While cigarette companies have been spending millions of dollars on anti-smoking campaigns, they’ve been busy behind the scenes – secretly increasing the nicotine content of cigarettes to make them more addictive!

After all, a more addictive product likely equates to more revenue.

Before you brand me a conspiracy theorist, two recent studies – one by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and a second by the Harvard School of Public Health – have demonstrated such. The Harvard study confirms that, from 1997 to 2005, the average nicotine content of cigarettes from all major manufacturers increased by 11%.

Considering that cigarette smoking unquestionably kills you in a variety of slow, expensive, and unpleasant ways, this truth is audacious, sickening, and disturbing…

But here’s a question that’s even more troubling: Would food conglomerates do something similar?

Would manufacturers pack processed foods with addictive or otherwise harmful chemicals in order to bolster sales, increase product longevity, and ultimately ensure higher revenue?

Yes, they would.

 

America’s Most Wanted

Digest this: Food is the number one cause of death in Western culture. This is especially true in America. Case in point, as the Chinese have industrialized and adopted a Westernized diet, chronic disease, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes has become a major social issue.

The cause of these diseases is multi-factorial – increased stress, environmental toxins, sedentary western lifestyle, and sleeplessness. However, according to Mark Hyman, M.D., Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, “the elephant in the room is our toxic industrial food supply.”

Let’s quickly discuss a few examples:

High Fructose Corn Syrup – In the early 1970s, Japanese scientists developed the ability to separate fructose, or fruit sugar, from corn. Cheaper than regular sugar, this has become a go-to sweetener of choice and is present in everything from pizza sauce to salad dressing. Problematically, however, high fructose corn syrup is much more potent than regular sugar. If regular sugar is gasoline, high fructose corn syrup is jet fuel. Today, the average American consumes roughly 60 lbs. per year. Notably, in the three decades since high fructose corn syrup has become widely used, obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven-fold. Even when used in moderation, high fructose corn syrup has been shown to be a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and more.

Refined sugar – Sugar in any form causes obesity and disease when consumed in pharmacologic doses. In the 1900s, Americans consumed an average of about 15 grams of refined sugar per day. Today, the average American consumes 70 to 80 grams per day, and teenagers consume an average of 120-150 grams per day. This amounts to more than 120 lbs of sugar per year.

MSG – MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is an amino-acid based food additive and neurotransmitter that essentially tricks your tongue into sensing that foods containing MSG are nutritious and high in protein. However, MSG is also highly addictive and causes your body to store fat by stimulating your pancreas to produce insulin even when you haven’t consumed carbohydrates for that insulin to act on. Accordingly, your blood sugar drops because of the flood of insulin and you’re hungry again an hour later. In fact, when researchers need to make rats obese in order to study some related facet, the protocol for doing so entails feeding those rats MSG. Dr. Ka He of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health has shown that MSG contributes to obesity in humans regardless of caloric intake or activity level.

There are other examples – and next week I will discuss an incredibly personal one. However, for now I really don’t think it’s necessary to go any further. You get the picture. Food companies have moved toward cheap, addictive additives, at the expense of our health. The fact is, most of us no longer eat much real food. Instead, we eat food-like products that are processed to look, smell, and taste better than real food.

And it’s killing us.

Why wouldn’t our doctors warn us?

Here’s a disturbing corollary to this conversation: Why wouldn’t our doctors warn us about these dangerous additives? Happily, they are starting to do so. However, I think there are several issues that have made our health care providers slow on the uptake.

First, medical schools are focused primarily on pharmacology to the exclusion of basic nutrition. Many doctors complete medical school without studying nutrition at all and most without studying it in any depth. It’s not their fault. This is just the state of modern medicine.

Second, the pharmaceutical industry is more interested in ‘a pill for every ill’ than holistic health. Why? Let me say it as an MBA: There’s no money in healthy people. There’s no money in dead people, either. However, there’s a lot of money in a chronically ill population – and that’s what we’ve become.

Third, nobody is guarding the ramparts of our health. Most people assume that the Food and Drug Administration is a neutral arbiter with scores of scientists conducting independent research on new food and drug offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Generally speaking, the FDA simply evaluates studies on the safety of such products sponsored by the very companies wanting to market the products being evaluated. Fox in the hen house, anyone?

The result.

Though Richard Nixon declared a “war against cancer” in 1971, according to the National Cancer Institute, mortality rates continued to rise into the 1990s and have only recently demonstrated a subtle decline. In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that diabetes prevalence rates have jumped dramatically across the nation since 1995. And, while the prevalence and mortality rates associated with heart disease have declined dramatically in the last fifty years, such is attributable mostly in improvements in technology and heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

I’m not opposed to medication and I’m extremely grateful for modern medical technology. However, the fact remains that the prevalence of these major diseases is tied directly to our diets.

So, if we want holistic health and fitness, it all starts with the foods we eat. Most importantly, this is something every individual can control.

Don’t waste your time and effort!

Yes, you can eat cheap food, work hard, and try to force your body to burn fat, but you’ll be wasting your time. There are several reasons this is true:

First, many of the toxins in the food you eat are lipophilic, or fat-soluble. This means that they are stored in your fat cells. When you burn those fat cells, the toxins are dumped back into your blood stream to be filtered out. If you’re not eating the right kinds of foods, but instead continue to consume toxins, the toxins in your blood stream are reabsorbed to be stored as fat. Consequently, you’ll have difficulty losing weight because your body will be trying to maintain fat (and even produce new fat) to protect you from the toxins in your food.

Second, your body can only build with the raw materials you give it. We eat so poorly that, even when we fill our stomachs, we continue to starve on a metabolic level because we’re not getting the necessary nutrients. In order to optimize your health and fitness, you must remedy this situation.

Third, even where we are getting some nutrients, they are often not bio-available. In other words, we don’t consume them in the full nutrient complex. Where we do eat vegetables and fruits, our diets lack variety and we don’t consume the full-spectrum of colors and textures. Where we supplement with vitamins, we take cheap, synthetic multi-vitamins that offer the synthetic chemical compound outside of its phyto-nutrient complex, which is the catalyst our body uses to absorb the nutrients. As a result, for the most part, these synthetic vitamins are ‘bowl ringers’ (i.e., the toilet bowl).

The Solution.

Next week, we’re going to discuss some solutions to our poor diets and I’m looking forward to it. I love it when people realize that it’s much easier – and much tastier – to eat healthfully than they realize. As mentioned, I’m also going to share a very personal example of the consequences of our toxic industrial food supply.

In the interim, take a little time to look more closely at the foods you eat most often. Flip over the package and look at the ingredients. How many of them do you recognize? How many of them do you have difficulty pronouncing?

I’m also including links to resources I referenced for this post. I thought it easier to list them here than including a bunch of random links in the text. I commend these resources to anyone interested in learning more about their food choices. These documentaries have revolutionized the way Rachelle and I eat, and we are much healthier for it.

Resources

Documentaries:

  1. Food Matters
  2. Hungry for Change
  3. Forks Over Knives

Further Reading:

  1. Discovery Health: Are Tobacco Companies Increasing Nicotine Content?
  2. The Healing Powers of Burgers and Fried Chicken
  3. SEER Cancer Statistics Review: 1975 – 2010
  4. U.S. Trends in Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke
  5. The Not-So-Sweet Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth post in a series co-authored by Denver-based transactional attorney, Chris Rhyme dedicated to helping real people with busy lives get in great shape. If you found this post helpful, be sure not to miss the others – subscribe to NexTwelve.com via the link in the upper right-hand corner!

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