Digging a hole...

  • Posted: 6:02 PM
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  • Author: Heather Bannister

            I'm very curious just how deep we as a society will dig before we start looking for a way out.  We need food, we go to the store because, to us anyway, that is where you get food.  We peruse the shelves, pick out what we want from a growing number (tens of thousands of new food like substances every year*) of food-ish looking boxes, the producers of which spend billions of dollars annualy+ to convince us that they are not only food, but that they are good for us.  How do they prove that they are good for us?  Food research of course.  Food research that is funded by these same companies that are selling us this food.  Sounds a little biased to me.  "But my Frito-Lay chips are heart healthy now!  It says so on the bag!"  If you think that is accurate, I have some land to sell you.... 

               Here's the actual claim in the fine print on the new "heart healthy" Frito-Lay chips:
   "Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about one tablespoon (16 grams) of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in corn oil.
    The FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim.
    To achieve this possible benefit, corn oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day."
                 As adequately compared in Michael Pollan's In Defense Of Food:
  "No doubt we can look forward to a qualified health claim for high-fructose corn syrup, a tablespoon of which probably does contribute to your health - as long as it replaces a comparable amount of, say, poison in your diet and doesn't increase the total number of calories you eat in a day."
             So, we buy food from manufacturers based on research funded or preformed by the companies selling the food.  Ironic as it may sound, research has proven that research funded by a company has results that favor the company#, so naturally food research will say the fiber in Froot Loops is just as good as the fiber in whole wheat bran.  Or, better yet, we buy it based on nothing more than the billions of dollars spent every year in advertising to convince us that it is food.  So what happened to the whole foods?  Well, they aren't fancy enough or cheap enough to fit in the shelves of brightly colored boxes and over-zealous packaging in the middle of the store.  They have no new health claims to advertise on TV because evryone already knows (deep down in that part of your conciense that sounds like your mom saying "Eat your vegetables!") that they are good for you, so there is no need for that.  That leaves the edges of the stores that people avoid.  They come into the store and sweep through them just for good measure, then on to the "good stuff" in the boxes.

            It would seem we are all waiting around for Taco Bell to start making health claims so we can justify eating there.....  Wait, they ARE!!  And they are just as convoluted as any FDA health claim you'll find in a store.  We go after these "new" health claims while walking right past foods that have been doing that already since the beginning of time.  Who would have thought that if you eat less than 1500 calories a day of tacos made with vegetables that you can lose weight?  That is basically what this "Drive Thru Diet" is, sounds to me like the older than dirt "caloric restriction" diet.  The point is Froot Loops don't have GOOD fiber in them and eating more Frito-Lays will NOT reduce your risk of heart disease.  Behind all of these claims is the subtext of "substituting this in place of  something that is worse for you, and not increasing your daily calorie intake".  That being said, pay attention to what you eat, only listen to qualified, independent food research and use common sense.  Remember, vote with your fork and as always, "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."

* - http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodMarketingSystem/New_Product.htm
+ - http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2008/07/29/16-billion-spent-on-kid-food-marketing/UPI-39701217374497/
# - Several studies have found that when industry funds nutrition research, the conclusions as more likely to produce findings favorabler to that industry's products.  One such study published by the Public Library of Science, is "Relationships Between funding Source and Conclusion Among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles," by David S. Ludwig.  See also Marion Nestle's Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.  Revised editiong.  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

Also cited:  In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan, 2008