Burgers became bigger. Fries, fried in corn oil, became fattier. Corn became the engine for the massive surge in the quantities of cheaper food being supplied to American supermarkets: everything from cereals to biscuits … and corn flour found even more new uses for corn. As a result of Butz’s free-market reforms, American farmers, almost overnight, went from parochial small-holders to multimillionaire businessmen with a global market.
By the mid-70s, there was a surplus of corn. Butz flew to Japan to look into a scientific innovation that would change everything: the mass development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is a highly sweet, gloppy syrup that is produced from surplus corn and is incredibly cheap. Originally discovered in the 50s, it was not until the 1970’s that a process had been found that could harness it for mass production. HFCS was soon pumped into every conceivable food … pizzas, bread, cake, coleslaw, meat to name a few. It provided that “just baked” sheen on bread and cakes, made everything sweeter, and extended shelf life from days to years. A silent revolution concerning the amount of sugar that was being taken into our bodies was taking place. The general public hardly noticed the change.
HFCS is 76% carbohydrates and 24% water, containing virtually no fat, protein, or micronutrients. In a 100-gram serving, it supplies 281 calories, while in one tablespoon of 19 grams, it supplies 53 calories (source: Wikipedia).
In other words … the ultimate “empty calories”food!
The food industry had its eyes on the creation of a whole new genre of food products, something they knew the public would embrace with great enthusiasm, believing it to be much better for their health — “low fat” food. It promised an immense business opportunity forged from the potential disaster of heart disease.
There was a problem however … when you take the fat out of a recipe, food tastes like cardboard, and you need to replace it with something … that something was sugar.
Overnight, new products arrived on the shelves that seemed too good to be true. Low-fat yoghurts, spreads, even desserts and biscuits … all with the fat taken out, and replaced with sugar. Britain was one of the most enthusiastic adopters of what food writer Gary Taubes, calls “the low-fat dogma”. Sales rocketed!
By the mid 1980s, health experts such as Professor Philip James, a world-renowned British scientist who was one of the first to identify obesity as an issue, noticed that people were getting fatter and no one could explain why. The food industry was keen to point out that individuals must be responsible for their own calorie consumption, but even those who exercised and ate low-fat products were mysteriously gaining weight. In 1966 the proportion of people with a BMI of over 30 (classified as obese) was just 1.2% for men and 1.8% for women.
By 1989 the figures had risen to 10.6% for men and 14.0% for women. And no one was joining the dots between HFCS and fat.
Moreover, there was something else going on. The more sugar we ate, the more we wanted, and the hungrier we became. At New York University, Professor Anthony Sclafani, a nutritionist studying appetite and weight gain, noticed something strange about his lab rats. When they ate rat food, they put on weight normally. But when they ate processed human food from a supermarket, they ballooned in a matter of days. Their appetite for sugary foods was insatiable: they just carried on eating.
The Sugar industry, with an eye on the effects this new research could have on profits, was keen to point out that sugar intake alone “is not linked to any lifestyle disease”. However medical evidence to the contrary exists in abundance. In February 2020, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis of the University of California wrote an opinion article for the journal “Nature” citing “the growing body of scientific evidence clearly shows that fructose ((HFCS) triggers processes that lead to liver toxicity and a host of other chronic diseases”. In March, the New York Times reported a study that had been published in the journal “Circulation”, which found that men who drank sweetened beverages most often were 20% more likely to have had a heart attack than those who drank the least.
David Kessler, the former head of the US government’s most powerful food agency, the FDA, and the person responsible for introducing cigarette packet warnings in the early 1990s, believes that sugar, through its metabolisation by the gut and hence the brain, is extremely addictive. Just like cigarettes or alcohol, he believes that sugar is hedonic — eating it is “highly pleasurable. It gives you this momentary sensation of bliss. Highly hedonic foods such as chocolate for example, momentarily take over your brain which demands more!”
In London another scientist, Dr Tony Goldstone is mapping out the specific parts of the brain that are stimulated by this process. According to Goldstone,one of the by-products of obesity is that a hormone called leptin ceases to work properly. Normally, leptin is produced by the body to tell you that you are full. However, in obese people, it becomes severely depleted, and it is thought that a high intake of sugar is a key reason. When the leptin doesn’t work, your body simply doesn’t realise you should stop eating.
Goldstones work with Leptin has raised a very big question: “did the food industry knowingly create foods that were addictive, that would make you feel as though you were never satisfied and always wanted more? David Kessler is a little cautious in his response. He has said “Did they (the food & drinks industry) understand the neuroscience? No. But they learned experimentally what worked … and with this realisation … they took action and reaped bumper profits as a result”.
