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Food and restaurant industry and their role in increasing obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Recent news on television brings to the attention of public the role of food additives in hyperactivity as well as the increase in diagnosis of diabetes 2 and obesity. While there is so much talk on obesity and diabetes 2 becoming the next epidemic no one is addressing all the salt and sugar in canned food and in restaurant food. Even milk contains corn syrup. How can we fight the contamination of food itself with increased use of sugar, salt, additives, and pesticides?

Closing Statement from Lalita Krishnamurthy

Thanks to the contribution of everyone and some great input. I believe that educating children in the art of eating and art of selecting the foods accompanied with moderation and exercise is one methodology that can help contain two growing problems.....diabetes and obesity. In addition guiding children to develop healthy social life styles, and teaching them coping skills against the incessant stressors in modern life is equally important.

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    Apr 2 2011: I think a distinction has to be made between restaurants, and commercialized restaurants. Worldwide chefs are realizing that food is an experience, and part of the experience is the incorporation of fresh, local ingreidents into food, proper portion size, etc. This group of culinary pioneers is making good food more accessable, healthier and more genuine. But we still have the problem of Wal-Mart and McDonalds and other chian restaurants that sell highly proccessed, unhealthy foods. Buy locally and you are less likely to get food additives and you will end up getting a much better product.
    • Apr 3 2011: Very good point, most small scale restaurants have healthier practices.
    • Apr 5 2011: I have never considered McDonalds and the likes to be restaurants. They are mess hall "food chains." I consider a restaurant to be a place that serves culinary food of quality, freshness and nutrition.

      Local restaurants could be the answer to the "chain food / obese" problem: a bottom up food revolution. However, we have to support our local businesses.
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    Apr 6 2011: Parents need to teach their kids healthy eating habits.

    It would help if convenience food was not pushed so hard through branding, advertising and packaging. Especially the stuff aimed at kids..
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    Apr 6 2011: Most important is the requirement to LABEL. We can't make good decisions without good information. Beyond honest labeling, the rest falls to the consumer and the market. If I were a canned food manufacturer I'd compete by adding LESS sugar and salt, and I'd stress that in my advertising, PR, etc. There's a real hunger out there (no pun intended) for quality in family food and the Diabetes and Obesity epidemics are fueling it. The CDC and evening news are practically doing the PR work for you! In short, you beat the "high sugar/salt/additive" crowd by beating them in the market. As for pesticides, I can't say I personally know enough about farming to make an informed statement. Pesticides may actually be necessary to grow enough food to make the food affordable. I'm afraid this last piece on pesticides is out of my expertise. Thanks for a great question!
    • Apr 7 2011: Dear MIchael: The reason I posed this question was because I see it happening. There are so many children who are being diagnosed with diabetes 2 at such a young age. Don't eat in resturants or outside is easy to say. But in a society where we are faced with fragmented homes and two parents slaving away to meet the basics, children are sometimes left to their own devices. Canned and frozen is a common word in the homes today. After 8 or more hours of work when a tired parent returns home they may not have the luxury of making fresh home cooked meal. Given this reality, it is awfully sad that one cannot rely on what we buy. The fine print is so important to read. Engineered crops are loaded with pesticides. Thank you for an insightful response.
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    Apr 5 2011: Whatever doesn't kill you makes you fatter..
  • Apr 1 2011: The more people are aware that the food industry and world government is actively poisoning individuals, the more choice those individuals have regarding avoiding the poison. That having been said, with the systematic destruction of the environment, including the possibility that the bee may be extinct within a decade, maybe we won't have much choice for much longer.

    Anecdotally, many people are aware that additives including monosodium glutamate are not only bad for physiological health but also for mental health. For over 100 years, producers of "food" have known that the substances they put in the food are dangerous and addictive. The dangerous bit they don't care about. The addictive bit, they DO care about because it means more people will consume the product. Think Coca Cola, with the original formulation containing cocaine. OK, so they removed the active cocaine but it's still full of either sugar or aspartame, neither of which is good for health.

