Is Obesity The Real Issue?

Over the last few years I’ve been thinking of ways in which to pick a fight and how it could conceivably be won. I am still in the process of bringing together a strategy but in the meantime I’ve been putting out a few feelers to see what it actually is I will be contending against.

The greatest part of it all is that I know if pitched right and intelligently I can get a lot of people to turn the ‘I’ into a ‘we’. Because of the sheer magnitude of the problem it is something that simply can’t be done alone it requires a united front of people all willing and prepared to make a difference.

A lot of you will be thinking right now that I’m looking and talking about the root of the problem, what we all see  and that which is evident to all of us. This is the fickle side of it that actually drives many to change their lives for the better and has to be part of what is offered as almost a pleasant by-product.

One thing is for sure that a large percentage of the population wants to look better.  If in the process of addressing this, other more serious issue become rectified so be it. It all comes in the sale of it for many. If I promise to make someone look better, by default they also end up physically and mentally in a better place….cool huh.

Am I talking about addressing the adult and childhood obesity problem or is it something MUCH deeper and a larger issue than we perhaps want to admit. I am very passionate about this and for those of you that know me you may understand why. I have stepped away from directly using social networking to discuss this as under that platform people don’t understand motive and to be frank anyone can spout any kind of bullshit in small snippets. People nowadays don’t want to hear the truth, they want soundbites, gossip and scandal, they don’t want facts or statistics they would prefer to choose what they ‘want’ to believe based on limited or confusing knowledge.

This is herein where the challenge lies. How do you get through to those that don’t want to listen or don’t see the value in change.

It’s a complicated subject on all manner of levels. I’ve explained before that it’s a relatively simple concept to grasp but much like a students reluctance at times to look at a ever dwindling bank balance ignorance sometimes isn’t the easiest option. We live in a time in which we know more about education, health, science, food and human physiology. We also sadly live in a time when this knowledge can be capitalized into monetary profits. The more the gap grows between what the average person has as a base of knowledge and what science tells us the more people out there will capitalize on this fact. If we continue to eradicate basic human skills such as exercise and even food preparation from educational curriculums we are at danger of trying to force learning when it isn’t the level of teaching that’s the issue yet is often the scapegoat when parents look to why their children fail in academia. You will understand what I mean as you read on.

A lot of things remain simple but we feel we need science to compliment and often confuse them. In the process of this we leave the lay person with a lot of questions as to what’s right and what’s ultimately wrong. When billions of people believe what they do is right turning the tide becomes inherently difficult.

I’m not saying that I’m right and those billions of people are wrong. I’m saying that given my line of knowledge I feel I, alongside many others are in a better position to guide and influence what comes after us. I’m not going to tell you anything new, I’m not going to tell you anything amazing that I know and you all don’t I’m just going to spell out a few facts and you can then answer for yourself the educated path you should choose to adopt, an uneducated decision is almost as valuable as no decision at all.

What I’m asking is for you to indulge me, I’m not a wacky conspiracy theorist that feels everyone is out there to mislead, lie and deceive us, I will tell you this much though that the majority of the people out there making decisions pertaining to our health and wellbeing would take profit  primarily over any actual positive health outcomes. The world is in the right frame of mind in many respects, ‘survival of the fittest’ but it is now wealth that deems your status. The uncanny thing is that dating back centuries and even to this day many countries deem and deemed obesity as a sign of wealth and prosperity. In the western world it is not the image of obesity that is the problem, it’s the simple fact that on that path we are shortening lifespans and creating inordinate physical and mental problems on the path to obesity.

The world has changed VERY fast when it comes to diets, health and the publics perception of it. So fast infact that todays societal habits and what the big monetary players have brought quite literally to the table is a shadow on what it was as little as a decade ago. Go back a further 20-50 years our knowledge has been warped and manipulated slowly and surely to believe in what we consume. We are consumers and THAT is the way we are referred to and treated when it comes to dietary and nutritional products (this is what many class as food when infact they are ‘products’ as far diverted from food as you would ever believe).

