Around 80% of the American people are overweight, obese, or skinny fat. That leaves 20% who are of normal weight and body fat, but the fraction of these people that exercise regularly, especially resistance training, and that avoid ultra-processed foods may be quite low. What’s caused this situation, and why are Americans more likely to be fat and sick than healthy and lean and full of life?
The epidemic of obesity and ill health is no longer just American, either, but is spreading across the globe.
Big Pharma, the collection of American and global drug companies, earn an enormous sum of money. See chart below. Global pharma revenue is now over $1 trillion annually.
Below are the top revenue earners by company. Johnson & Johnson is number one at nearly $80 billion in revenue.
Furthermore, the drug industry is highly profitable, with pharma companies having among the highest profit margins of any industry.
Now, if you read this site, you know how much responsibility poor diet and lack of exercise bear for our collective health problems. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s: lifestyle factors, mainly diet and exercise, greatly affect all of these and more.
Yet when the average person goes to the average doctor for a health problem, the doctor very often prescribes drugs.
Doctors typically offer little to no lifestyle advice. Not that they know much about what to advise anyway, and not that the patient will heed that advice.
Anyway, doctors prescribe, and patients take, drugs.
If the patient’s condition is a chronic one, these drugs must often be taken for life.
That means huge profits for drug companies.
Do you think Big Pharma will suddenly start telling people not to take drugs, or in some other way to change the current health system and with it, the health of Americans and others?
Of course not.
One can’t fault the companies for this; they’re in the business of maximizing profit for their shareholders. Nothing else. And their products are in demand.
It’s worse than that, however.
Some 60% of all doctors receive money from pharmaceutical companies.
But it gets even worse than that: medical research is corrupted by money from Big Pharma. The drug companies directly pay researchers who promote their drugs and who perform studies on them, as well as fund the studies themselves.
It’s no exaggeration to state that Big Pharma exerts huge influence on scientific research, medical education, and medical practice.
With the amount of money at stake here, don’t look to drug companies for an answer to increasing use of drugs in treating chronic disease.
Big Food, a collection of large food companies, produces ultra-processed foods, which are implicated in our epidemic of obesity and chronic disease.
Ultra-processed foods, loaded with and primarily made from refined grains (flour, typically), seed oils, and sugar.
Ten companies make most of the food and drink you find in a supermarket. See graph below.
Note the foods they make. The vast majority is ultra-processed junk food, which causes obesity and chronic disease.
Ultra-processed foods are highly profitable. According to Forbes, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi dominate the field. Nestle had revenues of $90 billion and profits of $8.6 billion in 2017.
They certainly want the gravy train to keep rolling.
Again, that’s their job: maximizing shareholder profit.
Some would argue that Big Food is only responding to demand, and while we could debate the extent of that, people are buying their foods, so the demand is there.
The foods they make using seed oils, refined grains, and sugar are highly profitable partly because the ingredients are dirt cheap and can be stored on a shelf indefinitely.
A few cents worth of these ingredients, when marketed properly with a brand name slapped on the box, sells for dollars. Pizza, soda, breakfast cereal, pastries: all made of cheap ingredients. (Allegedly the aluminum in a can of soda is the single most expensive ingredient.)
So, as with Big Pharma, Big Food is another aspect of our global diabesity and disease epidemic which makes a huge amount of money, and therefore is not interested in changing the status quo, other than to make even more money.
No change will be coming from this quarter. The opposite, actually: they will resist change.
Doctors and health bureaucrats
Doctors are generally paid quite well, being among the top income earners in the professions. The average doctor’s salary in the U.S. is about $250,000. (Not saying they don’t earn it, and there’s also a large variation in their salaries. In fact, for some specialties like hospitalist, the pay strikes me as too low.)
Patients come to doctors for medical treatment obviously, so that’s what doctors give them.
Most doctors do not know the right lifestyle advice to give. (I contend.)
They’re myopically focused on lowering cholesterol, for one thing. But they simply don’t know the right dietary prescriptions.
And if they do know, and tell patients about it, they can get cashiered from the profession for it, as the cases of Drs. Timothy Noakes and Gary Fettke show. They got into deep, hot water for telling their patients to cut carbs.
All incentives line up for doctors to continue the status quo.
They are well paid, they can get sued or prosecuted for low-carb advice, many patients won’t change anyway. And as we’ve seen, many doctors are bribed by Big Pharma.
Many doctors do have a countervailing incentive: their patients’ welfare. But prevailing incentives seem to win out.
