The confusion of the food industry
The confusion of the food industry
If you’ve been trying to work out what is healthy and what is not based on the information on the internet, through doctors and through friends, you’ve probably discovered what a minefield of (mis)information exists out there, and also probably walked away very confused with more questions than you started with.
I have spent many years of my life questioning nutrition, what is healthy and how to eat in a healthier way. I studied nutrition and naturopathy and am a qualified Naturopath. I also practised for years as a naturopath and nutritionist with a focus on the health of the digestive system. And guess what? It’s confusing even for me! In order to find the truth, you have to dig very deep because on the face of it anything can be argued as good for you if you twist the information to serve your argument.
What do I mean?
Let’s take red wine as an example. We have been told that moderate red wine consumption leads to reduced risk of heart disease, weight loss and is anti-cancer. It is not uncommon for doctors to prescribe a glass a day to help to reduce stress and improve health. But what are the studies ACTUALLY showing us?
One study conducted by OSU’s College of Agricultural Science was used to support this theory, however the active ingredient or chemicals used in the study actually came from grapes, and not wine as we were led to believe. Another study found that red wine may actually be beneficial but only if it was de-alcoholised, yet when alcohol was present there was no benefit at all. Another study conducted in 2014 found that ellagic acid can have anti-cancer compounds, ergo the logic being that since wine has ellagic acid then that must make it anti-cancer. Never mind the effects of alcohol or other compounds on our biology!
And what about dairy?
For years we’ve been told that dairy is an essential part of our health, with an exceptional source of calcium for healthy teeth, bones and other connective tissue. The dairy association has been spouting this ‘fact’ for years and so we are led to believe how important it is to our health. But is it actually fact, or are we being led up the garden path by an organisation that has much to gain from our consumption of their product?
Let’s look at this closer…
In order to break down milk, humans require the enzyme lactase found in the small intestine in infancy. But like many mammals, lactase activity declines dramatically after weaning, and for most adults around the globe this means that they cannot break down or digest dairy. In one study, a 12 yearlong Harvard Nurses’ health study found that those who consumed the most calcium from dairy foods broke more bones than those who rarely drank milk. This was a broad study based on 77,761 women aged 34 through 59 years of age.
Surprisingly, studies demonstrating that milk and dairy products actually fail to protect bones from fractures outnumber studies that prove otherwise.
And yet another study found that the prevalence of hormones and antibiotics present in processed milk posed serious risks of breast cancer, as well as other cancers.
Another example of the confusion of information?
Let’s look at the healthy food pyramid. It was originally created in the 1970s in Sweden by a government committee but adopted by the USA in 1991 based on the idea that all fat is bad, and carbohydrates are good. This logic came off the back of concern with rising numbers for obesity and weight gain. The held belief is that all saturated fat is bad for you and has a large role to play in poor cardiovascular health leading to cardiovascular disease, while carbohydrates help to improve health and manage weight.
And yet worldwide obesity rates have almost doubled from 1980 to 2011, even though we have increased our carbohydrate intake significantly.
If we understand that fat is essential to protect internal organs, store fuel and regulate body hormones and that our brain is made up of 60% fat, we can surmise how essential fat is for our nervous system.
To support this, recent studies are finding that the logic that ‘fat is bad and carbs are good’ was deeply flawed, and data is showing that high carbohydrate intake is associated with higher risk of death while total fat and certain types of fat are related to reduced deaths.
And yet sugar – the most common carbohydrate – is obscenely addictive, being even more addictive than cocaine. The history of sugar is one that highlights the terrible deeds undertaken all in the name of sugar production and addiction.
Oscar Wilde once wrote “Everything in moderation…” and somehow this is now quoted religiously as a reason to eat anything and everything with the idea that as long as you don’t consume too much of it then everything will be okay. But this seemingly simple piece of advice for sustainable eating practices seems to be just another myth designed to keep us confused and out of control – and in order to keep us consuming all those items that do nothing more than line the pockets of the suppliers whilst having detrimental effects on our health.
In the 21st century we continue to defend the ‘all things in moderation’ motto in order to maintain the unhealthy relationship with sugar, however so many studies have pointed to the detrimental effects of sugar on our sensitive biological eco-system. And to make matters worse, sugar is found in 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets, including many savoury foods or items marketed as ‘healthy’. Which means that if you were to take the products at face value, you would have no idea you were consuming so much sugar. A can of corn would be considered as just corn and a bag of dried berries would be considered just fruit, and all the while you would think that you were eating just fruit and vegetables. Turn the packages over and read the list of ingredients and you will be horrified to find the true ingredients and just how much sugar you are really consuming.
Why would we be fed such things if they were so harmful for us? What if you found out that 50 years ago the sugar industry quietly paid scientists to direct blame at fat to downplay the risk of sugar? It is a disgrace, and yet the truth is that we are being manipulated with false information simply to be persuaded to buy specific products by industries with a vested interest in profit over our health.
So where does that leave us as concerned individuals who want to take care of ourselves and our family members?
On the one hand we have a massive pit of misinformation and contradictory information. On the other hand, we have greater access to information than we have ever had before with the internet at our fingertips. The confusion of the food industry is born from our own chosen ignorance and as long as we continue to turn a blind eye then we are complicit in our own ill-health. Our responsibility then becomes about our commitment to dig deeper to find the truth.
But a commitment to find the truth does not solely come from relying on others’ findings. We have the greatest barometer of health at our fingertips, and that measuring instrument is our own body. Somewhere along the line we have bought into the lie that our doctor knows better, or that the scientists have all the answers. And whilst these medically and scientifically trained professionals have so much to offer us, at the end of the day nobody knows your body better than you do, if you but choose to stop and listen to it.
So, is dairy good for you? Ask your nasal cavities or lungs.
Is gluten okay for you? Ask your stomach.
Can you handle sugar? Ask your nervous system.
Can you eat preservatives? Ask your skin.
Is processed fast food fine for you? Ask your brain.
Your body is an incredible source of wisdom that sends you messages every day, every minute, every second. Instead of disempowering yourself and your body and its inner wisdom and awareness, stop relying only on the information that is outside of you, and in some cases inaccurate and even corrupt.
Take back the power that comes from listening to your body, your awareness and your own sensitivity by being willing to be still and hear the messages the body whispers, and sometimes clearly shouts to you.