Feeding You Lies | Vani Hari

Summary of: Feeding You Lies: How to Unravel the Food Industry’s Playbook and Reclaim Your Health
By: Vani Hari


Dive into the hidden truths behind America’s obesity epidemic, the food industry’s deceitful tactics, and how to reclaim your health in our summary of Vani Hari’s ‘Feeding You Lies’. Discover how the American Beverage Association undermines public health efforts, how Big Food manipulates research and public perception, and why organic food might be your best option. Learn about the vague language on food labels that hides harmful ingredients and the misleading marketing surrounding diet foods and nutrient additions. Get ready to unravel the complex web spun by the food industry and empower yourself with the knowledge to make healthier choices.

Soda’s Sinister Impact

A staggering two-thirds of Americans were obese in 2017, with soda consumption playing a significant role in this obesity epidemic. Many American children drink at least one soda daily, increasing their risk of heart attacks, Type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses. The American Beverage Association (ABA) and the Sugar Association remain in denial, resisting public health initiatives and focusing on profits. Through aggressive lobbying, these organizations manipulate policy-making, highlighting a need for change to combat the damaging effects on public health.

America’s obesity crisis is not a secret, with soda consumption as one of its major drivers. Strikingly, two-thirds of American children have at least one soda a day, and a third consume two or more. A 2009 study revealed that just one soda per day increases heart attack risk by 20 percent. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control associates high soda intake with Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and asthma.

Despite substantial evidence, the American Beverage Association (ABA) refuses to acknowledge the health risks linked to its products. Instead, it promotes exercise, which is notably less effective than a healthy diet for weight loss. ABA member Coca-Cola has even released a calorie-counting app called “Work It Out,” encouraging the consumption of low-calorie options such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero. However, so-called “diet sodas” are just as harmful and fattening as their sugary counterparts. These attempts to undermine public health officials’ efforts to educate consumers on the dangers of sugary beverages are alarming.

Moreover, the Sugar Association, another industry advocate, engages in spreading disinformation and influencing politicians through hefty campaign donations. Since 2009, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the ABA have spent $67 million to thwart sugar taxes and health warning labels. Worryingly, these associations have so much sway that they also advise government agencies on policies, such as the Departments of Health and Human Services seeking guidance from the ABA on dietary recommendations. This manipulation of policy-making causes concern and demands change to curtail the devastating impact soda has on public health.

Big Food’s Deceptive Tactics

Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for everyone, but determining what that looks like can be difficult. The reason lies in the devious practices of the largest food-producing corporations in the United States, “Big Food.” They have long manipulated research to cover up the truth about their harmful products. Cases like Frederick Stare’s dubious ties to Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and General Foods at Harvard, and the Academy of Nutrition’s misleading endorsement of Kraft Singles, illustrate how deeply rooted the problem is. These instances reveal the ongoing influence of Big Food on shaping public perception for their own benefit.

Everyone desires good health, and engaging in a nutritious diet is the optimal way to achieve it. However, discovering what constitutes a “healthy diet” can be incredibly challenging, primarily due to the manipulation of information by the largest American food-producing corporations, Big Food. Their objective is to deceive the public and keep the truth about their harmful bestsellers hidden by influencing research.

An example is Dr. Lenard Lesser’s 2007 article in PLOS Medicine, which revealed that research funded by large food corporations was four to eight times more likely to support Big Food’s claims compared to independently-funded research. This manipulation extends to situations such as Kraft’s collaboration with the Academy of Nutrition, where the latter falsely endorsed Kraft Singles as a healthy snack for children, only retracting it after public backlash.

Even esteemed institutions, like Harvard University, have seen their credibility jeopardized due to Big Food’s reach. Frederick Stare, the chairman of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition, endorsed the idea that sugar consumption had no connection to heart disease and diabetes during the 1950s. Later, it was uncovered that Stare had financial connections to Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and General Foods.

Another case involves the 1967 New England Journal of Medicine article that promoted replacing fat with carbohydrates, essentially advocating for increased sugar intake. Decades later, it was discovered that the three Harvard-based authors had received the equivalent of $50,000 from a sugar industry trade association. This misleading information continues to be believed today, demonstrating Big Food’s ongoing impact on public perception and perpetuating unhealthy diets.

Organic vs. Conventional: Food Battle

The growing popularity of organic food in the United States poses a threat to conventional food producers. Studies have shown that organic produce, meat, and dairy are more nutritious and safer than their non-organic counterparts. Organic tomatoes, for instance, contain more nutrients like vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Organic meat and dairy also boast higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Organic food is less likely to carry harmful pesticides—some of which have been connected to health issues such as ADHD, lower IQ in children, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and allergies. Amidst this scientific evidence, pesticide-dependent corporations have taken measures to discredit organic food information in order to preserve their profits.

The rise of organic food consumption in the United States, now accounting for around 5% of total food sales, is striking fear in conventional food producers. So, what makes organic food a more attractive option for consumers?

Research indicates that organic food is not only more nutritious but also safer. A 2014 study in the British Journal of Nutrition discovered that organic tomatoes have a higher concentration of vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids compared to conventional ones. Organic meat and dairy products contain approximately 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic items. Furthermore, a 2017 study funded by the European Parliament revealed that non-organic foods contain traces of potentially toxic pesticides.

Organic farms in the United States are limited to using around 25 approved pesticides, monitored by the Department of Agriculture. In contrast, non-organic farms utilize more than 900 synthetic pesticides. However, corporations relying on pesticide sales are eager to sow doubt in consumers’ minds, driving them away from organic foods.

Monsanto, a chemical giant, earns billions by selling products to non-organic farms, including their weed killer, Roundup. Roundup contains glyphosate—a chemical linked to increased risks of celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer. To suppress unfavorable information about their products, these corporations create front groups that engage in propaganda campaigns. One such group, CropLife, which represents Monsanto, managed to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to classify glyphosate as safe, contradicting the World Health Organization’s classification as a probable carcinogen.

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