The secret to weight-loss has finally been discovered. Over the past few decades, America’s obesity rates among adults and children have been continuously increasing. This rise of obesity in America is so severe, that it has now been deemed an epidemic. Not only is this a public issue of American society, but an even larger issue of individual health concerns leading to diseases, illnesses, and even death. The food industry has slowly begun taking baby steps towards creating a healthier future for Americans. David Freedman, author and contributing editor of Atlantic and Inc. magazines, publishes many research-based articles regarding science, technology and health issues in America. In his essay, “How Junk Food Can End Obesity,” Freedman focuses on how fast food restaurants can utilize modern food processing techniques to decrease portion sizes, calories, and percentages of carbs, fats, sugars, and salts in meals. Freedman argues that the wholesome-food revolution, and its opposition towards food processing, is impeding on the progress of the one solution that could actually effect the obese population. Freedman also argues how many companies and restaurants, that advertise as “healthy” in efforts of encouraging dietary changes in consumers, are misleading and not as healthy as consumers may believe. Although Freedman offers valid, achievable theories and supporting arguments in his essay “How Junk Food Can End Obesity,” he overlooks the fact that nutritional education is, above all, the most impactful solution to ending the obesity epidemic.
David Freedman poses a valid argument that, ironically, the wholesome-food movement is hindering the progress that modern food processing technology is making towards a healthier America. Freedman fights to discredit the efforts made by the wholesome-food movement to slow the obesity trend, by arguing that many of these companies advertising their products or dishes as “healthy” are, “…in any case, as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King” (511). Freedman fights to prove that many companies are misleading by advertising their products and ingredients with labels such as “healthy,” “natural” or “wholesome,” with no genetically modified ingredients, processing, or artificial flavors. Freedman chooses to use a “wholesome” product he found, the Vegan Cheesy Salad Booster from Living Intentions, as an example. This product boasts its health benefits of enhancing the diet with spirulina, chlorella, sea vegetables, unprocessed ingredients, and no genetically modified ingredients. Freedman argues, “[w]hat the stuff does contain, though, is more than three times the fat content per ounce as the beef patty in a Big Mac (more than of the calories come from fat), and four times the sodium” (512). This situation is not a rare occasion. Located all throughout stores and restaurants, are items that scream “healthy” to entice consumers to purchase them. Uneducated consumers who do not read the nutrition labels are fooled into eating products that may not be as healthy for them as they have been tricked into believing. “Healthy” smoothie shops advertise their “all natural” ingredients, but choose to omit the fact that there is over one hundred grams of sugar in many of their products. Freedman proves a valid point that products that advertise as healthy, in many cases, contain just as many or more grams of fat, carbs, and sugar as some fast food items. This supports the fact that nutrition education would be the most effective solution to slow the obesity trend. Educated consumers will be able to decipher, on their own, which foods are healthy or not for themselves, without being deceived by advertising claims.
To further support Freedman’s argument against the wholesome-food revolution, Leslie Beck’s article, “Are ‘Natural’ Foods Really Better For You?”, debunks the myth that just because products are labeled as “natural” does not necessarily mean they are nutritious or low-calorie. For example, Beck explains that just because an “all natural” product, such as almond butter, can be nutritious, a package of “all natural” licorice is still going to be loaded with sugar and empty carbs (A.16). Even more so, if eaten in quantities larger than the recommended serving size, the “nutritious” almond butter can end up being even more fattening than a fast food hamburger. Beck refers to a global survey conducted in 2016, concluding that, “forty percent of consumers [report] buying ‘natural’ foods because they [feel] they [are] healthier and safer” (A.16). The study also reveals that, “[t]wo-thirds [believe] that ‘natural’ products [do not] contain pesticides or hormone residues, GMO (genetically modified organisms) and artificial ingredients” (A.16). This proves that the majority of consumers are uneducated about what they are putting into their bodies and are manipulated by marketing ploys to purchase certain products. Beck then continues to dissect nutrition labels, revealing the truths about macronutrients, “natural” foods, organic products, and artificial flavors. Beck’s article and supporting research exemplifies how consumers are only deceived by advertisements due to their lack of nutrition education. Educating the public about what is in their food and how to read food labels will solve the obesity crisis in America.
