Smoke Up Johnny…Big Food Takes A Page From The Tobacco Industry’s Book

Is your health and safety being threatened by the devious marketing and lobbying efforts employed by Big Food? The food industry has adopted tactics used long ago by those in the tobacco industry. Sadly, they seem to have some health care leaders in their pockets, which makes it hard for the average American, or even the average health care professional, to sort out myth from reality when reading the latest “data” about nutrition. The food industry, particularly those with a stake in processed foods, would have you believe that everything is safe in moderation. But are Pop Tarts and Cheetos the food equivalent of gateway drugs? Increasingly, we realize that the answer is yes. I’m delighted to see that these addictive food like products (highly processed, highly palatable “foods”) are finally getting called out for what they are… nutritionally bankrupt, laboratory engineered, non-food substances.

Pre-packaged low fat desserts and ice creams were all the rage when the low fat craze that hit the US a few decades ago, but for all the low fat products we consumed, we just continued to expand our waistbands and loosen our belts. How did this happen? Thanks to journalists like Tara Parker-Pope and Michael Pollan, we’re starting to understand the power wielded by Big Food. There’s more money to be made selling addictive “low fat” ice cream and other packaged foods than apples and broccoli, so that’s where the marketing money goes. As a physician, I’ve been shocked to discover that corporations like Nestle and Coca Cola have routinely sponsored nutritional conferences and research studies. Michele Simon, JD, MPH, is a public health lawyer and the president of Eat Drink Politics, a corporate watchdog consulting firm that has identified the many ways in which the food industry has manipulated the government, health care providers and consumers in ways that contribute to obesity. Check out her advocacy work on the website

As an Obesity Medicine physician trying to help my patients lose weight and maintain their weight loss, the best advice I can give is to eat real food. If it’s made in a factory, chances are it isn’t going to help your efforts to manage your weight. Fill up your shopping cart with items from the produce department. Whenever possible, buy your food from local farmers’ markets and try to find a knowledgeable purveyor of meat and/or fish in your community who will guide you toward appropriately raised, safe and sustainable choices. When eating carbohydrates, avoid fried potatoes (fries, hash browns, etc), white bread and white rice in favor of whole grain options (whole grain bread, brown rice). Eat enough fat, fiber and protein to achieve satiety, or a sense of fullness, but get your fats from healthy sources like nuts, avocados, salmon, olive oil and seeds.

Don’t let the food industry dupe you like the tobacco lobby duped a generation of Americans. Eat real food in moderate amounts and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come. Thanks for listening and I wish you the best of health!

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Categories: Health Implications of Obesity, Nutrition and Diet, Obesity and Overweight, Weight Management, Diet, Exercise

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