Food Marketing Reaches a New Low: Buyers Beware

  • April 27, 2017

    Food Marketing Reaches a New Low: Buyers Beware

    WRITTEN BY: Brian GM Durie MD
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On April 15, 2017, Emma Morano passed away peacefully in Verbania, Italy at the age of 117 years, 137 days, and 16 hours! She was the oldest person in the world, according to her obituary. What explains her longevity?

She lived very quietly in a church-owned apartment near beautiful Lake Maggiore. Was the lake's mild climate a factor, or perhaps the three raw eggs she ate every day for nearly a century? As always with long life, the role of diet emerges. Was it the three eggs each day or the lack of processed foods and sodas, or any number of other possible factors? How to live a long, healthy life has become an obsession in modern times as it seems we become less and less healthy.

Food fads

Nothing conveys this desire for health more than the juicing fad. In a 2013 blog post, I wrote about the prevailing misconceptions about juicing. This awareness did not deter the recent trend for Silicon Valley juicing. Promoting an “aspirational lifestyle symbol,” a $120-million venture capital-driven company has been publicly shamed for producing a product which is not particularly healthy and can easily be produced in a healthier fashion in a blender at home. 

The juicing process, as I have noted, reduces pulp and fiber content. The end result is a more rapid increase in the blood sugar levels (higher glycemic index). It’s better and healthier to just eat fruit and/or vegetables! Simply blending at home is also fine, if preferred.

Rise of obesity and diabetes

In thinking about food and trying to stay healthy, it is important to remember that the food industry is a massive business. The annual food industry income is $1.46 trillion, with $657 billion in profits – a rate of 45%. Since processed food was first introduced to compete with “real food” in 1965, the cumulative profits have been staggering – but so have the consequences for US and global health. Obesity and type 2 diabetes have increased astronomically. Chronic diseases and cancer have also seen substantial increases, with cumulative health care costs now running at $3.2 trillion annually in the US. This situation is both unacceptable and unsustainable.

The Juicero story illustrates the current focus on marketing and profits. Just as children for decades were roped in by “happy meals,” adults are now being lured by the image of improved health by companies seeking profits, not health, for their customers.

Real food, real value: no hoax

It seems that everywhere we turn, lies and deceit are drowning out the truth about real food, which is cheaper and the way to go achieve best health.  I was amused to read recently about high-end restauranteur Mark Hix, who has a chain of London restaurants. His newest one lures customers not with ads for “British fare,” which is not renowned for good health properties, but with the art of Damien Hirst, an art entrepreneur also focused on profits— quite the combination!  At a recent huge exhibit, Hirst told a completely false story about a shipwreck to attract exhibit-goers. Despite video of divers salvaging a shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, there was no shipwreck. It was all a hoax. The lesson here is that things are not always as they appear!

Secret to a long life?

And what about Emma Morano? I salute this courageous lady, who struggled in her later years. She lived a simple life alone with few personal possessions. She loved clocks and had several, loving to hear them chime. She also loved her rosaries and pasta with raw ground beef. The love for clocks goes against the story of Ikaria, the “Blue Zone” island without clocks, where people have equally long lives. Speculation about why Ikarians live so long is that living without a focus on time can increase longevity. Well, maybe for some. Or maybe raw eggs and raw beef are really the key? I think it may take a 117-year test to find out.

In the meantime, we all love food and drink. We just need to be aware that what we consume may not be exactly as advertised.

Dr. Durie sincerely appreciates and reads all comments left here. However, he cannot answer specific medical questions and encourages readers to contact the trained IMF InfoLine staff instead. Specific medical questions posted here will be forwarded to the IMF InfoLine. Questions sent to the InfoLine are answered with input from Dr. Durie and/or other scientific advisors and IMWG members as appropriate, but will not be posted here. To contact the IMF InfoLine, call 800-452-CURE, toll-free in the US and Canada, or send an email to infoline@myeloma.org. InfoLine hours are 9 am to 4 pm PT. Thank you.