In opposition to the wholesome-food movement, Freedman poses a valid claim that modern food processing technology, including swapping ingredients, reducing portion sizes, and adding supplements to foods, will lead to long-term weight loss among the obese population. Freedman firmly believes that being able to trim a few hundred calories per item without customers noticing is the most effective strategy to decrease the obesity trend. Freedman argues that although the wholesome-food movement brings great health awareness to America, “…there is no reasonable scenario under which these foods could become cheap and plentiful enough to serve as the core diet for most of the obese population…” (510). The majority of the American population is obese, and the majority of the obese population comes from a low socioeconomic status. It is unrealistic to believe that farmers will be able to provide enough wholesome, farm-to-fork food for the entire obese population. Even if this was possible, the obese population would most likely not be able to afford this lifestyle. Therefore, Freedman offers an alternative solution, as he showcases many of the unique modern food processing techniques that are being used today. This technology has the ability to add necessary and beneficial vitamins, minerals, and supplements to consumer diets. Freedman reveals that, “much of the nutritional value claimed by these products comes not from natural ingredients but from added vitamins that are chemically synthesized…” (519). This statement shows that modern food processing technology can be used to enhance foods with essential dietary elements that may not even exist in their natural ingredients. Freedman met with a team of McDonald’s executives at one of their high-tech sensory-testing labs, where he learned, “McDonald’s has quietly been making healthy changes for years, shrinking portion sizes, reducing some fat, trimming average salt content by more than 10 percent… and adding fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and oatmeal to is menu” (525). This approach to slowing the obesity trend is realistic and attainable, as the obese population will not have to sacrifice their current lifestyle or bank accounts to begin making small, healthy changes. Freedman also visited the flavor engineering company, Fona International, and shared their food processing tricks and talents:
Fona’s experts can reproduce the ‘temporal profile’ of the flavors in fattier foods by adding edible compounds that come on and leave more slowly; or by enlisting ‘phantom aromas’ that create the sensation of certain tastes even when those tastes are not present on the tongue. (529)
High-tech anti-obesity food engineering allows producers to trick the human brain’s and tongue’s sense. This high-tech engineering enables producers to completely remove ingredients, or replace them with healthier ingredients, without the consumer being able to notice. Fona experts also discussed other engineering tricks they have implemented, such as adding weight to foods to create the illusion that there is more food, creating chewier textures in products to allow time for the brain to register satiety, or “…using colors, smells, sounds, and packaging information to create the belief that foods are fatty and sweet even when they are not” (531). It is impressive how much technology has progressed and accomplished in the past few years. It is time to utilize these techniques for the benefit of society.
To further support Freedman’s claim that modern food technology will help decrease the obesity rates in America, Nina Tiecholz’s article “Calories on Menus Won’t Slim Down America,” introduces the Food and Drug Administration regulation that requires restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus. Nina Tiecholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise and executive director of Nutrition Coalition, is a science journalist dedicated to evidence-based nutrition policy. Tiecholz published the results of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services experiment, displaying that consumers “…purchased food with 38 fewer calories, on average” (A.17). This proves that nutrition information is irrelevant to an uneducated consumer. If you cannot interpret the information presented to you, it is useless information. She also offers scientific evidence to inform her readers that in order to lose one pound of fat, one must “…create a caloric deficit of 3,600 calories…” (A.17). This supports the argument that slowly decreasing a few hundred calories from consumers diets, without them knowing, is what will lead to long-term weight loss. A deduction of a few hundred calories a day will slowly add up to 3,600 calories, 7,200 calories, and so-on, which will eventually lead pounds of weight-loss. Tiecholz and Freedman argue that the obese population will not make these choices on their own, which is why food processing will need to do the work for them. Although both authors’ theories of strategies to reduce the obesity trends in America are plausible, supported by evidence, and realistic, they are overlooking the main issue causing the epidemic in the first place. If Americans’ can be educated about their health and diets, then maybe consumers will be able to begin making healthier choices on their own. Consumers will actually be able to make educated inferences about the foods they are putting into their bodies, and be able to utilize the calorie counts on menus. Educated consumers will not have to be tricked into eating fewer calories a day. Educated consumers will be able to make a difference for American society and future generations.
