by Marion Nestle
Jun 7 2012

Are food companies part of the solution to obesity?

The June 2012 e-mailed newsletter from the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) quotes from a speech by IASO’s Tim Lobstein at the recent Nordic Nutrition Conference. 

Dr Lobstein suggests that claims by large food companies to be an essential part of the solution  to obesity should be challenged.

These companies do not manufacture essential food items….They produce branded, mass-produced, processed snacks and beverages which are not necessary in a healthy diet.

Such companies should not be claiming a right to be included in policy decisions, and should not be displacing producers of healthier foods, such as fruit and vegetable growers, who are a legitimate part of the solution.

Think of that the next time you see ads from the American Beverage Association?

  • http://www.FeedYourHeadDiet.com Ken Leebow

    After reading that Taco Bell’s Dorito Taco is its most popular product ever, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that big food wants a fat bottom-line and does not care about the obesity epidemic … http://bit.ly/Mj9HTO

    Like McDonald’s states: People are lovin’ it.

    Ken Leebow
    http://www.noachesnopainsnomedsnodocs.com

    BTW, an announcement from Coca-Cola ,,, grants $8.4 million for health promotion – http://bit.ly/JQa58b

  • Joe

    Perhaps you read the recent article that revisits the link between sodium intake and hypertension. What the piece said was that the link is weak and has been for forty years. Yet a majority of the health community push a low salt diet for good health without good evidence that it works.

    The same facade is in play when big food and big beverage are linked to obesity. There may be many who want there to be a link but that does not make it so.

    Why? because there are many who consume the products of big food and beverage but are not obese. There are even many children who are consumers of those products but are not even close to being obese.

    Could it just be that some people are naturally larger than others? The same way that people are different in other ways such as height, hair color, eye color and shoe size. To assume that we are all supposed to homogenously fit into the same BMI range seems unscientific.

    In forty years will there be articles that point out the fallacy of logic that accused junk food and sugary soda of causing obesity, yes. When that time comes I will not be surprised, will you?

  • IRememberWhen

    And how clearly we all remember food industry claims that Snackwells and other sugary low-fat “treats” were surely the solution to the then-incipient obesity crisis.

    The ABA ad looks eerily familiar in this context.

  • http://www.theoryofhealth.com Graham Lutz

    There is hardly a single main stream claim about nutrition that isn’t wrong. Calories, fat, salt…none of it based on good science.

  • Cathy Richards

    I love that our agendas become their PR campaigns. That proves that we are successful in changing complex systems.

    Seriously, as farcical as these ads are, it means that the companies now recognize that the public is demanding at least this wafer-thin biscuit’s worth of corporate responsibility.

    Will look forward to see if anyone gets the wafer thin reference. Without googling or mozilling etc.

  • Cathy Richards

    @ Joe and Scamthro — I can see your point of views in some way. As a child I drank kool-aid every day in the summer — usually 2 or 4 glasses — and was scary skinny.

    However, our world is pretty different now. When I drank kool-aid I was running back into the house to get it, then running back out to continue playing kick the can, exploring the field behind our house or whatever. Kids just don’t play the same way anymore. We can push the blame to that and to many other factors, but let’s face it, drinking unneeded calories is partly to blame as well.

    What is our solution? It needs to be multipronged, but changing what we drink is one of the really easy wins – a very cost effective win for government — way easier than changing how children play or getting people away from their computers or…or…

    I firmly believe that the Board, Managers and employees of the beverage companies are smart enough to change with the times and find numerous ways to keep their business afloat without jeopardizing health. Let’s see if they’re motivated enough.

    Yes, yes, I know it’s a complex thing that affects everyone’s economy, but these are to some degree the choices we are faced with — food industry mega-profits, giddy investors, and obesity with all the human suffering it brings with it, OR healthy food industry, satisfied investors, and better health for all.

    End of rant. :)

  • https://twitter.com/#!/realfoodorg Marc Brazeau

    @Joe

    Why? because there are many who consume the products of big food and beverage but are not obese. There are even many children who are consumers of those products but are not even close to being obese.

    Could it just be that some people are naturally larger than others?

    Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer or emphysema. Not everyone who drink alcohol gets cirrhosis.

    The question is not whether some individuals are more susceptible to overweight or obesity, the question is what caused an entire population to suddenly gain weight over the last 30 years. The correlation between increased consumption of highly processed food and the increase incidence of overweight and obesity at the population level is strong enough to infer cause.

  • Margeretrc

    @Marc, “The correlation between increased consumption of highly processed food and the increase incidence of overweight and obesity at the population level is strong enough to infer cause.” True enough. But we can’t legislate people into eating less of it.
    @Hermann, touche’.

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  • Bonny Duville

    Translation: we’ve increased in-school sales of both sugar and non-sugar flavored water by 906% in only 20 years! Thank you captive customers, and thank you to the schools for removing water fountains (at our request) in schools across the nation!

  • http://www.stopbeingsweet.com Stop Being Sweet

    Having junk food manufacturers be “part of the solution” will probably be as successful as letting oil companies design fuel efficient cars.

  • http://evilcyber.com Evilcyber

    In your constant assault against the food industry, which sure enough does have enough dirt to hide, I do wonder about one thing, Marion: where do you think personal responsibility for one’s self comes in? As in “I shouldn’t be eating this” or “I’m too fat”.

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