Kool-Aid in the Land of Make Believe

Discovery of a Vast Anti-Health Conspiracy

Scientists at the University of California at San Francisco have discovered that tobacco companies once owned food and beverage companies. Philip-Morris bought General Foods in 1985 and then Kraft in 1988. This arrangement lasted until 2007 when Philip-Morris sold all of its ownership of Kraft and the old General Foods brands. RJ Reynolds acquired Pacific Hawaiian Products in 1962, Del Monte Foods in 1979, and then merged with Nabisco in 1985. By 1999, Reynolds Tobacco had shed all of its food divisions.

But for a time, these tobacco giants applied their crafty marketing tactics to hook our children on unhealthy products. A vast anti-health conspiracy flourished right under our noses.

Insightful Analysis in The BMJ

Research Scientist Kim Nguyen is the lead author on this new analysis in The BMJ. She and her colleagues found evidence that these tobacco companies were using cartoon characters to sell Hawaiian Punch and Kool-Aid. It’s a trick straight out of the Joe Camel playbook. In fact, they began doing it in 1962 – 25 years before Joe Camel was a thing.

Regardless of the timing, it was definitely a tobacco marketing tactic. Professor Laura Schmidt is the study’s senior author. She explains the breathtaking importance of this discovery:

We have a chronic disease epidemic but we don’t understand the vectors very well. These documents help us understand how food and beverage companies, using strategic and crafty tactics, got us hooked on unhealthy products.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

So there you have it. Tobacco and sugar-sweetened soft drinks are all part of the same vast anti-health conspiracy. The folks who hooked us on cigarettes persuaded our children to literally drink the Kool-Aid.

Kudos to The BMJ for bringing us scientific clarity.

You can read the research report here. For further reporting on this groundbreaking discovery, click here and here. For more about fact resistance, populism, and the rise of conspiracy theories, click here.

Kool-Aid in the Land of Make Believe, photograph © Roadsidepictures / flickr

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March 20, 2019

5 Responses to “Discovery of a Vast Anti-Health Conspiracy”

  1. March 20, 2019 at 7:24 am, Chris Snowdon said:

    I hope this blog post is supposed to be ironic.

    • March 20, 2019 at 7:32 am, Ted said:

      Correct as usual, Mr. Snowdon. I’m just a bit more clumsy with it than my deft friends in the U.K.

  2. March 20, 2019 at 11:41 am, David Brown said:

    The ‘Fact Resistance, Populism, and Conspiracy Theories’ article is an interesting read. However, the authors are guilty of the same sort of fact resistance they appear to detest. They use the climate change debate as a basis for their attack on the conservative right. They appeal to authority (NASA) in support of their claim that the increase in carbon dioxide is a consequence of human activity. Then they use the straw man tactic to affirm the authority of NASA in matters scientific. In all other respects, the article is worth reading and thinking about.

    A physician friend once told me there’s no cure for dumb. In truth, we are all capable of making mistakes due to ignorance. The lesson from the ‘Fact Resistance’ article is that most people, character-wise, are group thinkers. Intelligence seems to have little to do with the inclination to embrace opinion on the basis of authority and consensus.

    That said, what do the the theory of evolution, the eugenics movement, the anti-saturated fat campaign, and the theory of anthropogenic climate change have in common? All gained widespread acceptance because they appealed to someone’s sense of the obvious and were vigorously promoted at the outset in the scientific and political arenas without adequate supportive scientific evidence. The theory of evolution gave rise to the eugenics movement which was used as a justification for sterilizing thousands of American citizens without their permission during the early decades of the 20th Century. Hitler also used eugenics theory to justify the enslavement and extermination of millions during World War II. https://www.nature.com/scitable/forums/genetics-generation/america-s-hidden-history-the-eugenics-movement-123919444

    Arguably, the anti-saturated fat campaign has caused more misery and death than all wars put together since the dawn of time. For upwards of 60 years it has shaped public health policy spawning a pandemic of obesity and chronic disease that defies all efforts to reverse it. In addition, the anti-saturated fat narrative is supported by vegetarian activists who believe that livestock-produced methane gas has a substantial impact on climate change. All in all, there is a lot of confusion regarding what constitutes a healthy diet and what to do about climate change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI&t=975s

    What does science actually teach us about healthy eating. Pragmatically speaking, a plant-based approach that doesn’t restrict saturated fat consumption, that aims for .5 to 1.0% of energy from omega-6 linoleic acid, and that restricts omega-6 arachidonic acid intake through reduced consumption of animal products makes the most sense to me. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you

    Unfortunately, the scientific basis for the above cannot be firmly established due to gaps in experimental evidence. For example, the last paragraph of a report on a 2010 gathering of fats and oils researchers says, “Prof. Uauy noted an unsettled issue of great importance: the need for data comparing the effects of omega-3 PUFAs at varying backgrounds of omega-6 PUFAs. Until there are new data to sort this out, we should be cautious in defining recommendations, he stated. There was also a suggestion from the floor that AHA withdraw its advisory statement, to which Prof. Harris responded that he was all for more data, but in his opinion AHA would be unlikely to withdraw the statement. The debate concluded with agreement by all that we need a randomized controlled trial to compare the effect of low and high intakes of LA. The trial should have typical US intakes of omega-3 PUFAs, with 7.5% energy from LA (the current US intake) in one group and 2.0% LA (historical intake) in the other. It would study cardiac endpoints and continue for about 5 years.” Nine years later, the issues remain and the debate continues over whether or not saturated fats clog arteries. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/324749

  3. March 20, 2019 at 3:41 pm, Lizabeth Wesely-Casella said:

    Love the timing commentary. Truly, the cart before the Camel. 😉

    • March 21, 2019 at 7:24 pm, Ted said:

      Couldn’t sneak that one past you, Lizabeth.