Think about that for a second. There isn’t a single large food manufacturer thinking of us as human beings, merely cash cows and consumers. If they can get their consumer to eat in the way they wish them to eat from almost childbirth to adulthood they have business and guaranteed their income and profitability for decades to come.

There are 14 of the world largest food manufacturers listed in the fortune 500.  Combined revenue in 2009 was $244 Million. None of whom sell anything that remains in it’s natural state. None of the single ingredient foods you will have heard me speak about.

What if I was to tell you that practically every chemical deemed safe for human consumption is addictive. It’s safe as in small quantities it has been shown not to show any, what would be deemed as major side effects. These are the same rules that apply to medication. The things that list death as a potential side effect. Any of you that live in the US will know exactly what I mean in this respect. You have commercials that can legally advertise a drug that has a potential side effect of death. Why would you advertise a drug? Surely a drug would be prescribed in relation to a condition? It wouldn’t be prescribed based on you ‘asking your doctor if it’s good for you’, the tagline to a lot of these cheery adverts that will show lots of happy people living the American dream. Anyone outside of the US may be reading this and laughing but heres a good example.

 

PHARMA

 

We are consumers, that is the bottom line. No longer living and breathing organisms. Consumers  that line the pockets of people who have no morality and will happily mislead and get us all to metaphorically drink the kool aid as soon as they possibly can. We are no longer human beings, only people that will spend money making ourselves sick then spend more making ourselves better. Create the problem and create the solution. In the process create sufficient devoted consumers that when someone questions what is happening they will be defended to the hilt without moving a muscle.

‘I’m not saying don’t buy their product and buy mine, I have no financial prerogative for writing this, it’s not a book, it’s a free article, blog whatever you want to call it. I am trying to draw attention to the simple issue. The second I was to publish something like this people perceive it differently and it will be questioned more’

I am not only interested in adult and childhood obesity. The problem stems further and further from simply being the overweight kid.  We are talking about behavior, development, learning and also the impact on society.

It is interesting to note the differences in children’s behavior over the last 50 years.  The US national teachers survey showed the top 7 problems in school being: 1940

Talking out of turn

Chewing gum

Making noise

Running in the hall

Cutting in line

Dress code infractions

Littering

1990

Drug use

Alcohol abuse

Pregnancy

Suicide

Rape

Robbery

Assault

Increase in ADHD

The sharpest increase being shown between the 60s and 70s. The food industry funded numerous studies at the time to discredit the links being seen by doctors and processed food. No suprise at all that the idea was discounted. Since then many GPs have been angled towards medicating people based on symptoms rather than using intelligent deduction.

The links that lie between ADHD and diet again have strong links. ADHD has been blamed on poor teaching but again studies have suggested that bad parenting was a resultant effect of the initial bad behavior. Looking once again at the root of the bad and disruptive behavior would lead us to a better outcome and less burden on both parents and teachers as scapegoats for these issues.

There is enormous evidence that suggests that food additives and environmental chemicals are largely to blame. 1,2,3,4

Food additives have been used in increased levels since the 1960’s. All of these food additives have shown to cause irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbances in both child and adult populations. Add in the alarming amount of sugar in most of these foods you can throw hyperactivity and lowering of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) into the mix. BDNF is a secreted protein encoded by the BDNF gene. It is active within the brain and responsible for memories, both long and short term, concentration and the ability to learn. Any child with any disruption in glucose metabolism will slow down BDNF’s ability to function. Feeding a child a concoction of artificial chemicals, sugars and even caffeine will over time create an addiction to something that is impacting behavior, hyperactivity and neural shutdown.

Are the foods we are feeding our kids creating societal and behavioural problems as well as learning difficulties? The evidence is strongly in favour of this.

In a study conducted by the BBC it was noted:

‘Superintendent Peter Bennett of the West Yorkshire police organised a study with 9 children aged 7-16 with persistent anti-social, disruptive and/or criminal behaviours. They were chronic offenders, with an average arrest rate of more than once a month. All were hyperactive. Their offences included violence, criminal damage, theft, arson, and solvent/alcohol abuse. The children remained at home in the care of their parents while following a restricted diet. The health and behaviour of all nine children improved. After 2 years, two of the subjects had abandoned the diet, re-offended and been placed in care. Two had reoffended at much reduced frequency and violence. Five of the 9 subjects had not re-offended. Researchers concluded, “the [dietary] approach appears to work within an ethical, efficient, effective, economical and preventative paradigm without harm”’ 5

In 1996 the Wolney Junior School in South London banned additive containing snack foods from their tuck shops and fruit introduced instead.  Within 2 years the school was listed as one of the most improved in the country. The success rate for 11 year olds in stage two English almost tripled from 23% in 1996 to 64% in 1998 achieving expected results.

To go back on the standardized debate quoting ‘it did me no harm’ and ‘everything in moderation’ these terms DO NOT exist anymore unless we are discussing REAL food.

 

‘When it comes down to nutrition. To quote or draw reference to a generation that you are not presently existing in is simply stupid’

 

Food has changed so drastically in the past few decades that behavioural and learning problems  are and will continue to increase. Our values and morals are eroding. Are we just in endless pursuit of instant solutions to problems.  Feeding children the same repeat and nutritionally devoid food eliminates the reaction that is given. Give them more sugar and more additives and their behavior will temporarily improve.

Is this all just people like myself perhaps scaremongering or claiming a problem that doesn’t exist. People hate to make change, it’s fairly evident when being in the industry I’m in but even the government corroborate the evidence. They just choose not to do anything about it as it means loss in profitability and offending the big food producers.

Even government funded research confirms the link between the chemicals put into foods and these issues.  Research into a group of three year-olds found they were more likely to lack concentration, lose their temper, interrupt others and struggle to get to sleep when they drank fruit juice dosed with colorings and preservatives. The study used 227 children and for two weeks they consumed fruit juice with 20mg of artificial colorings and 45mg of preservative, which are equal or below permitted levels.  For the other two weeks the same fruit juice without the additives. The report said the results showed the artificial food colorings and sodium benzoate preservative had ‘substantial effects’ on behavior. This is the tip of the iceberg as a child in the 21st century consumes considerably more than this study ever targeted, that is for certain.

The list below indicates the chemicals the government found to be associated with all of the aforementioned problems. ALL of which are permitted to be used within food.

Artificial Colors

(in sweets, drinks, takeaways, cereals and many processed foods)

  • 102 tartrazine,
  • 104 quinoline yellow,
  • 107 yellow 2G,
  • 110 sunset yellow,
  • 122 azorubine,
  • 123 amaranth,
  • 124 ponceau red,
  • 127 erythrosine,
  • 128 red 2G,
  • 129 allura red,
  • 132 indigotine,
  • 133 brilliant blue,
  • 142 green S,
  • 151 brilliant black,
  • 155 chocolate brown Natural colour,
  • 160b annatto (in yoghurts, icecreams, popcorn etc, 160a is a safe alternative)

Preservatives

  • Preservatives200-203 sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)
  • 210-213 benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, cordials, syrups, medications)
  • 220-228 sulphites (in dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages, and many others)
  • 280-283 propionates (in bread, crumpets, bakery products)
  • 249-252 nitrates, nitrites (in processed meats like ham)
  • Synthetic antioxidants – in margarines, vegetable oils, fried foods, snacks, biscuits etc
  • 310-312 Gallates 319-320 TBHQ, BHA, BHT (306-309 are safe alternatives)

Flavour enhancers – in flavoured crackers, snacks, takeaways, instant noodles, soups 621 MSG 627, 631, 635 disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, ribonucleotides

 

These aren’t just limited to behavioural issues, any chemicals outside of this list will inevitably impact some form of development within a child. When we discuss nutrition I see the eternal debate between the vegetarian community and the meat eating community as to which we have actually evolved to eat. Frankly I do not give a c***p. I know how each reacts upon the human being, each having it’s pros and each having it’s cons but people will still dispute if we are truly meant to eat a meat or a plant based diet. In the grand scheme of things is this a problem…….absolutely NOT. It’s a strong debate and yet again one that merits further discussion but really with the state of things as they are who cares what a human consumes as long as it is what it is in it’s natural form. This in itself would be a start.

As human beings we have capacity to digest anything that comes from food. As consumers however we are regarded as able to digest anything that is a chemical, that all possess side effects beyond evolutionary physiology. They are able to modify what a human being thinks, feels and reacts to based on how these edible concoctions are constructed. In the process they create the subtle addictions necessary to create a loyal consumer.  In the same breath they create emotional reactions that can be stemmed with further consumption. A child crying can be a strong influencer to any new parent, if the correlation exists between sugary processed food and a happy child they will continue to feed them this…..long term what is this causing though.

 

THE PROBLEM

We live in a society that knows more about science, about human physiology and nutrition than ever before.

We have more illness than ever before in society.

 Obesity now worldwide kills more people than malnourishment.

More people are dying in Britain due to being overweight or obese than anywhere else in Europe,

Around one in every 11 deaths in the UK is now linked to carrying being overweight. 

4.6 million people 20-79 years of age died from diabetes in 2011, accounting for 8.2% of global all-cause mortality of people in this age group. This is the equivalent to one death every seven seconds.

There are 12 pharmaceutical companies listed in the fortune 500. Combined revenue in 2009 was $434 Million.

Almost all of the above revenue is taxable.

 There are a million statistics I could throw in here but  you’re hopefully getting the idea.

When did all these issues start to become a global epidemic?

Who knows but all we know is that the level of modern illnesses are now at an all time high, anti social behavior is growing at an alarming rate. We are bearing witness to society deteriorating rapidly and what links do we see? What commonalities lie across the board. Are we all being subtly poisoned to the level that it is so discreet that when behavior changes, mood alters even premature death occuring fingers cannot be pointed at things we have consumed on a daily basis for most of our lives? Not only that but they where ok’d by the government as once again ‘suitable for human consumption’

 

ALCOHOL

Why use Alcohol as an example? Alcohol on top of the issues I have already covered just exhasurbate the issues that have been created . We put individuals into this disrupted behavioural state then add alcohol, a potent social drug into the mix. Just to clear things up as some of you will be shutting off and muttering ‘get a life’ right now. I have no issue with consumption of anything provided it’s an educated decision and not based on a trend or what someone’s friends do. The pros and cons of anything need to be considered then a decision made. I consume alcohol on a social level but I choose not to allow it to disrupt my thought patterns or social control.

 

Alcohol accounted for 8748 deaths in Britain last year. Problem drinking costs the country and more importantly the tax payer £22 billion a year. By outlawing something that’s become so socially acceptable would create social uproar therefore much like smoking it will be drawn out until the cost to society exceeds the profit to the government.

We all know that alcohol and smoking can kill us, why do so many people across different generations see these things through different eyes. Hell, even alcohol is no longer alcohol and tobacco is no longer just tobacco, they have found ways to cut costs and appeal to younger generations and make them infinitely more addictive.

Why in the 80s did you all of a sudden find alcohol packaged as lemonade or wine coolers in familiar flavours to soft drinks? How many adults do you know would put down their beer or wine to drink a bright coloured and sweet soft drink? Do you honestly think their market was adult consumers or was it to target a once unaccesible market. I know pretty much all of my friends in my generation consumed alcohol below the legal age. It was a ‘turn a blind eye’ or ‘it won’t do them any harm’ kind of thought process. Until the invention of these a lot of teens never touched alcohol as in the forms it was presented in it didn’t appeal to their taste buds therefore they simply didn’t. The weddings or birthdays when parents would maybe allow you something it was often met with a clear no. as their taste buds didn’t favour the refined taste, much like coffee has evolved into all manner of sugary concoctions. Give them a sweet and familiar drink however and all problems  are solved. The parents remember that it’s how they were brought up and only remember that they ‘did it’ (drank below legal age) they don’t remember how much they enjoyed it or if they did it a lot, only  simply that they did.  It’s a generational thought process. We did it therefore we can rationalize that it’s ok for our kids to do it.

Manufacturers were aware that these slightly younger consumers weren’t likely to consume beer etc in the volumes they would require for more profit so something closer to what they where familiar with and an easy way to increase alcohol consumption would work and increase profitability and even some addicts along the way. The taxpayer would gladly pick up the tab for the endless hospital visits, extra police manpower all caused by alcohol as after all it wasn’t their responsibility as long as the company saw profit why would they care.

in 2007, 20 per cent of school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to being asked; this figure is lower than 2001, when 26 per cent of pupils reported drinking in the last week

Understanding generational gaps.

If I hear ‘I did it and it did me no harm’ or ‘let them live a little’ when it comes to food I will tear my hair out. People seem to fail to grasp what has actually changed.

As much as people may wish to turn a blind eye. We live in a disrupted and disrespectful society far more today than even 10 years ago. We have generations of teens having children as it gives them homes and monetary benefits to potentially fuel their smoking, drug and alcohol habits. These are children raising children in the manner that they where brought up in and yes the problems lies deeper and certainly issues way beyond what I could write about in a short article.

In society there is a divide that exists, not through class but through upbringing and expectancies. You go to any low income area in the UK and what do you find. You find fast food, off licences (liquor stores), newsagents that sell lottery tickets, cigarettes and more junk food. You find bookmakers, gambling stores, nail salons, hairdressers and more recently pawnbrokers and money lenders. All of the things you would perceive useful only to those with disposable income.  These areas are also often rife with drugs problems and societal problems. Why?

People are brought up with expectancies and negativity. They see solace in ‘fixes’ things that make them live in hope (lottery tickets, gambling) and give them momentary feelings of elation (beauty treatments, tobacco, alcohol, fast food, sweets, candy etc) and when the money runs out as consumers the solution to that problem lies in the same area. Create more debt and people need more of these ‘fixes’ or a way to ‘forget’ or disregard their issues, keep going and off the back of it we have children and teens fending for themselves on the streets. Society over time becomes sympathetic to their behavior and deem it as acceptable, as adults from the previous generation see similarities and rationalize with ‘oh we where like that as kids’…..you sure about that? You played outside as kids right? Would you let your kids freely do that now?

The trends push towards the dietary issues and it Becomes a vicious circle. Disrupted kids with behavioural problems being brought up around a society with the exact same issues. Those that step away from that culture , it’s dietary and habitual undertones will be those that succeed and create a new norm.

It’s like what I say to people starting on a diet plan. If it’s in your fridge or cupboard at some point physically or mentally you WILL eat it, simply because it’s there. Why will these stores and shops never close? Because there will always be money coming to spend at them. Make bad food cheaper and more convenient for babies, children and adults it frees up cash for the rest of it.

Where do I see the most horrendous dietary practices? In these exact areas

Is it potentially a large part of the problem…YES it is.

To take a look at a particular generation and compare to what we have today will show us that even over such a small amount of time how things have changed.

 

The 70s

If you’re between the age of 30-43 this was your childhood.

People started to lose the ability to handle and be able to prepare real food. Convenience food started to become readily available in supermarkets taking the emphasis off cooking and more consuming. With the invention of these came the first run of chemical additives to prolongue shelf life and add to the convenience.

Those who where kids during this time were starting to get introduced to convenience food but for the most part all food would have been prepared and made from fresh.