If it could be proved that at that some point the food industry became aware of the long-term, detrimental effects their products were having on the public, and continued to develop and sell them, the scandal would rival that of what happened to the tobacco industry.
The food industry’s defence has always been that the science doesn’t prove its culpability. Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, a lobby group for the soft-drinks industry, says: “there’s a lot of work to try to establish causality, and I don’t know that I’ve seen any study that does that.” But it looks as though things might be changing. According to Professor Kelly Brownell at Yale University, one of the world’s foremost experts on obesity and its causes, the science will soon be irrefutable and we may then be just a few years away from the first successful lawsuit.
The relationship between the food industry and the scientists conducting research into obesity is also complicated by the issue of funding. There is not a great deal of money set aside for this kind of work and so the food industry has become a vital source of income. But this means that the very same science going into combating obesity could also be used to hone the products that are making us obese. Many scientists are wary about going on the record because they fear their funding will be taken away if they speak out too much.
A similar conflict of interests exists between government and the food industry. For example, UK Health secretary Andrew Lansley worked until 2009, as a non-executive director of Profero, a marketing agency whose clients have included Pizza Hut, Mars and PepsiCo.
In opposition, Lansley asked public health expert Professor Simon Capewell to contribute to future policy on obesity. Capewell was amazed at the degree to which the food industry was also being consulted: the equivalent, he says, “of putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank”. Lansley has made no secret of his work for Profero, and denies a conflict of interest, saying that he never worked at any time directly with the company’s clients. And the government argues, not unreasonably, that it’s essential to have the industry on board to get anything done. But the relationships are not always kept at arms length.
Back in the United States, David Kessler, who had such success with his warnings on cigarette packets, has not been able to do the same thing for processed foods high in sugar. Why? Because, he says “when the warnings came in on cigarettes, the game was already up in the west for the tobacco industry. Their new markets were the far east, India and China. It was no concession at all. The food industry is a different matter. For one thing, the food lobby is much more powerful than the tobacco lobby. The industry is tied into a complex matrix of other interests: drugs, chemicals, even dieting products! The panoply of satellite industries that make money from obesity means the food industry’s relationship to obesity is an incredibly complex one”.
In the UK an unlikely champion of the cause to end the decades long food and drinks industry conspiracy, has stepped up to the plate … Prime Minister Boris Johnson! On 27 July 2020,he revealed his governments new strategy to assist in the fight to help the nation with its severe obesity problem and urged the country to “lose weight, get fit, beat coronavirus (COVID-19) and protect the NHS”.
– A ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm.
– A plan to end deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar and fat.
– Legislation to ensure calories are displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices when eating out,while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden ‘liquid calories’.
– New campaign to help people lose weight, get active and eat better after the COVID-19 ‘wake-up call’.
His speech announcing the measures stated that “Obesity is one of the biggest health challenges the country faces. Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity — and 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese, with obesity-related illnesses costing the NHS £6 billion a year.”
The urgency of tackling the obesity time bomb has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from COVID-19 and Johnson’s own experience with the disease. (He is only 5 foot 10 inches tall and is estimated to weigh in excess of 18 stone). UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock added “if everyone who is overweight lost five pounds, the National Health Service could save more than $130 million over the next five years.
However true to form, the UK food and drinks industry and other vested interests were quick to respond.
Some businesses said the new regulations would have little effect beyond hurting companies that are already trying to recover from the economic effects of the lockdown. Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the Advertising Association, told the BBC that the United Kingdom already had some of the “strictest” advertising rules in the world. “Children’s exposure to high fat, salt, and sugar adverts on TV has fallen by 70 percent over the last 15 years or so, but there’s been no change to obesity, so we don’t think these measures are going to work.”
Ironically, Johnson who has opposed similar types of interventions in the past, in his leadership race last year vowed to review “sin taxes” on unhealthy food and alcohol! Anticipating cries of “hypocrisy” from the food and drink lobbyists, he recently told Times Radio that “in the great anthology of embarrassing former articles that people always drag up … you will find I have taken a very libertarian stance on obesity in the past.That is going to change.”
Sadly, without question that is true and time will tell if Johnson has the courage to carry on the fight in the face of what will inevitably be considerable food and drinks industry opposition.
Although his stance on unhealthy eating seems to have shifted somewhat, on the subject of exercise he is less enthusiastic. “The great thing about going for a run at the beginning of the day,” he said, “is that nothing could be worse for the rest of the day!”
Will other world leaders follow a similar course and end decades of the food and drinks industries conspiracy, a deliberate policy of making us fat?
Sadly they have a lot of other, more pressing matters to deal with at the moment … so only time will tell.
Article by Steve Searle.
Founder of https://foodanddietz.com/
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