According to a recent article in Times, a diet and population health professor commented, “If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them. Now, OK, I have made a choice, but people were choosing to go into a smoky pub.”
After skimming through the remaining article, let us start by strengthening the argument proposed by the researcher and look beyond the entrancing anti-authoritarian sensationalism and narrative and use science and common sense to find a solution. We've been in both the health and nutrition space while also exploring the food industry due to the nature of what we do.
Let us steelman or strengthen their position
Modern foods are problematic. Many such foods are not as filling and will favor a positive intake. The marketing around such foods is also poor and usually more concerned about making sales, moving inventory, and capitalizing on very thin sales margins in the overly saturated food industry.
Let us look at the root causes
Obesity, diabetes, and associated chronic conditions are a symphony and not a solo. It's very tempting to blame one entity but if you look at the diagram at the top of the article, you'll understand why it requires everyone to create the perfect storm. Solution? Empathy, compassion, curiosity, critical thinking, appreciation for innovation, and a desire to help others, both among the masses and the public. We have an entire cosmos to explore and many other future health catastrophes to face while we are embedded on this flying rock orbiting the sun. Let us not squander our time on radicalization, segregation, and fear-mongering.
Advertising and industrialization are completely fine in other human domains. Industrialization, at the heart of it, is merely a duplication of science that works and turns processed information into a processed product that, due to production at a large scale, turns something that may be luxurious and exotic(eg. Cars, phones, computers, bottled water, etc.) into an affordable commodity. However, what happens when you industrialize poor science? We'll get to that in a bit.
Eating a cake is not the same as passive smoking
Smoking isn't a need. Food is. To be more accurate, nutrients are the need, not 'food'. Though food addiction is purported by charlatans and intellects alike, food addiction merely makes up for 5-10% of the population whereas obesity and overweight rates are at about a quarter and two-thirds respectively. Furthermore, addiction doesn't always predict obesity and being overweight so the addiction comparison is a false stretch.
Additionally, smoking is bitter, conducted outside of your work cubicle and tobacco is something not found in any form of human sustenance. Meanwhile, a cake alludes to sweetness and textures that we gravitate towards as they helped sustain us throughout our human history.
Many people know how to be healthy but choose not to
The truth is, many people know how to use google and find dietary guidelines. However, they usually gravitate towards sensationalist celebrity endorsements, newspaper recipes, and novel diets which become more about vanity and self-adulation rather than being healthy. How many times have you had a discussion about diet and health with people close to you and, at best, they will lose weight or go on crash diets, only to gain all that weight or develop conditions down the road? This leads us to the next point.
Diets & alternative strategies set up people to fail
Diets are restrictive and show poor results when it comes to adherence. Most diets focus on collecting foods together into a mishmash that is heavily confounded and what the consumers eat is vastly different from what the researchers use in their trials thereby squandering resources that could be used to further explore and enhance foods that people may like! This also leads to the next point.
Poor science is the biggest culprit
Nutrition science is vague and based on risk assessment where the more vague something is, the better it sells and sensationalizes. Alarmism and processed junk information are the heart of the problem as it gives birth to processed junk foods that are constantly blamed by the intellects. Industrialization of bad science will lead to a bad product. This has been the case with every other commodity. Cars with poor engineering and science will lead to more crashes and risks. Nutrition science needs to heavily focus on food-based research and less on diet-based research to help evolve our modern foods. Sadly, good science stalemates and leaves little to argue which makes such science difficult to sell and generate ad revenue, consulting gigs, diet books, and other processed information.
We need to invest in better foods
This leads us to the final part which focuses more on solving the problem than complaining or using low-hanging fruits to seek validation and click revenues. We need science that serves as a precursor to better foods. We need better science that works and serves humanity by creating foods that work. We need cars, not ways to make cars(eg. Recipes) or personal guides to make a certain type of car(eg. Diet books). We need cars(foods) that work and this requires a fundamental rethinking of nutrition, food, and health as we know it.
At Ketogeek, we created Energy Pods as a way to explore the unlimited possibilities of a cup. Though we started as keto, we've evolved past that and are working towards creating our in-house experiments so that we can learn and apply the knowledge so we can create better foods. As you can see, this is an uphill battle and smart consumerism will help us on the way. Help us change so we can all have good foods and healthy moments we can spend with loved ones doing things we love.