Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Elephant in the Room.

On Twitter about two weeks ago, Max Roser tweeted the following graphic:
From Health and the Economy in the United States from 1750 to the Present

The plots of low & stable men's BMI's until 1945 made me think.

1. Over-refined sugars & starches entered the US food supply in ~1880. Ref: How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died. ∴ Over-refined sugars & starches don't cause obesity.

2. Americans ate more carbohydrate per day from 1909 to 1929 than they do now. Ref: 3rd Fig. from More Thoughts on Macronutrient Trends. ∴ Carbohydrates don't cause obesity.

3. The "low-fat" dietary guidelines were issued in 1980. The two dates at which men's BMI began to increase significantly are 1945 (slow rate of increase) and 1990 (rapid rate of increase). ∴ The 1980 "low-fat" dietary guidelines didn't cause obesity.

So, what happened in the US in 1945 to make men's BMI rise slowly?
After World War 2, the economy was in a slump and something had to be done to get people to consume more, to stimulate economic growth. Corporations changed the way that they marketed to people. Instead of telling people facts about their products, they began to connect with people emotionally. It worked.

Edward Bernays pioneered the psychological tricks used by the Food Product Industry to get people to want things that they didn't need and consume more. For more information about Edward Bernays, watch The Century Of The Self Part 1 of 4 Happiness Machines.

Watch also Unreported World: Obesity in Paradise. At about 7 minutes in, a Samoan explains why they prefer to buy the more expensive imported "crap-in-a-bag/box/bottle" instead of their own inexpensive locally grown produce - they believe that local food is inferior to imported food. I wonder how that belief got into their heads?

See also How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food.

Once a child has adopted poor dietary habits, it's difficult to reverse them. As children are easier to manipulate than adults, there are regulations aimed at restricting marketing to children, regulations which the Food Product Industry finds ways to bypass.
A systematic review of persuasive marketing techniques to promote food to children on television.
Persuasive food marketing to children: use of cartoons and competitions in Australian commercial television advertisements.
Persuasive techniques used in television advertisements to market foods to UK children.
Weekday and weekend food advertising varies on children's television in the USA but persuasive techniques and unhealthy items still dominate.
Influence of food companies' brand mascots and entertainment companies' cartoon media characters on children's diet and health: a systematic review and research needs
Beyond Food Promotion: A Systematic Review on the Influence of the Food Industry on Obesity-Related Dietary Behaviour among Children

Chronic consumption of "crap-in-a-bag/box/bottle" foods high in sugars and fats induces insulin resistance in the hypothalamus resulting in impaired satiety, increased hunger and an increase in food consumption. Ref: The role of fatty acids in insulin resistance.


One of Edward Bernays's psychological tricks is confusing the public by promulgating conflicting information. The Tobacco Industry paid health professionals to advertise cigarettes. On the one hand, you had researchers telling people that smoking was bad for them and on the other hand you had a doctor on TV saying that he preferred to smoke Camel cigarettes. This confused the public and made them mistrust researchers & science. Another dirty trick was setting-up organisations with scientific-sounding names to promulgate conflicting reports which the press published as “science”, saying that “X” was good for you, then some time later “X” was bad for you, then some time later “X” was good for you again and so on. The public mistrusted researchers & science even more.

The recent NOF report from Malhotra et al telling people to eat more fat is conflicting information, resulting in more public confusion and more mistrust of researchers & science.

The Tobacco Industry used Bernays's psychological tricks to encourage women to smoke in public by making smoking a women's rights issue. Cigarettes were marketed to women as "Torches of Freedom". From the 1920's, women became as free as men to greatly increase their risk of getting Emphysema a.k.a. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Lung Cancer & Coronary Heart Disease, while the Tobacco Industry's profits increased.

By wrongly focusing on foods/macronutrients/micronutrients etc, people like Taubes, Teicholz, Malhotra et al are helping the Food Product Industry to continue their manipulation of the masses to over-consume.

So, what happened in the US in 1990 to make men's BMI rise rapidly? As total kcals/day didn't increase significantly (see 1.), something unrelated to food intake happened. See https://twitter.com/KlausKblog/status/867772729264447488  It was the Pharmaceutical Industry. See https://www.statista.com/statistics/184914/prescription-drug-expenditures-in-the-us-since-1960/

Some medications cause weight gain by increasing water retention, and they are heavily prescribed. See http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/huge-weight-gains-reported-by-patients-on-prescription-drugs-5333581.html

If only more people knew about The usual suspects.

See also The cause of America's rising obesity rate is irrelevant. The cure for it is what's important.