Dietitians associations are soundly against change. They’d look very bad if they reversed their stances on diet of the past several decades, so they won’t.
Health bureaucrats, of which there are now a huge number, are paid well enough, so they won’t be wanting to change things.
The incentive must come from the individual
As you can see, massive incentives, mostly in the form of money, conspire to keep the American people fat and sick.
It’s not a conspiracy (as I see it), just a large group of people and corporations acting in their own interests to keep the money flowing.
And it’s a lot of money.
Corporate food makes you fat and sick.
Corporate drugs treat the chronic disease caused by corporate food.
If you want to have any hope of being free from obesity and chronic disease, you must take up the challenge yourself.
You must learn to discern what are the correct choices to make, and you must implement them.
No one is coming to help. There are mighty forces at work to make and keep you fat and sick.
All very true. The drive for money and profit controls just about everything in this country (and most of the world, for that matter). And even if you can find a doctor who is not influenced that much by Big Pharma (good luck), they still often know very little about what a healthy diet looks like, as you say. It is most definitely up to each individual to educate themselves about health and diet. And educating yourself is not easy, because organizations like the American Heart Association, WebMd, American Diebetes Association, and many more, which claim to be unbiased, are in fact controlled by these same big companies that are making us sick. I try to talk to friends sometimes about health and diet, and for the most part it is a waste of my time, because most of them truly believe what they read from sources like this (which they trust, for some reason). So, most people just continue on a path toward these chronic diseases, unfortunately.
It’s a big club and you and I ain’t in it
This advice should be read and re-read multiple times. With regards to medicine, we’re on our own now. The system cannot and will not work for us. Even if an individual MD wants to help, he cannot. The health care industry operates very much on the kommissariat system with regards to regulating the actions of doctors. Any doctor who steps out of line will be slapped down by the AMA, state medical boards, or by lawsuits from various parties, and his/her career and earning prospects destroyed for life. Given how expensive and time-consuming getting a medical degree and practice costs, any negative censor of a doctor is tantamount to an economic death sentence for that individual. The system is as abusive of doctors and other medical professionals as it is of ourselves.
Then, to top it off, aging itself is not considered a medical condition. Thus, the conventional medical system is forbidden BY REGULATION from treating the underlying cause of all adult medical problems, the aging process itself. If you are a life extensionist (as I am), you know full-well that you are on your own.
You right, but the flip side is quackery. All you have to do is look back a hundred years to see what it looked like without oversight. Dr. Kellog and his invention of corn flakes to cure what ails ya. Mr. Graham and his magic Graham flour. Then there were all the patent medicines with cocaine, arsenic, and just about every toxic compound known to man.
I saw u got a shout out:
For the article:
Everything that Chateau Heartiste says is what you say, and he refers to you and links to your website.
CH is right about so many things.
Great post! The Big Food/Big Pharma Axis of Sickness needs to be a major political issue, but politicians on both sides are well-bought by the perpetrators.
I’d add one more leg of the stool, though: Big Chem. Pesticides, plastics, and other poisons and endocrine disruptors are major contributors to a lot of these issues too. I resisted this idea as hippie nonsense for quite a while, but the changes in wild animals are alarming and hard to explain otherwise.
Hello, we should be teaching all of this in second grade. What a horrible system we have. I found a plan from a gal near Seattle, Washington that teaches me to eat anti inflammatory foods instead of all the garbage that inflames me from the inside out. It works great and feels even better. https://www.toquietinflammation.com/
You don’t need a plan from “some gal.” Do your own research if, indeed, you have inflammation.
The most anti-inflammatory diet you can eat is meat. Just meat. Period, end of story. People who didn’t even know that they had problems, gone. The carnivorous diet is a pretty big fad right now, but for good reasons. I suggest finding Youtube items about Jordan Peterson and his daughter, Michela (?). Horrible problems, gone.
With respect to soft drinks, CDC data shows that obesity rates have been going up steadily even though soda consumption has been going down steadily. This shows that soda is not driving obesity or obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes.
Nonetheless, America’s beverage companies are helping support American’s efforts to cut back on sugar and calories by offering more products with less sugar or zero sugar, smaller portion sizes and calorie labels on the front of all of our products. We are committed to being part of real solutions to public health challenges with initiatives like Balance Calories – an initiative to reduce the calories Americans consume from beverages nationally by 20 percent by 2025. Learn more here: BalanceUS.org.
