Tobacco, oh wait…Sugar is addictive; 8 times more than cocaine. Both animal and human studies have documented that the brain responds similarly to sugar as it does to morphine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Additionally, increased amounts of added sugar in your diet are directly related to obesity, which is now a global problem. In 2004, obesity surpassed hunger as the chief nutrition problem worldwide, even in some developing countries.

Obesity and diabetes are the 2 keystone diet-related diseases that are precursors to 8 other diet-related chronic diseases:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Digestive tract disorders
  • Mental illness
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sarcopenia / muscle loss
  • Skeletal disease
  • Cancer

The first 4 not only result from obesity and diabetes, but they also are the cause of additional chronic diseases.

Today’s “Big Tobacco”

The similarities between the products of Big Tobacco and Big Food are obvious as are their responses to concerns that their products cause harm on a global scale.

One significant difference, however, is that unlike smoking….humans MUST eat to maintain health and, well…life.

And, although selling tobacco to children is illegal, fast food chains (ie, McDonalds, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s) were found in 20% of hospitals investigated by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, many of which were actually in Children’s Hospitals….and they offered room service!

Most of these were in the South where obesity rates are disproportionately high and, not surprisingly, contracts revealed that money was the premise behind the leases with exclusive contracts and early termination terms at some locations if profits didn’t reach $1 million.

I certainly don’t have an issue with profit, but profit from products known to contribute significantly to disease and premature death, especially childrens’, warrants more action than what we’ve seen thus far, which is merely a token gesture by the industry.

An astonishing 40% of children in the US are now overweight or obese and type 2 diabetes, which was previously known as “adult-onset diabetes”, is now being diagnosed in children as young as 8 years old.

In 2002, a 15-year follow up of Canadian children with type 2 diabetes revealed alarming rates in young adults of blindness, amputation, kidney failure requiring dialysis, pregnancy loss, and death.

Education and Awareness

I came across this bit of shocking, and unfortunate, news in the Sydney Morning Herald while writing this blog.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (the former Health Minister, nonetheless) backed McDonald’s in the new Monash Children’s Hospital as part of a ‘balanced offering.’ (Seriously?!!)

He stated, “I’m also a parent and frankly the notion that it is somehow a bad thing to give a sick child a treat, to give a sibling of a sick child a visit to McDonald’s, that is just nonsense and we’ll have none of it, none of it at all.”

SIDE NOTE: 25% of children in Australia are now overweight or obese.

I’m curious, will Premier Andrews be offering these sick children a cigarette to go with their Big Mac?

The silver lining to this story, I suppose, is that it is at least a big opportunity to improve awareness.

And while great strides have been made in educating children and the general public about healthy food, tremendous opportunities still exist to increase public awareness on the importance of nutritious food and how it impacts genes, health, and disease so that they are empowered to make better choices.

How Big Food Controls You

By combining the right amounts of sugar, flour, and unhealthy fats, Big Food creates a “bliss point” that scientifically manipulates how your brain responds to many processed and packaged foods so that you eat more than you would naturally if you ate any of these ingredients individually.

Here’s a great example to illustrate the point of how “bliss point” can override your natural health-protection mechanisms; cookie dough.

Imagine eating an entire stick of butter by itself…without puking. Unlikely.

Or 2 cups of sugar at once? How about 3 cups of flour in one sitting?

But combine them and you could likely finish off the entire bowl of cookie dough, no problema, right?!

Combining sugar, carbohydrates, and fats can interfere with the healthy hormonal communication between your digestive system and your brain, which leads to unhealthy consumption of macronutrients and creates a stressful environment for your cells and genes.

Consumed frequently and continuously, this leads to cellular inflammation, obesity, poor health, disease, and early death.

Lessons From Big Tobacco

Tobacco companies spend billions of dollars on advertising and promotion each year, and tobacco use costs the United States billions of dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity.

Smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year.

Increases in cigarette prices lead to significant reductions in cigarette smoking; the single most effective tool to reduce smoking.

  • A 10% increase in price has been estimated to reduce overall cigarette consumption by 3–5%.
  • Research on cigarette consumption suggests that both youth and young adults are 2 to 3 times more likely to respond to increases in price than adults.

Obese individuals were found to incur approximately 30% greater medical costs than their normal weight peers between 1990 and 2009, a cost that over the course of a lifetime, was determined to be similar to that for smoking.

Had the Tobacco Industry taken an honest approach in 1954 at the time of the “Frank Statement,” they might have saved more of the approximate 16 million lives lost to smoking than any public health measure taken in the last 50 years.

Do You Control What You Eat?

Several years ago, I would “treat” myself to a Starbucks grande Java Chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and skim milk once or twice a week. Until, that is, I perused their Nutritional Facts pamphlet one day while waiting and discovered it had almost 3 days’ worth of my added sugar allotment and enough calories to replace one entire meal for the day!

Well, that was the last one I had.

Now I treat myself to a brewed green tea; 0 calories, 0 g sugar, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, with lots of healthy polyphenols.

Interestingly, Starbucks is the leading coffee house chain worldwide with more than 50% of their stores in the US. A recent survey revealed approximately 32 million Americans had visited a Starbucks within the last 30 days!

McDonald’s, the largest fast food chain worldwide, held more than 20% of the global fast food market share in 2013 and, in 2014, had a brand value 3 times that of its closest competitor – Starbucks. Approximately 110 million Americans had visited a McDonald’s in the last 30 days when surveyed in the spring of 2014.

Imagine the positive global health impact these 2 Big Food giants could elicit if they truly took a bold stand for global health with their products.

What are your thoughts?


 

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Centers for Disease Control. “Tobacco: Economic Facts.” Accessed on 10 June 2015 at http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/.

Cleveland Clinic. “How You Can Break Your Sugar Addiction in 10 Days.” Accessed on 10 June 2015 at http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/04/how-you-can-break-your-sugar-addiction-in-10-days-video/.

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Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Does fast food have a place in hospitals?” Accessed 10 June 2015 at http://www.pcrm.org/media/just-the-facts/fast-food-in-hospitals.

Sydney Morning Herald. “Premier Daniel Andrew Backs McDonalds in Hospital as Part of a Balanced Offering.” Accessed 10 June 2015 at http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/premier-daniel-andrew-backs-mcdonalds-in-hospital-as-part-of-a-balanced-offering-20150107-12jpbq.html.

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