    Turn your back on processed food while you still can!
  • Apr 6 2011: Don't blame the restaurants, fast-food joints, or whatever name you wish to label to them. As it was stated in the 2009 documentary "Fat Head", they are just responding to a growing trend. As people work more and more, we actually need these kind of places to provide us with food that we just don't have the time to prepare anymore ourselves.

    As for the "epidemic" side of it, well. The epidemic part of obesity simply came out of the redefinition of what "obese" was - regardless if the person was "obese" because of an absurdly high amount of muscle mass, or even if that person just happened to be rather large just by default.

    But please, don't be scared away from eating sugars, salt, and foods with additives. Most of them are there for a very good reason, and very few you will find will actually be dangerous to your health. Mind you - you may be -told- that they are total poison, but, this often doesn't hold a lot of ground in reality.

    In case you haven't already, I would recommend anyone who reads this watch that documentary ("Fat Head") I mentioned earlier. It systematically kills a lot of food myths better than I can in 2000 characters, and provides a nice conflicting point of view so heavily absent in the conversation relating to the dangers of food-additives and the like, especially relating to the documentary "Super-size Me".

    So I suppose, conclusively, "fighting" additives would be silly. We just have to understand which ones are bad and which ones aren't. And this kind of knowledge, I promise, will not come from the mass media.
  • Apr 3 2011: While not trying to absolve people of all personal responsibility for what they eat, I think there is some validity to the psychological/mental factors as well. It appears that food addiction is a real phenomenon, and people also misguidedly eat to overcome stress and self-esteem issues - a self-defeating act. What young kids eat is influenced by parents, schools, peers. It may be that if as children they are fed a daily diet of processed foods, the mental addition part takes over and it becomes very difficult to change. So they continue to support the processed food industry.

    I think we treat our bodies badly because we do not see the effect of that treatment. Typically, it takes some time for the weight to creep up, the obesity, diabetes, etc etc to set in. If we could visually see how the cells become stressed, inflamed, damaged, how the arteries become clogged and so on, perhaps we might take some action. We need an app where we can input the meal we are about to eat and see the effect at a cellular level.
  • Apr 2 2011: In the early 1900's the average american ate 15 pounds of sugar by the end of the century that climbed to over 200 pounds,sugar is found in almost all prepared foods let alone the sodium no wonder diabetes is on the increase and reaching epidemic numbers,I wonder how much trust should be placed in labeling,are these products really what they claim to be, is there foods cops out there checking companies claims,ie organic products, since organic products cost more there's a lot temptation and money to be made.
  • Apr 2 2011: I would imagine that in regards to food additives (at least in the sense that I understand them) the restaurant industry is not playing a very large role. From what I understand additives such as preservatives and fillers are largely a part of the packaged food industry as opposed to restaurants, which I do not think actively add these ingredients. As far as restaurants that serve unhealthy foods go, my current sentiments align with Benjamin Franklin when he said that "those that would trade their freedom for safety deserve neither." While I would hope everyone would make appropriate choices for their health, we should not stop people from exercising their freedom, even if it is to their own detriment, and so long as unhealthy restaurants are in demand they will exist.

    My biggest qualms are with the food industry. I find it contradictory that my government (the US) currently subsidizes corn and wheat and healthcare (2014). Corn and wheat are two things that get put into just about everything; they turn into animal feed supplemented with hormones and antibiotics to force animals to grow unnaturally and unhealthily, and corn is processed into the many sugars that are so pervasive throughout junk food in America. All the while as we subsidize these crops that cause so many health problems we proceed to subsidize our health care as well. It seems to me that one of the largest problems is health in the US and we hold contradictory values. If we are going to subsidize any part of the food industry it should be those that are geared toward improving our health. As I see it now, the best solution is a bifurcated approach of improving consumer health consciousness through effective advertising and education, while simultaneously subsidizing healthier foods.

    I hope that in my lifetime (and before I bring children into this world) that these changes are realized. I strongly believe that a healthier nation will be a more productive and happier nation.
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    Apr 2 2011: Don't blame restaurants. They have no obligation to serve low-fat meals. When you walk into a french restaurant, for example, you should know that french cooking relies on butter.

    You should have learned in grade school that canned foods are loaded with salt - and should have learned to avoid salt.

