Hospitals Selling Sickness

Hospitals Selling Sickness
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The movement to remove fast food operations from hospitals parallels the successful movement in the 80s to bar hospital tobacco sales.

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The food industry spends billions of advertising. Promotion costs for individual candy bars could run in the tens of millions, and this was years ago. McDonald’s alone spends a billion dollars on advertising every year. Such figures dwarf the National Cancer Institute’s million dollar annual investment promoting fruit and vegetable consumption or the 1.5 spent on cholesterol education. And that McBillion goes a long way.

Children’s food preferences are being molded by McDonald’s even before they learn to tie their shoelaces. By the early age of 3 to 5 years, preschoolers preferred the taste of foods and drinks if they thought they were from McDonald’s. This was true even for carrots. Baby carrots placed on a bag with McDonald’s logo reportedly tasted better.

And then if they get sick, they can continue to eat McDonald’s in the hospital. Nearly 1 in 3 children’s hospitals had a fast food restaurant inside, leading parents to have more positive perceptions of the healthiness of McDonald’s food. Or they can just buy the naming rights altogether: The Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital.

In teaching hospitals, Krispy Kreme tops the list. Hospitals may wish to revisit the idea of serving high-calorie fast food in the very place where they also care for the most seriously ill.

This is reminiscent of the fight back in the 80s to get tobacco out of hospitals, when public health advocates made radical suggestions like cigarettes should not be sold in the hospital. By working to make our hospitals ultimately smoke-free, we become part of a global campaign to completely eliminate the tobacco scourge. The task is difficult, but so was eradicating smallpox.

Maybe it’s time to stop selling sickness in hospitals.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Poster Boy NYC via Flickr.

The food industry spends billions of advertising. Promotion costs for individual candy bars could run in the tens of millions, and this was years ago. McDonald’s alone spends a billion dollars on advertising every year. Such figures dwarf the National Cancer Institute’s million dollar annual investment promoting fruit and vegetable consumption or the 1.5 spent on cholesterol education. And that McBillion goes a long way.

Children’s food preferences are being molded by McDonald’s even before they learn to tie their shoelaces. By the early age of 3 to 5 years, preschoolers preferred the taste of foods and drinks if they thought they were from McDonald’s. This was true even for carrots. Baby carrots placed on a bag with McDonald’s logo reportedly tasted better.

And then if they get sick, they can continue to eat McDonald’s in the hospital. Nearly 1 in 3 children’s hospitals had a fast food restaurant inside, leading parents to have more positive perceptions of the healthiness of McDonald’s food. Or they can just buy the naming rights altogether: The Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital.

In teaching hospitals, Krispy Kreme tops the list. Hospitals may wish to revisit the idea of serving high-calorie fast food in the very place where they also care for the most seriously ill.

This is reminiscent of the fight back in the 80s to get tobacco out of hospitals, when public health advocates made radical suggestions like cigarettes should not be sold in the hospital. By working to make our hospitals ultimately smoke-free, we become part of a global campaign to completely eliminate the tobacco scourge. The task is difficult, but so was eradicating smallpox.

Maybe it’s time to stop selling sickness in hospitals.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Poster Boy NYC via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

For more on health entities appeasing the junk food industry, see my video Collaboration With the New Vectors of Disease. Even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the registered dietitian organization, has quite the shady history which I document near the end of my 2014 annual review presentation From Table to Able.

Even cynical me was surprised by my profession’s hostility towards nutrition. See:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

37 responses to “Hospitals Selling Sickness

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  1. People will seldom make the food-health connection on their own unless they have had a health crisis. Getting the nutritional information out and having it shine brighter than the message the food industries can finance will make the difference. I recommend this website as well as Dr. McDougall’s, PCRM’s and the film, Forks over Knives to everyone who will open their mind and listen.

    1. Yep. If not for my doctor telling me that I was close to getting a full-blown type 2 diabetes diagnosis at 19 I don’t know what would have impelled me to see how I could change.

  2. Except for one point, I very much agree with Dr. Greger re lunacy of having fast food that is very unhealthy in hospitals. However, the Ronald McDonald hospitals were a life saver of sorts in that they allowed my sibling and his family to stay near their very sick newborn for months in rooms provided by the Ronald McDonald foundation near the hospital – so one parent could continue to work 100 miles away where they lived and manage half of their other kids, while the other parent stayed at the Ronald McDonald provided rooms near the hospital during surgery after surgery. They switched back and forth so both could be near their very premature and sick newborn. Bottom line- not all bad with McDonalds, despite many bad choices on their menu.

    1. Of course Ronald McDonald Houses do GREAT work, and can be an absolute life saver for many families. However, it is important to remember that the damage caused by McDonalds and other Fast Food/ Processed Food companies far outweighs the benefits from the minimum they give back in the form of charities. Rather, if we ate healthier (read: no fast food or processed foods), then we could spend less on healthcare overall, and a portion of that money saved could be used instead to support families who have children in the hospital etc.

    2. So McDonalds helps make people ill, then they sell their brand to the hospitals trying to fix the damage. I find that extremely sick and morbid. They are doing NOTHING to help, only to make money.

  3. What’s even more difficult it is to get the doctors, especially cardiologist, to stop eating burgers and fries when they’re reading your EKGs. I’ve been in Medicine since 1992 and this is something I’ve noticed quite frequently. It’s just like the respiratory therapist stepping out to have a smoke. It’s hard to change the psyche of people.
    But that said I have seen the trend of physicians and healthcare workers trying to eat better. But at this rate the only solution may be to ban fast food altogether. Clearly people have a hard time getting out of the pleasure trap. What’s everybody else’s thoughts on this.?

    1. THRICE I have written to Kaiser about this and it’s undermining their PR message of THRIVE and wanting to promote health! THRICE came the impervious thank you letter. No action. The Docs, the nurses, the techs I have talked to all resist hugely. Not to mention the fear of losing whole accounts of patients from the dairy and meat and restaurant industries.

      The Dr. Phillip Tuso et.al. article in Dr. Greger’s video (below) is encouraging reading, but movement is VERY SLOW.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/what-diet-should-physicians-recommend/

      This morning A TV station in San Francisco (CH 5?) or was it a national morning show? aired a piece on how the football stadium would now be serving healthy choices sponsored by Kaiser. BUT the interviewer and the foolish anchorpeople in studio shifted from the EXCEEDINGLY DULL fruit and veggie offerings to DROOLING over the mayo with crabmeat and aioli on BIG white bun offering. KP sponsored the TV segment. I wonder if they thought they got their money’s worth!

    2. I had a teacher in medschool (child oncologist), he always had a pack of cigarettes in the pocket of his coat, his skin was yellow from nicotine, and his teeth were discolored. Didn`t understand it then, and don`t understand it now.

    3. Dr Greger on the ‘evolving’ (maturation, development, influencing, conscious changing…) of taste – very interesting: “How can we overcome our built-in hunger for salt, sugar, fat?”
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/changing-our-taste-buds/
      We don’t come out of the womb craving a glass (or a breast) of wine. How and Where does that happen? Thing is, if it can, it can happen with intent in any direction. Initially by combining with foods I like, I’ve developed a taste for a few foods with high nutrient density that I previously had an aversion to taste-wise but wished I didn’t because of their nutritional value. This is a great validation that anyone can do it.

    4. HemoDynamic: I agree that it is very hard to get out of the pleasure trap. I know this personally. But instead of banning fast food altogether, my solution is to just make sure fast food (including all meat, dairy and eggs) costs consumers up-front it’s true cost. Without all the various subsidizations, those foods would no longer be affordable on a daily basis for the vast majority of the population. Healthy foods would be the default food simply because it was affordable. And people would learn to love it.

  4. To illustrate further what’s talked about in this NutritionFacts video, back in the 1980s when I was in practice as a consulting natural nutritionist, one of the premiere hospitals in Philadelphia, PA MD’s heading up the pediatric unit invited me to the hospital to talk about nutrition and how it could be applied to children (as I had a publishing company that concentrated on nutrition education materials for children and adults) since the MD apparently thought themselves (gender neutral, please) to be progressive about healthcare. After having to wait in the hospital common area for the MD and seeing children with IVs in them being rolled into a fast food restaurant in the lobby and kids of all ages gleefully going there, the MD was not pleased when, during our conversation, I said that the first thing that needed to happen was “get rid of the fast food eatery.” The MD’s retort was, “Can’t do that, Catherine. Thanks for coming in; we don’t need your information.”

    Additionally, another MD, who headed up a pediatric hospital in another state, very non-apologetically said to me, “If there was something to nutrition, wouldn’t you think we’d know about it.” I’m sure glad Dr. Greger is doing what he does, and thank you, kind sir.

    Regarding tobacco in hospitals, I personally experienced this in one of the premiere teaching hospitals in Philadelphia, PA: After having abdominal surgery, one of the physicians on rounds (about 4 MDs) — the one who examined my tummy, had a lighted cigarette hanging out of his mouth and the hot cigarette ash dropped on my freshly-operated-on abdomen! They laughed and thought it was funny and said something to the effect: shall we take you to the emergency room? Thankfully, MDs have stopped promoting the brands of cigarettes they smoked in advertisements. http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/images.php?token2=fm_st001.php&token1=fm_img0002.php&theme_file=fm_mt001.php&theme_name=Doctors%20Smoking&subtheme_name=More%20Doctors%20Smoke%20Camels

    Yes! the medical profession needs to do a lot of soul-searching, plus ‘retrofitting’ its thinking and modalities, in what it considers “healthcare” practices and protocols. If anyone ought to know better, it ought to be MDs. Thankfully, many nurses are more informed than some MDs, but then those RNs usually are castigated by MDs.

    Thanks for what you do, Dr. Greger. I, for one, appreciate you and your work.

    1. Catherine J Frompovich,
      This talk by Robyn O’Brien
      vimeo.com/110009677
      Is a must watch. She’s a mother of four who decided to look deeper into things when a
      researcher friend told her that GM ingredients in the diet are a wild
      card in relation to her son’s issues and childhood allergies in general.

      There are many for whom this is the one they will understand regarding what’s happening with the food supply overall.
      I heard her speak before and though it was the same issue, this is much better – she’s relaxed, coherent, very organized presentation, easy to listen to. It’s a compelling cogent combination of data + conservative businesswoman background, knows about “widening margins” + maternal emotion. Listen at least up to 14:00 (re: hospital food ignorance) I’m sure you’ll want to hear it all.
      > vimeo.com/110009677

  5. I’m trying to have vegan options at my local hospital, I’ve resorted to lying by saying I’ve allergies,so they will make food. I have TTP and genetic form,so get FFP transfusions every two weeks. Being in cancer clinics for 29 years I’m shocked at the diet recommendations and handing out boost or insure for meal options. Even had doctor tell patients to not eat produce for bacteria and they have compromised immune system as I was writing smoothie recipes for them. Is there pamphlet to get the word out? I would gladly share with patients. Thank you for all you do Dr. Gregor! Sunni

    1. A pamphlet will not make up for years of nothing taught about nutrients in “medical school”. It will be in the trash the moment you’re gone. And of course they’ll be defensive, although a few MDs have taken it upon themselves to re-educate themselves. There is much myopathy in their allopathy. The medical industry has nothing to do with health and that includes what’s taught and not taught in medical school.

  6. I was in the hospital and told them I required vegan meals. My first meal was orange juice, a cup of tea and vegetable broth. I asked the nurse if I was allowed to eat solids and she said I was so I showed her what my meal was and she face palmed. It’s unfortunate the hospitals haven’t put the connection together yet (understatement).

      1. This is true. Same thing happened when my grandfather was in hospital. Can you imagine a sick person who needs to recover being fed not enough calories to even live on?

          1. Thanks for asking. I had a discussion with the dietitian, but also just brought him food everyday to make sure. He did recover and come home eventually.

    1. I was in overnight a few years ago for a planned operation at Kaiser in the sf bay area. Great staff. Tried hard but had limited options. So I brought my own brown rice, lentils fruits and veggies. They just had to heat up a few things. I felt bad for them because they kept apologizing that they couldn’t do more. I don’t get why healthy options are so hard to have available. And even if they did offer it, I fear it would be swimming in oil and doused in salt.

    2. Hubby was in the hospital recently. Knowing the typical midwest-USA hospital food choices, and having experienced the “juice, tea, and broth” meals, I brought a cooler in with all our vegan food, and asked the nurse(s) to heat the dishes in the microwave. I felt like I was in a 3rd world country where patient’s family is always expected to bring the food for the patient.

  7. I was NEVER so overweight as I was when I worked at a hospital and ate in the cafeteria everyday. Macaroni and cheese with ham, lasagna, bbq ribs, the menu was endless. Everyone gorged on this stuff except the nutritionist. She ate from the salad bar… Thank goodness I finally quit (not because of the food) and got back to a vegan diet. It took a good year of beans, brown rice and vegetables all in the crockpot and walking the dog twice a day to get that weight off.

  8. Exactly. The morning after I suffered an MI (2012) the staff at my local hospital brought me eggs and bacon for breakfast, having barely survived and just stented and diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. I turned it away and weeks later mentioned this when filling out their survey form. The medical system is ridiculous when it comes to cardiology. My cardiologist never asks me about diet – I bring it up.

    1. My next door neighbor is a young heart surgeon. He listens to some of the NF videos I forward him. He says I know much more about nutrition for the heart than he doesSwears be wants to eat better but has a hard time giving up meet.

      Also, in general people don’t understand that for most dishes, it’s not the meat, it’s the way it’s seasoned that makes it good. You could substitute with tofu or something. But if I mention this point they always ask, but then how would you get your protein?

      1. I have been disheartened that the Japanese have slowly acclimated to a more western diet, with cheese, butter and other dairy now appearing at every meal –something that was a novelty just 15 years ago when I first arrived in Japan. And yes, we do have a McDonald’s on every corner through out Japan. Unfortunately, the breast cancer rates have increased proportionately. Fortunately, Japanese medical research has always focused on nutritional cures and preventatives and we have abundant fresh produce, mushrooms and soy, so it is still easy for me to eat health promoting meals despite the creep of Western ways. And people here are quick to adapt their nutrition to treat illness. Recently, my Japanese coworker just returned from breast cancer surgery and now brings soy milk to work– a diet change recommended by her physician! This strategy was confirmed by something I read about here: (http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/09/18/can-eating-soy-prevent-breast-cancer/). As a researcher (Ph.D.), I appreciate how NutritionFacts.org posts links to the actual research articles so that I can dig deeper on topics presented. Few consumer sites offer this opportunity. Thanks for a terrific plant-based diet web site that helps me stay on track!

  9. Why stop at hospitals? How will Americans rate in the global community once our diet-related disease epidemic is worldwide? We have quickly become a nation that pedals poisons and then the antidotes. Strangely though, vast numbers of our fellow citizens believe that the USA is too charitable when it comes to foreign relations. The truth is though, at least according to Joe Stiglitz, for every dollar that leaves this country as some form of aid, 3 dollars return via profits. And as people nearly everywhere are slowly learning, the USA is very much the same as the McDonalds corporation with their charity to hospitals, just enough is given back to ensure a promotional cloak of goodness and decency. But of course the shareholders always come first, and the corporate model that has become the norm, is that of companies that disregard the negative externalities such as health and pollution costs, and… as if that disregard isn’t enough, most of the MNCs avoid paying taxes too.

  10. Throughout my 40 year career as an MD, working most of the time in the hospital, mostly large teaching hospitals, Of the more than 20,000 mealtimes in the hospital, Iprobaly ate only 4 or 5 meals the whole time because of the fried foods, overcooked vegetables slathered in butter, excessive salt without any real healthy choices. I consulted a nutritionist for all my patients whose illness was associated with poor diet but real teaching was difficult in the hospital setting. US patients are so recalcitrant: amputees, bypass surgery, diabetics, stroke victims, those with heart attacks, cancer, etc., would even have their family bring in fast food. Before smoking was banned they would go outside and smoke with hospital staff, and even after it was banned they would find places to hide and smoke. Doctors were dinged when blood sugars were poorly controlled, despite the poor nutitional choices and cheating by the patients. Fast food and junk food should be banned in all hospitals as a conflict of interest.

    1. Fast food and junk food should be banned in all hospitals as a conflict of interest.

      No it’s not a conflict of interest. The food is bad for health and makes the hospital money.

  11. Wow! McDonald’s store in the hospital! Hard to fathom. But it is consistent with the absence of nutritional meals for inpatients. When I was hospitalized several years ago after having been exposed to my husband’s cellulitis, there was nothing on the hospital menu I could eat. Even the Veggie wrap was full of fat. My daughter had to bring my food in a cooler. thankfully, the wonderful nursing staff agreed to change out the cold packs so I could eat healthy. We have a looooonnngg way to go.

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