By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: obesity

‘On the Media’ decides once again that there’s nothing going on in media this week

I’ve said this before, most recently in an update on former “On the Media” cohost Bob Garfield. But I’ll say it again: the show’s major shortcoming, whether Garfield is there or not, is that they too often talk about anything except the media.

This week’s program is a good example of that. Brooke Gladstone and company did a full hour on the science, history and culture of (get ready for it) obesity. Now, if they had wanted to, they could have devoted one of the segments to harmful media depictions of obesity, but they didn’t even do that other than in a few passing references. No. Just a straight-up documentary about a topic that has nothing to do with the reality that the media and politics are on fire and we need OTM to help us make sense of that. Every week.

As always with “On the Media,” the show was interesting and well-produced. But I have to say that if I hadn’t put it on in the car and didn’t want to pull over, fiddle with my iPhone and select something else, I probably wouldn’t have listened to it. For anyone in media, this particular episode (and too many others) was not essential listening.

There are plenty of podcasts out there on general topics of interest. Only one is called “On the Media.”

New evidence that fake food isn’t good for you

Recently I wrote a column for the Guardian criticizing Whole Foods for selling ketchup that contains high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, the synthetic sweetener that has been linked to a catastrophic rise in obesity and Type II diabetes.

Unfortunately, at the time I couldn’t find much in the way of evidence to suggest that HFCS is actually worse for you than plain old sugar. The main problem with HFCS, it seemed, was its ubiquity and low cost, the latter a function of massive federal subsidies for corn. No subsidies, no HFCS. No HFCS, no three-liter bottles of soda.

So I sat up and paid attention yesterday when I came across Elizabeth Cooney’s “Be Well” column in the Boston Globe. Cooney reported that scientists at Princeton University had found that rats fed HFCS gained much more weight than those fed sucrose, packed on abdominal fat (which is considered particularly unhealthy) and had higher levels of fat in their blood. The study was published in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.

A press release put out by Princeton includes more details. Here is a key excerpt:

“Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests,” said psychology professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction. “When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.”

The release goes on to say the study raises the strong possibility that HFCS is metabolized by the body differently from sucrose.

Hoebel’s methodology has come under fire, as critics say he and his colleagues were hazy about some key details, including how many calories the HFCS-consuming rats were getting as compared to their sucrose-eating cousins. Hoebel answers those criticisms in the Washington Post.

The Princeton study is not definitive, but it’s certainly suggestive. And it demonstrates that Michelle Obama’s crusade for healthy food could, if successful, have far more to do with keeping health-care costs under control than the bill signed by her husband last week.

We’ve already heard cries from the food industry and its defenders that government has no business regulating trans fats. Soon we’re going to hear it about HFCS as well.

But laboratory-created fake food is not a matter of consumer choice. These are dangerous substances that have been foisted on us by powerful corporations looking to save money. Keeping such substances out of the food supply would seem to be well within the purview of government regulation.

Photo (cc) by Jonathan Boeke and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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