Sweets and candies where seen as treats as where things like coca cola, if you where lucky you would maybe consume a couple of things a week. Your parents would be default have only ever done this as it wasn’t accessible, no vending machines, garages sold very little besides, oil and fuel. Pocket money would buy a handful of sweets or a can of soda.

Your parents were perhaps subject to some of the sweets etc but they ate like adults, real, freshly prepared food and ate around a table as families. 

Your baby food was food, pureed or mashed up, most of you would be breast fed and formula was little more than powdered or fresh milk.

There was very little in the way of chemical additives in your food and the era of ‘deemed suitable for human consumption’ was only in it’s infancy.

 Most of your parents would have been in their mid twenties or early thirties and would have grown up with even less of the consumer focus. There was no bombardment of advertising, it was subtle.

Local produce, greengrocers, butchers and farmers still were the mainstay of the food people consumed. Over time these businesses would begin to lose out to the bigger players and the shift in quantity over quality began to prevail. The dawn of the supermarket began.

Food manufacturers at this stage started to realize that people loved both salt and sugar. This created and improved sales. The thought that a simple and cheap additive to food could increase revenue was born. Over the next 40-50 years the food manufacturers would push the envelope on what they could get away with for human consumption and minimize waste.

Looking at this shows how things are VERY different today. Food is a commercial thing, we eat out of enjoyment for the most part, not on a social level as it’s not a social event anymore. We consume food based on physical enjoyment and emotional enjoyment.

HOW ARE WE GOING TO IMPACT CHANGE.

 

‘When you can’t affect change from within, you have an obligation if you’re at all conscious  to get out and try something different’

 

As long as these large manufacturers continue to pay taxes and turn profit the emphasis will always lie in consumer demand. There is the thought that it lies in schools and educating the children. It sadly doesn’t.

We are influenced across generations, not just a single generation. We are taught by those who came before us and learn from those same people. We also draw influence and habits from those people.

Without a multigenerational approach we will fail.  Targetting schools and children is not enough. Without educating parents in both the rationelle and practice we will always endevour to fail. Parents from the past 2-3 generations need to be re-educated in foods and the preparation of foods. Nutrition is too advanced to expect people to learn in detail. HEALTH must remain at the forefront, this and both the behavioural and educational development of our future generations. Society is at danger of slipping into a period of self destruction and foods are playing a large part.

The value of local produce and value of farming practices needs to be re-emphasised.  REAL food needs to be encouraged and stricter laws administered across schools and our educational systems with regards to what is permissible to consume and what is not. This CANNOT be focused on obesity as the by-product will be a lowering in obesity levels. This is NOT our issue, the issue is generations of people failing to actually to consume single ingredient foods and combinations of them. The majority of a westerners diet is processed, long life and packed full of chemicals. This trend must change!

There are many things that need addressed and I’m in the process of putting together an initiative to get this ball well and truly rolling. It still remains a roundtable of strategies and potential approaches but once again, as a united front I truly believe we can change this.

1. Weiss B. Food additives and environmental chemicals as sources of childhood behaviour disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 1982, 21:144-152.

2. Needleman HL and others The long-term effects of exposure to low doses of lead in childhood: an 11 year follow-up report. New England Journal of Medicine, 1990, 322:83-8.

3. Jacobson JL and others. Effects of in utero exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and related contaminants on cognitive functioning in young children. Journal of Pediatrics, 1990, 116:38-48.

4. Feldman RG and others. Neurotoxic effects of trichloroethylene in drinking water. In ‘The vulnerable brain and environmental risks, vol 3, Toxins in air and water’, ed RL Isaacson and LK Jensen, Plenum Press, NY 1994, 48.

5. Report on leaked EPA document concerning dioxin toxicity, New Scientist, vol 166, issue 2240, p.19.

6.Bennett CPW and others. The Shipley Project: treating food allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 1998, 8, 77-83.

About the Author

Post a Comment

Please wait...