Nutrition education will provide consumers with a shield of knowledge against marketing ploys, allow them to rise above their circumstances, and open the door to create a better life for themselves and their families. However, nutrition education is expensive. The government and schools will spend a fortune on nutrition education, creating new policies, and research. Even if the funding and platforms are available, there is no promise that educating children about their diets will change their minds about grabbing dessert that evening after dinner. It would also be much more difficult to find a platform to educate adults, who are no longer in school. These are all very important concerns to address when considering implementing this strategy. If anyone can agree that their health, their generation’s livelihood and the future generation’s well-being is worth the time, money, and effort to make a change, then they will agree that educating the public about what goes in their bodies is a necessity. As validated by Freedman, “[a]cademia could do a much better job of producing and highlighting solid research… to narrow the gap between the poor obese and well-resourced healthy…” (536). Barbara Mantel, award winning author of multiple health publications, provides further explanation of the issue of obesity in America through research, statistics, and debates in her publication of “Preventing Obesity”. Mantel exhibits a study titled, “Best-Educated Americans Have Lowest Obesity,” which graphs the correlation of household income, educational level, and percentage of obese adults in America. The graph shows that as educational levels and household incomes increase, the percentage of obese adults in America decreases (801). This is representative of the fact that educated consumers are able to make healthier choices for themselves and therefore, are able to prevent obesity. Obesity is a matter of personal responsibility, and it is unfair for those who are not able to make good choices due to their deprivation of nutritional education.
Although Freedman offers valid, achievable theories and supporting arguments in his essay “How Junk Food Can End Obesity,” he overlooks the fact that nutritional education is, above all, the most impactful solution to ending the obesity epidemic. Freedman highlights the argument that the wholesome-food revolution is impeding on the progress food processing technology is making towards solving the obesity epidemic. Freedman claims that, in many cases, foods advertised as “healthy” can be just as obesogenic, or worse, than junk food products. He introduces many modern food processing techniques and fights to prove that utilizing this technology will lead to the most plausible, long-term solution for obesity in America. However, if consumers are educated about their dietary needs, they will be able to make healthier choices for themselves and their families, regardless of the array of food options available to them. Consumers will be able to make choices for themselves. They will not be tricked into thinking they are eating healthier by deceptive marketing ploys and they will not have to be tricked into eating fewer calories per item by food processing. Nutrition education needs to be included in curriculum in all schools and implemented in multi-media marketing in America. Knowledge is power, and every person deserves the power to make choices to create the life they desire. Everyone deserves the power to choose a healthy lifestyle and guard their body from illnesses and diseases. Everyone deserves the power to choose to live longer, healthier, and happier.
Freedman, David. H. “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.” They Say/ I Say with Readings, edited by Graff, Gerald, et all., 3rd ed., W.W. Norton, 2017, pp. 506-37. Mantel, Barbara. “Preventing Obesity.” CQ Researcher, vol. 20, no. 34, 1 Oct. 2010, pp. 787-820. CQ Press, library.cqpress.com.proxy189.nclive.org/cqresearcher/getpdf. Php?id=cqresrre2010100100. Tiecholz, Nina. “Calories on Menus Won’t Slim Down America.” Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2018, p. A17. SIRS Issues Researcher, sks.sirs.com.proxy189.nclive.org/web app/article?artno=0000405791&type=ART. Beck, Leslie. “Are ‘Natural’ Foods Really Better for You?”. Globe and Mail, 04 Jan. 2018, p. A16. SIRS Issue Researcher, sks.sirs.com.proxy189.nclive.org/webapp/ar ticle?artno=0000402546&type=ART.
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