Big Food´s Poisonous Propaganda

SAN FRANCISCO – Every advertising executive knows the difference between marketing and propaganda. One uses facts to espouse a point of view, while the other relies on falsehoods and deceit. But if the difference is truth, what is the commonality? For scientists, it is dopamine. And for the processed food industry, that fact has been worth trillions of dollars.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of the brain’s reward center, and it is activated by stimuli like cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol. But it is also triggered by information. For example, brain scans show that when people hear a statement that they believe is true – the veracity is irrelevant – they get a dopamine hit. Propagandists have taken advantage of this quirk in our brain physiology for centuries, and today, this neuroscientific flaw can be individually targeted to weaponize populist politics.

But the biggest opportunists are businesses. Several sectors have propagandized their products to the public, systematically suppressing concerns about real harms; the petroleum, tobacco, and opioid industries immediately come to mind. But no industry has provided more party-line disinformation over the years – and contributed to more morbidity, mortality, public cost, and economic havoc – than the processed food industry.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for about 50% of the global disease burden and some 75% of total health-care spending. The role of processed foods in these chronic conditions is undisputed; every country that adopts the high-fat, high-sugar “Western pattern diet” is plagued by the same diseases and costs. But the big question for health professionals is whether the quantity or the quality of foods is to blame. This is an important distinction, because quantity is determined by the user, while quality is determined by the industry.

Some health experts argue that specific components of processed foods – in particular, sugar – are as addictive as cocaine and heroin. For example, sugar is consistently the ingredient with the highest score on the Yale Food Addiction Scale, which measures people’s food cravings.

The processed food industry says, “You need sugar to live.” Dietary sucrose – or common table sugar – is composed of two molecules in equal proportion: glucose and fructose. But despite being calorically identical (4.1 calories per gram), they behave very differently when consumed.



Autor / Fonte:Project Syndicate