Decoding 21st Century Food
The food industry want to sell products. This is an economic intention not a health intention. Humans are programmed to store calories in times of plenty to prepare for future times of famine (the thrifty genotype hypothesis). We are all therefore programmed to “like” sugar and fat. We have busy lives and over the last couple of decades “convenience foods” have become our new best friend, saving time and also (we think) saving money. We are now at a point where processed food is the norm. You only need to look on the special offers page of on-line supermarket shopping websites in the UK to smell the coffee!
Processed food is easy to mass produce cheaply and it lasts for ages because of all the salt and preservatives, hence the ultra-long best before dates. We also like this because we feel we are less likely to waste this food. But processed food is usually very low in fibre and essential micronutrients. It contains a large amount of calories in a small volume of highly refined and very readily absorbed forms of sugar and fat. This small volume does not make us feel full until we have flooded our system with calories, which occurs after a surprisingly small volume of this type of food. The high content of sugar has an “addictive” quality which makes us want more of it and makes other un-processed food seem bland and un-interesting.
But I hear you say “I feel sorry for the people who are affected by this but I don’t eat processed food”
Then why the paradox?
There is an answer to the puzzle.
The food marketing industry wants to sell their products. They know we want to eat healthily and they also know we love sugar. So all processed food is fantastically marketed to look wonderfully healthy and balanced.
Government and charity supported advertising intended to promote health is produced in short lived poorly funded campaigns. These make us think but we don’t really understand it and we all think it applies to someone else. These campaigns succeed in encouraging us to make sure we stick to products which appear healthy. So we seek products with the best advertising to “look healthy”.
You think you don’t eat much processed food? What about the Chinese or Indian take-away once or twice a week? Or the one off pizza. Or what about the occasional day when you binge on chocolate or cake? Please don’t say you ever drink lucozade or coke to give you an energy boost! These are synthetic forms of pure sugar with extremely high sugar content per volume. Regular consumption will result in marked weight gain and yo-yo-ing blood sugar and insulin levels. These deleterious effects can occur even if these foods are consumed in large quantities only once or twice a week.
But it doesn’t stop there, even the so called healthy fresh fruit juices, smoothies and 0% fat yoghurts that we are constantly brainwashed by advertising to consider to be healthy are just refined easily absorbed sugar that gushes into our blood stream, flogging our pancreas to produce insulin. These foods and drinks are often marketed as “one of your 5 a day” because they contain vitamin C or “for a healthy heart” because they are low fat or “for health bones” because they contain calcium. This makes them look healthy but what you are not told is that they contain pure sugar, very little or no fibre and other than the added calcium or vitamin C they are significantly lacking in micronutrients and are very imbalanced types of food.
Processed food in general is nutritionally imbalanced. Diets containing all the types of processed foods I have described can be associated with micronutrient deficiencies which can cause lethargy, muscle aches and poor concentration among other debilitating symptoms. One of the hypotheses around the observation of non-coeliac wheat intolerance is that phytates in wheat may block essential micronutrient absorption (for example iron and zinc). The bromide used in wheat flour as an anti-caking agent blocks iodine uptake. Many people have reported improved well-being with low wheat or wheat free diets even though they do not have true wheat allergy and this observation requires further study.
When I look at food labels on the so called healthy snacks which are heavily advertised, often aimed at children, the labelling makes it all look healthy but most of these processed snacks are just sugar, sugar and more sugar in disguise.
Over years of excessive insulin production in response to consumption of these foods, pancreatic function declines and type 2 diabetes results. This occurs sooner in those who have a genetic predisposition. Much earlier than this we can experience symptoms of reactive hypoglycaemia. This occurs because the large amount of insulin we need to counteract our high sugar food intake results in a blood sugar crash a few hours later, which stimulates us to repeat the cycle all over again.
That is enough I hear you say but there is more…we start to gain weight (this is now increasingly being observed in childhood) and we are stunned because the food we are eating is healthy because it says so on the label! If labels didn’t influence then the food industry would not spend millions on food marketing.
We are too trusting. We believe the labels, but we are being deceived.