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The global obesity crisis – the result of profit-driven collusion among Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Media, and governments?
As of 2023, the global prevalence of obesity stands at an average of 19.8%. That’s one-fifth of the global population. Even more disturbing is the global prevalence of obesity among children – a shocking 24.2% – indicating a downward spiral of ill health and an apparent absence of any positive intervention from public health authorities. The article discusses the concept of the “Obesity Industrial Complex” and how various industries, including Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Media, and the government, collaborate to profit from obesity-related issues. Journalist James Li explores the idea that these industries work together to create an industry-friendly regulatory framework while peddling unhealthy, addictive food and promoting weight-loss drugs. Given the profit-driven nature of the obesity industrial complex, a deeply unsettling question cannot be ignored: are technological advancements and public policy decisions promoting a longer and healthier life or a longer and sicker life? This article first appeared on The Defender. – Nadya Swart
Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Media and Big People: How the Obesity Industrial Complex Works
In an episode of “Breaking Points”, journalist James Li explained how Big Food profits by selling unhealthy, addictive food that causes obesity, Big Pharma makes money from treating it, they both work with the government to create an industry-friendly regulatory framework and Big Media gets paid to peddle their products.
“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.
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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% 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 nonexistent” in the 1950s to a projected 50% 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.
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Drawing on recent work by pharma consultant-turned-whistleblower 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?
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“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 5% of people consume the recommended daily target of fibre.
Li quoted Nicole Avena, PhD, 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.
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“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 the 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 Program (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 program, 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 views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.
Brenda Baletti, PhD is a reporter for The Defender. She wrote and taught about capitalism and politics for ten years in the writing program at Duke University. She holds a PhD in human geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s from the University of Texas at Austin.
© [05/23/23] Children’s Health Defense, Inc. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Children’s Health Defense, Inc. Want to learn more from Children’s Health Defense? Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. Your donation will help to support us in our efforts.
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