low fat ingredients

The food industry, dieting and profit

September 3, 2013

Recent media reports have hit out at the food industry for making us fat, and to make matters worse, for profiting from making us thin. The BBC documentary ‘The Men Who Make Us Thin’ is well worth a watch. It can be argued that there is a bias of opinion from the journalist, however it opens a debate that goes well beyond just pointing the finger of blame.

It’s cheap, easy and convenient to eat a diet high in fat, processed and sugary foods. The science behind optimising the taste, texture and addictiveness of processed foods is quite incredible – the modest carrot has little chance of competing. There is still some debate as to the exact cause of the obesity epidemic but what we are clearly seeing is that people are trying to do something about it. Unfortunately, the vast majority are going about it in the wrong way and the food industry is cashing in.

Rather than opting for a diet packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, lean sources of protein, some healthy fats, nutrient dense carbohydrates and limited refined carbohydrates and processed foods, we are choosing low-fat, light, sugar-free and low calorie options. When you take fat out of a product it tastes bland and unappealing. So the fat is replaced by sugar. It seems a simple solution to the problem however, it’s not necessarily fat that makes us fat. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup is fast becoming the real culprit. The more sugar we eat, the more we want and the hungrier we become. Perhaps a different way to look at solving the obesity epidemic is to concentrate on what we shouldn’t be eating and not on foods we need to eat to lose weight!

Whilst the food industry giants have been heavily criticised for making money from obesity by investing in the diet industry – for fattening us up and making us thin again – we would perhaps benefit from investing more time and column inches into education and the availability of cheap fresh whole foods. Government health initiatives have yet to have any impact and even the NHS healthy eating advice starts with tips on how to lose weight and not actually how to eat a healthy diet. The media has every right to point the finger at the food industry for the rise in obesity however, little is invested in non-biased education to help people make informed decisions about the foods they choose to eat and help curb the problem of obesity.