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Well-Funded Confusion

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Despite the fact that poor diet is known to be the leading cause of death worldwide (10), most people are confused about what foods promote good health and which foods can destroy it. For example, far more people aim to eat a “low-carb” diet than simply eat less of the foods that lie at the root of many of the most common chronic diseases (12).

As explored in The Game Changers, this confusion is no coincidence. Backed by billions of dollars in profits and taxpayer subsidies, the industries that create many of the world’s most harmful products churn out slick advertising campaigns, fund misleading studies, and grease the hands of compliant politicians, doing everything in their power to confuse the masses. More than half a century ago, Big Tobacco laid the foundation for this strategy, using athletes, soldiers, and even doctors as spokespeople (“More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette”). And then, when the deadly consequences of smoking started becoming known to the public, funding their own studies to “prove” smoking didn’t really cause cancer (13-15).

Today’s equivalent are the large food corporations and fast food retailers, who use the exact same playbook to confuse the public about the dangers of the products they profit most from (14).

Unfortunately, the healthiest foods have virtually no way to compete with the corporate giants, which have billions of dollars of funding to market and promote their products. The U.S. government, for example, spends $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries, but only $17 million (i.e., 0.04 percent of that) each year to subsidize fruits and vegetables. A $5 Big Mac would cost $13 if the retail price included hidden expenses that meat producers offload onto society (16).

Perhaps more disturbing is the way these multi-billion dollar industries infiltrate the scientific world, covertly funding countless studies that cast doubt upon what global health authorities agree are the most important elements of a healthy diet (17).

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