The processed food, alcohol, and tobacco companies are making billions of dollars of the death of the millions. The fight against these industries is simple, but far from easy, Jed Diamond, PhD, explains.
Like most people in the world I’ve had a difficult time keeping my weight down and I as I get older I worry about things like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimers. I’ve tried every diet known and have lost the same pounds and put them back on hundreds of times. I consider myself a strong-willed person and I’ve gotten down on myself because I can’t seem to stay away from the foods I know aren’t good for me and to eat the ones that are. That is, until now!
Will power isn’t the answer. We need more skill power. That’s the conclusion of Dr. David L. Katz, author of Disease Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well. Dr. Katz is the Founding Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and one of the world’s leading experts on health and nutrition.
After reading Dr. Katz’ book, I realized I’ve been looking for health in all the wrong places. I was under the impression that I would learn about health from … well, from “health-care professionals.” According to Dr. Katz, “In our culture, we tend to refer to hospitals, physicians, nurses and other clinicians collectively as a ‘health care system.’” He goes on to tell us that “By and large, the system in place is a ‘disease care system,’ not a health care system. But only rarely are professional clinical services actually related to the promotion of health. This power resides almost entirely with you.”
The truth is we’re getting fatter and sicker every year. “In the United States, obesity is not only epidemic, but arguably the gravest and most poorly controlled public health threat of our time,” says Dr. Katz. “Some 65-80% of adults in the US are overweight or obese.”
Don’t Rely On Will Power. Develop Skill Power
Developing skill power means learning the truth about why most of us are becoming fatter and sicker. We keep trying to convince ourselves that our weight gain and poor health are a result of our personal failings, that if we’d just try harder, find and stick to the right diet, we would lose weight and stay healthy. That’s what the Food-Alcohol-Tobacco (FAT) Industrial Complex would like us to believe. They’d like to keep the spotlight off the fact that they make huge profits selling us deadly products. They would like us to believe that they are just giving us the fun food we all want. That’s like blaming those who become addicted to crack cocaine rather than the pushers who make money getting them hooked.
According to a recent research study, “Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink industries,” published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. “In 2010, tobacco was estimated to have been responsible for 6.3 million deaths and alcohol accounted for 4.9 million deaths. Together tobacco and alcohol—the second and third leading risk factors for the global disease burden, respectively—cause nearly 12% of global disability-adjusted life-years.” The report goes on to implicate the food and beverage industries.
“The consumption of energy-dense ultra-processed foods, unlike low-energy foods such as fruits and vegetables, promotes obesity. Similarly, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with increased rates of obesity and diabetes, childhood obesity, long-term weight gain, and cardiovascular disease. In addition to the deaths caused by tobacco and alcohol, more than 18 million deaths every year are caused by high blood pressure (9.4 million), high body-mass index (3.4 million), high fasting blood glucose (3.4 million), and high total cholesterol (2.0 million), much of which could be attributed to the consumption of ultra-processed foods and drinks.”
To summarize, the FAT Industrial Complex is responsible for the following:
- 18.2 million deaths from ultra-processed foods and drinks.
- 4.9 million deaths from alcohol.
- 6.3 million deaths from tobacco.
Total: 29.4 million deaths per year.
According to the study, “Transnational corporations are major drivers of the acceleration of the nutrition transition—i.e., from traditional diets of whole or minimally processed foods to highly processed foods and drinks. The substantial growth of ultra-processed products has paralleled and contributed to the increase in obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related chronic diseases.”
Who Belongs to the FAT Industrial Complex?
Let’s look at one of the major players, the Philip Morris Company, now called Altria. We know they sell cigarettes, including Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, and Chesterfield. But did you know they also have voting interests in one of the world’s largest brewing companies, UK based SAB Miller, and own a number of wine companies including Chateau St. Michelle and Stags Leap? In addition they owned Kraft Foods (until they spun off Kraft to their shareholders) with such iconic brands as Cheez Whiz, Cool Whip, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Miracle Whip, Capri Sun juice drinks, and Shake ‘n Bake.
They also own South Beach Living, a low-carbohydrate line of foods that was based on the South Beach Diet. Once we pay them to fatten us up, we can pay them to slim us down, before we pay them to fatten us up again.
About their name change, linguist Steven Pinker suggests that in fact the name is an “egregious example” of phonesthesia, with the company attempting to “switch its image from bad people who sell addictive carcinogens to a place or state marked by altruism and other lofty values.”
Mergers and name changes continue. In 2000, Philip Morris Companies, Inc. acquired Nabisco and merged it with Kraft Foods and in 2011 Kraft Foods announced it was splitting, making the snack food business a separate company to be called Mondelēz International Inc. The controlling company name may have been obscured, but we still get hooked on Chips Ahoy!, Fig Newtons, Mallomars, Oreos, Ritz Crackers, and Teddy Grahams.
Get Free and Eat Like Your Life Depended on It
Dr. Katz says simply, “We can reduce our risk of every major chronic disease—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and obesity—by an astonishing 80 percent—more than any drug or intervention could ever hope to do.” It’s really quite simple. I said simple, not easy. Fighting the power of FAT can be difficult, but it can be done.
In summarizing an essential rule for healthy living in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan advises simply, but eloquently, “Eat food. Not much. Mostly plants.” Dr. Katz elaborates on this summary with the following recommendations:
- Avoid fast food.
- Drink water, not lots of soda and juice.
- Eat lots of salads.
- Exercise every day.
- Make sleep a priority.
- Avoid mindless eating. Eat only when eating is your primary activity.
- Eat real food. Avoid foods that contain ingredients an eight-year-old can’t pronounce.
- Plan what you eat. Go off the “see food” diet. Eat only what you intend to eat.
- Tell everyone you’re committing to a new way of eating based on real food, not junk food.
- Choose what you chew. Take healthy snacks with you wherever you go.
If we eat the way the FAT Industrial Complex is leading us, we can expect to spend a whole lot more money in our lifetime becoming sicker and fatter. If we learn to eat real food, not junk food, we can all look forward to a long and healthy life.