- This problem kills more people than smoking – yet less is being done about it
- The food that ages you 10 years in 4 weeks
- This isn’t freedom, it’s exploitation…
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of illness in the UK.
Around 78,000 people die per year.
Bad, bad, bad.
And we all know it.
That is why there are major campaigns to get people to quit and why smoking is banned from indoor spaces.
Tobacco companies cannot advertise – and you can’t even see branding on the packaging any more.
Buying cigarettes these days is pretty tricky, not to mention expensive.
Smoking them in public is even more difficult.
Most people think this is fair enough, bearing in mind the gravity of the health consequences.
But now let’s look at obesity.
It’s a totally different story!
Obesity kills more people than smoking – yet less is being done about it
Obesity is now a bigger cause of deaths than smoking, according to a study that came out in February.
Between 2003 and 2017, deaths from smoking fell from 23.1% to 19.4%… while in the same timeframe, deaths linked to obesity increased from 17.9% to 23.1%.
Last week the BBC reported that there were more than a million hospital admissions for obesity-related treatment in England in the year before Covid-19 stuck.
That’s a MILLION.
Mind boggling isn’t it?
If you look at the number and the impact on the NHS, it should be treated with the same gravity as smoking – because it has similar disastrous consequences for the nation’s health.
Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine, said that obesity was “the strongest risk factor for diabetes” and also “a strong risk factor for heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and ‘multiple other conditions’.”
He added: “Many health systems and government really do now need to pay attention to obesity.”
This story was covered by most mainstream media outlets, for instance I saw it in The Express and The Times.
But the thing is, the newspapers can talk all they want…
Until government is given a real reason to confront all the food industry head on – like they did with the tobacco industry – nothing is going to happen.
For instance, I recall that in 2014 there was a Guardian article about how obesity experts were launching a campaign to put pressure on the government and industry to cut the sugar content of food and drinks by 30%.
However, nothing has really changed since then.
And I’m not surprised…
Their website ‘Action on Sugar’ is nothing more than an info hub about the problems of sugar – there is no call for action, no petition, no anger or protest.
So it’s unlikely to do much.
Meanwhile, the food industry continues unabated and largely unchallenged, pumping out highly processed products full of sugars, trans fats, starches, vegetable oils, artificial colourings, flavourings and emulsifiers.
I know that lots of libertarians and free market capitalists might say, “Well, it’s all about freedom of choice – people should be able to eat what they want.”
But is it really ‘freedom’?
Why people can’t always control their urges to eat unhealthy food
As I’ve written in recent Good Life Letters, there are powerful psychological drivers of food consumption – including worry, stress, poor sleep and illness.
And as I discussed only the other week, there are also powerful addictive qualities in certain foods that trap people in cycles of overeating precisely the things they shouldn’t be eating. Sugar and gluten being two superstars in this field!
The main culprit is what we call “ultra-processed foods”.
They include anything that’s been highly manipulated in the industrial manufacturing process, and usually have long ingredient lists of chemicals, colourings, sweeteners and preservatives.
Growing evidence links the consumption of these foods with an increased risk of non-communicable diseases.
Not only that, but they can cause the body to age more quickly.
To give you an example, there was a recent article in the Guardian about Dr Van Tulleken, who has presented television for the BBC alongside his career as an infectious diseases doctor for the NHS.
In his latest programme ‘What Are We Feeding Our Kids?’ Dr Van Tulleken put himself on a diet of 80% ultra-processed food for four weeks. So his meals included things like:
- Fried chicken
- Frozen pizza
- Prawn mayonnaise baguette
- Fish fingers
- Baked beans
He went for rigorous examinations when it was estimated that his body had aged by 10 years in just a month – and his mind didn’t fare well either.
MRI scans showed that his diet had rewired his brain; increasing his appetite and his reward neural pathways – much like you would see with a drug addict.
“It had a catastrophic impact on every aspect of my health and my life,” Dr Van Tulleken said. “My libido, piles, heartburn… everything got worse. I was anxious, depressed – and it was all self-perpetuating.”
He explained how his mind was tricked into over-eating.
“Things like monosodium glutamate (MSG) send a signal to your brain telling you this is nutritious. But when you digest it there is nothing there – so you keep eating.”
This situation is a ticking time bomb
So let’s look at the facts…
You’ve got something that kills more people than smoking and which is so addictive that even highly knowledgeable health experts cannot control their urges to eat.
But what’s happening?
Just noise in the newspapers and entertaining TV shows.
But nothing to stop the problem.
All around the world, ultra-processed food sales are booming.
There are MORE of these foods on the market, not less.
More people are eating them more often.
And the companies that make them are continuing to get rich.
When it comes to food, it’s less about freedom of choice for people and more about freedom for corporations to exploit us.
Meanwhile, that obesity timebomb ticks ever louder.