Opinion: The Unseen Public Health Crisis

Brady Rivkin

Disclaimer: This article and any other opinion articles published by the Daniel Wright Voice are not endorsed by the Daniel Wright Junior High School, nor do they reflect the views of the school. These articles are solely the opinions of the students at the school.

In the 21st century, one would think that with the advanced medical science in the United States, the life expectancy would be more than 79. Yet it still stands at 79 due to the many industries that have promoted their products amidst health concerns. Think Big Tobacco, for example. It took until the 1964 Report on Smoking and Health by the surgeon general to fully open people’s eyes to the dangers of smoking, and until 2009 to regulate tobacco with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. From this, one can see that the fate of regulations to help aid public health lie in misled public opinion instead of scientific research. Because first impressions have a very powerful effect on people, the misguided research on tobacco, and today, the research on the causes of heart disease and effects of fat, completely dominated the ideas of the people. Anything contradicting what they had first seen, in their minds, was invalid. Since this conclusion can be derived, the American people must look past this fog of a first impression and see that scientists were coerced into downplaying the effects of sugar on the amount of body fat and the risk of diseases, instead blaming it on fat.

Fat has been stigmatized and removed from many food products to please the public. However, “when food manufacturers reduce fat, they often replace it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or other starches. Our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates and starches very quickly, affecting blood sugar and insulin levels and possibly resulting in weight gain and disease”(hsph.harvard.edu). This replacement is clearly much worse than what fat does. “A 2013 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care tracked the dairy intake and obesity rates of more than 1,500 middle-aged and older adults. Those who frequently ate full-fat butter, milk, and cream had lower obesity rates than those who eschewed dairy fat”(Time.com). Another study published in the American Journal of Nutrition scrutinizing the link between dairy fat and obesity had 18,438 women participating and found that “those who consumed the most high-fat dairy products lowered their risk of being overweight of obese by 8%”(Time.com). Fat clearly does not have nearly as overwhelming an effect as its substitutes, so it should be placed back in every food product that it has been taken out of, and it should be cleared of all of the false effects that it has been blamed for.

The scientists who study the causes of obesity and related diseases had a major conflict of interest when they were researching. Documents from the sugar industry indicate the effect of the bribes on decades of research including that of today. “The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat”(nytimes.com). A bribe highlights in an extreme fashion the corrupt methods of the sugar industry that hijacked public health and caused lasting effects on the American population. Since that happened, the scientists’ research is no longer credible and their studies showing fat as a cause of obesity should be disregarded.

When people have fat debunked as a source of obesity and related diseases, particularly cardiovascular ones, they often turn to another less researched alternative that is cholesterol. They argue that dietary cholesterol has an impact on bodily cholesterol and that overall cholesterol is a trustworthy measure of a person’s risk of disease. According to Harvard University, “scientific studies show a weak relationship between the amount of cholesterol a person consumes and his or her blood cholesterol levels”(hsph.harvard.edu). Furthermore, “the association between dietary cholesterol and CHD risk is, if anything, minor in nature”(ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). (They use CHD as an abbreviation for coronary heart disease.) This renders the arguments that cholesterol in the diet is harmful invalid. Many health professionals like Chris Kresser have picked up on this and expanded on it. According to Kresser, who has a Master’s degree in science, “on any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our body. 25% of that comes from our diet, and 75% is produced inside of our bodies by the liver”(chriskresser.com). Also, “the body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production; when cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, the body makes less”(chriskresser.com). This secures the fact that the body is entirely responsible for the amount of cholesterol inhabiting it unless a person consumes such an extreme amount of cholesterol that it is over the amount that people should have in their blood. It is astoundingly well supported that blood cholesterol is not altered by dietary cholesterol, so cholesterol is back. Feel free to eat whole eggs!

This expedition into the causes of obesity and coronary heart disease, among other illnesses, is far from over. There is still much research to be done on the effects of fat, sugar, and cholesterol, but there is plenty of evidence already to draw some conclusions. For now, though, health recommendations should be updated to the current research, not the faulty studies from the bribery era. Hopefully, this will cause a downward trend in obesity in America, and people will open their eyes to all research, not only what supports their beliefs. With the proper outlook on food, the public health landscape can be revolutionized easily for the benefit of the world.