Just Say Know

11 May

A new diet pill is about to be approved!  All our cares are about to be over.  This magic pill (approved by our very own Federal Drug Administration) will put an end to our nation’s demise d’jour; obesity.  The drug is not new, its approval is though.  The drug hasn’t changed.  It’s still a wonder pill which; a) causes tumors in rats b) damages (human) heart valves c) and doesn’t cause much weight loss.  Happy Days are indeed here again!

So why, after 13 years of diet pill drought, is the F.D.A. approving a drug they previously deemed not worthy of approval?  Why do we think.  Peer pressure is not just for teenagers.  There are (to my way of thinking) only two diet pill designs that could work.  A medication can either prevent or eradicate the absorption of calories or it can render a person incapable of eating (i.e., create permanent nausea.)  It’s hard to fathom how either of those approaches can be safely achieved (not to mention why anyone would want to risk malnutrition of feel permanently car sick.)  Why then, with all the diseases out there, would the F.D.A. (or any drug manufacturer) spend time and resources on this endeavor?  Money.

Insurance companies would be all over a diet pill.  Individuals will be clamoring for it.  Can you imagine the advertising?  I’m picturing men and women being unchained from their heft, the sound of angels, an appearance of a rainbow, and the hushed rushed intonation of “may cause tumors, death and does not lead to significant weight loss.”  Good times.  (An aside: There was a time when cigarettes were marketed to Americans as a weight loss device.)

Might I suggest that if the federal government has fear of being left behind in this 21st century scourge, that the Department of Agriculture steps up?  A simple labeling policy that sets a limit to the processing a food can undergo and still be deemed food, would change our country.  There is precedence for this kind of intervention.  There was a time when anything could be sold as juice.  It was only through the intervention of the government that our nation began to enjoy “drink.”  If ultra-processed foods were deemed the equivalent of “drink” they could no longer be served to children in federally subsidized programs.  These ‘food-like’ products could not be purchased with any funds linked to the government at all.  Food-like items and purveyors would be limited in their advertising and marketing.  The trickle down would mean a shift in product placement in movies and television.  Amusement parks, movie theatres and other holding tanks for children would identify food and food-like products.  Children would grow up knowing the difference between; whole foods, processed foods, and food simulated products.

It seems so easy doesn’t it?  No chaos, no chastising, no food pyramids getting mauled into new shapes.  So why isn’t this happening?  Money.  It is very hard to become morbidly obese from eating real (21st century) foods.  It is also not all that profitable to grow/produce and sell whole foods.  But you know what’s really profitable?  Selling products as food (with all the subsidized benefits that implies) with enormous mark-up, that’s what.  There isn’t much room for mark-up on a head of broccoli, but on frozen and boxed food, the sky’s the limit.  Without sounding too cloak and dagger, there is a lot of money at stake and not just for the pockets of the food producers (conspiratorial wink here.)

Yes there are greater nefarious doings going on in the world.  But every time a government entity waves the banner of the “Obesity Epidemic” we are reminded that we are supposed to keep our eyes on the banner, and never ever look behind it.  It seems that whenever we declare “war” on a social ill, it’s actually a sign that we’re giving up.


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2 responses to “Just Say Know

  1. AndrewSGinsburg

    May 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Great article! Is this the phin-phin (sp?) drug from the 90s that they are bringing back? Your posting brings up so many different thoughts. 1. Pharmaceutical companies create drugs people don’t need then convince them they do need it; they create a need and profit tremendously from it. I am sure 3/4 of the people on Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro don’t need to be on it. 2. Obesity is one of the main reasons healthcare costs are soaring. 3. Poverty and time, like you said, its easier and much cheaper for working families to go to McDonald’s than eat fresh vegetables. 4. Money and corruption, like you also said. One other interesting point, I recently read in the NYT (or WSJ) that one of the reasons people are so heavy now and gain their weight back when they lose it is because this is the first time in human chronology that there has been an abundance of food. We are hard wired from our ancestors to seek out food for survival, but this is the first time there is an over abundance of it.

    Great piece, I enjoyed it and agree with your points!

    • brendatobias

      May 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments Andrew. The drug is not phen-phen (sp?) but one that has previously been rejected by the FDA: lorcaserin. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
      I could not agree more about the abundance of food. I find it completely bizarre to be at the theatre (Broadway NOT cinema) and see people hawking candy in aisles as if we were in an athletic stadium. There are even candies sold at registers of clothes shops. I don’t find it the least bit tempting but I can imagine what fresh hell it must be for people who do.


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