Friday, March 21, 2014

The Food Industry

It's an unfortunate reality how our understanding of healthy food and living has been negatively influenced by the food industry, pharmaceutical companies, media, politics, and corporate pressure. 

The margarine manufacturers spend billions of dollars to market it as a health substitute for butter. The pharmaceutical company happily supports it so that they can sell its cholesterol-lowering drugs.
- The oil industry convinced the population that vegetable oil is better than animal fats so they can justify the use of these inexpensive, rancid vegetable oil to make all kinds of processed foods
- The soft drink industry promotes diet sodas as healthier alternatives to regular sodas
- The soy industry marketed soy as the miracle health food that is now a key ingredient in diet plans.

And unfortunately, they have done it successfully. 

When my 11-month old baby caught fever and cough, her pediatrician prescribed a medicine that contains an ingredient that is banned for consumption for children under two years old. I was glad I did a little research on the medicine before I gave it to her (and no, I didn't give her any) and tried to heal her naturally using a combination of essential oils, homeopathic, and herbal remedies. Then something occurred to me, we eat what we eat because our doctors and dietitians recommend it and we believe them because, well, they are doctors after all and supposedly they had studied nutrition, know about what is best for us, and know what they are doing, right? It's true that some doctors genuinely care about our health, but there are some others who care more about making money. I know that some doctors get a commission for prescribing and selling us medicines, which means that their decisions are influenced by the pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies fund medical researches and in order for scientists to get continual funding, their research has to support the interest of their funders (the pharmaceutical companies) so they can make even more money. Food regulators, whose job is to ensure public health and food safety, are lobbied by the agricultural industry and get medical research that is funded from the pharmaceutical companies. I've also read that universities have their funding cut off because their research is not in the interests of their funders (the food industry or pharmaceutical companies). Thus it's very hard for the public to know the truth. All that we are left with is what the food industry wants us to believe, so we buy their products and they keep making money. Here is a funny and educational video that summarizes what I wrote above. 

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other." - Matthew 6:24

I believe this verse is applicable not only between God and money, but also to this issue. Food regulators like USDA has a very tough job. While their existence is to protect public health, unfortunately they also need to be politically supportive of the (financial) interests of the food industry. Thus, it is impossible to avoid any conflict of interests.

In a nutshell, I learn that I cannot believe everything I hear or read. It's better to stick to the basics. Eat natural whole foods. Do our own research, make ourselves knowledgeable, and equip ourselves so that we can make wise decisions about our health and live life according to how God intends us to live.

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