Hospitals Profit on Junk Food
Why is hospital food so unhealthy?
Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Linda
Much of what we eat is influenced not only by what restaurants and grocery stores offer, but also by associations that represent various food industries. Well-funded associations can influence legislation, regulations, dietary guidelines, nutritional research, and public messaging.
The sugar, salt, egg, poultry, beef, pork, fish, juice, dairy, and snack food industries have been accused of downplaying the risks of their products, while the nutritional supplements industry has frequently been charged with exaggerating its marketing claims.
Industry associations often underwrite research studies, sometimes producing a “funding effect,” the skewing of results favorable to research funders. Examples include a study showing that jelly beans may help boost sports performance, another demonstrating that kiwifruit may help treat insomnia, and another boosting water’s effectiveness for mental concentration. Partnering with different community groups, some food industries have promoted the message that inactivity, rather than calorie-rich foods, is the main cause of obesity. Sometimes industry-funded studies produce results consistent with non-industry-funded research, as with the chocolate, blueberry, and nut industries.
Agribusiness has successfully influenced government guidelines on what to eat. In contrast to Greece, where the national health and welfare agency makes public dietary recommendations, in the United States, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes the recommendations. Critics say the USDA’s mandate to promote agribusiness can conflict with its responsibility to provide public diet advice. Reportedly, the 2010 USDA Guidelines Committee had less corporate influence than previous groups, resulting in plant-based foods being emphasized more than ever before.
Meat industry influence may be a reason why antibiotics continue to be used as livestock feed, bacteria standards are less stringent than they could be, and questionable approaches like viruses as a food additive receive serious consideration. Across a number of food types, industry influence has helped keep possibly harmful additives legal, such as trans fats, caramel color, and phosphates. Pesticide regulations, such as those related to Roundup, appear to be based more on economic rather than scientific factors.
The pharmaceutical industry has sometimes questioned the effectiveness of certain plant-based foods as treatment for specific medical conditions. Research funding to explore what plant nutrition can do is likely low at least in part because plants, unless genetically modified, can’t be patented. Traditionally, the pharmaceutical industry has focused on developing drugs with very specific actions rather than overall health promotion.
Proposed California legislation supporting nutrition education for doctors was weakened by apparent medical profession influence. The balance of evidence supporting a plant based diet is often rejected by doctors in the face of prevailing conventional wisdom. The fast food industry promotes a positive image with doctors and patients by locating their restaurants in hospitals and donating to hospital causes.
Why is hospital food so unhealthy?
The first study in history on the incidence of stroke of vegetarians and vegans suggests they may be at higher risk.
What is the relationship between stroke risk and dairy, eggs, meat, and soda?
Implausible explanations for the obesity epidemic, such as sedentary lifestyles or lack of self-discipline, serve the needs of the manufacturers and marketers more than the public’s health and the interest in truth.
Like the tobacco industry adding extra nicotine, the food industry employs taste engineers to accomplish a similar goal: maximize the irresistibility of their products.
We all like to think we make important life decisions like what to eat consciously and rationally, but if that were the case we wouldn’t be in the midst of an obesity epidemic.
The unprecedented rise in the power, scope, and sophistication of food marketing starting around 1980 aligns well with the blastoff slope of the obesity epidemic.
The rise in the U.S. calorie supply responsible for the obesity epidemic wasn’t just about more food but a different kind of food.
We have an uncanny ability to pick out the subtle distinctions in calorie density of foods, but only within the natural range.
The common explanations for the cause of the obesity epidemic put forward by the food industry and policymakers, such as inactivity or a lack of willpower, are not only wrong, but actively harmful fallacies.
A review of reviews on the health effects of animal foods versus plant foods.
How to treat the cause by preventing the emergence of pandemic viruses in the first place (a video I recorded more than a decade ago when I was Public Health Director at the HSUS in Washington DC).