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Diet Conspiracy – Big Food and Big Pharma

Diet Conspiracy – Big Food and Big Pharma

Sometimes, when I view the vast amount of carnage brought about by the food recommendations that originated in the work of Ancel Keys and culminated in what we now know as the food pyramid, I cannot help but wonder how much of this was sheer incompetence and how much quite deliberate? For the past five decades, the US has followed food recommendations, based on Keys’ diet-heart hypothesis, that have created a maelstrom of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. On the other side of the equation, a grateful pharmaceutical industry sells ever more drugs, potions and tablets that often merely address symptoms and ignore, perhaps wilfully, the underlying cause.

I am by no means the first to bring attention to this horrendous possibility. Many writers and commentators in the past have pointed out the nature of the road we have been going down. They have made plain the mistakes. They have laid bare the ongoing catastrophe. Yet, after all this time, the processed food industry goes on producing carb-heavy, vegetable oil-soaked, additive loaded ‘foods’ that fundamentally undermine the health of their consumers. Simultaneously, the pharmaceutical industry continues to provide what is often merely palliative care, drugs that make the companies huge profits yet leave the underlying problems unresolved and often unaddressed altogether.

lies my doctor told me

A little history …

Aiding and abetting the dubious dietary guidelines has been the rise of vegetable oils. In previous times, these were seen as unfit for human consumption, mere industrial by-products leftover from lubrication processes. Over time though, and with some particularly skilful, if ethically dubious marketing, the likes of Proctor and Gamble managed to finagle such unhealthy products into the Western kitchen. They even managed to convince people that these left-over product from industrial processes were somehow ‘healthier’ than animal fats. Even today, many people are unaware that more recent research clearly demonstrates their dangers. This is particularly so in the case of the notorious trans-fats.

The Cartel

Modern processed food, foisted upon us by just a few, albeit very powerful, companies are ubiquitous in their promotion of high-sugar, high vegetable oil, products. These are mostly not merely dead foods but are positively dangerous to the consumer. Often these products will be misleadingly labelled ‘heart healthy’ or ‘low fat’. The latter is often simply a euphemism for added sugar. Without fat, many foods taste rather bland and uninteresting. The way around this is to add sugar in some form, thus killing two birds with one stone. The product is rendered more addictive and yet, at one and the same time, the manufacturers get to label is as healthy. Some would say that even the bodies that are behind labels such as ‘heart healthy’ (the American Heart Association or AHA) have dubious connections with the purveyors of these items.

Walking through a modern super-market, one is regaled with aisle upon aisle of processed food. Every inch of the store, even down to the design of the aisles and the store itself, is there to tempt us to purchase more and more of this toxic fair. The consumer is led like a lamb to the slaughter, blissfully unaware of the psychological tactics used to influence his/her unconscious mind.

If we were to go back in time, perhaps slightly more than a century, we may well be surprised to find that the vast majority of people would happily eat a diet high in fats and protein with just a little carbohydrate. Indeed, your relative wealth was even judged by the quality of meat your family could afford. As industrialisation and city-dwelling become the norm for the majority of people though, we moved increasingly towards processed foods. As the consumption of these artificial and processed foods increased, so did the health problems.

The Catalyst

In the mid-fifties, the then President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, suffered a heart attack. He was just one of an increasing number of cases but the nation was shocked. Many researchers advanced hypotheses to attempt to explain what had happened. One amongst these, Ancel keys, came to dominate the field. He achieved this through sheer strength of character, he was a very forceful character according to colleagues, and by being very creative with his use of data. His famous ‘7 countries study’ appeared to show that coronary heart disease (CHD) was caused by serum cholesterol. This was due, at least according to the theory, to a diet rich in fat, particularly fats derived from animal sources.

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Unnatural Selection

The main problem with this study was that Keys, in an act of blatant scientific vandalism, had carefully selected only the countries that agreed with his hypothesis. Data on diet and CHD were available for 22 countries altogether, but Keys weeded out 15 of them to create an apparently convincing correlation between his hypothesis and the data. In Europe, Keys excluded the then West Germany, Switzerland, and France. All three of these countries had a low incidence of CHD yet had diets containing high amounts of saturated fats. Given that such data flatly contradicted his hypothesis, he simply ignored it. As John Yudkin pointed out at the time, Keys had cherry-picked the data. This incredibly arrogant and irresponsible act led to a chain of consequences over the following decades. Yudkin’s own idea, that the underly cause of the surge in CHD and other illnesses was, in point of fact, the increased intake of sugar, matched the complete data set far more accurately (1).

pure, white and deadly sugar in the diet

The cholesterol narrative became the dominant idea over the next 50 years, despite the evidence not really supporting it. Much of the science of the time was very poor. Researchers had decided what result they were seeking and then interpreted epidemiological evidence to demonstrate exactly what they wanted. Studies that showed the opposite were simply shelved. Those who dared to question the status quo found their funding cut and their careers threatened.