    With the dumbing-down of American there is a corresponding increase in nanny state regulations. I don't want the government telling me what to eat.
    • Apr 2 2011: Clay, while I strongly believe people should be self-sufficient and make appropriate decisions for themselves, I do not view this as a black and white issue. I have two major points of contention...

      The first is that sugars, salts and sweets play on our evolutionary disposition to consume these items. My understanding is that because these were so rare in nature we have a strong desire to consume these so that when we do come across them it is our instinct to eat more of them than is currently necessary. As much as people want to claim independence and absolute personal choice, we are not islands unto ourselves and we are influenced by the world around us and our evolutionary histories.

      My second point of contention is that there are groups, that even if they want to make the right choice, are forced into a bad option. Poverty stricken individuals cannot afford to purchase healthy foods and are stuck purchasing foods that are subsidized by government monies. These foods are so often laden with fats, simple sugars, salts, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, fillers and other things that we should not be consuming en mass that it literally forces some individuals to choose between purchasing their diabetes medication or food for their family. By subsidizing these foods, we gave these people an impossible choice and they have no opportunity to improve.

      As a whole, I agree with many of your sentiments, encouraging positive choice and education are great things to do, but we ought recognize when our ideals are not applicable as this world has so many shades of gray.
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        Apr 2 2011: Ross, As an organic gardener, I'm for health foods, but I don't want the government involved. I don't understand your point about [unhealthy]" government subsidized foods". People on food stamps can buy anything they want. They have lots of choices.

        Calorie counts on menus is more nanny state. No thanks.
        • Apr 2 2011: Clay I was referring to government subsidized corn, soy and wheat which are pervasive as ingredients in many of the junk food produced in the US, also as I'm sure you are aware are also ingredients in the feed for many animals purposely chosen to unnaturally produce more meat. Also, I'm not so sure that food stamps can buy whatever they want, I've heard conflicting information on this so I would have to check before responding to this point... Finally, my point about people not being able to make healthy choices if they don't have money is that healthy foods are generally more expensive, and if you are poor you are going to eat cheap and subsequently unhealthily.

          As an aside, I'm glad to hear you're an organic gardener, it's good to know someone is taking their health and the environment's health into their own hands. We need more people making these choices.
    • Apr 5 2011: Clay - the government "nanny state" is in our food up to their fossil-fuel, contaminating necks. Have you watched "The World According to Monsanto" documentary? Or Supersize Me? Disgusting and outrageous. We are not governed, we are ruled, and we are fed trash whether we like it in our food or not.

      We need more organic gardeners and farms. People need to start allotment gardens, and grow as much of their own food as possible, even in containers - every "fresh" bit helps.

      Could it be that America is dumbing-down due to the fatty unhealthy diet it is eating? A people of Homer Simpsons - ummmm.... doughnuts, Krusty Burgers, and bypass surgeries?
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    Apr 1 2011: Just a point of clarification, we are already experiencing obesity as an epidemic in the United States.
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    Apr 1 2011: We like sweet and salty food items. Pesticides are for increasing yield. Genetic mutations are for increasing yield and visual aesthetics. Apples are a good example of this. They bread a deeply red apple, but the taste was lousy. People still buy them for the color... However, now they need special pesticides to keep them from being eaten, due to their lack of defenses(didn't evolve naturally to build-in immunities).

    Informed decision making is key. Truth in labeling goes hand-in-hand with that process.
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      Apr 1 2011: William, if you support truth in labeling, then do you support legislation that restaurants must publish calorie counts on their menus?
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        Apr 2 2011: I just had a chance to go over that document. Do they offer any guidance on how to conform to these new guidelines? If so, that would be interesting to peruse. Also, to be accurate calorie-wise, a “bomb calorimeter” would need to be used for every prepared meal offered. Who will be assisting with this? I get the trans fat, but calories? We can only ballpark that. Furthermore, individuals preparing the meals could be off as well...
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    Apr 1 2011: eat less, buy or grow organic, and dont eat out?

    to be honest, after watching food inc im pretty sure this epicdemic is equivalent to getting the entire world hooked on crack, and then searching really hard how to fix it, while telling everyone how bad the crack is.