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Healthcare vs. Processed Food Industry

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2013

It's time for a food fight.

For years we've talked about the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial effects of overweight and obesity on our society.

This month, for example, the American Diabetes Association issued a report which estimated that the nearly 22.3 million Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes cost $245 billion in medical care and lost productivity in 2012. That represents a 41% increase from the $174 billion estimate in 2007.

The report blames the increased costs on the additional five million American adults and children who were diagnosed with diabetes in the five years since the last estimate was released, a 27% increase from the 17.5 million diagnosed cases in 2007. Another 79 million Americans now have pre-diabetes, which puts them at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Keep in mind that the report does not factor the millions of people who have diabetes or pre-diabetes but who have not been diagnosed.

Just as the ADA was issuing its report, The New York Times published a disturbing investigative report by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Moss entitled The Extraordinary Science of Junk Food. The lengthy piece is adapted from Moss' book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, which will be published this month.

Moss details how the processed food industry has hooked Americans on an unhealthy diet of fat, salt and sugar. His reporting is hardly a left-wing screed. In fact, given what he has uncovered, Moss can be annoyingly deferential to some of the more than 300 processed food industry executives and scientists he interviewed—people in positions of knowledge and power who put corporate profits above the health of the nation.

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3 comments on "Healthcare vs. Processed Food Industry"


mperron (3/14/2013 at 9:37 AM)
Great story and comments. Are there scientists working with companies such as Coca Cola and Doritos that fit our taste bud desires but in a healthy way? Can't they reformulate Doritos, for example, to keep the great taste and crunch without sacrificing nutrition? Is there a movement or a push for this somewhere?

Bruce E. Woych (3/13/2013 at 5:13 PM)
The label "junk" food is no longer valid as a comprehensive category. Pleasure foods; industrial waste foods; shelf life foods; modified chemically preserved foods and perhaps the more benign processed foods are all part of the problems. Ask your local forensics authority...you will discover that they are finding that intestines are literally preserved by food additives. The quest for shelf life has been beneficial from its start, but new market interests no longer care about nutritional preservation in that process. Junk foods are staples for poverty stricken people, and the children are the victims. I defy anyone to tell me that the junk foods (packaged cakes etc.)are not learned habit; and market driven venders create "comfort junkie habits" and behavioral conditioning is no true reward...

mkparker1210 (3/13/2013 at 3:02 PM)
I enjoy junk food in moderation[INVALID]-it should be a special treat. While obesity and poor health related to malnutrition can be traced to poor dietary habits, I don't believe junk food is responsible for all the evils attributed to it. Here are just a few of the problems obesity and poor health have had laid at their doorstep: sodium, corn syrup, gun violence, poverty, health literacy, genetics, a 24/7 culture, poor sleeping habits, gaming/internet, advertising, product placement (like physically at the checkout counter in addition to television and paper advertisements)...I could go on. Obesity and other related health problems are a multi-faceted problem. What if the problem with obesity was a culture change in the 1970's that made it ok to snack or eat constantly between meals? To walk around with a drink in your hand or something on your desk? To not eat meals as a family or a somewhat more formal occasion at a table instead of in a car or in front of a screen? I don't think laws restricting access are the answer. I think mindfulness and a culture change are what we really need. Making food "communion" in all senses of the word becomes the first step.