At this stage, big Government entered the scene. In the late 1970s, former presidential candidate George McGovern headed the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (2). Their 1977 report gave rise to the original dietary guidelines, published in 1980. From this, came the infamous ‘food pyramid’ which subsequently morphed into the ‘food plate’ as championed by Michelle Obama (3) (4). One often wonders at the wisdom of such governmental interventions. We are still having to live with the consequences to this day.

Some Bad Advice

Essentially, the emphasis in these recommendations was on the consumption of grains, vegetables and fruits. In simple terms, the resultant diet would be very high in carbohydrates. As we know, all carbohydrate is converted to glucose in the body (5). Effectively, what they were recommending was ingesting huge amounts of sugar on a regular basis (6). Obviously, following such a diet would be a disaster. And so it proved. Diabetes and obesity rates have shot up in the US since the adoption of these recommendations. Further, as other governments have created their versions of these dietary guidelines, similarly disastrous results have come to pass (7).

the big fat surpise book

A little geography …

The original US guidelines were published in 1980. Mostly because of American economic and cultural power, the diet of carbohydrate-rich, highly processed foods entered into the mainstream in country after country. In a relatively short space of time, the catastrophic results that the US were experiencing were witnessed wherever the diet was exported to (8).

Aboriginal Populations

An interesting example of just how deleterious diets high in carbohydrates, vegetable oils, and processed foods generally are, we need to look no further than their effect on native populations. As aboriginal cultures have been exposed to the easy availability of Western processed food their health has invariably suffered. Populations in places as diverse as Australia, Tuvalu, New Zealand and Okinawa all demonstrate similar results (9) (10) (11) (12). As the native population moves away from their cultural diets, rates of obesity, CHD, and diabetes (among other diseases) shoot up.

The contrary is also true. Groups that maintain the integrity of their diets tend to remain strong and healthy, with little incidence of Western maladies. Often, in these cases, where members leave their groups to live in modern cities they tend to immediately start to fall prey to obesity, diabetes, CHD, and all the other myriad problems brought about by modern processed foods.

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The Maasai

Perhaps the most famous example of this is the Maasai people who live on the borders of Kenya and Tanzania. Their normal diet is made up almost entirely of milk, blood and meat. More than half of their calories come from fat and they consume huge amounts of cholesterol every day, about six times the maximum recommended by the American Heart Association in fact. Ancel keys would not have approved. And yet, in spite of all this, their overall cholesterol levels are low (consuming cholesterol does not heighten endogenous cholesterol), they have low blood pressure and very low numbers when it comes to CHD. The average height of a Maasai male is around 6 ft 3 inches (nearly 2 metres). They commonly appear slim and fit. All in all, it would be hard to conclude that the traditional diet that these people follow of high fats and cholesterol, with minimal amounts of carbs, is doing them any particular harm (13).

processed diet addiction book

A little mathematics …

The United States

A few statistics might help to illustrate the scale of the problem. In the US, from 1999 to 2018, rates of obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%. Severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%. At the same time, the available statistics appear to show that the majority of US citizens were at least trying to follow the governmental guidelines. Could it be that the problem is with the guidelines, not with the people? Prior to the McGovern report, US obesity rates were around 3%.

The United Kingdom

In the UK, around three quarters of all adults between the ages of 45 and 74 are either overweight or obese. Interestingly, the more deprived the area the greater the rate of obesity. Again, people have tried to follow the low-fat, high carb guidelines for decades, yet the result is the most miserable of miserable failures. Could it possibly be that the guidelines are wrong? Prior to the attempted implementation of governmental guidelines in the UK, obesity was around 9%.

