Smoking used to be a gigantic health problem... and still is.
Diseases directly related to smoking, like lung cancer, are some of the more common causes of death.
However... as smoking has decreased in the past few decades, our consumption of processed junk foods has gone way up.Today, junk food consumption is a much bigger problem than smoking ever was.
It is a leading contributor to many chronic diseases... including obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's and heart disease.
The cost of chronic diseases, most of which are preventable and unknown in non-industrial cultures, now amounts to over 75% of health care expenditures (1).
Actually, the junk food companies are using similar tactics as the tobacco companies used back in the day, when the science linking smoking to serious health problems appeared.
But in my opinion, the junk food companies are much, much worse than the tobacco companies ever were.
Why? Because they direct their marketing aggressively towards innocent children.
You would think that there was a shred of decency left in the world... even among the multinational corporations.
I mean, at least our kids should be off limits.
Would people knowingly manipulate children to make money off of them, knowing very well that they are destroying their health at the same time and condemning them to life-long obesity, disease and early death? Unfortunately, it's true. This is exactly what the junk food companies are doing. They spend a massive part of their advertising budget targeting children.
Overconsumption of junk food is the main reason kids and adolescents all over the world are becoming fat and sick. These foods are also engineered to be hyper rewarding to the brain, which makes them highly addictive (2).
The predatory marketing tactics are obvious in any supermarket. If you look at the cereal or candy isles, you will find all sorts of colorful cartoon characters on the boxes.
Studies show that children are strongly influenced when they see cartoon characters on food packages (3).
That's what the kids look at, but then they often have a few misleading claims (lies) of health benefits plastered on the boxes as well, to also convince the parents that the products will be a good idea for their children.
The problem is that this type of marketing is usually only used on extremely unhealthy foods loaded with sugar, refined wheat and other harmful ingredients.
Here are a few examples of toxic junk foods that are clearly being marketed directly towards children: You can see how they're putting colorful images and cartoon characters on these extremely unhealthy breakfast cereals.
Then they put "includes whole grains" on the package, to deceive the parents into thinking that this is a good choice for their children.
Obviously, small amounts of whole grains will NOT make up for a ton of added sugar.Photo Source: WorstThingIEverAte.com Here, the manufacturers of Twinkies are using Shrek, a very popular cartoon character, to market one of the unhealthiest foods on the planet to small children. Photo Source: awmok.com Another example... now they're using Barbie to advertise an extremely unhealthy, disease-promoting processed food to little girls.
The junk food companies also advertise aggressively in television and all sorts of media. Just take a look at the advertisements on Cartoon Network and other channels that are mostly watched by small children. It is despicable.
Now... I'm not a big fan of government making decisions about what people should or should not eat. They might end up doing something stupid, like taxing saturated fat.
But I still think that at least our children should be protected from predatory marketing by greedy, immoral companies who care more about profit than children's lives.
Just like the tobacco companies, big food spends a massive amount of money on "research." If you look at studies and papers that point sugar and/or junk food in a favorable light, you will often see that the paper was funded by junk food companies.
There are various front groups for Big Food and Big Sugar, including Coca Cola's Beverage Institute For Health and Wellness, Nestle Nutrition Institute and many others.
These front groups fund "research" and provide "educational materials." They are supposed to look objective and appear to have the public's best interests at heart, but they really are just propaganda machines for the junk food companies.
I've also seen their propaganda on websites online.
For example, this article on The Huffington Post about high fructose corn syrup. I don't completely agree with the article's message, but I read it and noticed something interesting in the comments below.See the comment. It is typical food industry propaganda. "Moderation" - "calories" ... then linking to a propaganda site which happens to be owned by the American Beverage Association.
This account, which is probably fake, only posts on articles that have to do with harmful effects of sugar.
My guess is that this person is being paid by the industry to spread propaganda and try to put a positive spin on articles that paint sugar and/or the food industry in a negative light.
But the food companies also taint the politics. For example, in the U.S., they spend massive amounts lobbying politicians, making sure that no laws will be put in place that could get in their way.
So... the food companies taint the research, they taint the politics and they even have their trolls spreading propaganda on the web.
In a perfect world, the major health organizations would be objective.
They would set guidelines based on the best current evidence and they wouldn't be influenced by politics or financial conflicts of interest.
But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where money governs pretty much everything... and the junk food companies have a lot of money.
Unfortunately, they also exert their financial influences on the same organizations that are in charge of telling us what to eat.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetics Association) is the "biggest organization of nutrition professionals in the world" - they are the ones in charge of licensing Registered Dietitians in the U.S.
Here are some of the Academy's sponsors: Seriously... how could anyone possibly trust a health organization that is sponsored by the companies who are selling the food that is making us sick? I'd like to point out that many dietitians are fighting this relationship between the academy and the junk food companies with a group called Dietitians For Professional Integrity.
This is not isolated to this organizations alone. If you look closely, most of the big health organizations have some sort of ties to food and drug companies.
I don't know about you, but I would never, ever take dietary advice from someone who is sponsored by the likes of Coca Cola and Pepsi.
The big food companies are much worse than the tobacco companies ever were.
They are using many of the same tactics, lobbying politicians, sponsoring favorable research and using propaganda machines to spread doubt about the harmful effects of their products.
The tobacco companies primarily targeted teens and adults, which is terrible enough, but at least innocent children were off limits.
However, the big junk food companies target children aggressively, trying to manipulate them into consuming highly toxic, addictive, disease promoting products.
The worst part about all of this is that the people who are supposed to be in charge of protecting public health aren't doing anything meaningful about it.
Maybe it's because they are sponsored by the food companies and taking a stronger stance against them would cut their profits.