Saturday, October 25, 2008


There were far fewer overweight people in 1985 when I arrived in America. That recollection didn’t come to me until I read the following article: Ten things the food industry doesn’t want you to know.

Another investigation behind the scenes. Okay, it was worth skimming. Unfortunately, as I went down the list I slowed down. Hence this entry.

Yes, 23 years ago there were far fewer overweight Americans. I do remember that.

So I let my curiosity do the walking and I unearthed one article. It was a sign of the times and also quite disturbing.


CBS News reported it in 2005. The original article links here. Here are the salient points.

Note that this article was written just before the housing bubble burst (brought about by the sub-prime crisis). Its significance? McMansions. Sorry but this is a high-context entry. These two links will explain the term but it’s up to you to connect the dots. Link-1. Link-2.

Here are the salient points:
NEW YORK, July 24, 2005

(CBS) All over America, the buzzword is big: big houses, big malls, big cars, and big Americans inside them.

“Sixty-five percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Overweight is the new average," observes International Design magazine. Designers and urban planners are creating an America that accommodates its increasingly overweight population, but you'd never know it.”

“There is tremendous profit potential out there for companies and designers who cater their products to obese people. The challenge, though, is to give them that product that allows them to function in everyday life more easily and more comfortably without making them feel disabled, without calling attention to themselves. Fat is a four-letter word.”

One of the most common ways of making overweight people feel smaller is by expanding the world around them. Architectural designers call it “framing.”

“A person who is big does not want to look big. So if their house is bigger, they will look of a more average proportion.”

Big homes, bathrooms, beds and cars can provide a large frame for people in private and now, when they go out to public spaces, architectural regulations make it so everyone fits most anywhere, anywhere, that is, that was designed recently.

A stadium seat from 100 years ago like Soldier's Field in Chicago might have been 16 or 17 inches, maximum. When they designed the new Soldier’s Field the expectation for new seats was many inches more than that.

The same applies to public transportation around the country. It has become roomier.

Now, go down that list with me. For brevity, each item was stripped of further explanation. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Ten Things the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know
by Adam Voiland, Oct. 20, 2008

Two nutrition experts argue that you can’t take marketing campaigns at face value.

With America’s obesity problem among kids reaching crisis proportions, even junk food makers have started to claim they want to steer children toward more healthful choices.

In a study released earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 32 percent of children were overweight but not obese, 16 percent were obese, and 11 percent were extremely obese.

Food giant PepsiCo, for example, points out on its website that “we can play an important role in helping kids lead healthier lives by offering healthy product choices in schools.” This page offers to provide nutrition information for all Pepsi products. The company highlights what it considers its healthier products within various food categories through a “Smart Spot” marketing campaign that features green symbols on packaging. PepsiCo's inclusive criteria
explained hereaward spots to foods of dubious nutritional value such as Diet Pepsi, Cap'n Crunch cereal, reduced-fat Doritos, and Cheetos, as well as to more nutritious products such as Quaker Oatmeal and Tropicana Orange Juice.

But are wellness initiatives like Smart Spot just marketing ploys?

Such moves by the food industry may seem to be a step in the right direction, but ultimately makers of popular junk foods have an obligation to stockholders to encourage kids to eat more—not less—of the foods that fuel their profits, says the pediatrician co-author of a commentary published in the Oct. 15, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that raises questions about whether big food companies can be trusted to help combat obesity. The other author, a professor of nutrition at New York University, both of whom have long histories of tracking the food industry, spoke with U.S. News and highlighted ten things that junk food makers don’t want you to know about their products and how they promote them.

COMMENT: There is, in other words, an inherent conflict of interest. It doesn’t mean that these companies are doing wrong. It just means that there is a natural conflict of interest.

  1. Junk food makers spend billions advertising unhealthy foods to kids.
  2. The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products.
  3. Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations.
  4. More processing means more profits, but typically makes the food less healthy.
  5. Less-processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts.
  6. Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace.
  7. A health claim on the label doesn't necessarily make a food healthy.
  8. Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing.
  9. The food industry funds front groups that fight anti-obesity public health initiatives.
  10. The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics.

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