With all that proverbial “due respect,” you are obviously shilling. Trying to turn a slight bit of good news into something hugely positive. The ONLY reason alternative drinks are coming out is the loss of sales of full calorie drinks. Not altruism.
That obesity continues to rise despite your alleged decline in soda sales is not good science. You probably know that.
Mexico’s obesity epidemic puts America’s to shame. And when the government tried to address this with a broad base of knowledge and plans, a shill of the soda industry got installed. Their advice – wait for it – is to “move more. As if that has anything to do with pounds of fructose being ingested every year.
Ameribev, Soda can still be driving obesity upwards even if rates of consumption have declined somewhat.
Just to show the folly of your reasoning, imagine “Fat Joe” guzzling a litre of cola per day. In an effort to reduce weight he cuts back to 500ml a day. Now he is still getting fatter, just at a slower rate. His insulin is still through the roof. He needs to cut that crap right out of his diet.
You are also committing the single cause fallacy. The article is referring to the entire panoply of junk foods made from cheap and unhealthy ingredients – sugar, other processed carbs, and vegetable oils. As the purest form of nutrient-free junk calories out there, soda just happens to be emblematic.
I do not believe in banning poor food choices. But I do despise deliberate attempts to fool people with faulty reasoning – which is what I presume you are paid to do. Good luck with that.
Allergic rhinitis/hey fever is a rising problem:
When I was a kid, I remember running over a great farm field with belly-high, dense, wavy grass specifically bred and grown as animal feed.
The next thing I remember is a doctor with a shiny glass-and-metal syringe treating me for anaphylactic shock. Ever since I suffer from severe hay-fever –
As do more and more people, rates, depending on where you look, from about 10-30% of the population.
Allergic rhinitis is typically caused by grass pollen.
Did it occur to anybody to ask if there may be a connection between steadily rising allergy and allergic rhinitis rates, and the fact that people basically eat more and novel (breeds of) _grass_ seed powder (flour) and _grass_ seed oil?
I wonder if there might be a connection, because perhaps some proteins or other chemicals are similar in the pollen as well as the food derived from grasses, causing human immune systems to react violently?
In my current thinking and understanding I cannot completely agree with what you are arguing:
By stating “that’s their job: maximizing shareholder profit”, you are excusing the companies as doing something normal and benign.
This is a bit like stating that it’s OK to beat people with a brick over their head and rob them of their cash, because it’s or should be allowed because of the profit motive.
Robberies are illegal and I am sure what food and medical industry do is formally legal,
but both accept loss of health and life as side effect of their activity – and both know it.
I am certainly no leftist – I think people should be responsible for their decisions.
But to be able to do that, people need to be told the known facts about the implications of the things they are to decide.
Instead, food and medical industry not only hide important truths; lies are actively disseminated to frustrate correct decisions and to facilitate wrong ones.
Evidence from the last decades strongly suggests that, quite like the tobacco industry,
food and pharmaceutical industries knew very well about serious dangers to health and life span of their customers from their products; profit-threatening research was tried to kept secret, attacked for being wrong, withheld from the public; and the public has been and is fed much advertising, often camouflaged as real science and established fact, spreading the idea that their products are healthy.
The truth might be out there, hidden in scientific papers, and in what feels like one truthful press release, media report or self-help book among thousands which state deliberate falsehoods; therefore, even smart people who are just not specifically knowledgeable about this field have almost no chance to learn of the actual facts and truths, instead coming likely to false conclusions and false beliefs.
It is impossible for everybody to research everything important deeply;
actively hiding unwelcome facts and establishing falsehoods as facts through media in the public that in effect do nothing less than make people seriously ill and significantly increase the risk of their death should, in my opinion, not be excused by the profit motive.
Spreading lies that make people miserable, addicted, and more likely dead has been ruled unacceptable when the tobacco industry did it, why should it be different with unhealthy, addictive and literally toxic food products?
At least there should be a truth-spreading media campaign, ban on advertising spreading untruths – explicit and implicated, and, like on tobacco packaging, warning labels on sugar and seed oil bombs that state the facts that these products contribute causally to obesity, accelerated aging, likelihood of death, disability, addiction, serious diseases and higher (individual and social) future health care costs.
At least it should not be allowed to lie to the public in such a critically important matter through ads – this is nothing else than propaganda, lying to a public that largely cannot know better, therefore making millions of people eat food products that they perhaps would otherwise avoid.
At least people should have a real, informed choice – which they can only have if they are told the truth.