Australia

In Australia, obesity rates went from 1 in 5 in 1995 to 1 in 3 in 2017, a 12% increase on an already very high figure. As the Western processed food diet spreads around the World, so does obesity. Often, the government guidelines for healthy eating reflect those of the US. People attempt to be conscientious and go along with this advise. Effectively, the high-carb diet recommended simply adds fuel to the fire. The result? An obesity epidemic everywhere the industrialised, processed food model spreads its tentacles.

why we get sick book about diet problems

A little economics …

Naturally, weight is not the only thing being gained. The multi-national companies behind industrialised food production have made huge amounts of money out of this situation. These people are not fools. They are well aware of the dietary shortcomings of processed foods. Yet they go on using fructose syrup, vegetable oils and a huge range of additives. The idea, particularly with adding high levels of sugar and salt to their products, is to turn the consumers into addicts. Often, they will present themselves as guardians of health and wellness, but the reality is that their profits come from enslaving people to their products.

Some Advanced Psychology

Whenever you enter a supermarket you should be clearly aware that every aspect of the environment, from the building itself to the layout of the aisles, from the design of the labels to the use of crowd psychology, is there to manipulate you. Each and every aspect has been analyzed by teams of designers and psychologists with the specific idea of drawing you in and getting you to purchase items that you never intended and don’t need (14).

Apparently, this obsession with turning consumers into addicts even goes as far as designing the shape of products. A famous wafer is a good example. It is designed as a hyperbolic spheroid for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because of its psychological attractiveness to the human eye (15). The takeaway? You are being worked on at every conceivable level when you indulge in what should be the simple act of shopping.

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These companies influence every level of our lives. This happens either directly whenever we shop, or indirectly through their influence on governments and health agencies. This influence also reaches deep into science. Only studies likely to endorse their products, or the assumptions behind them, will easily find funding for the research needed. The diet-heart hypothesis, originally advanced by Ancel Keys, is a good example of this. The narrative suited the companies behind the industrialised food system, therefore they readily stumped up the money for research that supported the narrative. Often, the results of studies would contradict the hypothesis but these were simply buried or interpreted in such a way as to look as if they added support to the flawed theory.

time bomb book about diet

Take a chill pill …

With all the terrible dietary advice from Ancel Keys onwards, and the increasing use of vegetable oils and trans fats, came a tidal wave of obesity, diabetes, CHD and numerous other diseases. Whilst bad news for the people concerned, all this was actually very, very good news for the pharmaceutical industry. At root, the vast majority of these problems could be simply solved by returning to a diet rich in fats, reasonable in proteins and much, much lower in carbohydrates. Added to that, adopting a much less sedentary lifestyle would also help. These measures are simple and cost next to nothing in practice but … where would be the profits for big pharma in all this?

A Nice Little Earner

There is an old saying that we can, perhaps, reverse; ‘one man’s poison is another man’s meat’. There are huge profits to be made supplying pills that partially address the problems created by our poor Western diet. Given that currently, the US spends over 500 billion dollars a year on drugs, it’s easy to see that there is room for money to be made here. Of course, if our main concern was solving the problem, then you would simply get people to change their diets and lifestyles. On the other hand, with those changes would go the enormous profits generated from supplying the pills and potions to treat the symptoms.

Statins have been one of the most incredibly successful drugs in pharmaceutical history. Many other highly profitable treatments have been developed specifically to deal with the results of the obesity epidemic that has resulted from the Western diets and the use of vegetable oils. A glance through the most successful drugs illustrates clearly this ongoing relationship (16). We tend to think of the increases in cancers, CHD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and so many other diseases as being unique problems. The reality is more likely that the drastic uptick in these in recent decades is not unrelated to the changes in our diet and the kind of food supplied through the industrialised system. At base, these are all metabolic diseases; they relate to how we live, the foods we consume, and our lifestyles.

book about sugar

Conclusion

Whilst I would not wish to suggest that there are groups of people who meet in smoke-filled rooms to discuss how to further a conspiracy that works vastly to the detriment of people’s health, there is a strong case to be made for the notion that the profits generated, both by the food industry itself, and by big pharma, make the current status quo very attractive for them. There are mountains of money to be made both from manufacturing processed products full of vegetable oils, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup or some other form of sugar. There are even more profits to be made from treating the resultant health disaster that we are currently in the midst of. The conspiracy lies in the advertising, in the intention to supply highly-addictive, sugar-laden, and highly processed foods, and in the desire to treat symptoms and not causes. It is furthered by the lobbying of governments, by the distribution of funds for scientific research, and by the infiltration of many governmental and NGO bodies that are meant to be the guardians of our health. The results are plain to see.

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