I'd argue yes, but still believe that individuals are responsible for their weight (genetic metabolic disorders excluded). Here's a little more on the debate occurring in the public health realm. Enjoy and Happy Friday!
Science Journal Takes Aim at 'Big Food'
By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today Published: June 21, 2012
The food and beverage industry has a huge and growing influence on the obesity crisis, but "Big Food" is not met with the same skepticism as other industries that influence public health, according to the editors of PLoS Medicine.
"Food, unlike tobacco and drugs, is necessary to live and is central to health and disease," the editors wrote online in an editorial kicking off a new series on the interplay between the food and beverage industry and public health. "And yet the big multinational food companies control what people everywhere eat, resulting in a stark and sick irony: one billion people on the planet are hungry while two billion are obese or overweight."
The editors said that while other big business interests -- such as the alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries -- are often easy targets on which to blame public health ills, the food and beverage industry, for the most part, has gotten a pass.
Food and beverage companies are shaping global health conversations, in part by branding themselves as "nutrition companies" and presenting at major conference and at high-level UN meetings, the editors wrote. Food companies often partner with global health groups for health and nutrition initiatives, which is a conflict of interest, according to PLoS, because of food companies' primary goal: selling food.
"Why does the global health community find this acceptable?" the editors wrote.
"To promote health, industry would need to make and market healthier foods so as to shift consumption away from highly processed, unhealthy foods," nutrition and public health professor Marion Nestle, PhD, from New York University, and sociologist David Stuckler, PhD, MPH, from Cambridge University wrote in an accompanying essay. "Yet, such healthier foods are inherently less profitable."
The public health arena and governments too often turn a blind eye to the role of processed foods in obesity, and the "uncomfortable reason" is that because taking action would require taking on the "powerful Big Food companies with strong ties to and influence over national governments," the authors wrote.
Nestle and Stuckler said that the 10 largest food companies control half of all food sales worldwide. Three-fourths of the the world's food sales involved processed foods, which is a "driving force behind the global rise in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods enriched in salt, sugar, and fat," they wrote.
Nestle and Stuckler also argued that the food industry isn't doing enough to curb obesity.
"They should support initiatives such as restrictions on marketing to children, better nutrition standards for school meals, and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages," they wrote. "The central aim of public health must be to bring into alignment Big Food's profit motives with public health goals. Without taking direct and concerted action to expose and regulate the vested interests of Big Food, epidemics of poverty, hunger, and obesity are likely to become more acute."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association -- the trade group for food and beverage companies -- responded to the series by highlighting all the ways it says it works to improve health, including introducing tens of thousands of new healthier food items, shifting advertising so that 100% of ads seen in kids' shows promote "better-for-you" products, and putting nutrition labeling on the front of packaged foods to make it harder to miss.
Another article published in PLoS compared the soda and tobacco industries, arguing that the "social responsibility" campaigns of both types of companies are really profit-oriented campaigns masquerading as social responsibility.
The comparison between the industries was flatly rejected by the American Beverage Association. "There is simply no comparison between soda and tobacco -- not among our products, nor our business practices," the group said. "Tobacco in and of itself is harmful -- in any amount; our beverages are not."
The nonalcoholic beverage industry has worked to reduce obesity in the form of offering smaller portioned drinks and drinks with fewer calories, clear labeling, and supporting exercise and balanced lifestyle programs, the American Beverage Association said in a statement.
Source: MedPage Today "http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/PublicHealth/33405?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DailyHeadlines&utm_source=WCemail@example.com&mu_id=5262276
According to a study discussed on MedPage Today, it appears that my dark chocolate addiction will pay off...both in terms of health and finance :)
Dark Chocolate: Sweet Prevention for CV Events
By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage TodayPublished: May 31, 2012
Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner
Dark chocolate may be an inexpensive way to help prevent cardiovascular events in patients at risk for heart disease, researchers found.
A modeling study predicts that patients with metabolic syndrome who eat dark chocolate every day could have 85 fewer events per 10,000 population over 10 years, Chris Reid, PhD, of Monash University in Melbourne, and colleagues reported online in BMJ.
At a cost of only $42 per year, treatment with dark chocolate falls into an acceptable category of cost-effectiveness, at an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of $50,000 per years of life saved.
"Chocolate benefits from being by and large a pleasant, and hence sustainable, treatment option," they wrote. "Evidence to date suggests that the chocolate would need to be dark and of at least 60% to 70% cocoa, or formulated to be enriched with polyphenols."
Several recent studies have suggested that eating dark chocolate has blood-pressure and lipid-lowering effects. To assess whether it could be an effective and cost-effective treatment option in patients potentially at risk for cardiovascular events, the researchers looked at data from patients in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle study.
They used a Markov model to assess health effects and associated costs of daily consumption of plain dark chocolate compared with no chocolate in a population with metabolic syndrome but without diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
The investigators also used risk-prediction algorithms and population life tables to determine the probability of patients developing or dying from heart disease or other noncardiovascular causes each year.
Data on the blood-pressure-lowering effects of dark chocolate were taken from a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials, and lipid-lowering effects from a meta-analysis of eight short-term trials.
Costs were taken from a review of the costs of cardiovascular complications in a healthy population, and included the direct costs of myocardial infarction and stroke.
They calculated the number of deaths prevented by determining the difference in the number of deaths between those consuming and not consuming dark chocolate.
The final model included a total of 2,013 patients with metabolic syndrome, mean age 53.6, mean systolic blood pressure 141.1 mmHg, mean total cholesterol 6.1 mmol/L, mean HbA1c 34.4 mmol/mol, and mean waist circumference 100.4 cm.
Reid and colleagues found that daily consumption of dark chocolate -- a polyphenol content equivalent to 100 grams of dark chocolate -- can reduce cardiovascular events by 85 per 10,000 population over 10 years.
Specifically, with 100% compliance, treatment would prevent 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 population over that time. The authors noted that this was a "best case scenario" analysis.
When compliance was reduced to 90%, the number of preventable non-fatal and fatal events fell to 60 and 10, respectively, and at a compliance of 80%, was reduced to 55 and 10, respectively. Even at these levels, however, daily dark chocolate was still considered an effective and cost-effective intervention strategy, they wrote.
At a cost of $42 per person per year, dark chocolate prevention strategies came to an estimated ICER of $50,000 per years of life saved -- a figure well within typical cost-effectiveness thresholds, the researchers said.
That $42 could be spent on advertising, educational campaigns, or subsidization of dark chocolate in higher-risk populations, they wrote.
Reid and colleagues noted that the study was limited by its reliance on the Framingham algorithm, which may underestimate risk in a high-risk population, and by assumptions about the risk of death following a cardiovascular event.
The study was also limited by the assumption that the benefits of dark chocolate, which have only been observed in short-term trials, extend to 10 years. Still, they concluded that the findings suggest dark chocolate may be an effective and cost-effective strategy for preventing heart disease in patients with metabolic syndrome.
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