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How Big Pharma and Big Food Have Made Us Fat and Sick

How do you launch a “disease” created for no other purpose than to sell drugs that are supposed to treat it?

* Issue a press release about how it is an “under-recognized” disease with many “barriers” and “stigmas” to treatment.

* Launch a TV campaign to “raise awareness” about the disease’s symptoms and risks factors to help “sufferers” in the general public self-diagnose

* Create a website with a quiz for people to determine if they have the disease and a script for them to take to the doctor to be prescribed the intended drug

* Hire doctors to warn people that the disease is progressive and silent and will only get worse if they ignore it and don’t seek treatment.

* Create patient front groups to lobby the FDA to approve expensive drugs for the disease and to lobby insurers to not substitute a lower cost drug

* Plant articles in respectable medical journals about the hidden costs of the under-recognized disease in hospitalizations and quality of life of sufferers which total more than the cost of insurers buying the drug itself.

* Develop a second drug that sufferers need to add to the first drug to boost its performance, either because the first drug doesn’t work or the people never had the disease in the first place.

How Do You Produce Food That Fattens and Sickens Instead of Nourishes?

* Use taxpayer money. to market unhealthy food directly to consumers to help Agribiz, ignoring the government’s duty to protect public health.

* Dump unhealthy food into the School Lunch and other government programs where food consumers have little choice, also to help Agribiz.

* Pay dietitians to concoct protein, milk or nutrient “deficiencies” in children and the general public to unload the unhealthy food.

* Protect the identity of farms producing contaminated products and abusing workers, animals, and the environment (usually the same farms).

* Refuse to prosecute perpetrator farms, except for slaps on the wrist, and never shut them down which would be anti-industry.

* Strip federal food inspectors of power to enforce laws, stop assembly lines and report violations, making them pathetic figureheads who are openly ridiculed by plant managers.

* Remind the public to wash its hands after handling raw food because food safety is their responsibility and federal food inspectors can’t catch everything.

* Outlaw food labels that reveal production methods, dangerous ingredients or genetic engineering associated with a product so consumers can’t make informed purchasing choices.

Despite the wonder of Western medicine, the United States has some of the sickest people in the world, thanks to direct-to-consumer advertising—and most of it is self-diagnosed.

We “suffer” from seasonal allergies, asthma, seasonal affective disorder, social anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, erectile dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, dry eye, fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, spectrum disorders, chronic fatigue, restless legs, excessive daytime sleepiness, osteopenia, perimenopause, and lactose intolerance. Many of the new diseases are “imbalances” from a “deficiency” of a drug that Big Pharma makes and we will need them for the rest of our lives, says the marketing.

In addition to taking drugs for diseases (and deficiencies) that barely existed before drug ads, we take drugs to prevent diseases we don’t even have, like thinning bones and cardiovascular diseases.

And despite the wonders of the Western diet, the United States has the least fit people in the world. We develop high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, diabetes, heartburn, gastroesophageal and reflux disease from junk food–and aching backs, painful joints, poor circulation and sleep apnea from the extra weight it causes. Drugs we’re already taking for “deficiency” diseases add to the obesity and we treat with more drugs for metabolism like statins, “purple pills,” and blood sugar–lowering pills. The food leads us to drugs and the drugs lead us to food, in a vicious cycle.

The TV “teleprompter” telling us to eat junk food is not the only cause of our national obesity. Super sizing, free refills and all-you-can-eat buffets encourage people to get their money’s worth at the price of their waistlines. The family meal, where we learned portion control and restraint, is a dying cultural icon. Size inflation, in which women who were size sevens are now size zeros through no effort of their own, furthers adipose denial. And baggy and low rider urban fashions seldom “don’t” fit.

And there is the ubiquity of snacks themselves. Once upon a time snacks weren’t available in banks, bookstores, body shops, hardware stores and hospitals. When some Europeans visiting a US mall saw people in the “food court,” eating cheese fries at 10:30 in the morning, they asked, “What meal is that?” Good question.

When you consider the toll that cheap food and drugs take on the public health, it is obvious that there is nothing “cheap” about them. The billions that Big Food and Big Pharma make are simply transferred to the cost of treating a nation with chronic, expensive-to-treat and often preventable diseases.

In fact, the junk food and drugs “deficiencies” we’re said to suffer from bring to mind the 1953 song, sung by Burl Ives, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”After swallowing a fly, the old lady swallows increasingly larger animals to catch the previously swallowed animal. She swallows a spider to catch the fly, a bird to catch the spider, a cat to catch the bird, a dog to catch the cat, and so on. Every time she swallows a larger animal, the absurdity of her first act is repeated in the chorus: “I don’t know why she swallowed the fly, perhaps she’ll die.” And, in the end, she does. It sounds a lot like US consumers in the age of aggressive junk food and drug advertising.


This is an excerpt from Born With A Junk Food Deficiency.

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

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