Many Americans subsist primarily on a processed food diet,1 and more importantly, they do not realize what exactly they’re consuming.2 In fact, a very important and so far, criminally under looked recent study, revealed consumers drinking soda were ingesting more fructose than labels showed.3 Many sodas, and other sweetened beverages, such as juices (which are almost entirely marketed and consumed by growing children4) list no high fructose corn syrup on the label. In the study, many of these drinks were found to actually contain more fructose than the beverages that did list it on the label. In fact, the lead author states “we found what ends up being consumed in these beverages is neither natural sugar nor HFCS, but instead a fructose-intense concoction that could increase one’s risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease.”
This is but one example of the many mistruths that are put out on a daily basis by the food industry.5 Since eating at “fast food” restaurants is positively associated with households with children, a high fat diet and body mass index (BMI),6 it is increasingly important, especially for our children’s health, to make sure food companies labeling accurately. The average American consumes 23 teaspoons of added sugars and sweeteners per day,7 when the AHA recommendation is between 5 and 9 teaspoons daily for adults.8 And yet, children consume roughly 15 teaspoons of sugar per day, by some estimates.9
How inaccurate and deceitful is the food industry? In 2008, eight fast food hamburgers were scientifically assessed, to determine their actual content. The results? “Fast food hamburgers are comprised of little meat (median, 12.1%). Approximately half of their weight is made up of water. Unexpected tissue types found in some hamburgers included bone, cartilage, and plant material; no brain tissue was present. Sarcocystis parasites were discovered in 2 hamburgers.”10
With 25% of hamburgers containing parasites, I cannot stress how much we need to pay attention. The detrimental effect of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has received slightly more attention, yet 88% of corn and 93% of soybeans are still genetically modified.11 Compare this with less than 20% of crops that were genetically modified in 1996, a mere 18 years ago.12
In a laughable attempt at self-regulation, the food industry has repeatedly stated that it will: curtail children’s food marketing, sell fewer unhealthy products in schools, and label foods responsibly.13 Of these criteria, only one has been met: periodic assessment to determine compliance. And this has been funded by their own industry, not a third party group.
In another excellent paper,14 food companies were found to operate similarly to tobacco companies, which should come as no surprise, since Philip Morris bought Kraft Foods in 1988.15 Astute readers will notice that combining the emerging food science, with increasingly ruthless marketing tactics by big tobacco companies (who now own big food companies) and the invention and subsequent widespread deployment of high fructose corn syrup – all directly coincide with the timing of the current obesity pandemic.16 A pandemic that has skyrocketed since the 1970s.17
Pay attention to the food additives and preservatives which may be harmful to the human body. These include:
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Propyl gallate
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Potassium bromate
- Yellow #6
- Blue #1, #2
- Red #3
- Sodium sulfite
When making food choices, eliminate these additives and reap the wealth of benefits from eating an all-natural Paleo Diet. Eat real food without reservations. Organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised or wild caught. Read and understand the ingredient list. You (and your body) will know exactly what you are getting, and a Paleo Diet is the easiest, simplest, and most delicious way to do it.
Casey Thaler, B.A., NASM-CPT, FNS is an NASM® certified personal trainer and NASM® certified fitness nutrition specialist. He writes for Paleo Magazine® and for PaleoHacks. He also runs his own nutrition and fitness consulting company, Eat Clean, Train Clean®. He is pursuing his Ph.D in Nutritional Biochemistry, hopefully from Harvard University.
1. Eicher-miller HA, Fulgoni VL, Keast DR. Contributions of processed foods to dietary intake in the US from 2003-2008: a report of the Food and Nutrition Science Solutions Joint Task Force of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Society for Nutrition, Institute of Food Technologists, and International Food Information Council. J Nutr. 2012;142(11):2065S-2072S.
2. Nyenje ME, Odjadjare CE, Tanih NF, Green E, Ndip RN. Foodborne pathogens recovered from ready-to-eat foods from roadside cafeterias and retail outlets in Alice, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa: public health implications. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012;9(8):2608-19.
3. Available at: http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/PIIS0899900714001920/. Accessed June 29, 2014.
4. Skatrud-mickelson M, Adachi-mejia AM, Mackenzie TA, Sutherland LA. Giving the wrong impression: food and beverage brand impressions delivered to youth through popular movies. J Public Health (Oxf). 2012;34(2):245-52.
5. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/07/fake-food-scandal-revealed-tests-products-mislabelled. Accessed June 29, 2014.
6. Jeffery RW, Baxter J, Mcguire M, Linde J. Are fast food restaurants an environmental risk factor for obesity?. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2006;3:2.
7. USDA, ERS (2012) Loss-Adjusted Food Availability.
8. American Heart Association (2009) Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health.
9. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27941325. Accessed June 29, 2014.
10. Prayson B, Mcmahon JT, Prayson RA. Fast food hamburgers: what are we really eating?. Ann Diagn Pathol. 2008;12(6):406-9.
11. USDA, ERS (2012) “Genetically engineered varieties of corn, upland cotton, and soybeans, by State and for the United States, 2000-12.”
12. USDA, ERS (2012) Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.
13. Sharma LL, Teret SP, Brownell KD. The food industry and self-regulation: standards to promote success and to avoid public health failures. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(2):240-6.
14. Brownell KD, Warner KE. The perils of ignoring history: Big Tobacco played dirty and millions died. How similar is Big Food?. Milbank Q. 2009;87(1):259-94.
15. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=88088. Accessed June 29, 2014.
16. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html. Accessed June 29, 2014.
17. Caballero B. The global epidemic of obesity: an overview. Epidemiol Rev. 2007;29:1-5.