ad diets come and go. We collectively join weight-loss groups, sign up for portion-controlled meal delivery services, and adhere to an ever-changing landscape of prescribed diets that demonize one food group or another. We do this in an effort to better our health by following easy to understand rules, because the true nature of nutritional science is complicated, and we're busy — and hungry.
Even as we buy into the various diets espoused by supposed experts, we know that they might not have our best interests at heart. But casting doubt at the Dr. Atkins and Jenny Craigs of the diet industry is not the same as doubting the real science behind the FDA's nutritional guidelines and the food production industry. A new report suggests that doubting those fundamental systems is exactly what we should be doing.
There was a time when it was unthinkable in the U.S. to start the day without a hearty, hot breakfast.
Families served up bacon and eggs and drank glasses of whole milk at the breakfast table, and finished the day with fat-laden meals like casseroles and meatloaf. Vegetables came from cans and were often creamed or covered in cheese. Obesity was rare, but increasing.
All that changed when we learned that eating a high-fat diet made us fat and unhealthy.
Cholesterol clogs arteries, we were told. Fat makes you fat. It made sense. The American diet took a 180-degree turn. We replaced our whole milk with fat-free milk. Our bacon and eggs with cereals or muffins. Our cheese, yogurt, and even ice cream with low-fat and fat-free versions. But instead of obesity declining, it increased sharply. So did heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of cancers and other maladies.
Fat-free ice cream tastes like sadness.
To compensate for the lack of filling, satisfying, flavorful fats, food manufacturers increased the sugar and salt content of their foods. Americans replaced slow-burning, protein-dense breakfasts with sugar-packed muffins and cereals with little nutritional value. Our palates not only became accustomed to overly sweet foods, but we actually became addicted to sugar.
Wait, sugar is addictive?
Yup. Not only is sugar addictive, it’s also directly linked to deadly diseases like coronary heart disease. And, according to a new paper published in PLOS Biology by Cristin E. Kearns, Dorie Apollonio, Stanton A. Glantz, the sugar industry knew that too much sugar was bad for us. So sugar manufacturers hired lobbyists and employed an aggressive PR campaign to suppress that information and instead promote the false idea that it’s dietary fats that lead to obesity and heart disease.
That’s right. The whole notion that turned the American diet on it’s head in the 1970s and 1980s was based on a smear campaign funded by the sugar industry.
According to the paper, the sugar industry was lockstep with the tobacco industry in its effort to mislead Americans about the danger of its product.
Before tackling the sugar industry, Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, took on the tobacco industry. He studied the history of its influence on American culture and policy, and the tactics big tobacco used to suppress and misrepresent information. Big tobacco and big sugar even shared lobbyists. According to Glantz, several former tobacco lobbyists made the move to sugar. “They wanted to stay on top of the science and be ahead of the science,” he said. “They worked to manipulate the process and prevent a scientific consensus from emerging.”