AGRIBUSINESS + BIG FOOD
ARE DOING SERIOUS DAMAGE TO OUR HEALTH
It appears that you can fool most people most of the time. Politics illustrates that point. We elect people who do a bad job and then, mostly—particularly in the U.S.—re-elect them. That makes no sense, but it’s exactly what we do—and continue to do—even though the end result is consistently mediocre government.
You might think we might try something else.
The U.S. has now ended up as a plutocracy with the trappings of democracy—and I have to wonder how many other democracies are heading the same way. Money in politics is dominating an already imperfect system. A consequence is an unrepresentative system which implements biased policies that favor those who own the system—the ultra rich. They operate through the corporations they control.
Corporations now run our lives from the cradle to the grave—for profit. I take the view that profit is a fine and necessary thing—but when it becomes the only thing, or even the dominant thing, the quality of life for most of us tends to suffer.
There is a case to be made that we should pick our politicians by lottery or something, subject them to term limits, and then see what happens. I have the sneaking suspicion that anyone arrogant enough to run for office is a self-demonstrated narcissist—and so should automatically be disqualified.
I’m just playing with ideas, but it is pretty clear that we need to improve on the existing system. We need government, whether we like it or not, and good government demands a higher caliber of person than we have in place right now.
The food industry seems to fool most of us most of the time as well. It does terrible things to the substandard ingredients that agribusiness mostly produces—and the net result is obesity, and an alarming increase in conditions of various kinds to the point where half of the U.S. adult population is on legal meds, Americans live sicker, and die roughly three years sooner than the citizens of other developed nations.. That is nuts, bad for our health, and expensive.
The following is extracted from an excellent article that appeared in the Washington Post of May 15 2015. The author is Aseem Malhotra a cardiologist and consultant clinical associate to the United Kingdom’s Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.
What he says needs to be said more often.
Yet the public continues to be smothered with messages about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight through calorie-counting and physical activity. The food and beverage industry is most guilty of perpetuating the false belief that the obesity epidemic is simply due to lack of exercise, spending billions to market nutritionally poor products as “sports drinks” while simultaneously promoting the benefits of physical activity.
Sadly, many doctors’ understanding of nutrition is influenced by bogus industry advertising. In July 2012, I stopped drinking the popular sports drink Lucozade after Oxford University researchers found a “striking lack of evidence” to support claims that such products enhance performance and recovery. Instead of wasting close to $10,000 over the previous 15 years drinking a product loaded with seven teaspoons of sugar, I would have been better off drinking tap water at the gym. The World Health Organization now recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day for the average adult.
Misconceptions about diet and exercise are paralyzing efforts to curb the worsening obesity crisis. The food industry has been central in pushing these misconceptions, using tactics similar to those employed by big tobacco, to elide its culpability in spreading disease. In a 2009 paper published in the Milbank Quarterly, a public health journal, researchers found that the food industry has formed close ties with influential politicians and scientists who give it powerful avenues to quash policies and research that highlight the harms of sugar. This strategy also allows it to push the message that personal responsibility and a lack of physical activity are really at the root of public’s obesity problem. Reuters found that the food and beverage industry spent more than $175 million on lobbying during President Obama’s first three years in office, more than doubling its spending under the last three years of George W. Bush’s administration, targeting proposals like a federal tax on sodas and stricter nutritional guidelines.
Even the Obama administration has waffled on the issue. First lady Michelle Obama’s initial efforts to raise awareness of the importance of healthy eating for children were commendable. In 2009, she even planted her first gardenon the White House lawn, with broccoli, spinach and other vegetables. But a year later, that emphasis on nutrition was undermined by her new focus on physical activity with the Let’s Move campaign, based on the unfounded notion that more exercise is key to solving obesity.
None of this means you should turn in your gym membership card. Working out will make you healthier and less susceptible to disease. No matter what your size, even 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity that breaks you into a sweat five times per week will substantially improve your health and well-being. Do what you enjoy, whether it’s dancing, cycling, sex or all three. If it’s longevity you’re after, note that elite athletes in high-intensity sports don’t live any longer than top golfers.
But if weight loss is your goal, your diet is what really needs to change. An analysis by professor Simon Capewell at the University of Liverpool revealed that poor diet (for example, eating too much junk food without enough nuts, whole grains, fruit and vegetables) now contributes to more disease and death than smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity combined. And up to 40 percent of those with a normal body mass index harbor metabolic abnormalities that are associated with obesity, including high blood pressure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease.