Food Politics

In my book, Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis, I made the case that most dietary advice is strongly influenced by the food industry. If I had known then what I know now, I would have made an even stronger case.

A November 25 article from The Philadelphia Inquirer reports several cases of health “authorities” who are paid by food industry sources.

  • Lisa Hark, a widely quoted nutritionist and author, received more than $24,000 from the Florida citrus industry for six months of work, during which she endorsed orange juice as a cold fighter in TV and print interviews. Hark’s Web site describes her as “a media expert to help promote and market your company.”
  • David Allison was tapped to be president of the Obesity Society, a research and advocacy group, while a “paid consultant for the New York state restaurant industry as it fought a proposal to list calories on menu boards.” After strong criticism, Allison dropped the consultancy before taking over at the Obesity Society, but still…
  • The American Dietetic Association (the “other ADA”) has received many millions from food industry sources. The Dietetic Association markets itself to food industries. For $20,000, the ADA will print a “nutrition fact sheet” about your product in its journal, perforated so it can be torn off for “patient education.” According to Inquirer staff writer Tom Avril, “One sheet touts the purported benefits of chewing gum, such as the relief of ‘life’s everyday stresses.’ Its sponsor: the Wrigley Science Institute.” The ADA says all information in the fact sheets is scientifically accurate, but I don’t trust them…
  • Six of 13 “experts” on the federal government’s dietary guidelines review board have taken food or drug industry money.

If there’s one thing I have learned from the last few years of research, it’s this. Science is a rigged game. It’s not an objective search for truth; it’s a way of finding the truths that meet the sponsors’ needs. This might make you think twice about advice like the “eggs are bad for you” study I reported a couple of weeks ago. Never respond to one study or one “authority,” even if it’s your doctor. Find multiple sources; then decide. We’re lucky to live in a time when it’s fairly easy to do such research.

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Happy holidays to everyone! It’s been great sharing with you and reading your comments in 2008. See you next year, or visit me at www.davidsperorn.com.

  • Steve Parker, M.D.

    You always have to “consider the source.”

    Lately, I’ve been impress with how much “news” is really just press releases from public relations and advertising firms. In all types of media.

    It’s a very difficult issue.

    -Steve Parker, M.D.,
    author of the Advanced Mediterranean Diet Blog
    (full disclosure: no funding from the food industry)
    Advanced Mediterranean Diet Blog

  • David Spero RN

    Good point, Doctor Steve. This caution against news reports, including “scientifically-based” ones, doesn’t just apply to health.

    For everyone interested in better health care in the U.S., the Obama team is holding meetings for the next two weeks on changes we want in the health care system. Single payer is NOT an option on their list, but the meetings are open to all, and whatever people say will be reported back to Obama’s transition team.

    The best way to find a meeting or volunteer to host one is by going to http://my.barackobama.com/page/user/login and sign up. We could advocate for better self-management training programs, coverage of diabetes supplies, as well as single payer if you believe in that.

  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear David.

    Happy Hollidays and thanks for all the blogs. Also a big thanks for all the interesting comments.

    I used to be in science and since grants a given out with an eye dropper it is not surprising that the moto was : ” Have PHd will write anything”.

    Now with the Mr. Madoff 50 B of wall street rip off including the Elie Wiesel fund you wonder if there is anything sacred.

    Firing the SEC(all of it) and incarcerating Mr. Madoff will not restore my trust in Wall Street anytime soon. Biblical punishments are needed like stoning to death.

  • David Spero RN

    Hi CD,
    It seems there are so many people who need to be incarcerated / stoned that I’ve lost track. Thank you for all your great comments and support during the year. I hope 2009 looks up for all of us.
    David