Dr. David Katz pens a thoughtful response to David Freedman’s recent Atlantic piece on junk food and obesity.
Katz suggests that Freedman’s thesis could restated simply as “Processed food is here to stay, so we are better off making it a part of the solution than maligning it.”
What Katz finds problematic:
Mr. Freedman’s position- or at least his headline (which, by the way, may have been crafted by an editor rather than the author- that is often the case) is coy, or cagey, or willfully disingenuous. Junk food CANNOT help solve health problems, because as soon as it does so- it’s no longer junk food.
We would not build cars or computers or phones out of junk- but seem to sanction using just such construction material for the growing bodies of our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters. Truly, that is a travesty of modern culture, and a blight on the body politic.
Anything done to ‘improve’ junk food that does not remove it entirely from the category of junk food is the dietary equivalent of putting lipstick on that proverbial pig.
But he also sees a “beautiful opportunity in the place of potentially ugly and unproductive discord.” He adds:
We will always eat. Unlike tobacco companies, which can disappear entirely, food companies of one kind or another are here to stay. And so they will either be part of the solution, or part of the problem.
Mr. Freedman is saying-and I agree- that they can be part of the solution by providing us better choices. But for that to matter, they will need to be truly better choices- not another bait-and-fake. We’ve had more than enough of products that boast of some nutritional virtue on the front, while revealing the far homelier whole truth only in fine print. Fat-reduced peanut butter makes noise about being fat-reduced; it stays as quiet as possible about the copious additions of sugar and salt.
We will need to be able to judge overall nutritional quality, and not succumb to the perils of ‘one-nutrient-at-a-time’ assessments. And, if they build it- we need to come buy it.
I’m far from a food industry apologist, so I’m certainly fine with maligning it where appropriate. But I must admit to thinking that there’s a pony — somewhere — in the “they’re here to stay … make them part of the solution” concept.
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