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Sunday 29 March 2015
Dr Jason Fung: Of Traitors and Truths
I was reading Dr. Eenfeldt interesting recent post on www.dietdoctor.com, about a clip of the great crusader Dr. Aseem Malhotra showed at the recent LCHF summit in Cape Town and was reminded of one of the great truths of our time. You cannot be betrayed by those whom you do not trust. While we often blame Big Food for obesity, we never really trusted them, so cannot really be betrayed.
But, we have been betrayed. By whom? The story is even worse then you suspect….
Big Food wants to make more money. That’s no secret. They created an entirely new category of food, called “snack food,” and promoted it relentlessly. They advertised on TV, print, radio and Internet.
But there was an even more insidious form of advertising called sponsorship and research. Big Food sponsors large organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Coca Cola General Mills, Kellogg Company and Pepsi are found among its “Premier” sponsors. At its annual meeting, a sponsor could hold a “nutritional symposia.” In 2014, for example, the Coca Cola Company would teach dieticians about Coaching Your Clients Toward Lasting Weight Loss.” The $50,000 Gold Sponsorship allowed the company to spread the message that sugar is not harmful to children. Thanks, Coca Cola.
Michele Simon, in her scathing report “And Now a Word from our Sponsors” uncovers how corporate giants like Coca Cola and McDonalds ‘educates’ health professionals.
And don’t forget the medical associations. In 1988, the American Heart Association decided that it would be a good idea to start accepting cash to put its Heart Check symbol on foods of otherwise dubious nutritional quality. The Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates that in 2002, the AHA received over $2 million from this program alone. Food companies paid $7,500 for one to nine products, but there was a volume discount for more than twenty-five products! Exclusive deals were, of course, more expensive. In 2009, such nutritional standouts as Cocoa Puffs and Frosted Mini-Wheats were still on the Heart Check list. The 2013 Dallas Heart Walk organized by the AHA featured Frito-Lay as a prominent sponsor. The Heart and Stroke Foundation in Canada was no better. As noted on Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s weightymatters blog , a bottle of grape juice proudly bearing the Health Check contained ten teaspoons of sugar. The fact that these food were pure sugar seemed not to bother anybody.
The researchers and academic physicians were not to be ignored either. These were key opinion leaders in the medical community. In 2013, Dr. Allison wrote a prominent article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine entitled “Myths, Presumptions and Facts about Obesity”. Among his list of ‘facts’ of obesity, he writes, “Diets (i.e., reduced energy intake) very effectively reduce weight, but trying to go on a diet or recommending that someone go on a diet generally does not work well in the long-term”. Funny. How can a diet be effective, but generally not work? Isn’t that the very definition of ineffective? Also, Dr. Allison is declaring plainly that doctors should not even recommend diets. Forget about eating a whole, unrefined natural foods diet. Forget about reducing added sugars and refined starches like white bread.
Instead, his recommended treatments for obesity included meal replacement bars/ shakes, drugs and surgery. That’s certainly odd. Obesity is a dietary disease and requires a dietary cure. Instead, he favors meal replacements? These are amongst the last things that I would ever consider recommending.
Consider the ingredient list of a popular meal replacement shake “Ensure Plus”. This is the sort of ‘food’ that Dr. Allison feels is highly beneficial to you. It also happens to be a highly profitable item. The first five ingredients are: Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Sugar, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil. This nauseating blend of water, sugar and canola oil does not really meet my definition of healthy. Why would Dr. Allison strenuously recommend this garbage? Things become a little clearer when you read the financial disclosures. Dr. Allison reports receiving payment for:
Board membership from Kraft Foods; receiving consulting fees from Vivus, Ulmer and Berne, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, Garrison, Chandler Chicco, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, National Cattlemen’s Association, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Frontiers Foundation, Orexigen Therapeutics, and Jason Pharmaceuticals; receiving lecture fees from Porter Novelli and the Almond Board of California; receiving payment for manuscript preparation from Vivus; receiving travel reimbursement from International Life Sciences Institute of North America; receiving other support from the United Soybean Board and the Northarvest Bean Growers Association; receiving grant support through his institution from Wrigley, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, Vivus, Jason Pharmaceuticals, Aetna Foundation, and McNeil Nutritionals; and receiving other funding through his institution from the Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull, World Sugar Research Organisation, Archer Daniels Midland, Mars, Eli Lilly and Company, and Merck.
He was clearly not going to bite the hand that fed him. That he should be allowed to write in such an influential journal is criminal. But this is far from an isolated case.