by Mark Salamon, March 4, 2017
You can’t pick up a newspaper these days without reading about how Americans are among the least healthy population in the world despite spending the most per person on health care. This was not a problem fifty years ago. Most experts point to lifestyle choices as the main cause, and continue to lecture the American public that they need to return to the healthier habits of yesteryear. So my breaking news for this month is this: It is not working.
It is true that many people today live on cake, french fries, and McDonalds, whereas fifty years ago we had a much healthier diet consisting of twinkies, TV dinners, and McDonalds. And more people smoked. Actually, every mammal that breathed air directly out of the atmosphere smoked. So maybe they’re right, we should go back to those healthier habits. Or maybe we should look for other possible causes.
How about the change in the business model of large food manufacturing companies. Back when most of us were healthy, these companies had the very health conscious, altruistic goal of making huge amounts of money. Over time, this business model changed to the goal of making much, much more than huge amounts of money. Several of these companies now admit that in order to do this, they manipulated the levels of salt, sugar, and chemicals in order to make people crave more of their food, essentially making it addictive. All in the name of making more money, I mean, excuse me, “meeting their obligation to their shareholders”, who desperately needed this extra money to pay for their diabetes medication.
I know how farfetched this sounds. It is hard to imagine any large, multi-billion dollar company doing such a thing.
We could also look at the federal government, which decided it was suddenly an expert on healthy eating back in the fifties when a group of lobbyists from the meat and dairy industries, no wait, I mean objective government scientists, came out with the four food groups that recommended a healthy diet consisting of large amounts of meat and dairy products.
This went on until 1992 when the government, under intense pressure from impartial scientists working for the grain farming industry, created the Food Pyramid, which recommended that in addition to large quantities of meat and dairy, we should also consume even greater quantities of grains and bread. This turned out to be a boon for business, especially if your business happened to be weight loss programs or diet books, which made millions by basically telling people to stop eating so much bread.
From 1992 to the present, these diets have been a major factor in the growth of the American economy, also known as pharmaceutical companies. Popular and beloved diets have included the South Beach diet, which advocates eating before you get hungry so that the hunger won’t make you eat, the Paleo diet, which simulates the diet that our caveman ancestors utilized to live to the ripe old age of twenty five, and my personal favorite, the Atkins diet, which basically said screw it, just eat all the eggs and bacon you want. This is the only diet I know of where its creator, Dr Atkins himself, demonstrated the efficacy of his diet by personally having a heart attack.
Incredibly, these popular diets have not put a dent in our health crisis. This has led some desperate researchers to study things as radical as plant based diets, which have been shown to decrease the risk of many cancers and actually reverse blockages in coronary arteries. But a diet with very little meat or dairy is an extreme sacrifice, not to mention expensive and difficult to to implement given what is available in most places, particularly inner cities. So most people with heart disease will probably still have to opt for the more conservative, traditional approach of having their rib cage ripped open with a circular saw.
Unless the government could somehow enact policies to make this lifestyle more practical for people with limited incomes and resources. Wait, what am I thinking. This is a free country. Our government does not get involved in things like what people chose to eat.
Not for free anyway.