Obesity industry: How Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Media and Big People make a killing from overweight
“Is modern medicine helping us live longer and healthier?” Or is a “darker, more sinister agenda” creating “a longer but sicker life?”
Journalist James Li explored this question on a recent episode of “Breaking Points,” where he discussed how “Big Pharma, Big Food, mainstream media, medical professionals, [and] the government” collaborate to make us sick.
Li showed a “60 Minutes” clip about the obesity epidemic ravaging the US, in which Dr Fatima Cody Stanford, obesity medicine physician-scientist and associate professor at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explained why common beliefs about obesity are wrong.
“The number one cause of obesity is genetics,” she said. “That means if you are born to parents that have obesity you have a 50 to 85 per cent likelihood of having the disease yourself even with optimal diet, exercise, sleep management and stress management.”
Li also discussed Ozempic and Wegovy, the weight-loss drugs at the centre of the latest weight-loss craze.
“So, the message from the mainstream media is pretty simple,” Li said. “Obesity is a disease, take a drug.” But that’s not the whole story, he said.
Obesity in the US has gone from “almost non-existent” in the 1950s to a projected 50 per cent of the population by 2030. So, “unless the human race experienced some kind of quantum leap in genetics, there must be something else we’re doing that is destroying our metabolic health,” Li said.
Drawing on recent work by pharma consultant-turned-whistle-blower Calley Means, Li pointed to two major issues in the US food system – too much sugar and a lack of fibre.
The average child eats 100 times more sugar – which is more addictive than cocaine – per day today than 100 years ago – and the sugar hides in processed foods, Li said. Knowing that sugar is addictive creates an incentive for processed food producers to keep adding more of it to our food.
Li told viewers, “If you are a food industry executive – bonus is on the line, shareholders demanding astronomical growth quarter after quarter – what do you do to get a leg up on your competitor? Well, you add sugar to your products to make them more addictive so people buy yours and not your competitors’ and then they try to one-up you and all of a sudden sugar is everywhere.”
Fibre, which according to the Mayo Clinic helps “maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer” has almost completely disappeared in a lot of our most popular food products. In fact, Li said, according to the National Institutes of Health, only five per cent of people consume the recommended daily target of fibre.
Li quoted Nicole Avena, who told Newsweek that many ultra-processed foods are “almost pre-chewed” for us: They melt in your mouth immediately. There’s no protein. There’s no water. There’s no fibre slowing them down. It’s going to hit your taste buds and light up your reward and motivation centres of the brain immediately. Then there’s a secondary hit of dopamine when it gets absorbed into the body.”
Li said, “These food companies have morphed into narcotics laboratories. They’ve found a way to hack our brains and make a killing both figuratively and literally.”
The healthcare system, he said, then comes in as a hero to treat these illnesses and makes skyrocketing profits doing so. Li cited Means to say that the healthcare system doesn’t focus on health or prevention. It only makes money when people are sick.
“Every single institution is incentivised for more Americans to be sicker for longer periods of time,” Li said.
FAIR reported that every doctor interviewed by “60 Minutes” for its segment on obesity had received money from Novo Nordisk, maker of the drugs effectively being advertised on the show.
None of the doctors mentioned the serious side-effects associated with the drugs, Novo Nordisk’s massive profits from the drugs or the lobbying the drugmaker is doing to get insurance to pay for weight-loss drugs.
This is how the “obesity industrial complex” works, Li said: “The food industry makes billions of dollars selling food that’s known to be toxic and poisonous, making millions of Americans sick in the process. The healthcare industry in this case gets to play hero while also pocketing billions of dollars selling a supposed miracle drug to millions of adults and children.
“Both of these industries have worked out a little deal with the federal government, Congress with lobbying money with funding for the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] so that they can rewrite science and continue to sell food that is known to be toxic and poisonous.”
But, he said, despite the fact that the entire system is organised to profit from making people sick, there are some “no-brainer” solutions Means proposed that Li puts forward.
First, the FDA ought to revise the “recommended” added sugar in children’s diet per day from 50 grams, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, to zero.
Second, he said, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” functions as a subsidy to the processed food industry because most SNAP benefits are expended on cheap, processed food. Reforming that programme, he said, could end those subsidies.
Li concluded by asking the audience: “All the technological advancements in public policy decisions of the last half century, have they contributed to promoting a longer and healthier life? Or a longer and sicker life?”
- The defender report